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Aromi per Panature, Seasoned Breadcrumbs

Panature are seasoned breadcrumbs of the sort one uses to flavor pasta, or dredge meats or fish in prior to frying them. Though one can buy them in the supermarket, and it’s likely a good idea to keep some of the supermarket seasoned breadcrumbs handy for when time is short, it’s also nice to make them at home: On the one hand, you can use ingredients that the commercial producers don’t include either because they’re expensive or too perishable for long storage, for example Parmigiano Reggiano, and on the other, they make excellent gifts.

Though you can use standard jars to store your seasoned breadcrumbs, if you plan to give them as gifts they will look nicer in small decorative jars, covered with patterned paper tied in place with a length of twine or straw.

To make a dozen 1-cup containers of seasoned breadcrumbs you’ll need:

  • 10 ounces (280 g) bread crumbs (this will likely be a bit more than 5 cups)
  • A large bunch of parsley, weighing about 1/2 pound (200 g)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 pound (200 g) corn flakes
  • 1/4 pound (100 g) shelled pistachios
  • 1 or more hot peppers, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (or more, to taste)
  • 2 cups (200 g) unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup (100 g) finely ground cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 6 ounces (150 g) walnut meats
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The above is indicative; you can vary the spices to suit your taste, for example using green peppercorns instead of hot pepper, adding a dash of oregano, some freshly grated lemon rind, or whatever strikes you fancy. Even commercial spice mixes such as lemon pepper or Cajun seasoning mix. Feel free to experiment!

Having said this, what to do with the above?

Garlic & Parsley Panatura
Skin the garlic. Rinse the parsley and pat it dry. Mince the garlic and parsley very finely, and combine them in a bowl with 7 ounces (about 3 3/4 cups) of the breadcrumbs. Adjust seasoning.

Flour and Fennel Panatura
Combine the cornmeal and the all-purpose flour. Briefly whir the fennel seeds in a blender and combine them with the flours, seasoning the mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

Cornflake and Pistachio Panatura
Crumble the cornflakes somewhat by whirring them briefly in a blender. Stem, seed, and rib the hot pepper, and whir it with the pistachio nuts in a blender, using short bursts to keep from liquefying the nuts. Combine the cornflakes, pistachio nuts, and paprika, and check seasoning.

Walnut and Cheese Panatura
Whir the walnut meats in a blender, using short bursts to keep from them from liquefying and giving off their oil. Combine the whirred nuts with the grated Parmigiano and the remaining bread crumbs, and check seasoning.

Divvy your panaturas into jars. Label them, and put the first three in a cool dark place. The cheese panatura should instead go into the fridge. They’ll keep for a few weeks, though they will lose their potency with time. As I said, they make a perfect gift, too.

And finally, what to do with them?

They’ll all be nice additions to a simple bowl of spaghetti aglio e olio, and will add a nice touch if you dust them over casseroles and other baked dishes, including pasta dishes that you run under a broiler. They’ll also work well whenever a recipe calls for breadcrumbs, for example in the preparation of stuffed artichokes or zucchini. Finally, they’ll be perfect for frying: Dredge what you plan to cook in lightly beaten egg, coat it thoroughly with the panatura, and fry it until it’s crisp and golden brown. Use different panature, and you’ll enjoy a range of flavors at table.

In particular, the garlic and parsley panatura is especially good with fried, baked, and broiled  vegetables, meats, or fish. The cornflake and pistachio panatura is quite nice with fried meats, and is also nice for coating meatballs or vegetable croquettes before they go into the oil. The cheese and walnut panatura will be nice with veal, turkey or chicken scallops, and also with fish filets or slices.

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Anchovy Sauce, or Salsa D’Acciughe

Mixed boiled vegetables is a wonderful summer side dish: You boil them the night before, chill them well in the refrigerator, and they are extremely refreshing on the next day. The most common seasoning for boiled vegetables is olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste, but there are other options, and anchovies and mayonnaise do very well in complementing mixed boiled vegetables. The sauce is also nice with boiled potatoes, or even cold string beans.

  • 1 cup (250 ml) mayonnaise (store-bought will be fine)
  • 2 teaspoons mild mustard
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 salted anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (white would be a nice touch here) to taste

Mix the ingredients of the sauce together, chill, and use.

Crema Chantilly, A Delightful Treat

I was recently looking for information on Crema Chantilly and came across an article from Carroll Pellegrinelli, in which she says that Chantilly is whipped cream with a dash of vanilla and an abundance of powdered sugar.

Good, but when Italians speak of Crema Chantilly they mean whipped cream folded into crema pasticcera (pastry cream), so I dug further and discovered that the classic Chantilly is French, as one might guess from the name, and is indeed whipped cream flavored with vanilla and powdered sugar. The name, which was applied to it in the 18th century, is an indirect bow to the great French chef Vatel, who organized a series of Banquets for Louis XIV in Chateau Chantilly in 1671, and whipped up the sweetened cream to go with dessert.

Making French Chantilly is quite easy; you’ll need:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) chilled heavy cream
  • A half cup (50 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A round-bottomed metal bowl
  • Ice water

You can either whisk the cream or use a hand-held mixer; in either case keep the bowl in the ice water to keep the cream from warming, and beat the cream until it is softly fluffy but holds its shape. At this point gently fold in the powdered sugar (tap it into the bowl through a wire mesh sieve) and the vanilla. The Chantilly is now ready, though you can chill it briefly in the fridge if need be.

So how do we get from this to the Italian Crema Chantilly? I’m not sure, but one of my Italian cookbooks mentions Salsa Chantilly, which is made by whipping cream until it is soft and fluffy, and folding it into freshly made mayonnaise to obtain a sauce that will be both delicious and decadent. In short, perfect for the elegant and refined (or you and me) to serve with delicate steamed fish, boiled meats, or even baked potatoes.

The obvious analog for savory Salsa Chantilly is going to be Crema Chantilly, made by folding whipped cream into an equal volume of crema pasticcera; it combines the richness of crema pasticcera with a delightful lightness and is perfect for filling beignets or other pastries, or making layer cakes, or millefoglie. Try it and you will never go back to other creamy fillings.

So what do you need?

  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3/8 cup (75 g) sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • The yolks of 3 very fresh eggs
  • 1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream

Set 3/4 cup of the milk to warm over a gentle flame.

Lightly whisk the yolks in a bowl to break them. Strain the flour into the bowl, whisking gently, and making sure that no lumps form. Whisk in the sugar too, and then the remaining milk, keeping a wary eye for lumps.

By this time the milk on the stove will be about ready to boil. Slowly whisk it into the egg-and-milk mixture, and add the vanilla extract. Return the resulting cream to the pot and the pot to the fire, and continue cooking over a low flame, stirring gently, until it barely reaches a slow boil. Count to 120 while stirring constantly and it’s done. (Note — depending on your eggs and milk it may thicken to the proper consistency before it boils. If it reaches roughly the consistency of commercially prepared plain yogurt of the sort that will pour from the cup it’s done).

You now have crema pasticcera; transfer it to another bowl (metal is best, and in ice water or surrounded by ice will hasten the cooling) to cool, cover its surface directly with a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming, and as it cools whip your heavy cream until it is soft and holds its shape. Fold it into the crema pasticcera when it has cooled and you have Crema Chantilly.

What to do with it?

Use it to make Elisabetta’s quick strawberry layer cake
Use it to stuff a Schiacciata alla Fiorentina, or an orangy Torta Fiorentina
Use it to make Millefoglie
Use it to stuff Beignets

Italian Pastry Cream, Crema Pasticcera

How to make crema pasticcera: It has thickened

How to make crema pasticcera: It has thickened

Crema pasticcera, pastry cream, is one of the basic ingredients used in Italian pastries and cakes: it’s the creamy custardy filling of the layer cake, or the cream you find in your morning pastry, or the creamy base of your pudding. In short, Italian desserts wouldn’t be quite the same without it.

  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • A vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • The yolks of 6 very fresh eggs
  • 1 pint (500 ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt.

Crema pasticcera is not difficult to make, though it does require care and attention lest it curdle. Fernanda Gosetti, author of Il Dolcissimo, suggests you use a copper pot because it conducts heat better, and adds that if you make crema pasticcera frequently you should invest in a round-bottomed pot because its entire contents will be accessible to the whisk or spoon. She also notes that the crema should be transferred to a bowl as soon as it’s ready, because it will continue to cook in the pot.

The quantities given above can easily be expanded or reduced.

Set all but 1/2 cup of the milk to warm over a slow burner with the vanilla bean. In the meantime, lightly whisk the yolks in a bowl to break them. Strain the flour into the bowl, whisking gently, and making sure that no lumps form. Whisk in the sugar too, and then the remaining half cup of milk, keeping a wary eye for lumps.

By this time the milk on the stove will be about ready to boil. Fish out and discard the vanilla bean, and slowly whisk the milk into the egg-and-milk mixture. Return the cream to the pot and the pot to the fire, and continue cooking over a low flame, stirring gently, until it barely reaches a slow boil. Count to 120 while stirring constantly and it’s done. (Note — depending on your eggs and milk it may thicken to the proper consistency before it boils. If it reaches roughly the consistency of commercially prepared plain yogurt of the sort that will pour from the cup it’s done).

Transfer it to a bowl to let it cool, and lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on its surface, making certain the wrap extends to the edges of the bowl. Doing so will prevent a skin from forming on the crema as it cools.

Danielle suggests another way to keep the skin from forming: I learnt a tip many years ago that works very well and is simple. Reserve a tablespoon of of the sugar aside and sprinkle it over the cream when you set it to cool: It will keep a crust forming as the cream cools. It will melt and create a ‘watery’ surface that you can simply stir into the cream before use.
Voila.

As a final note, if you cover the milk after heating it and and let it sit for ten minutes covered it will absorb more bouquet from the vanilla bean. Also, you can, depending upon what you are going to use the cream for, flavor it with other things, for example 2 coffee beans or the zest of a half a lemon.

What to use it for? Well, between layers of sponge cake, for example, or under the fruit in a crostata. Or as icing, dusted with a little confectioner’s sugar. Or in a pudding.

An illustrated version of this recipe.

How To Make Crema Pasticcera, or Pastry Cream, Illustrated

Making Crema Pasticcera: Separate the eggs

Making Crema Pasticcera: Separate the eggs

Crema pasticcera, pastry cream, is one of the basic ingredients used in Italian pastries and cakes: It’s the creamy custardy filling of the layer cake, or the cream you find in your morning pastry, or the creamy base of your pudding. In short, Italian desserts wouldn’t be quite the same without it.

Making crema pasticcera does require care, because it can curdle as it thickens, and wife Elisabetta remembers that though her mother let her beat the yolks when she was little, many years passed before she was allowed to stir the mixture over the burner as it thickened, and she was past 18 by the time Grazziella allowed her to see the process though to completion.

Crema pasticcera is more of a procedure than a recipe: Depending upon what you are making you start with more or fewer yolks, and the proportions of the other ingredients follow. To make about 3 cups (750 ml) of pastry cream, which will be enough to fill a layer cake or make a small Zuppa Inglese (English trifle), you will need:

  • The yolks of 6 very fresh eggs
  • 6 tablespoons (40 g) flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • A vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint (500 ml) whole milk
  • A pinch of salt

Here Elisabetta was making less, and started with two yolks.

How to make crema pasticcera: Add the sugar

How to make crema pasticcera: Add the sugar

Lightly whisk the yolks, and then add the sugar. While you are doing this, set all but 1/2 cup of the milk to warm over a slow burner with the vanilla bean, if you’re using it.

How to make crema pasticcera: Whisk

How to make crema pasticcera: Whisk

Whisk. The egg and sugar mixture should pale slightly.

How to make crema pasticcera: Add flour

How to make crema pasticcera: Add flour

Elisabetta simply added the flour with a teaspoon, but she has been making crema pasticcera for many, many years. If you’re new to the Art, use a strainer to add the flour, whisking gently, and making sure that no lumps form.

How to make crema pasticcera: Add milk

How to make crema pasticcera: Add milk

Since Elisabetta was making a small volume, she simply whisked all the milk in without heating it. If you are instead heating some of the milk with the vanilla bean, whisk in what you didn’t heat first, keeping a wary eye for lumps. Next, fish out and discard the vanilla bean (or add the extract), and slowly whisk the heated milk into the egg-and-milk mixture.

How to make crema pasticcera: Heat, whisking gently

How to make crema pasticcera: Heat, whisking gently

Set the pot to heat over a low flame, stirring gently, until it barely reaches a slow boil.

How to make crema pasticcera: It has thickened

How to make crema pasticcera: It has thickened

Count to 120 while stirring constantly and it’s done. Transfer it immediately to a cool bowl, because it will continue to cook if left in the pot.

This brings up an important point: as crema pasticcera cools, a skin will form on the surface. While Artusi suggests you stir the crema as it cools to prevent this occurrence, another trick is to lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the crema, making sure it reaches cleanly to the edges of the bowl. If you do this, no skin will form.

A Note: Depending on your eggs and milk the cream may thicken to the proper consistency before it boils. If it reaches roughly the consistency of commercially prepared plain yogurt of the sort that will pour from the cup it’s done.

And an Observation: Fernanda Gosetti, author of Il Dolcissimo, suggests you use a copper pot because it conducts heat better, and adds that if you make crema pasticcera frequently you should invest in a round-bottomed pot because its entire contents will be accessible to the whisk or spoon.

An Idea for Crema Pasticcera: An Apple Tart

An Idea for Crema Pasticcera: An Apple Tart

What to Do with Crema Pasticcera? Make an Apple Tart!

In this case Elisabetta had a sheet of puff pastry and made an apple tart: She lined a tart mold with the dough, spread the crema over it, covered it with sliced apple, raisins and walnuts, dusted all with brown sugar, and baked it until lightly browned in a 400 F (200 C) oven.

Some other options:

Make Zuppa Inglese, a delightfully custardy English trifle
Slip crema pasticcera between the layers of a layer cake
Fill an orangy Schiacciata alla Fiorentina with crema Pasticcera
Use crema pasticcera in making a larger crostata, or as the base of an elegant fresh fruit crostata.
Combine crema pasticcera with whipped cream to make Crema Chantilly

A shorter version of the recipe.