So, I love to bake. The funny thing is that I am not much of a sweets eater, but I love to bake.
So, naturally, I’ve been experimenting in my new kitchen in Florence with baking. It has been a hoot and a half getting to know the baking aisles at my local grocery stores, where I can often be found reading the fine print on the back of boxes, doing my best to understand the complicated Italian language as it describes the mysteries found inside the box!
For example: what do you think this is?
From the picture on the box, you might think it is a cake mix. Ha ha! You’d be very wrong. It is potato flour/starch. Some of the recipes I’ve been playing with here require this completely new to me ingredient. I felt like a winner when I finally found it on a grocery store shelf.
Here’s the back of the box. I decided to make these ricotta muffins, muffin all ricotta, but turn the muffins into a torta or cake. I am still getting used to measuring grams rather than cups. You can see the ingredients list is:
125 g di ricotta fresca ricotta
80 g di zucchero sugar
70 g di farina 00 flour, ground to 00
50 g di fecola di patate potato flour/starch
50 g di burro butter
1 uovo egg
a mela rosso red apple (later we learn to slice thinly with skin on and lay a piece of apple inside the batter in each muffin cup)
mezza di bustina lievito per dolce 1/2 a packet of rising agent for sweets
mezzo limone 1/2 lemon (later in recipe we learn it is to be lemon peel)
pizzico di sale pinch of salt
zucchero a velo vanigliato vanilla-flavored powdered sugar
To the best of my ability to understand Italian baking products, below we have the equivalent of what we call baking powder in the United States. Only here it comes in packets and I share with you now what I’ve learned the hard way thus far (see below the picture).
Read the recipe very carefully! Because when the recipe says to use “mezza bustina di lievito per dolce” then you want to use 1/2 a packet.
I know this now, because I missed that adjective when I was baking my ricotta torta, and I wound up with a product that was completely overpowered by the taste of baking powder. Which is a nice way to say the cake tasted awful and I had to throw the whole thing out.
Fortunately, I am very patient with myself when it comes to baking (very unlike how I am when it comes to learning to speak Italian!!). I was not very upset to bake a cake and throw it away. :-(
Whenever I bake, I like to play around with the ingredients somewhat, and I think almost every confection tastes better with vanilla. I am accustomed to using a vanilla bean in the United States, or a high quality vanilla extract. I haven’t been able to find that here yet, although I am certain it exists.
What I have found is this weird product:
It is a consistency somewhere between an extract and a paste, and seems to be filled with millions of vanilla seeds, and it imparts a decent vanilla flavor to whatever I’m mixing up.
In addition, the product below is widely available in the baking aisle. It is a white powdered version of what must be imitation vanilla? The package says it imparts the “aroma per dolci di vanillina” or the “aroma for sweets of vanilla extract.”
Well, it does smell like vanilla but to me it doesn’t add much in the way of flavor to my baking. I will stick to the above estratto until I can find real vanilla here.
So, I can’t show you my finished ricotta torta, because I didn’t photograph it before I dumped it. But here I include a picture of a torta margherita I successfully achieved a while back.
The picture says it all! It was wonderful!
Win some, lose some. Questa è la vita.
I won’t stop trying!! :-))
P.S. I’m going to try again to make the ricotta torta this weekend for a classmate’s birthday on Monday. Wish me luck! I am undeterred.