Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Saturday in the kitchen

Today it is Easter Sundy and I've been baking and cooking for 3 days. First I always make  Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans) every Good Friday. And I always make Easter Bread every year as gifts for friends and family and of course don't forget my husband. This is one of his favorites going way back when his Mom made it. I have tweaked the recipe and it's a big hit with everyone.  Just tastes like Easter!
This is a great way to enjoy your Pasta Fagioli

1 medium onion
2 stalks of celery
1 1/2 teasp. ground cloves
2-14.5oz cans dark red kidney beans
1 cup pasta (ditalini or any small pasta)
1-2 tbls. tomato paste
1 large handful of grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion, celery and cloves in 2-3 tbls. of olive oil in a medium saucepan till onion are translucent(5 mins). Add kidney beans with liquid and cook on low to medium heat for approx 30 mins. (do not let it get dry but some of the liquid will cook away) While this is cooking start a large pot of water to boiling, add one cup of pasta and cook until al dente (follow instructions on box) Take out 4 cups of water and keep on the side. Add kidney bean mixture to the pasta pot with 1-2 tbls. of tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste and a heaping handful of grated parmesan cheese.  Cook just until all the flavors have melded together. Serve with crusty italian bread and more grated cheese on top.  Yum!
(The reserved water can be added if there is not enough liquid after adding all the ingredients or you can use chicken stock which gives even more flavor)

Next up Easter Bread. This is a great recipe and definitely worth the time.

1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup warm water
2 pkgs. active dry yeast (I use rapid rise)
5 cups flour
3 teas. anise extract
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 tbls. butter
Warm water (just enough to bring sugar together)
Food coloring (one or two drops of your favorite color)

First, in a small bowl add 1/2 cup of warm water and 2 pkgs. yeast with a pinch of sugar. Stir till dissolved and set aside for 10 mins. till it almost doubles in size. In a blender add eggs, oil and sugar and blend until yellow and creamy. Then in a free standing mixer add flour to the bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the egg mixture, anise and the the proofed yeast. Mix just until all ingredients pull together.  (If you don't have a free standing mixer you can add your flour to a large pot with a well, pour your liquid in the middle and pull the flour from the sides till mixed. This is a very sticky dough at first so I find the mixer works better but I did it the old fashion way for years) Flour a board or your counter and put dough on the counter and knead till smooth and together adding a little flour if needed to knead as this is a very sticy dough. (Not too much though) In a very very large bowl or large pot wipe with oil and place your ball of dough in the middle. Wipe top of dough with a very small amount of oil cover with saran wrap and put in a warm place for 8-10 hours. Dough will rise to the top of the pot.
Once the dough rises, punch down roll into a log and cut into 3 uniform parts. Form into small loaves (will make 3 loaves) Add to greased loaf pans and cover with towel and let rise again in a warm place. (I let them rise overnight and cook in the morning)
Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 mins. depending on your oven. I keep checking it till it sounds hollow and then it's done!
(Shown is my braided wreaths that I love to make as gifts.  There fun and easy to make and are a nice presentation. Start with one portion of dough. Divide again into 3 equal pieces. Roll each peice to about 20 inches long. Press the tops together and then start braiding the strands (as you would a childs hair) When you get to the end keeping it flat bring the ends together, press lightly to keep together and put into a greased cake pan. (Keep an eye on these as they bake a little faster than the loaves)
Once cooled make confectioner icing and frost each bread and sprinkle with sprinkles.

I hope everyone has a joyous holiday with your family and friends. See you next time!

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