Mimosa (Orange and Prosecco) Cake

When baking or cooking, there are two main paths one can take: 1.) following a recipe or 2.) creating your own recipe. The first path is safer, more straightforward, and if it were an actual path, would have clearly marked signs, very green grass, and a few flowers planted along the way. It is a nice path, one that gets you to your end destination safely, with delicious results. But what about that second one, the choose-your-own-adventure, create-your-own-recipe-path? This path is a bit less secure (winding, with weeds, filled with slightly wild and overgrown trees) but one that's worth going down to see if that idea you've had sitting in your head works or not. There is a bit of a risk involved for path #2 -- if the recipe shouldn't work out, you have lost some time and ingredients -- but I rarely see it this way. After all, a recipe that doesn't come out quite as you imagined still teaches you something, gives you the knowledge you need to make a few changes the next time and eventually bring you to your ultimate recipe goal. As Thomas Edison once said: I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work. Nicely said, Tom.

This blog has a combination of already tested recipes, taken from cookbooks, blogs, or websites, plus original recipes that I've developed myself. On the "Recipe Developing" list at the moment: A coffee and pistachio cake (the coffee and pistachio flavor combination speaks to me; see how it goes); savory castagnole, which, when made with Parmesan cheese, would become little cheese fritters; pear, prosciutto, and Pecorino scones, ingredients that already play well together and could only be improved with the addition of a buttery, crumbly scone; and up until recently, this Mimosa Cake, or rather, my favorite creation to date, perfected on the fourth try. After making a few cakes with wine, and reading recipes for cakes made with bourbon, rum, and other kinds of alcohol, I wondered why Prosecco hadn't been getting more attention, and, more importantly: what effect would all the happy, vibrant, bubbles have on a cake?! 

The answer is this: just when you thought a brunch-time mimosa couldn’t get any better, here it is, in dessert form. So, first things first! The additions of yogurt and oil give this cake just about the loveliest texture of any I've ever baked, making for an incredibly moist (I hate that word too, but sometimes there is no way around it) cake that stays that way long after the first day you've baked it. The Prosecco bubbles did as I expected they would, leaving the cake superbly fluffy and light in their effervescent wake. Texture aside, the flavor of the cake was just as I wanted it, barely sweet and very bright, refreshing and citrus-y thanks to a generous amount of orange zest, incorporated first in to the sugar to release all the orange-y oil. And since I know you were wondering -- yes, there is an underlying yet undeniably festive hint of Prosecco flavor here, helped along by the mimosa bath and glaze that cake gets post baking. I'd say this cake is pretty much perfect for brunch, tea, dessert, snack, or any other time of the day, which gives you an excuse to open more bottles of Prosecco than you need, just to keep a little for this dessert. Nope, there's nothing to not like here, my friends.

A couple of notes: No Prosecco on hand but still want to make this cake? Substitute some of the juice from the oranges in the cake instead -- you won't have all the lightness from the Prosecco bubbles, but it will still be good. Remember to reserve the oranges you have zested to use in the glaze, syrup, and to put in the cake. Feel free to make this cake without the syrup or the glaze, or with one or the other if you want to keep things a bit simpler and not as prosecco-y. You can use Prosecco that has been opened and is sitting in the fridge for a few days here, no problem -- it still turned out quite fluffy compared to the cake made with Prosecco from the evening before. You could also bake this batter in muffin tins to make Mimosa muffins/cupcakes. Finally, blood oranges are out of season now, but if you are making this cake in the Winter, feel free to use them here

Looking for other citrus-y sweets? Check out these Lemon Squares, this Triple Orange Pound Cake, this Lemon Poppy seed Cake, this Lemon, Ricotta, and Olive Oil Cake, and these Orange Poppy seed Muffins. Want some other brunch-appropriate cakes? I thought so! I've also got this Ricotta Pound cake, this Chocolate Loaf Cake, and this Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

MIMOSA (ORANGE AND PROSECCO) CAKE

Ingredients:
2 1/3 cups (300 grams) flour 315
2 teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of 4 large oranges 
3/4 cup sugar (150 grams)
3 eggs
1 cup (220 grams) vegetable oil
1 cup (185 grams) plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/2 cup (80ml) Prosecco

To finish:
4 tablespons tablespoons Prosecco
4 tablespoons orange juice, from your zested oranges

Glaze (optional, depending on how much Prosecco you have left and how Prosecco-y you want the cake):
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Prosecco
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon orange juice


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 inch loaf pan, or a tube pan, or a bundt pan -- whatever you have on hand. Set your pan of choice aside. 

In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest, and then use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar, to release the orange oils and all its citrus flavor. The sugar will turn slightly orange -- this is okay. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to the sugar and whisk together. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and Prosecco. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and whisk briefly, just to combine. Pour the batter in to the prepared pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the top is slightly cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs attached. Let cool slightly then turn out on to a wire rack to let it cool completely.

Once the cake has been out of the oven for a few minutes, whisk together four tablespoons of the Prosecco and 4 tablespoons of orange juice. Poke some holes in the top of the cake with a knife, and brush the mimosa mixture on to the cake while it is still warm, allowing it to seep in to the cake through the holes you've made with the knife. When the cake has cooled completely, turn out on to a wire rack. 
If making the glaze: whisk together the glaze ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the cake after it has cooled completely. If you're doing the glazing its helpful to put the wire rack over something (newspaper, for example) to catch an drips from the glaze. Note that this will not be a super thick, powder sugary glaze, but a much lighter, thinner one, which doesn't overwhelm the cake. Serves 10.




Blog Birthday + Cappuccino Cake

Move over Easter, we've got something else to celebrate! Yep, that's right -- believe it or not, Pancakes & Biscotti turns 3 this week! They grow up so fast, don't they?! Around this time all the back in 2014 I was figuring out how to write blog posts, saving up money for a decent camera, and making up lists of recipes that could be potentially interesting to any hypothetical readers. I've learned quite a bit in the past 1,095 days; for example, I no longer post photos like this (natural light is best, it turns out) and www.pancakes-biscotti-en.blogspot.com has now become www.pancakesandbiscotti.com, because no one can be bothered to type in a name with so many dashes. I've created a Recipe Index and tags to make recipes as easy to find as possible (no more endless clicking!) I've found my blogging "voice" so to speak (I hope you like it) letting a bit of my personality and sparkling sense of humor come through (ha ha!), because those posts are easier to write anyways. I've been making more of an effort to post a variety of recipes -- from 2014-2015 I was sharing lots and lots of American desserts -- which has helped me to become a more well-rounded cook. I've started putting quantities in grams rather than just cups on my ingredient lists (turns out no one but the good old U.S.A uses that system,) and have added step-by-step photos and my own notes at the end of each recipe to make each one as straightforward and clear as possible. I've realized the importance and power of Instagram and other forms of social media too, something that I didn't really have time to develop when the blog was still in its very beginning cocoon stages. That kind of thing.

I feel that a blog anniversary is a good time for reflection, so here goes: Pancakes & Biscotti, modest and small of a blog as it may be, has brought me a lot of joy since I opened it. Oh sure, it's a lot of work -- my Saturday and Sunday mornings are usually set aside for recipe testing and photographing, I need to find the time to actually write the twice weekly posts, etc -- but it has led me to cook and bake a lot more, inspired me develop more of my own recipes, and has given me a creative outlet outside of a 9-5 workday. It has also led me to connect with lots of other wonderful bloggers and home cooks (I'm looking at you, Samina Patel, Cucina Conversations ladies, and Jenelle Manzi!) and read a lot more blogs, which has also been a tremendous source of creative and culinary inspiration. The blog is still very much finding its way -- its only 3, after all, basically a blog toddler, with much to learn -- but I'm excited to see where it will go in this next year. 

But to the recipe! It's not a birthday without a cake, am I right? Just like last year's Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes, I've kept with the blog's American/Italian theme and baked a frosted, American-style cake with an Italian touch, or rather, the classic cappuccino. This cake is tender and fluffy, intensely coffee flavored, and just sweet enough, perfect with a swoosh of dreamy mascarpone frosting and gorgeous with a little snowfall of cocoa over the top to make it look just like a (giant) cappuccino you can cut in to slices and eat with a fork. Turning 3 was a lot sweeter with a slice (or two) of this on hand. Blog birthday to celebrate or not not, I suggest you give it a try.

A couple of notes: Don't have a springform pan? You can also bake this cake in a 12x4 inch loaf pan, in a muffin tin, a square or rectangular pan, or make two round cakes to make a layer cake (I'd guess you could make two 8-inch layers with this batter, but don't quote me on that). Feel free to leave out the frosting if you want just a plain coffee cake. In the photos below, you'll see I used yogurt, instead of milk, as it's all I had on hand when I went to photograph this. It worked well, resulting in a slightly denser cake. You can also replace the milk with 3 ripe mashed bananas to make a coffee banana cake instead of a cappuccino cake. Not a frosting fan? You can make this without to just have a coffee loaf cake, equally delicious! On that same note, if you can't find mascarpone in your local supermarket (for those not cooking in Italy) cream cheese would work well here too.


CAPPUCCINO CAKE WITH MASCARPONE FROSTING

Ingredients for the cake:
1 3/4 cups (225 grams) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt3/4 cup (12 tablespoons, or 175 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup (175 ml) whole milk
4 teaspoons instant coffee, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

Ingredients for the frosting:
250 grams mascarpone
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt

Cocoa powder

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius). Grease your pan with a little butter, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside as well.
In a large bowl, using electric beaters, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at at a time and beat well until combined. 
Add half the milk and half the flour mixture to the eggs, butter, and sugar mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon to combine; repeat with half the flour mixture and half the milk. 
Stir in the coffee/water mixture and mix everything until the batter is nice and smooth.  Next, pour the batter in to the prepared pan. 
Bake the Cappuccino Cake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few crumbs attached. Let cool completely. If the cake has become a bit domed on the top, use a sharp knife to cut off the extra cake to make the surface even. Eat cake scraps. 
While the cake is cooling, make the the frosting. Place the powdered sugar, mascarpone, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl and beat until smooth using electric beaters. 
Using a small offset spatula, spread the frosting over the top of the cake (you'll not use all the frosting, probably; reserve for another use). 
 
Sift cocoa powder over the top to complete the cappuccino effect -- make sure you use a light hand for this, to ensure that you get only a light dusting of cocoa and not a thick layer (like you might for tiramisu). Cut the cake in to slices and serve. Serves 8-10. 
Basic coffee cake recipe from www.lovefoodies.com






























































Torta Pasqualina

 
Time for another round of Cucina Conversations! Since this month's theme is Easter we're posting a little earlier than usual, just in case you're looking for inspiration for your menu this April 16th.
With no further ado, here are the other Easter-themed recipes prepared by my fellow Cucina Conversations bloggers:

Daniela of La Dani Gourmet is sharing her recipe 
Torta coi Bischeri, or a pie with a chocolate and rice filling;

Carmen at The Heirloom Chronicles has baked up one of my very, very favorite snacks in the whole wide world -- taralli all'uovo;


Flavia from Flavia's Flavors is sharing a recipe for focaccia veneta;


Last but not least Marialuisa over at Marmellata di Cipolle has made 
pitta chijna, a Calabrian specialty for Easter. 

Lisa aka Italian Kiwi has a recipe to still be announced -- check back for that soon!;

My contribution for this month is the traditional Easter Torta Pasqualina, a savory pie that comes from Genova. I'm no stranger to savory, veggie-and-cheese pies (like this Butternut Squash Galette, this Three-Cheese Zucchini Tart, and this Cherry Tomato Crostatafinding them splendidly versatile, as at home showcasing seasonal ingredients as they are accommodating whatever you happen to have in your fridge. And let's be honest -- a vegetable is always, always improved by the addition of cheese (the more, the better) and a pastry crust, right?! That's what I thought.

In the course of my Torta Pasqualina research I came across recipes using artichokes, chard, or even beets, recipes for torte made with homemade pastry crusts, others with store-bought crusts for the cook short on time, plus a particularly fancy, tiered torta with 3 layers and different pie crusts dividing them. In the end, I decided to keep things simple and stick with the more traditional version of the Torta Pasqualina, or rather: a fluffy ricotta filling, mixed with lots of spinach for color and an arguable dose of nutrition (this is basically health food, people) generous helpings of salty rich Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, and, best and prettiest of all, four whole eggs baked right into the top of the pie, bright golden yellow like a circle of miniature suns. This dish is as beautiful as it is tasty, and would be perfect for an Easter brunch, as a starter, or as a hearty alternative for vegetarians who won't be eating the usual Easter lamb or ham. Bonus: This makes great leftovers (if it lasts) and beyond Easter, makes fantastic, portable picnic food (especially if you are celebrating Pasquetta on Monday). I loved this and I think you will too. 

A couple of general: This recipe is fairly flexible. Substitute chard for the spinach, or any kind of green you want. You can use just Pecorino or just Parmesan if you don't want to buy two types of cheese. If you're short on time, feel free to use a pre-made pie crust instead of the homemade crust below. I found that a bit of steam got caught under the pie crust as it was baking, which was fine, but left an air pocket under the crust that probably could have been avoided by cutting a slit or two in the top of the pie crust (I'll do this next time!) 

Notes on the crust: The crust here is on the simpler, sturdier side to support all the filling and let it shine, but I've also made this with Smitten Kitchen's flakier, buttery pastry dough (find the recipe here) with great results (this was the preferred crust from most of my taste testers and my preferred crust too). The choice is up to you -- I've provided both recipes below. Note that you'll have some leftover pie crust recipe using either recipe -- use the scraps to cut out decorations for the top of the pie if you're feeling creative. 

TORTA PASQUALINA

Ingredients for the crust:
3 1/2 cups (450 grams) of flour
A very generous pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (255ml) water
2 1/2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

or

Smitten Kitchen's crust recipe, using 2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.

Ingredients for the filling:
1 pound (500 grams) spinach, stems removed, rinsed
1 cup (250 grams) of ricotta cheese
A scant 1/2 cup (35 grams) of Pecorino cheese
A scant 1/2 cup (45 grams) of Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt 
6 eggs
Pepper to taste

Directions:
Start with your crust! Dissolve the salt in the water. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the water-salt mixture and the olive oil. Stir the ingredients together until a dough starts to form.
 
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic. Divide it in to two pieces -- one should weigh about 300 grams, the other about 180 grams if you have a kitchen scale and want to be precise. The bigger piece will be the bottom crust, the smaller our top crust. Pat each piece of dough in to a ball and let it sit for about an hour, covered.
 
Make your filling! Put a pot of water on to boil. Salt the water when its boiling, then add the spinach and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Drain the spinach, let it cool, and then dry it very well -- usually my (very clean) hands to squeeze it dry. Chop the spinach roughly.
 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the ricotta, one of the six eggs, the Parmesan, the Pecorino, the salt, and lots of pepper. Add the spinach and mix very well. 
 
 
 
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with some butter. Roll out each piece of dough on a clean, lightly floured work surface into a circle about 1/2 inch thick. Place your prepared pan on the smaller piece of rolled-out dough and using a sharp knife, cut around the pan, to get a piece of dough of the same size. 
 
Roll the larger piece of dough around the rolling pin (best if it has a little flour on it) to more easily transport the dough to the springform pan (or just pick it up and lift it if you prefer -- I happen to like the rolling pin trick). Unroll the dough over the bottom of the greased pan, being sure that it goes all the way up and over the sides of the pan. 
 
Fill the crust with the ricotta and spinach mixture. Using a spoon, make 5 or so indentations in the filling. Carefully crack each of the remaining eggs into each indentation. 
 
Back to the smaller piece of dough we cut out using the springform pan! Place it over the filling, being careful not to move around the eggs too much. Close the edges of the larger piece of dough over the smaller piece. Trim the extra dough off of the sides. Lightly beat the sixth and final egg, and brush it over the top of the crust to get a nice shiny finish.
 
 
Bake the Torta Pasqualina for about an 50 minutes to an hour, or until the crust is a light golden brown and the filling seems set. 

Let the Torta cool completely before cutting and serving. Serves 6-8.













































Magical, 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

    
Alright, I admit it: I was skeptical when I first came across this recipe. I've baked quite a few cookies in my day, after all, and never before had I come across ones quite like these peanut butter cookies, which are curiously, strangely, suspiciously devoid of:

-Flour
-Butter
-Baking powder or baking soda

Weird, isn't it? Even if you're not a baker you know that flour and butter are pretty important baking ingredients, right?! Perplexed, I wondered if perhaps this was one of those dairy-free, gluten-free type deals that, while perhaps producing something that resembled a cookie, still left something to be desired, not tasting completely complete. They would be flat, I figured, on the overly-crunchy side, perhaps acceptable when you want a cookie, and fast, but by no means up to snuff for those of us who have baked things like Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies and thus have incredibly high cookie standards. After a bit of contemplation, my curiosity proved to be stronger than my skepticism, bolstered as well by the fact that Deb Perelman, Her Royal Blogging Highness, had not only given these her stamp of approval, she'd raved about them on her site Smitten Kitchen. In the end, I went ahead and followed this oddball recipe, and here's what I found they did have:

-A pure, rich peanut butter flavor -- after all, no flour and overall fewer ingredients leaves more room for the peanut butter to shine -- producing a cookie that is intensely peanut butter-y and not for the peanut butter faint of heart;
-An incredibly soft and chewy interior, which contrasts beautifully with a slightly crisp exterior;
-A perfect, round, slightly tall cookie shape, surprising given the lack of baking powder/soda;
-Only 4 (!!!) basic ingredients that you probably have on hand, all of which are whisked together in 1 (!!!) bowl, meaning there is little standing in the way between you and a batch of these beauties whenever a cookie craving hits on 8pm on a Wednesday night (anyone else?)

Yep, these cookies are beyond fantastic, and given its short ingredient list and lack of typical cookie ingredients, pretty magical, too (I've said it before and I've said it again -- there really is something marvelous about cooking and baking). They possess a certain addictive-ness unrivaled by any cookie I've baked thus far -- the salty-sweet combination got me here -- and I admit it, only about half of this batch made it to my office this time (don't say I didn't warn you). Bonus: These would also be a perfect Passover dessert (no flour, no leavening agents) or great for anyone who is avoiding gluten.

Notes: This recipe can be easily halved, though these cookies are so good, I recommend that you think twice before doing so. Feel free to leave out the chocolate chips if you want just plain peanut butter cookies, or substitute chopped peanuts for the chocolate chips. You could probably also make this with chunky peanut butter if you want to up the peanut butter factor, but I suspect that you'll get the best results in terms of texture with a smooth peanut butter. You could also substitute natural peanut butter for the regular peanut butter, but the consistency and overall appearance of the cookies might be a bit different. You can leave out the freezing mentioned in the directions below if you're short on time -- the cookies will still be good, but may not have such a nice shape. Finally, I made these cookies a bit smaller and used about 1 tablespoon dough per cookie, but in the original recipe each cookie was made with 1/4 cup dough (4 tablespoons) to make giant cookies.

Looking for other peanut butter cookies? I also have these Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies. Want more cookies? Check out these Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, these Brownie Cookies, these Brown Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, these Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies, these Shortbread Cookies, and these Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies, this Oatmeal Cookie Cake, and this Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake. Looking for more flourless, Passover sweets? How about these Dark Chocolate Coconut Macaroons, this Mascarpone and Nutella with Raspberries, these Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars, these Salted Brown Butter Krispy Treats, these Red Wine Chocolate Truffles, or this Chocolate Gelato?!

MAGICAL, 4 INGREDIENT PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups (335 grams) packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups (450 grams) smooth peanut butter (I used Skippy)


1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet with a little butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the light brown sugar and eggs until smooth.
Whisk in the vanilla extract, then the peanut butter until smooth and completely incorporated. Stir in the mini chocolate chips, if using.
Put the bowl of dough in the freezer for 15 minutes, stirring it once (so the edges don’t freeze first) before scooping it. Place a tablespoon of dough (or as much as you want -- see my notes) per cookie on the aforementioned greased baking sheet. For the tallest final cookie shape, place the tray in the freezer for 15 minutes before baking.
Bake smaller cookies for 14 to 15 minutes and larger for 18 to 20. When finished, the cookies should be golden at the edges. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a minute or two before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Let cool completely before eating. Makes 24-28 magical cookies.
Recipe courtesy of Ovenly Bakery, by way of www.smittenkitchen.com, and adapted, just barely.