March 1, 2019


Pecan Thumbprints


If you’ve been looking for a new cookie recipe, this is definitely the one to try. These cookies are so good that I’m already thinking of whipping up another batch. I’ve made various thumbprints in the past that were filled with either jam or chocolate, but this frangipane filling nestled under a pecan half adds an unexpected layer of flavor to this buttery cookie.

Glancing at the recipe it may look like there’s a lot of steps involved, but the frangipane can be made up to three days ahead. You’ll have some left over and I plan on slathering it on some puff pastry and rolling it up to make pinwheels.

This is absolutely the best cookie recipe I’ve tried in a while. I dare you to eat just one!

Double Pecan Thumbprints 


2 cups pecan halves

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg white

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tsp. espresso powder (which I forgot to add)

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Dough and assembly:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup powdered sugar, divided; plus more for serving (optional)

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing halfway through, until slightly darkened in color and fragrant, 6–8 minutes. Let cool; set 1 1/4 cups pecans aside for making the dough.

Pulse granulated sugar and remaining 3/4 cup pecans in a food processor until nuts are very finely ground (be careful to stop before they become a paste), 30–60 seconds. Add egg white and pulse just to blend, then add butter, espresso powder, salt, and almond extract. Pulse just until mixture is smooth and combined. Scrape frangipane into a small bowl and chill at least 30 minutes before using.

Pulse flour, salt, baking powder, and 1 cup reserved pecans in clean food processor until nuts are very finely ground, about 1 minute.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, and 1/4 cup powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until combined and no streaks remain. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients. Beat just until incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough until it’s firm enough that you can scoop it and it will hold its shape, 30–45 minutes.

Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°F. Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a shallow bowl. Working in batches, scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough and roll into balls between your hands, then roll in powdered sugar, knocking off any excess. Transfer to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets as you work, spacing 2″ apart.

Bake cookies until puffed but edges are still soft, 6–8 minutes. Carefully remove from oven and make an indent in the center of each cookie with the handle end of a wooden spoon or a similar heatproof object. Spoon a heaping 1/2-teaspoonful of frangipane into each and top with a pecan half from remaining reserved 1/4 cup. Return cookies to oven and continue to bake until edges are set and very lightly browned, 6–8 minutes longer. Let cool on baking sheets.

Just before serving, dust cookies with more powdered sugar if desired.

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2019-one spot left-come along and join in the fun!


February 4, 2019


Meyer Lemon Poppyseed Loaf


Living in southern California we’re lucky to have access to a variety of gorgeous citrus, often without having to purchase it. At work there’s frequently a basket filled with oranges, lemons or grapefruit, available for the taking. At home we have a dwarf lemon tree in a pot out back which produces an amazing amount of fruit. Last week a neighbor gifted us a bag of Meyer lemons and I knew I had to bake something.

This loaf cake is exactly what I had hoped it would be-very moist with the sweet lemony-orange flavor of the Meyer lemons. Thinking that an entire cake would be too much for the two of us I froze most of it. Good news is that it freezes nicely. Turns out that the cake is so tasty that I took the rest of the cake out of the freezer rather quickly and then a few days later baked another loaf! I definitely recommend using lemon juice in the topping to kick up the citrusy flavor.


Meyer Lemon Poppyseed Cake (from Browned Butter Blonde blog)

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 1 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ TBSP lemon zest
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 1½ cups plus 2 TBSP all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ TBSP poppyseeds
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 TBSP whole milk or use fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  1. Spray a 9 x 4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with a piece of parchment paper that covers the bottom and extends past the short sides of the pan. You will use these as handles to pull the loaf out of the pan once it has cooled slightly, I skipped the parchment step and just sprayed the pan an it came out nicely.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
  4. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg is added.
  5. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix until combined.
  7. With the mixer on low, add some of the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and then alternate with the greek yogurt, ending with the flour mixture.
  8. Remove from mixer and stir in poppyseeds with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
  9. Mix until barely incorporated. Do not over mix.
  10. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.
  11. If cake is browned too quickly towards the end of the baking time, cover the top with a piece of aluminum foil.
  12. Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes
  13. Using the parchment paper handles, carefully lift the cake from the pan and set aside to cool on a wire rack.
For the Glaze
  1. While cake is cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and milk in a small bowl
  2. While cake is still slightly warm, spoon the glaze over the top of the cake allowing some to drizzle down the sides
  3. Sprinkle top with an additional ½ tsp poppyseeds if desired

loaf 2

January 13, 2019


Experimenting with Sourdough Starter


I have a bread thing going on. About a month ago I was gifted some thirty year old “starter” and since then I’ve baked more bread than I have in years. I’m still in the experimental stage as I’ve only ever baked with dry packaged yeast. My first few attempts were sourdough loaves which turned out pretty good (see below), although they took the greater part of a day to rise and bake (not counting making the “leaven” the day before).








I also baked Pane di Como Antico (Como Bread of the Past) from the wonderful book by Carol Field- The Italian Baker– and it may look a bit like ciabatta, but it’s quite different with it’s very crunchy crust and chewy interior.  I used it for mushroom bruschetta which we loved it.pane

As for the semelle rolls (pictured at the top of the post), well they have a great crusty exterior, but I think I should have used a little more of the starter. They didn’t rise as much as I would have liked and had a somewhat dense interior. That being said, while they were still warm I broke one open and slathered a little butter on and it was pretty tasty.

So, if you are a baker and have experience with sourdough starter I’d love some input. I’m unsure how much I should be using in replacement of dry yeast. Since I started writing this I’ve done a little reading about replacing yeast with starter and it’s not as simple as I had hoped-you have to decrease the amount of both water and flour in your original recipe and there’s most certainly a longer rise time involved.

My next attempt will focaccia stuffed with cheese-this is a bread my grandmother used to make and so I’ll be baking this from a memory-we shall see! I think I’ll stick with dry yeast this time.

Semelle Rolls (from The Italian Baker)

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package / 0.2 oz / 7 g) active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups (10.5 oz / 300 g) warm water

3 3/4 cups (17.5 oz / 500 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons (0.4 oz / 10 g) salt

Olive oil for brushing

By Hand
Stir the yeast into the water in a mixing bowl; let stand until creamy, about 
10 minutes. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, and the salt. When the dough is too stiff to stir, plunge in with your hands. Knead on a lightly floured work surface until solid and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.


By Mixer
Stir the yeast into the water in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and salt and mix with the paddle until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Change to the dough hook and knead until solid and elastic, 3 to 4 minutes.


First Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Shaping and Second Rise: Cut the dough into ten equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball. Brush a little oil over each and let rest 10 minutes under a towel. With the edge of your hand, make a deep indentation down the center of each ball; be sure to press down firmly. Place the rolls, cleft side down, on floured parchment or brown paper. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Baking: Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Just before baking, turn each roll over and reemphasize the cleft. Place the rolls, cleft side up, on an oiled baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, spraying the oven three times with water in the first 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2019-there’s one spot left-come along!


December 15, 2018


Seedy Crackers


Looking for a homemade Christmas gift? I always bake a variety of cookies at this time of the year, but then again so does everyone else. I decided that instead it might be nice to make something savory to give to friends.

I know it looks like there’s a lot of steps involved with this recipe, but it’s not at all difficult. Mixing the dough can be done with a wooden spoon and there’s really no kneading involved. If you’ve ever made pasta with a pasta machine the rolling of the dough is exactly the same.

Go to your favorite cheese shop, pick up a wedge of your favorite cheese or perhaps a nice creamy triple creme and paired with these crackers you’ve got a tasty treat to share with your friends or neighbors. If you happen to shop at Trader Joes they have the most delectable French cheese called Fromage Pavé. They only carry it during the month of December, so don’t waste any time!

Seedy Crackers (recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini)

150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) all-purpose flour

150 grams (5 1/3 ounces) fine semolina flour (if you can’t find semolina flour, just use all regular flour)

20 grams (3 tablespoons) toasted sesame seeds

15 grams (2 tablespoons) poppy seeds

7 grams (1 1/2 teaspoons) fine sea salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

120 ml (1/2 cup) water

Place the flours, seeds and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil and stir it in with a fork. Add the water and mix it in.

When the water is absorbed, turn the mixture out on a clean work surface and knead the dough gently to gather into a smooth ball. Add a touch more water if the dough feels too dry to come together, but the consistency you’re shooting for is smooth, not at all sticky or tacky.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces of (roughly) equal size, and cover with a kitchen towel.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and prepare two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mats — this is so you can bake two batches of crackers at a time, but if you only have one baking sheet, that’s fine, too. If you have a rectangular or square bread stone, place it in the oven as it preheats; you’ll need only one baking sheet in addition to the stone then.

Take one piece of dough (keep the others covered to prevent them from drying out) and flatten it into an oval disk between the palms of your hands. Set a pasta roller on the widest setting, and slip the disk of dough in the roller to thin it out. Fold the strip of dough in half so the two short sides meet, and slip the dough into the roller again, fold in first. Repeat 3 or 4 times until the dough feels supple; you are essentially kneading the dough in the process. If it gets sticky at any point, dust it with a little flour.

Switch the pasta roller to the next (= narrower) setting and slip the dough in (just once this time) to thin it out. Repeat with the subsequent settings until you get a thin, long rectangularish sheet of dough. (On my pasta roller, it’s setting 5, out of 9 total.) Place it on one of the prepared baking sheets, or a flour-dusted peel if you’re using a bread stone.

(If you don’t have a pasta roller, perhaps you can borrow one from a friend? Otherwise, roll up your sleeves, whip out your rolling pin, and roll the dough out as thinly as you can.)

Repeat with more pieces of dough until there is no room left on your baking sheets. Using a dough cutter, a pastry wheel or just a knife, score the sheets of dough into square or triangular pieces.

Insert the baking sheets into the oven (or, if you’re using a pizza stone, slide the dough in using the pizza peel) and bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden to golden brown. It’s nice to bake each batch of crackers to a slightly different shade of golden because that will result in slightly different flavors.

Transfer to a cooling rack, and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Panini Girl In Lucca May 2019 (1 spot left)

What a great gift for the Italophile in your life!


December 2, 2018


Shortbread-Easy As One, Two, Three


I’ve been trying to recreate a cookie that I am suddenly addicted to from our favorite local bakery- Prager Brothers. Started by two brothers the bakery originally sold only bread, but has expanded into  pastries, cookies and sandwiches as well. These guys are true artisans and even mill their wheat right there in the shop. I wouldn’t buy my bread anywhere else.

Now about those cookies-they are a buttery shortbread with a hint of salt and I have to stop myself from eating more than one at a time. I’ve tried various recipes, but so far none have come close.

I’m posting this recipe that I found on line as it is super easy and is a good shortbread cookie, however I am still on the search for the Prager recipe. I did notice on their website that there’s whole wheat flour in their cookie. Next I may try this cookie from Alice Medrich, but without the nuts.


1 cup ( 8oz/240g) ) butter, room temperature

1/2 cup (2oz/60g)) powdered sugar, sifted

2 cups (10oz/300g)) all purpose flour

1 egg white beaten

Sanding sugar


Preheat your oven to 350o F (180oC) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
In a large bowl cream together the soft butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the flour and mix until the dough just comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a counter dusted with powdered sugar and gently roll the dough into a long two by two inch log. Wrap the log of cookie dough in plastic wrap and allow to firm up in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Once the dough is firm slice the cookies into 3/4 inch thick rounds. Beat the egg white until frothy. Brush the rim of each cookie with the egg wash and then roll edge in sanding sugar. Place each round on your baking tray and bake for 16-18 minutes or until just golden. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
 Once cool the cookies can be stored in an air tight container for up to 3 days.
Panini Girl In Lucca May 2019 (one spot left)

November 25, 2018


Apple Almond Galette


I had intended to post this recipe before Thanksgiving, but somehow the time got away from me. At any rate there’s still plenty of time to prepare and serve this tasty tart during the holiday season.

This crust is buttery and flaky and if you omit the sugar is perfect for a savory tart such as this tomato  filled one.

 Apple Almond Galette (adapted from Alexandra Kitchen)


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 sick (8 oz.) plus 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

About 1/4 cup ice water

In a bowl toss flour with salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Using a fork, stir in the ice water by tablespoons until the dough holds together when pressed. Sprinkle in more water if needed. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before rolling out.

Almond Filling

1/2 cup almond flour

2 tablespoons sugar

pinch salt

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine almond flour, sugar, salt, butter and egg in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until combined, then add vanilla. Purée until smooth.

for assembly

1-2 apples-honey crisp, granny smith or fuji,  peeled and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon melted butter

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, turbinado or sanding sugar if you have it

1 egg beaten with a little water

vanilla ice cream for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12- or 13-inch round. Use as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking, and every few rolls, flip the dough over. Transfer dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. Spoon the almond filling into the center leaving a 1 inch border.

Arrange apple slices in concentric circles starting at the outer edge of the filling. Fold the exposed edge of the dough up over the filling. Brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg wash. Drizzle the butter over the exposed apples. Sprinkle the sugar around the crust and over the apples.

Bake the  galette for 35 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let rest on a cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream. Serves: 8




November 2, 2018


Curried Butternut Squash Soup


The very first time that I ate this soup was on a stormy night in  Boston. Rain was coming down sideways and we were just a few degrees away from snow. I was searching for a friend’s apartment while trying to hold on to an umbrella that threatened to blow away.  I finally found her door and stepped into  the most charming room with a wooden beamed ceiling. The house was tiny, having been built in the 1700’s, and was right down the street from Bunker Hill (as in the Battle of…). In the corner a fire was roaring and candles flickered on an antique wooden table. The scent of curry and onions filled the room.  All at once I forgot about the storm raging outside and and settled into a cozy chair with a big glass of red wine.

At this point in my cooking life I had not had much (or any) experience with curry. The sweetness of the squash and the heat of the curry were offset by the  grating of a  tangy apple. I was instantly won over and had to ask for the recipe. Turns out it came from one of the most popular cookbooks of the time-The Silver Palate Cookbook. This cookbook was like a bible to me back in the day. My copy was so well worn that it fell apart and I had to buy a new one. To this day I still turn to this book and am never disappointed with whatever I make. This curried butternut soup may be my favorite.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup 

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped onions
4-5 teaspoons curry powder
2 medium size butternut squash (about 3 pounds) peeled, seeds discarded and flesh chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple juice (or 1/2 cup apple cider)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 shredded, unpeeled apple for garnish

Melt butter in pot and add chopped onions and curry powder and cook, covered over low heat until onions are tender, about 20 minutes. When tender pour in stock, add squash and chopped apple and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash and apples are tender, about 25 minutes.
Pour soup through a strainer and reserve solids. Add 1 cup of cooking stock to solids and puree (in either food processor or use hand held blender) until smooth. Return to pot and add apple juice and about 2 cups more cooking liquid (depending on the consistency you like). Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer briefly to heat. Serve with a garnish of shredded apple. Serves 4-6.

Panini Girl Food Tour In Lucca May 2019