Italian Breakfast

The Italian style of eating sweets for breakfast is a little challenging for me.  I need to have protein for breakfast:  eggs, cheese, nuts,  something of that nature.  If I start my day with a lot of fluffy carbs, I’m starving and possibly in tears in about an hour.

Every morning we join the other guests in the cozy kitchen at our farm.  Nadia, the owner, and Maggie, an assistant, are often folding the line-dried laundry from the day before.  It creates such a homey atmosphere.

In the kitchen is an assortment of freshly baked goods. There will be a warm cake and one or two varieties of croissants along with yogurt, fresh fruit and cereal.  I zero in on yogurt and fresh fruit and sample just a little of the baked goods.  The morning we had Buckwheat Cake, however, I felt like I was eating something supportive.  This is a typical Northern Italian recipe called Torta Di Grano Saraceno.  Even though it contains a heavier flour and ground almonds, the cake has a light crumb.  Maggie cut her cake in half and filled it with raspberry preserves.

It is perfect with a cappuccino, but in case you don’t know this, it is considered gross to have milk in your coffee past noon in Italy so cappuccinos and lattes are only for morning.

Buckwheat Cake

Serves 16

Ingredients

1 cup whole almonds, blanched or natural ( 6oz/175g)
1 ½ cups buckwheat flour ( 200g)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 large lemon, zested
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature ( 6oz/175g)
1 ½ cups sugar, divided ( 300g)
¾ cup milk ( 180ml)
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175°C Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.
  2. Grease a 9-inch/23cm springform pan and set aside. In a food processor or clean coffee grinder, grind the almonds as finely as possible with 1/4 cup (50g) of the sugar. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground almonds, buckwheat flour, salt, cinnamon, lemon zest and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, beat the butter and 1 cup (200g) of the sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the dry mixture alternately with the milk until everything is well combined.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup (50g) sugar until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Stir one-quarter of the whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the batter into the greased pan, smoothing the top.
  5. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, covering the top loosely with foil if it begins to darken too quickly. Cool the cake for ten minutes on a rack, then carefully remove the outer ring and cool completely. Cut the cake in half, horizontally, and spread with preferred jam.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving..

Sunday in Siena

It’s Spring Vacation.  Yesterday morning, Allan and I caught the 6:00 AM flight from Tunis to Rome, which takes exactly one hour, rented a car and drove to Tuscany.  We are staying for a week at the Agritourismo Marciano, a farm stay just outside the city walls of Siena.  So far, it is exactly what we wanted:  a real farm, rustic but tasteful, organic, clean.  It’s all of that.

They have a particular thing about the laundry here which is all fresh and bright from air drying.  Well-done laundry is important to me and gives me a clear message about the deep levels of intentionality this establishment has.    The cat particularly liked it, too. I felt like him last night tucked into my clean, crisp sheets.

This was the kitchen this morning when we came in to share breakfast at the long farm table with the other guests.  It’s cozy, here.

Due to limited internet access, my husband wasn’t able to check his email this morning so he read a guidebook instead.  When we got into the car to go into Siena for the day, he had everything planned, including a great little surprise place for lunch.  I find that incredibly romantic.

We so passionately want to find the great little places to have a bite to eat and do not want to be herded along tourist trails from one oversized meal to another.  He read about Antica Pizzicheria al Palazzo della Chigiana which is probably locally known as Antonio’s.  It is a tiny meat and cheese shop that is legendary with the locals.  A line starts to form near noon and is soon out the door.  Allan read that you could ask them to assemble a platter to eat on the spot and if you bought a bottle of wine, they would lend you glasses.

They aren’t actually a restaurant, but they can prop you up with your delicatessan treasures on a wine cask in a corner and there you can spend an indulgent 1/2 hour groaning with each bite and licking your fingers. Antonio was really touchy about taking pictures.  He had several posted signs forbidding it and tragically,  you never saw a more atmospheric place in your life; it’s begging to have its picture taken.  I sort of begged him a little and he grudgingly allowed me to inconspicuously take a few so I kept it really brief.  Here are just some house-canned sauces and artichokes.  I love the hand-drawn labels.

Here is what was on that plate:  five varieties of pecorino, which is the Italian name for cheese made from sheep’s milk and then cured meats that ranged from wild boar to farm-raised, air-dried pork.  Notice the condiments that brought it together and that bread had chunks of salty meat and chunks of cheese.

This meal was a great find and it set a tone for the kind of food we want to source out the rest of the week.  Take out your Siena Brown color-crayon and color along with us.