Tag Archives: Almond

Honey Olive Oil Almond Cake

Honey Almond Olive Oil Cake - Life Love FoodHoney Almond Olive Oil Cake - Life Love FoodHoney Almond Olive Oil Cake - Life Love Food

I have just recently come to terms with the fact that, for the biggest part of my life, I missed out on one of the most delicious things nature has to offer: honey. Unlike, say,  beetroot, which I continue to dislike no matter how much I try to masquerade it under thick layers of horseradish-injected dressings or to blend it into chocolate cake (I just can’t get past the very earthy flavour), my feelings towards honey have changed with me. They grew as I grew, from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, increasing and amplifying at every stage, spreading like a spoonful of oil on a smooth surface, slowly, unavoidably. And so, I gradually went from being the kid who couldn’t stomach a drop of it to the grown-up addict who eats her weight in liquid sugar, jar after jar after jar.

After years of refusal, I’m now making up for lost time by keeping my pantry well-stocked and varied at all times. And although I like to keep things interesting by trying new flavours and brands, I always tend to go back to the same, old trusted ones.

Orange blossom and acacia honey are my all-time favourites. I use them for drizzling, normally on toast, and often over a layer of fresh ricotta, but also over yoghurt, and porridge and other creamy things that can benefit from some sweetness. Saline honey from seaside locations (like miele di barena from the Venetian lagoon, still produced on the island of Sant’Erasmo) is my flavour of choice for dressings and marinades, either for mellowing down the bitter bite of radicchio or for glazing a roasted chicken. And then, citrus, chestnut and prairie honey I find wonderful to bake with – the former to fortify the freshness of a lemon cake; the second to give depth to sweet breads and fruit loaves; and the latter for everything in between.

Honey Almond Olive Oil Cake - Life Love FoodHoney Almond Olive Oil Cake - Life Love FoodHoney Almond Olive Oil Cake - Life Love Food

Baking with honey is something I came to late in life, but that I’m keen to explore with dedication from now on. What I learnt so far is that it doesn’t work with everything – that it can’t replace sugar every time. But whatever it goes with it turns into a wonderfully floral affair, powerful and yet discreet, sweet but subtle. A cake made with honey will be a little bit denser than your usual cake, but by no means will it be heavy. Its crumb will be close, but the texture will be tender. The batter will take an unfamiliar amount of liquid – less than you’d normally use – but never will this lead to a dry result. In fact, quite the opposite: it’ll be moist (that dreaded word we are told to avoid); and it will be moreish, and marvellous.

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Pumpkin Pistachio Bundt Cake

Last week I turned 27. As for every birthday, my first thought goes to what I have done in the year that just passed, and to where I am now.  The second goes to cake – to all the cakes I’d have in the previous years, and those I’d like to have in the future.

As I was eating my rustic, nutty birthday cake, these memories suddenly came to mind. I wrote them down as they came, following the stream of my thoughts. What came out of it is a story about a pastry shop and its cakes.

The recipe doesn’t have much to do with any of those cakes, but it is one I have been making and that I love deeply, as it has everything I like, as an adult, about cakes: a subtle sweetness, rustic appearance, moist crumb and a warming feeling. It also contains three of my favourite ingredients: pumpkin, pistachios, and almonds. Good for birthdays or for those lazy Sundays spent writing indoors with a cup of coffee on your side.

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A Venetian Crema with Almonds

If I had to pick a sweet I am particularly fond of – and I am not fond of any sweets in particular – I would go for something creamy. Pannacotta, gelato, zabaione. Something where the airy texture can make up for the sweet punch.

It must be in my genes. The women in my family have never been great pastry chefs, yet they could always crack a good pudding. My mum’s mum, for example, was known for making the best zuppa inglese in town, with layers of chocolate and marsala cream between cookies drunk with alchermès. My mum for her part, although she has never been the most keen baker, managed to pick up her mum’s crema-making skills. So, whenever there is an occasion requiring un dolce – something sweet – she would usually skip the baking altogether, and go for what she was well-known for in our family: tiramisù. Such occasions were usually birthdays and the random ferragosto dinner, which, being on 15th August, automatically called for a chilled dessert.

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Almond Hummus

 

After reading this article, I started to mumble a lot (more than usual) over the very human habit of accumulating stuff. And although I have always thought I am pretty good at not doing it, reality tells me differently. The simplifier and the wonderluster that are in me are constantly challenged by this instinct to be surrounded by objects which somehow make life easier but that are not essential in any way. I could have lived without those enamel dishes, or without reading lamps or pile blankets or a bread bag. I could, but I chose not to.

Eventually, I realised that there has to be a balance, a fragile yet important balance, between feeling constantly precarious and having so much stuff that moving becomes impossible. It is up to us to find it, as there is no single answer to the issue. As it happens, a home that feels like home rather than a temporary accommodation might require pillows, a comfy blanket, and some extra kitchen appliances that will enable cooking a dinner for some friends on the right occasion. I decided that I won’t give up these small things for fear that they will hold me down. I decided that as soon as I feel it’s getting too much, I’ll get rid of all the excess. I decided I don’t want to be a slave of objects nor to fear them. I decided that I decide.

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