Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Conversation with the Chef

Another book recommendation, this one from Chris Avila, the chef at Soif and La Posta in Santa Cruz.
J and I were ensconced in our favorite table at La Posta, right between the front window and the bar, and Chris was polishing wine glasses while we polished off a platter of potato gnocchi with duck ragu.

We were chatting about restaurants and recipe sources when Chris said, "Let me show you the book where I found the recipe for tonight's dessert." He went back into the kitchen and returned with "Cucina of Le Marche" by Fabio Trabocchi.
As soon as I got home that evening I ordered a copy and when it arrived I found it contained not only the dessert recipe but also one for the gnocchi.

For the latter you'll have to buy your own copy, but here's the orange and raisin bread, described by Trabocchi as "unquestionably the most popular dessert in all of Le Marche."

[Sweet Orange and Raisin Bread]

1 1/2 cups dark raisins
1 1/2 cups finely diced candied orange peel
1/2 cup Italian anise liquer
7 cups Italian 00 flour or bread flour
3/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
15 large egg yolks
grated zest of 3 lemons
Grated zest of 4 oranges
1 1/2 cups whole milk

Combine the raisins and candied orange peel in a small bowl, pour in the liquer, and let soak for 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350-degrees F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until smooth and pale. Reduce the speed to low and add the yolks, a few at a time, and then the zest, mixing until incorporated.

Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Switch to the dough hook and, with the mixture on low speed, add the raisins and candied orange, with the soaking liquid. Mix until fully incorporated.
Generously flour a work surface. Place the dough on the work surface and shape it into a loaf about 14 inches long. Place it on the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with sugar.
Bake the bread for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Chef Avila used golden raisins instead of dark and served the bread slices with a ramekin of homemade strawberry jam. A sweet finale to another splendid Sunday night supper at La Posta.


Dana McCauley said...

It seems everyone is talking about this book - good reason for me to go and check out a copy.

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