Friday, May 9, 2008

Ciao, Italia's message for Mother's Day

Mary Esposito has been hosting her "Ciao, Italia" cooking show on PBS for nearly two decades. Her simple, authentic Italian cooking will make anyone see that food from Italy is way, way more than spaghetti and meatballs and a mountain of red sauce.

While Italy may not be famous for its desserts, what the Italians do make, they take great pride in. Again, the approach is simple, the flavors are clean, and the overall impression is of rustic, country food.

Mom's Nut Rolls
Pani di Noci della Mamma
Serves 8 to 10
A not-too-sweet yeast dough encasing ground walnuts and egg whites is a signature treat from my mother's kitchen; the beauty of these is that they freeze well once baked and are welcome gifts.

1/2 cup warm water2 packages dried yeast1/2 cup sugar1 1/2 cups warm milk1 cup butter, melted and cooled4 large eggs, separated1 teaspoon vanilla extract6-7 cups unbleached all purpose flour1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites1 3/4 cups sugar2 tablespoons melted butter5 cups ground walnuts1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 - 2 teaspoons milk

Pour the water into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk, butter and sugar. Mix by hand or on low speed to blend the ingredients.
Blend the egg yolks into the mixture, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla.
Begin adding the flour a cup at a time and mix until a soft, non sticky ball forms. You may not need all the flour.
Knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until nearly doubled in size.

For the filling:Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then slowly add the sugar a little at a time until soft peaks form. Fold in the butter, walnuts and vanilla. Set aside.
Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces and work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered.

Roll each piece into a 14 inch square. Spread about 1 cup of the filling over the dough,then roll it tightly like a jellyroll. Make sure to tuck in the ends as you roll.

Place the roll on a lightly buttered baking sheet or on a parchment lined baking sheer. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until almost doubled in size.Continue making 4 more rolls.

Preheat the oven to 375When ready to bake brush the tops with milk and make a few decorative slashed in the top of the dough.Bake 30-35 minutes or until nicely browned.

Glaze:1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar1 tablespoon of milk or more for a thin consistencyCombine in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle on rolls as they cool.