"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Friday, December 31, 2010

Breakfast Brioche at Cefalicchio

In addition to granola, freshly baked brioche were also a staple at the Cefalicchio breakfast buffet. I was so happy to learn how to make these delightful breakfast rolls from Annie - the CIA student who was visiting Cefalicchio while I was there. I would make a new batch of brioche dough every two to three days and the brioche were rolled and baked fresh daily. Any leftovers can be used to make a superb brioche bread pudding with any seasonal fruit. They are best served warm with a selection of homemade jams. I promise these brioche will be a crowd pleaser and are all the reason to host a brunch pot luck with your friends. I apologize but I forget how many brioche rolls can be made from one recipe...I think thirty rolls. Also,  if you don't want to use all the dough in one sitting you can cover it and keep it chilled for up to three days. If you are planning on making these for a party I recommend making the dough ahead of time and just rolling out and baking the brioche before guests arrive. Before you start to make the dough you should set out the butter at room temperature for at least twenty minutes so that it gets really nice and soft. Finely, you will notice this recipe is in metric weights, I highly recommend purchasing a metric scale as your ingredient measurements will be much more precise.


500 grams Bread flour
200 grams Eggs
13 grams Salt
6 grams Yeast
116 grams Milk
251 grams Butter (very soft)
75 grams Sugar

1. Weigh the ingredients out and set out the butter.
2. Combine the eggs and milk in a kitchen aid bowl and mix lightly.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar and mix with your hands until evenly distributed. Add the yeast to the flour mixture.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and use the mixer with the dough hook to mix until just combined. Add half the butter and mix on low speed until it is completely incorporated.
5. Turn the mixer to medium speed and add the remaining butter.
6. Mix until the dough has reached full gluten development (or the point where the dough forms a small but strong window when stretched). This will get easier with time, the more you practise, the better your brioche will be.
7. Place in a bowl that has been greased with butter, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To Bake:
1. Preheat oven to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Line baking trays with parchment paper. In a small bowl beat one egg with a pinch of salt.
3. Shape dough into small balls and place on a tray two inches apart.
4. After shaping the dough, brush the rolls with the egg wash and allow to sit at room temperature until they double in size, about 10-15 minutes. Brush the rolls again with the egg wash and bake until dark brown, about 8 minutes rotating once.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Granola at Cefalicchio

While at Cefalicchio I had the pleasure of working alongside a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) student from New York named Annie. I learned a lot about baking and making scrumptious desserts from Annie and one thing that I really loved was the homemade granola. This was super easy to make and it was a staple at breakfast buffet at Cefalicchio. Many guests even asked if they could buy it! Granola is very forgiving so feel free to add or subtract nuts and dried fruit to your liking. I have adapted the recipe from Annie because I wanted to have less sugar - the original recipe calls for 12 ounces brown sugar but I found 8 to be sufficient. Lastly, all the measurements are in metric weights. If you don't have a metric scale you can easily convert these online however I find the metric measurements to be much more precise. The recipe makes a lot! Enough to give some as gifts to friends and family or to last you a few weeks if you have some every day. I recommend storing the granola in air tight containers and it tastes best if eaten within two weeks of being made.


21 ounces rolled oats
30 ounces assorted nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews)
12 ounces dried coconut
6 ounces flour
1 pinch salt
Cinnamon (to taste)
8 ounces brown sugar
7.5 ounces olive oil
12 ounces honey
30 ounces assorted dried fruits, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 305 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, nuts, flour, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a large sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, olive oil and honey. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients, tossing to coat well.
5. Bake on large flat trays in the oven until browned lighting stirring occasionally to bake evenly.
6. Mix in the dried fruit and store in airtight containers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cefalicchio's Garden and Pesky Hens

One the best parts about cooking at Cefalicchio was that you had access to an incredible vegetable, fruit and herb garden! The gardens were thoughtfully planned out and wonderfully maintained. Nothing tastes as good as a salad made from lettuce and tomatoes picked just 5 minutes before. Or a pasta with roasted zucchini collected that day. Some things that Cefalicchio grows include lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, peppers, an assortment of squash, peaches, apples, figs, and blood oranges. The options were endless and the herb garden alone had at least 12 different kinds of herbs including rosemary, lavender, mind, basil, and thyme. Above is a photo of one of the lettuce beds. Here is a close up of a gorgeous head of leafy greens!
Look at this beautiful pumpkin!
And in case I didn't talk about figs enough in yesterday's post, here is a close up of a fig vine just at the beginning of fig season in early August.
And a bowl of freshly picked figs!
Cefalicchio also had a small farm with hens, ducks, sheep and horses. At least every two days I would go and collect the eggs from the hens. A fun and funny task. The first time I was sent to the collect the eggs I came back eggless. The hens were sitting on their eggs and I didn't want to bother them, so I came back empty handed only to be told in a thick Italian accent "Don't come back without any eggs!" So I returned to the small hen coop and spent a few minutes just staring at the hens hoping they would figure out that I was there for their eggs and get up, however I had no such luck. Eventually I worked up the courage to sort of nudge one of the hens off her nest and sure enough she was sitting on 4 lovely light brown eggs. However, I sensed by the way she was staring at me, that she was pissed off with me. I nudged the other hens and collected all the eggs and they followed me out their coop and were squawking away as I closed the gate. With time, these hens warmed up to me and I didn't feel so bad taking their eggs, after all, I had to make brioche!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Olive Trees, Grape Vines and Ewok Huts

In my free time I enjoyed for walks in the country side. Cefalicchio has 80 hectares of rolling grape vines and olive trees sprinkled with wild arugula and huge fig trees. Cefalicchio practices biodynamic farming which essentially treats the farm as an organism in and of itself. Using compost as a way of caring for the soil and limiting the need for external inputs. The photo above is from the Cefalicchio website and is taken from the view point on the tower on top of the villa. The pictures below are all from my walks. Arugula is growing all over the property, just sprouting up along dirt paths and in the hills. It doesn't look like the homogeneous arugula we are used to that comes washed 3x in sealed plastic bags at supermarkets. It is crisp and narrow with a jagged edge. In Puglia, Arugula is mostly used for pastas as opposed to salads but it can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Here is a picture of a bushel of wild arugula on the ground:
As it turns out, I wasn't the only person excited about the wild arugula. I frequently saw locals from the nearby town of Canosa walking around with large plastic bags and picking their week's worth of the fresh greens and any wild herbs like thyme and rosemary that were growing around the area. Here is a photo of a lovely trio who showed me the best spots for arugula.
Around the beginning of August was the start of fig season. I thought I loved figs before I arrived in Italy, but I left Puglia having been completely spoiled with the best figs I've had in my life. Large, fleshy and growing in abundance! I remember when I arrived in Rome, after having had fresh figs every day in Puglia and being so disappointed with the overly priced shriveled and tasteless semi-green figs being sold at markets. Here is a picture of me holding a handful of arugula and a half eaten fig and in the background is a large fig tree which I frequented nearly every day! You can see the beautiful dark salmon color of the fig and how well it holds its round shape. Puglian figs are truly excellent.
Now for the Ewok huts! These are actually called Trulli and they are conical huts made from stone that have an ancient history and are normally built from solid limestone rocks. I've been told different stories regarding their original purpose but from what I gathered, they were used by farmers and laborers who needed to take breaks from the intense heat. Also, it served as a place for them to stay if they lived far away. Now, they seem to serve as sheds for storing tools and I found that some even had clothes inside. I think they look like adorable Ewok huts.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cefalicchio Country Home in Puglia, Italy

I don't even know where to begin with writing about the incredible experience, peace and food at Cefalicchio Country Home.  I spent the month of July until the middle of August working on a dreamy villa, vineyard,  and restaurant in the region of Puglia in Southern Italy. I spent most of the days working in the restaurant and learning a lot about Puglian cuisine which is amazing. I fell in love with Southern Italy...actually all of Italy. The Cefalicchio Country Home had a massive garden where all our produce came from. There was a farm with hens providing the eggs too! Every day was a bit of an adventure and I learned so much from all the wonderful people who worked there. I had many INCREDIBLE photos of the area, its surroundings and all the amazing food but unfortunately my little computer was stolen. So whoever stole the computer has many pictures of amazing Italian food and good looking Italian men. The photo above was taken by a lovely lady named Kim who also came to work at Cefalicchio for two weeks. It is a picture of the front entrance to the villa where all the guest rooms are. In addition, I had a couple of photos still on my camera, so I will be able to share those. Below is a photograph of the back side of the country home. Every where you turn is a stunning display of flowers, vines, and brightly colored plants.
Most my time was spent in the kitchen with Head Chef Elena (below center) and her assistant Anca (left of  Elena). I am far right. The guy next to me was a visiting chef for a special event and the guy on the far left was Elena's son and he occasionally came to help out. Elena was wonderful, Anca was a bit moody.
On occasion we would have special events on our outdoor patio. If it wasn't a casual fish grill out, it was a glamed up one year old's birthday or a university graduation party. Behind the kitchen was a gem of a location, it had an uninterrupted view of land and sky. Here is a picture taken before the event of the evening set up: