My Lemony Pandespáni Cake (a variation of Pan di Spagna, Italian Sponge Cake)

Pandespani (Pan di Spagna) is used as base for many Italian desserts and festive cakes. Usually it is sprinkled or brushed with liqueur-flavored syrup before the addition of a cream filling. The cake can be stored in the freezer (see Note). Starting from my neighbor Ela’s southern Albanian recipe, which has its roots in the old Italian Pan di Spagna, I added the boiled lemon and the lemon marmalade which lighten the flavor and make the egg-laden cake wonderfully fragrant…

READ more about the cake.

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MAKES One 8-inch round cake, and 1 small loaf   (more…)

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Kourambiedes – Toasted Almond Cookies

Traditionally prepared for Christmas, kourambiedes are delicate melt-in-the-mouth cookies. You find similar cookies in various Middle Eastern countries, often sprinkled with rose water or citrus flower water just before they are rolled in confectioner’s sugar. The old island recipes called for lard, as butter was not a common ingredient. There are also recipes for kourambiedes made with the strongly-flavored sheep’s milk butter, while there are Lenten versions made entirely with olive oil. Today most homes and bakeries prepare the cookies exclusively with butter, but I love this old, Cycladic version.

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Makes about 30 large cookies, or 40 small (more…)

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Candied Lemon or Seville Orange Peels

Reading the recipe I previously posted, June Taylor–the expert marmalade-maker— sent me this invaluable advice: “When you talk about boiling the citrus peel in the sugar solution I would suggest that you barely simmer it. The process of osmosis – the water coming out of the peel and the sugar solution going in needs to happen at an even pace and gently. Boiling can lead to a toughening up of the peel. Also, we air dry our peel, sometimes for a day or two or several days (depending on the weather and humidity level) before rolling them in sugar.”
The following recipe is adjusted accordingly.

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Dip half of each peel into melted bitter-sweet chocolate and serve as treats. Slice thinly to add to creams, cakes and ice cream. (more…)

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Lemon Curd with Lemon Marmalade

I make my lemon curd without butter because I like its intense lemony flavor. I even enhance it with a few tablespoons of my bitter-sweet lemon marmalade. Butter makes a smoother and creamier lemon curd, so it is up to your personal taste.

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Also, I don’t pass the cream through a fine sieve as the classic French and old English tradition dictates. The occasional tiny lumps don’t bother me.
If you want to make more lemon curd, repeat the process, which only takes about 10-12 minutes. I have found that it is difficult to whisk and cook properly more than four eggs at a time. (more…)

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Galatopita, Milk Pie

The exact recipe for this wonderful and quite simple pie from Thessaly was given to me by the late Loula Mpaimpa, Costas’ aunt, one of the best cooks I have ever encountered. I deeply regret that I failed to record more recipes and advice from her!

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I suggest you make the custard 1-2 days in advance, let it cool and refrigerate. Assemble and bake the pie a couple of hours before you start serving the meal, so that you can bring the pie to the table while still warm. (more…)

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