Food of the Etruscans?


Italy Magazine’s article about the multi grain pizza led me to their recipe for fig and honey focaccia. I’m a focaccia foodie and have made it every which way in past years to sell locally as a caterer. Now I hear it was invented by the Etruscans??!  My other haunting research topic!? Here is my recipe for fig and rosemary multi grain focaccia. I adapted Bob’s Red Mill recipe using his quality multi grain bread mix. You can up the oven temp if you wish

Use their fantastic on-line website for gluten free recipes, product info and so much more.


for Bread Machine or by Hand

Makes one 17×11” or two 10” loaves

1 c + 1 T warm water
3 T+2 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 T fresh (rosemary) herbs, chopped, or 3/4 tsp. dried–divided
1 Pkg. Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain Bread Mix.
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cane sugar
2 tsp. active dry yeast
½ c ch. walnuts
10-12 dark figs sliced or 1 thinly sliced apple.
Coarse salt, for sprinkling

Put minced garlic, water, 1 T fresh herbs or 2 tsp dry herbs and 3 T oil into bread machine.  Add package of 10-grain bread mix and salt to bread machine.  Make well in center and pour in sugar and yeast.  Turn machine onto the dough cycle.  If dough is too dry in the machine, add water 1 T at a time.  Dough should begin to clump without remaining dough on sides of pan. Add ½ c chopped walnuts to recipe after dough is first mixed, and mixing.

When complete, remove dough that has already risen once.  Shape and roll, using remaining ¼ c flour, into desired round or rectangle bread sizes, move to prepared baking pans. Before rising again, press fig or apple rounds and additional ¼ c chopped nuts into dough, dimple and allow to rest, covered, for an additional hour.

Preheat oven to 425º with baking stone, if desired.

Dimple the dough with your fingertips.

Combine the remaining oil with the remaining herbs and brush over the top of the dough.  Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until crisp and golden.  Cook on wire rack 15 minutes.

Can be frozen; allow to defrost, reheat wrapped in foil in 250ºF oven.


Easter Bread Legends


Like so many things in Italy, bread and cakes come by many names, especially if it is a holiday and then, it depends on what kind of holiday or occasion it might be. Of course the names and kinds of bread and cakes come  with their own legends, traditions, cautions, and  ingredients born from science, literature, ancient manuscripts or the simple competitiveness of the Italian people.

Pandora (left) Panettone (right) The Panettone, instead, is a typical Milanese cake, and it became over the years a true symbol of Christmas in Italy. It is a sweet soft, stuffed with raisins and candied fruit, better to be served with dried-fruits and walnuts at the end of a hearty Christmas meal
or for breakfast the next day. It is similar to the Pandoro, which lacks fruit additions.
Italy’s: food culture is strongly rooted in the Italian DNA, and the rivalry between the two typical Christmas cakes can escalate quickly among the guests of any Italian dinner party. Before you take side: did you know that the original recipe of panettone is 500 years old?
Italy has many Christmas sweets and threats, but a slice of panettone and a flute of prosecco is the classic way for Italians to welcome the festive season. Panettone is a traditional cake-like bread stuffed with dried raisins, candied orange and lemon peel. The origins of Panettone are in Milan, in the northern Italy. It has a noble and antique birth, and several legends to explain it.
One of the most popular ones tells about Ughetto degli Atellani, a nobleman who lived in 1400’s in Milan. He was in love with Adalgisa, the daughter of a poor baker named Toni who worked in the kitchen of the powerful Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. To win her love, he disguised himself as a baker.





Ludovico Sforza
Image credit: Wikimedia CC

To impress Adalgisa, he invented a special bread, adding new ingredients: butter, eggs, dried raisins and candied peel. Pan del Ton (Toni’s bread) was a huge success in many ways: Ughetto gets the girl, Duke approves the marriage and Toni’s invention is welcomed with an enthusiastic response. A new dessert is born, called forever Pan del Ton, or: panettone. The actual translation is ‘big bread,’ from ‘panetto’ meaning dough and the suffix ‘one’ meaning lar

In Italy, the rules for making the delicacy are as strict as ever: in order to be labeled as such, a native panettone must be composed of no less than 20 percent candied fruit, 16 percent butter, and eggs that are at least four percent yolk. Attempts by the Italian agriculture ministry to have these standards applied abroad have not panned out, and the reality is that panettone is a dessert with many homes.
Read more:

The internet offers plenty of recipes, ranging from the traditional to celebrity variations, so making it at home isn’t beyond the reach of most competent home-bakers. Italians consider it bad luck to remove the domed top and to consume it on your own.


Not to be confused with the Greek mythological woman, Pandoro, who opened the box to unleash all human ills, or all human blessings except hope, whichever version you select.

Similar to panettonepandoro is made from a rich, eggy dough, not unlike a French brioche, explaining its name of “golden bread.” The cake is baked in an eight-pointed star-shaped pan that gives it its signature form. It’s modeled after the mountains near Verona, where the cake was first made in 1894. Domenico Melegatti was granted a patent to produce pandoro industrially, made popular by rich Venetians.   Italian bakers sell an astonishing 117 million cakes a year!

COLOMBA (Dove cake)

A debate has gone on for centuries as to the beginnings of Colomba di Pasqua, particularly between the two stories of the Milanese and Pavia (Lombardy).  The Milanese story is more commonly accepted which follows:  During the Battle of the Legano, two doves were witnessed flying onto the altar of a chariot that carried the standards of the Lombard League, who had just won defeated Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. The doves were believed to symbolize the Holy Ghost, and so the Colomba (cake shaped like a dove) commemorates that event and is viewed as a symbol of victory. Others view it as a symbol or peace and springtime.  It was first made in Lombardy in the early 1900s by the Motta Italian baking

Of course, the legends and traditions of the even more ancient Sicilian version of this cake is known as Palummeddi and Pastifuorti, also recognized by Italy’s Ministry as a Tradiitional Italian Product. Whatever version or legend selected, know that this cake, especially the Limoncello added recipe version is a mouthwatering addition to any household, holiday or not.


An Umbrian cheese bread made in outdoor stone bread ovens, or a local “forno” (oven)

but not before the yeast, flour and water “Biga” was blessed by the local priest before making the dough. Also known as Torta di Formaggio (Cheese bread), traditionally made with aged and young Pecorino cheeses.


I would be remiss not to include the bread of my father’s home town, Lucca. It is their daily signature bakery offering, though my family only favored us with a loaf at Christmas or Easter.

The word buccellatum was soldiers’ bread and later evolved into the meaning of sweet bread. In 1485 a document related to the process of a woman who had killed her husband with a poisoned buccellato.

This bread was important to the history of Lucca because in 1578, a levy was imposed on its sale and the money was used to rebuild the embankments of the river Serchio.

The most famous buccellato is the one you can get in the Taddeucci pastry shop, a refined shop born in 1881. It looks like an old grocery shop, with huge shop windows crammed of desserts, cakes and sweet breads. You can easily find the shop right in the historical centre of Lucca, in Piazza San Michele, close to the homonymous church.

In the past, buccellato was a cake that was traditionally made, or bought, for the confirmation of your children. Today it is rightfully included in the everyday life of the city of Lucca.

It is made just from flour, water, sugar, raisins, aniseed and yeast. The next day, when it is no longer fresh, the heirs of Jacopo Taddeucci suggest toasting it quickly and having it with butter, coffee and milk for breakfast, or using it as a base for other sweet recipes, from a traditional strawberry soup to semifreddo.

When you are there do not forget to try the torta di verdure, a vegetable pie made with Swiss chard, raisins and pine nuts. It is sweet and spiced, unusual, a light and pleasant looking dessert and very tasty! It is also very easy to make, with regular pie crust.



The Wonderful Fig

Each season, the overwhelming harvest of figs makes me frantic. They are at the farmers’ market, the orphaned neighbor’s tree, and in my own yard, bursting forth on a daily basis in tantalizing shades of greens and purples. Plump and juicy they are too delicious and voluminous to be left untended. So I pick and pick and pick, and this year, over several weeks, it was Fig-Onion Relish, Fig Marmalade, Fig Jam, Fig-Apple Compote and Figs in a Jar. Of course there are the baked goods, one of which was so greatly received, I share it now. The revered fig recipe is cuddled up in a fancy pan, to boot! I left off the glaze for the photo so you can have a better look at these morsels.

Fig Cakes with Almond and Vanilla Glaze                                                 

Fig Cakes with Vanilla Glaze

Serves 12


  • For the cakes:
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 8-10 fat, ripe figs, stems removed and chopped (use a couple more if your figs are smaller)
  • ¼ cup fig or raspberry jam (optional)
  • For the glaze:
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon buttermilk, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • For the topping:
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds


  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F, and place a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a mini cake pan with non-stick cooking spray, and set aside.*
  2. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon and sugar to a large bowl, whisking to combine. Add buttermilk, eggs, butter, vanilla extract and almond extract to a small bowl, whisking to combine.
  3. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined. Stir in the chopped figs. Divide the batter between the 6 wells of the mini cake pan (2 batches needed here), and bake until the tops of the cakes are lightly golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center of one cake comes out clean (18 – 22 minutes).
  4. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and let cook for 10 minutes. Gently tap the pan on the counter to release the cakes. Turn the cakes out on to the cooling rack (so the flat side is down), and let cool completely before glazing. Wipe pan clean, and repeat with a second batch.
  5. To make the glaze, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, buttermilk and vanilla until smooth and pourable, Add a little more buttermilk if the mixture seems to thick (but add sparingly).
  6. Once the cakes are cool, drizzle each cake with vanilla glaze. Start in the middle, and let the glaze run down the sides. Then sprinkle each cake with chopped toasted almonds. Cakes are best enjoyed immediately, but if you want to enjoy them later, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, and glaze right before serving.

*If you don’t have a mini cake pan, simply prepare this cake in a 10-inch round cake pan, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes at 375°F.


Adapted from: Recipe by Kitchen Konfidence at





What is Gluten-Free?

I keep emphasizing that I cook gluten-free products and came to realize that maybe I should talk a little bit about what being gluten-free is really about, and why people need, or choose this kind of diet.

Before we delve into what gluten-FREE is, it might be best if I define was gluten is. From my research, Gluten is essentially a protein found in many grains and most specifically wheat and its by-products. In addition, it provides a lot of elasticity to many wheat products, allows breads to stay together and for leavening.

So what does it mean to be free of these proteins?

Well here is a list of foods one cannot eat on this regime.

WHEAT! or anything that says “wheat”…What do you know?! This includes wheat starch, wheat protein, cake flour, durum, farina, semolina, matzo, spelt, kamut, cousous and rye. However, buckwheat is safe.

BREADED foods… Fish N Chips, Chicken Tenders, huge no, nos.

Barley and Malt: Yup, no more malt shakes, malt balls, malt BEERS or just BEER in general!

MARINADES, believe it or not there are a lot of marinaded that contain gluten. First things first, soy sauce had gluten, be aware of wheat ingredients when you peruse through the ingredients list.


Now that I have made it seem like you’re going to be eating steamed vegetables and boiled meats with salt and pepper for the rest of eternity, let me tell you what you CAN eat. And that delicious chocolate cake you see here is one of those things!!! The list is much longer, and more delicious!

Gluten-free grains: Rice, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, soy, buckwheat, corn and its products, millet.

Dairy: Milk, Cheese (un’processed’), plain yogurt, butter, eggs

Oils: margarine, vegetable oils (That includes Canola Oil), nut oils.


Vegetables, legumes, and flours made from them: garbanzo flour for example.


Distilled Vinegars and Alcohol: remember no beer! Distilled alcohols are gluten-free, even your whiskeys and scotches because the distilling process removes the gluten.

Spices: As long as there are none of the listed No-Nos in special spice blends. Otherwise stick to individual spices and make your own gluten-free blends!

Why gluten-FREE?
Approximately 1% of the American Population suffers from Celiac disease, a condition that deteriorates the lining of the stomach. People who suffer from Celiac disease instigate and irritate the villi in the intestine when they consume gluten. For unknown reasons, gluten attacks these villi and over time can cause serious damage to the lining of the intestine and stomach. Symptoms range from stomach aches, and discomfort and diarrhea to depression, fatigue, and may even progress to seizures.

If you need help with any breads, cakes, muffins, etc. I do special orders of home-baked gluten-free goods.

Good luck and eat well!


Gluten-free recipes to try:

Orange Poppyseed Muffins

Orange Poppyseed Muffins

MAKES 12    375º oven
spray or line 12 muffin cup pan

Poppyseed Muffin.jpg 1½ c Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa Flour
2 T Bob’s Red Mill Poppy Seeds*
1½ T Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour
1/1/2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 large eggs
¾ c plain yogurt
¼ c organic coconut oil softened
½ c honey, brown rice syrup or agave nectar
1 T finely grated orange or tangerine zest

In large bowl, whisk flour, seeds, tapioca flour, baking powder, salt and soda.
In med. bowl, whisk eggs, yogurt, oil, honey and zest.
Add egg mix to the flour mix and stir until combined.
Divide batter equally into prepared muffin cups.
Bake 20-24 minutes til golden and pick comes out clean. Cool in pan a few minutes then transfer to rack to completely cool.

Notes: These freeze well, each wrapped in plastic wrap and freezer bag.
Thaw at room temp. 2 hours.
Poppy seeds go rancid quickly, so keep fresh supply.
Warmed marmalade can be spooned over warm muffins for added treat.

Options: Almond extract in place of orange zest; lemon in place of orange.
Made healthier by the gluten-free whole grain flours you need for better digestion and immunity as told by Bob Moore in The Short Story About Bob.

Happy Baking!

Introduce yourself to whole grains with Vanilla Coconut Pound Cake

There they all are, in most grocery stores, outlets and health food stores. Bob’s Red Mill bags of 100% organic flours, beans, peas and grains have his smiling face and message “To Your Good Health” on the front. Each bag describes the specifics of the product (usually only ONE ingredient, unprocessed of course), nutrition, tips, and how to use it with easy to follow recipes. More recipes can be obtained by calling the company. They sent me tons of individual gluten-free recipes when I was catering, using their products, and they answered any question I posed on the phone. The company has over 400 products! Little did I know how many cookbooks they had for sale! I have them now, and you will see lots of easy, healthy-eating right here.




1 cup Bob’s Red Mill (BRM)  Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
1/4 cup BRM Organic Coconut Flour
1/4 cup Brown Rice Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup Coconut Oil
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
12 oz Vanilla or Plain Coconut Yogurt

Preheat oven to 350º.  Spray a 9×5 in. loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Sift together flours, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Cream sugar and coconut oil until well blended.  Add eggs, and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Add dry ingredients, alternating with yogurt until combined.  Pour into pan, smooth top and bake until lightly golden and a pick comes out clean, about 40-50 mins.  Cool completely.