Baking in Italy:: Delicious Focaccia

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 4.30.43 PM If you follow along on Instagram, you might have noticed that I have made a lot of focaccia this summer. Focaccia is the perfect marriage of fluffiness and crispiness. It’s such a delicious part of meals here in Italy and is versatile too. You can use it for sandwiches or keep it simple. I love to use focaccia as an appetizer with olive spread, Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, and a crisp summer rose wine. It’s the perfect start to a perfect evening.

You can find the story behind focaccia, along with several yummy cocktails to serve with it, in Cocktail Italiano.

Focaccia
Serves 4

You will need:
– 3 cups double zero flour (super fine flour)
– 1 package dry yeast
– 1/3 cup warm water
– 1 cup water
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1 teaspoon for the cookie sheet + 3 tablespoons for finishing before baking, 1 tablespoon to finish after baking
– 2 tablespoons coarse salt + 1 teaspoon for finishing

To prepare:

Place the yeast in a small bowl with 1/3 cups water and let proof in a large bowl. put flour and oil and salt and water, combine until it forms a sticky dough, it should be very sticky. Flour your surface and turn the dough onto floured surface. knead gently for a minute until dough forms a soft dough.

On an oiled cookie sheet with a lip, spread the dough out to fit the cookie sheet. With your index fingers poke dimples into the top of the dough.

Let rest for 30 minutes, then repeat by poking dimples into the risen dough, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Before placing in the oven, drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse salt.

Bake at 400 for 30 minutes. Remove sprinkle with 1 tablespoon olive oil cool and eat warm or at room temperature. The key is to let the oil soak in as the focaccia cools.

 

 

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It’s July so where are we now? Renovation Italy update

IMG_0771 Ciao everyone!

With a couple of workshops under our belts, and a photo shoot with Casa Facile checked off, I am here to give you the update on our La Fortezza renovation. I am happy to report we are heading to the finish line with the building renovations.

The student lounge and commercial kitchen work like a dream. Our attendees are enjoying cooking lessons and hanging out in the student lounge. Our guest rooms are a delight, too. I personally have taken showers in each bathroom in our guest quarters, and they are lovely. The kitchenette is getting plenty of use, and the terrace as always is such a super place to dine and to hang out and read a book or just visit with an aperol spritz in hand. And that view! It takes my breath away every time. We added a seating area in the kitchen garden, and it’s been a great place to have aperitivo as well as breakfast and lunch. I love the idea that we have choices.

Benny the boar greets everyone to the student lounge

Benny the boar greets everyone to the student lounge.

everyone loves cooking on the big beautiful Lacanche

Everyone loves cooking on the big beautiful Lacanche.

We always have plenty of freshly laundered towels for guests and custom biodegradable soaps made just for us.

We always have plenty of freshly laundered towels for guests and custom biodegradable soaps made just for us.

This month we began the renovations to the last building, an out building that will have 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms a big patio, and it will be a fun gathering place overlooking the vineyard. Of course, we are building a big grill right next to the pizza oven.

We call this building the “dependance.” This building was the biggest wreck of all and needed a lot of reinforcement! Forrest and I have come up with a very good plan that will involve a rain shower and antique bathtub in the middle of one of the bathrooms.

We had to be extra clever designing the spaces since it once was a barn like stone building that housed farm equipment.

My intention is to leave it as rustic as possible. Forrest and I have based the design on a 17th century wooden bed we purchase last year for the space, I can’t wait to share it with you since it’s the most awesome piece of furniture on the property. I love this bed. There’s also rustic lighting and modern bathrooms that we are now calling wet rooms since they are completely waterproofed.

Here it’s not odd that there are wet rooms due to the lack of space in these old homes. It’s a great solution. I personally love it. It’s so…well, freeing. So all our guest rooms have this wet room feature. Easy to use easy to clean up.

We are terribly happy with our renovation choices, and our crew is the best. Renovating in Italy is daunting and expensive, but honestly with our team it has been a thrill. Don’t forget to follow along on my instagram for the latest updates. I hope you will consider joining us for one of our many workshops and retreats. We still have a few spots left in our October workshop, but stay tuned for next year’s workshops. They are amazing and varied. There is something for everyone, and a few surprises as well!

 

 

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A Visit to the Enchanted Valley through the Palette of Steve McKenzie

Today I have a special treat for you. One of our guest instructors and one of my dear friends, Steve McKenzie, is sharing a bit about his experience in May at La Fortezza. Steve is a brilliant interior designer, artist, and textile designer in Atlanta. His workshop here in Italy with us is in September, and I cannot wait to welcome him and his students. Enjoy today’s post from Steve, and be sure to sign-up for one of the very few remaining spots for his workshop. Take it away Steve:

My wife, Jill, and I recently had the chance to visit Annette at her magical Fortress in a verdant valley in Northern Tuscany. I wanted to see everything as I prepare for the abstract painting class I will be leading there in September. Inspiration is everywhere, and I cannot wait to return.

The magic begins as you approach her home, and up on the mountain sits her Fortress. They have created beautifully appointed living and working spaces as well as incredibly comfortable guest quarters for the students that are unparalleled. It feels a little like a visit to a monastery where the furnishings and the views take you to a place of contemplation and inspiration.

These cozy places, coupled with a superb cocktail, encourage congregation and conversation.

We were greeted in typical Annette fashion with a delicious, as well as beautiful, Aperitivo of Negroni and nibbles, taken straight out of her new book, Cocktail Italiano. A delicious dinner of pasta and salad followed, reminding me of what a talented cook Annette is.  I am excited that a cooking lesson in the commercial kitchen will be part of our fall workshop.

Day two we had a chance to visit the charming local village, Fivizzano, on market day. It is charming and again, inspiration is around every corner. Following our visit to the market, we visited some of Annette’s favorite vintage and antique dealers. These are a must during the workshop on our free day.

I also strolled over to the La Fortezza vineyards with Annette and Jill. The beauty of this location really spoke to me and inspired me to paint en plein air.  During the workshop, we will take a picnic lunch out here and paint, eat and drink. The colors and vistas are one of the most inspirational places I have visited.

On the journey back to the house, I filled a market basket with wild flowers from the property as well as colorful roses from her rose garden. The most beautiful arrangement quickly came together in a beautiful pitcher from Annette’s copper collection. We will incorporate a quick floral arranging lesson during my workshop as well.

I can’t wait to return and share all the fabulous experiences with my students during the workshop September 19-24, 2018.

There are only a few spaces left, so register now

Thank you for guest posting today, Steve! As always, if you have questions about our workshop, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment below.

xx Annette

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Italy Workshop excursions :: Custom Textile Studio in Florence – meet Margherita Pandolfini

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One of the many wonderful things about conducting creative retreats in Italy is all of the available talent around our area. Florence is about 2 hours from our doorstep; it’s a beautiful drive or train ride, so the time just speeds by.

I was contacted by the lovely and talented textile designer Margherita Pandolfini, and she invited me to bring my workshop to her gorgeous studio on the outskirts of Florence, located in the middle of the most beautiful courtyard I’ve ever seen. Sometimes opportunities appear that are just unreal here in Italy. Margherita, greeted us at the meticulously handpainted door which foreshadowed the magical storybook journey through the courtyard up some rickety stairs into her surreal world high a top a centuries old building. The loft studio had the most glorious view of the Villa courtyard and gardens. It was a courtyard that could inspire anyone to create beautiful, whimsical, playful patterns of her and her partner’s company MK Textiles and Atelier. Sometimes the wonky creative spaces are by far the most inspiring to me. This space was one of those places that spoke to me.

Margherita, set up painting stations for our attendees, and then gave a brief demo, so we had plenty of time to paint our own cloth bags. As the birds chirped and the sun shined on the incredible view, we happily painted away all morning long.

Please make sure to visit their site and if you have the chance schedule a time to visit.

I have invited Margherita and her partner to Atlanta to speak at Americasmart, too, so please stay tuned for those dates.

In the meantime, look for these beautiful textiles out and about in London and Florence.

xx Annette

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Strictly Styling Workshop June 2018 a recap

As many of you already know, we have been working like crazy to get the Fortress ready for upcoming workshops. Our maiden run was last week for our strictly styling workshop. Needless to say, I was a little anxious to see how our new guest quarters stacked up. I painlessly attended to every detail. Sticking to the idea that less is more and that the ancient walls would speak for themselves. Making sure the beds were comfortable, and the sheets were soft and inviting. Crossing fingers that our bathrooms – which are wet rooms – worked the way we wanted them to. They did.

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Our attendees were a super talented group that consisted of a florist, bloggers and foodstylists, and the stylish owner of a PR firm. This group instantly bonded, and the bond grew tighter as I watched them help and advise each other throughout the their days together. Our team building event of hiking into a waterfall was such fun, and it really showed off the natural beauty around us. We had a picnic, and we chatted and shared our goals and desires throughout the week. All the our days were filled with endless possibilities and inspiration.

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This time I tried something a little different and incorporated a textile painting workshop into the mix. We traveled to Florence for the day to meet Margherita Pandolfini at the studio she shares with partner Karl Jorns.

We had an amazing visit, painted textiles and then headed for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Florence. La Menagere.

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After an absolutely stellar, lunch we met up with our tour guide and walked all over Florence with our group ending up at the David. I had not seen the David in so many years; it was fun to see him again.

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We grabbed an aperitivo, and then ended our visit to Florence attending a Sunday Supper’s Sobremesa is a global dinner.

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We ate in what was a former glove factory, with a gathering of creatives from all over the world. The lovely Gaia Cozzi and her adorable father prepared everything and were the perfect hosts. We had a great time with everyone and ended the evening with lots of stories to tell and a fun ride back to the Lunigiana recapping our day.

The workshop was a huge success making it hard to part ways. My hope is all of our workshops will be like this one, and the creative juices will keep flowing.

If you would like to join us in the fall we have a couple of places left in our workshops. They are closing end of July so think fast and join us in September and October. Sign-up here.

xx Annette

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