Summer Chapter Shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook

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As you all know, I am back in Italy. Mainly for 2 reasons:

1. Check on our house, La Fortezza.
2. Shoot the summer and autumn chapters of my next cookbook La Fortezza Cookbook, Rizzoli NY, Spring 2022.

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This project, for me, is a passion project. The book will be an epic and a beautiful depiction of the region we live in, in northern Tuscany. The book will be filled with local recipes and delicacies, gorgeous travel shots, typical local flavor, and purveyor portraits.

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These photographs will all be captured by the incredibly talented British Photographer David Loftus. I have been an admirer of David’s work for many years, as he has shot for some of the most famous chefs in the world; Jamie Oliver just to name one. His work is insanely beautiful. His discerning eye and recognizable style sets him apart as one of the world’s most respected food photographers. I was thrilled when he agreed to photograph my book.

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My sweet friend and producer, stylist Barbara Pederzini, agreed to help me with the prop styling. She brought all sorts of amazing serving pieces and plates to play with. I used a local chef to help prepare the dishes. It really was a magical team.

Without giving too much away, I believe that this book will take you on a journey and leave you with the lasting memory of a trip to our little piece of heaven. We will be shooting the autumn chapter starting October 5th, so be sure to follow the journey on my insta-stories. I can only tell you this is one of the best projects I have ever worked on. The love I have for this place, La Fortezza will shine through on every page and you will taste the love in every bite.

Until October, stay well x

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Blackberry Gin Smash Batch

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There are few things better than a simple summer cocktail, and that’s exactly what this Blackberry Gin Smash is, plus as a batch cocktail, it’s perfect for sip after sip. Blackberries are plentiful during the summer which is why this cocktail is perfect for warm summer days. It’s refreshing and delicious. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.

Feel free to try different fruit combinations for making this cocktail your own. Raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries would all be equally as yummy!

Blackberry Gin Smash Batch Cocktail
Serves 6-8 in small tea glasses

You will need:
– 6 oz Blackberries (or other fruit of choice)
– Large handful of mint leaves (approx. 12-16 leaves)
– Juice of half a lemon
– 12 drops Meyer lemon bitters
– 4 oz St. Germain elderflower liqueur
– 12 oz Gin
– mineral water or club soda

To prepare: 
 
In a pitcher, muddle blackberries, mint, and lemon juice. Add bitters, St. Germain, and gin. Let sit in the fridge for an hour or so. Strain, and serve over ice topped with mineral water.
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S’mores with a twist!

Is there anything more quintessentially summer than s’mores? S’mores are one of those gooey foods that are as fun as they are messy. Seriously. Have you ever NOT had fun making s’mores? I didn’t think so.

These fire and ice s’mores are a twist on the traditional. I’m adding homemade vanilla ice cream to mix things up. Of course, you can stick with the original ingredients, or you can give this one a try.

Fire and Ice S’mores

You will need:

– Marshmallows
– Quality chocolate (try dark chocolate for extra indulgence)
– Healthy graham crackers – available at specialty markets like Whole Foods
– Sea Salt
– Olive Oil
– Vanilla Ice Cream (recipe below!)

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
You will need:
– 2 cups heavy cream
– 1 cup whole milk
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/8 teaspoon salt
– 3 vanilla beans – split lengthwise
– 2 large eggs
To prepare ice cream:

Combine cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. With the tip of a knife, scrape seeds from vanilla beans into cream mixture, then drop in pods. Heat cream mixture just to a boil. Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then add hot cream mixture in a slow stream, while whisking. Pour mixture into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean metal bowl, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours. Freeze custard in an ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer.

To Prepare S’mores:

Have guests assemble their S’mores outside by the fire.

In the meantime prepare individual bowls or glasses with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with a teaspoon on Olive Oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

Have guests grab a bowl and dip their s’more into the ice cream.

*Cooks’ notes: ·To cool custard quickly after straining, set bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stir until chilled. ·Custard can be chilled up to 24 hours.

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Back to Italy:: Air Travel during a Pandemic

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Some of you might be curious to know how my trip back to Italy was with the pandemic.

First off, let me tell you all how I could enter the EU. So many people commented on social media asking me how. Is there a trick? How can I enter Italy? No trick! The simple answer is that only EU residents and citizens may enter. Everyone must self-quarantine for 14 days. I am an Italian resident, so I was able to enter without any issues.

The tale of traveling here was pretty straight forward. I booked a late flight at 11:00 pm with KLM. I purchased a first-class seat, thinking that it would be a safer way to fly. The scariest part of the entire trip was the Atlanta Airport TSA line. I checked in at the international terminal around 9:00 pm. Not a soul at the counter. I wore an N95 mask through the entire airport. When I entered the TSA, there was only one line with no priority line. Everyone was masked, although I did see a lot of bandanas and buffs (you all know those are dangerous right?).

There were clearly demarcated spots on the floor for distancing and everyone stood on their spot. Well except one guy in a wheelchair with his daughter who was pushing me, so I let them ahead. But once we hit the TSA conveyor belt, it was a free for all. No distancing, grabbing, pushing. It was a nightmare! I did everything I could to step away and wait for a moment where there was no one attacking the belt as belongings piled out. I grabbed my stuff and headed for a corner with no one around to get my stuff together. It shook me up. Once I got to my gate, I seated myself all alone in the corner, mask on at all times and waited to board. Now the boarding process that was marvelous. It was so good, in fact, I hope they never bring back to the old way of boarding.

Here’s how it went: one section at a time, you entered the plane individually, and everyone had to remain seated while they called your name. I boarded alone, walked up to my seat, and no one was seated near me. We had 77 people on giant jumbo jet, so there was plenty of distancing. I quickly changed into a more comfortable cloth mask and waited to depart. I slept the entire way and woke up in Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, everyone in the airport was wearing a mask. I headed to Passport Control to enter the EU. Everyone kept a good distance, and everyone was calm and focused. Security in Amsterdam was well monitored, and everyone was at a distance, filing in one at a time. It was very safe and organized.

I headed to my gate, on the departures board it had a B0 which was different. Usually, the Pisa flight leaves from the C concourse. When I arrived at B0, I realized it was a screening gate. Everyone had temperatures taken. We filled out a tracing form and then headed to our Gate in the C concourse. I sat quietly waiting for my seat and section to be called for the Pisa flight. Everything was very smooth with loading the plane. We all had several seats between us and were not allowed to remove our masks.

When I landed, I was picked up by our car service, Tuscan Drivers, and they whisked me away. The driver wearing an N95 mask I sat in the back. 1 hour and 15 minutes later I was at La Fortezza.  Where I will be quarantining for 14 days.

Lucky for me, the crew finished the new pool just in time, so I have had some relaxing days swimming. Flying and travel will never be the same (well at least for a few years). But here are the things I hope remain when all of this has passed:

  1. Boarding by section and seat (would be extra nice, but I doubt that will remain). Everyone remaining seated until your zone is called. It was wonderful not standing in the giant crowd.
  2. Spotless planes. The KLM plane was brand new and spotless; they cleaned the bathroom every time it was used. YES PLEASE, (sorry but instead of sitting in the back of the plane gossiping, maybe cleaning the bathrooms might be a nice thing for flight attendants to do for the passengers, just saying)
  3. Distancing. All about it.
  4. Mindful lines at TSA. TSA USA could perhaps take lessons from the TSA EU

I am happy to be here prepping for our photo-shoot for La Fortezza Cookbook.

I will let you all know how that went, masking, washing and distancing all while shooting a cookbook in Italy.

xx Annette

 

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Caramel Two Ways

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Today I’m sharing two recipes using caramel. The first one is my recipe for espresso caramel sauce; It’s a quick and easy recipe for all coffee lovers out there, and you know how I love my coffee, especially espresso. I like to serve this sauce on gelato, but since it’s a caramel topping, it’s great on almost everything…especially chocolate desserts!

The second recipe is for my gluten-free Linzer cookies. In this recipe, you thicken up the caramel just a little, so it sits oh-so-delicately inside of the cookies. Give them a try over the next few weeks! There’s nothing like baking to take your mind off of things, especially when the result is a sweet treat!

Espresso Caramel Sauce:
serves 6 to 8
You will need:

– 1 cup of sugar
– 1 shot of espresso
– 1 cup of heavy cream

To prepare:

Place sugar in a small sauce pan on medium heat.

Watch the sugar carefully, with a silicone spatula brush down the sides of the pan until combined and the sugar turns a deep amber color.

Pull the caramel off the heat and add the espresso while stirring until combined, it will bubble and spit this is normal. Next add cream very gradually while stirring the entire time until combined. If there are any lumps don’t worry they will melt once you put it back on the heat.

To Finish: Place the pan of caramel back on low heat, stirring continually until the caramel starts to slowly bubble not boil. This takes about 3 minutes.

Pull from the heat and place into a glass or ceramic container with a spout, place in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Warning: With all hot sugar be extremely careful so as not to burn yourself. If you’ve ever burned yourself with hot sugar you know it’s very dangerous. This is not an activity for children.

Rosemary + Salted Caramel Linzer Cookies

You will need:

For the cookies:

– 1 cup hazelnut meal (or nut meal of your choice)
– 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour or substitute Cup 4 Cup
– 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 2 sticks (1 cup or 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
– 1/2 cup granulated sugar
– 1 large egg
– 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary (up to 1 tsp for a stronger flavor)

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for the caramel filling:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
– 6 tbsp water
– 1 tbsp unsalted butter
– 6 tbsp creme fraiche (or heavy whipping cream)
– 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt, plus more for sprinkling

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Preparation:

Whisk together the hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl and beat vigorously until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and chopped rosemary, then beat again until well-blended, another 30 seconds. Finally, fold in the flour mixture until just incorporated.

Divide dough into two or three balls, pat them into discs, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

Heat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Roll out a disc of dough to about 1/8- or 1/4-inch thick, depending on your preference. Unlike pie crusts, which I generally roll out between sheets of parchment, I found this to be easiest on a well-floured surface, sprinkling flour over the top and lifting the bottom to re-flour as needed. (The latter makes cutting and removing the cookie rounds much easier.) Cut out cookie rounds using a 2-inch cookie cutter of your choice. For half the rounds, use a smaller cookie cutter (around 3/4 inch) to cut patterned holes — these are the windows for the cookie “lids.” Save the minis to make miniature cookie sandwiches (or just to nosh!). If the dough becomes too soft as you’re using it, just pop it into the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up again.

Place the “lids” and cookie holes on one baking sheet and the whole cookies on another, since the whole cookies may take a little longer to bake. Bake both sheets of cookies until golden at the edges, about 10 minutes for the bottoms and 8-9 for the lids. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Repeat with remaining dough; you can re-chill and re-roll cookie scraps as many times as needed.

If powdering the lids, arrange the lids (or all the cookies, if you prefer) on a baking rack with a tray or paper underneath to catch the excess sugar. Sift powdered sugar over top as desired.

While the cookies are cooling, make the caramel. Prepare a bowl of ice water and set it aside within easy reach. Combine sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir just until sugar dissolves, then let simmer, without stirring, until the mixture just turns golden. Remove immediately from heat and add butter (be careful, as it may sputter). Swirl until the butter is dissolved, then add the creme fraiche or heavy cream, vanilla extract, and salt. Return to heat, reduce heat to low and stir until the heavy cream is fully dissolved. Drop a small spoonful of the caramel into the ice water and touch it — if you can form it into a pliable ball, it’s done.

Working quickly, while the caramel is still soft, drop about a teaspoon of caramel onto each of the bottoms of the cookies, then place a lid on top and press gently to seal. Sprinkle a bit of flaky salt over top if you like. Enjoy once the caramel is cool. Cookies will keep for a week in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.

xx Annette

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