I’m a guy who likes his food, wherever “it” may come from. Having a blog called “livin’ Italian – Italy 360°” kind of implies that I can’t miss out on writing about my food experience in this country. The idea actually came from a friend who saw a picture of our homemade gnocchi (will post the recipe in my next post) on my Facebook profile and invited me, seeing my love for cooking and baking, to start a food blog so that I could share with all of you out there.
Why start a food blog when I have a blog already. So I thought “why not add a new page to my blog, where I can share my food experience in Italy?”
And here I am.
I think it might be a great addition to my writing space and I hope all of you will like it.
If you have any questions on the foods I post, the recipes, the ingredients and want advice or want to give me advice, please feel free to give it or to ask about it.
So on to my first food post: American homemade pancakes.
Italy is a country set on its food. Until a couple of years ago it would be unthinkable to find a whole aisle in the local Auchan supermarket dedicated entirely to foreign foods. I remember the old days when I went home to the States and when time came to return to Italy I would pack my suitcases (when two suitcases on international flights were still free, since then we had to cut down) with all sorts of goodies, from pancakes mixes, to maple syrup, to taco shells and how can we forget the spices.
Italy has always been closed to what was outside of its borders and still is, maybe just not as much. One of my biggest problems once the stash was gone, was how to continue enjoying my home foods in a place where finding a simple thing like a box of taco shells was a daunting task. Today in a more “globalized Italy”, you can take the original recipe and adapt it to Italy and its ingredients and measurements.
Yes you got that right, measurements. Switching from ounces and cups to grams and liters not an easy task either, but nothing a good conversion app can’t solve, not like the old days where you had to do massive equations to figure out that 350°F was equal to 176°C. Not a fun thing to do. All so that you could enjoy some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Plus, if you add that fact that math isn’t my cup of tea, you would understand that it was a “mission impossible”.
Technology has it perks and some of them are called internet, iPad or whatever other tablet you may use and with them cooking your home food has become a much easier mission, almost as easy as being at home. Well, maybe not so much so, but you get my gist.
My children, like all American children, have been brought up with “pancake Sundays”. Getting up on a Sunday morning and finding a stack of fresh, warm pancakes waiting to be devoured was and still is one of the best ways to get hugs, kisses and smiles out of them, followed by many “thank you daddy, thank you daddy.”
This morning was one such Sunday. It has been almost a month since I’ve been back from my Summer home visit and my children have bugged me for pancakes and I kept on telling them “next Sunday, next Sunday” and before I knew it, a month had gone by. So, today I decided it was “the day” where I would make my pancakes but, I would try to experiment with Italian ingredients, so that when we do run out of our “Hungry Jack” mix, my kids won’t have a fit. After all Summer 2014 is not around the corner.
One of the things you need to understand if you want to adapt American recipes, is the conversion from cups to grams. So get your hands on one of those apps and never part from them again as they will be very useful in your tasks.
Now, in the States we usually use pancake mixes to make pancakes, even though you will find many families where making pancakes from scratch is an old family tradition. People usually use “Hungry Jack” or “Bisquick” and boy do they make great pancakes and by just adding water or eggs. When living in Italy on a permanent base, that becomes impossible, as those mixes aren’t sold anywhere. You must set yourself on a scavenger hunt and find the ingredients closest to the original and work with them until you get the desired result. Trust me, it takes some time and a load of patience, but in the end it will worth your while.
Pancakes are famous all over the world. My students, my colleagues ask me for the recipes. People, friends want to know how to make them. Today I found a great way to make them just as fluffy and delicious as the ones made at home. Maybe not like IHOP’s but nevertheless, a feast for your taste buds.
Take yourself to any Italian supermarket, maybe Auchan or Coop are best, because they carry almost anything now days and buy a pack of flour called “Farine Magiche – Torte Magiche”. Basically what it is, is flour with baking powder made especially for cakes and sweets. That is the best alternative that I have found here and it works just great, get some milk (whole or skim, it’s up to you), eggs of medium size, sugar (brown or white) and some vanilla. You are now ready to make some American pancakes.
310 gr. “Farine Magiche – Torte Magiche” flour, basically about 2 cups
473 gr. of milk (I used skim)
2 medium-sized eggs
2 table-spoons of white sugar
1 table-spoon of vanilla
That is it. Mix them all together and then let the batter rest, as you need to allow for the baking powder within the flour to take effect. Once you see the batter rise a bit and bubble, it is ready. You can add any topping you might like to the batter, chocolate chips (we added Lindt milk chocolate pieces in half the batter), fruits like bananas, blueberries, apples or just make them plain. Remember, for those who are not that familiar, when you pour the batter, it has to be in a hot non-stick pan, some fry in butter or oil, I do not. Cook both sides, wait until each side has bubbles all over and then flip them over. A minute or so and then to the plate they go. Spread some butter on each pancake and stack them up high until you’re all done.
Now, you can add honey, powdered sugar, nutella (yum), caramel or the classic maple syrup.
Italy unfortunately doesn’t carry maple syrup in every store and even when you do find it, a small bottle will cost you even up to 6€ (euro) which is about 8$ (American dollars). Not cheap at all. In my personal experience, I used to find it a few years ago, but it has been a long while since I’ve found a bottle in a store. Unfortunately for us living here, you may make your pancakes and eat them too, but you’ll have to sacrifice the syrup for other local toppings as I’ve mentioned above. Or get it online from the UK. Once you’ve done it all, sit with your loved ones and enjoy an all American classic in your Italian home, even without your “Bisquick” or “Hungry Jack”.
Italians say “buon appetito” but I’m going to add a nice “yummy” as well, right here at home in Italy. Remember your kitchen is a place where miracles can come true if you put your time and “the best restaurant.” Until our next recipe, “ciao.”