Monday 30 January 2012

Italian language and cookery class

Ciao! Mi chiamo Caroline. Come ti chiami?

Last week I took an Italian language and cookery class that I bought through a Groupon offer. The class was taught by the lovely Raffaela, who taught us some Italian words and phrases while we made ciambellone, ciambelline al vino and tiramisu.

There were 8 of us in the class and we sat around a long wooden table with Raffaela at the head. When I have taken cookery classes before, every person had their own workstation or section of the table, their own ingredients and made their own dish. Admittedly they have been corporate jollies and cost a lot more than this class, but I was a bit disappointed to find that Raffaela did all the weighing and measuring. She would pass around the mixing bowl so we would take it in turns to stir while counting to ten in Italian. She also got four different people to each crack one egg, and a couple of people had a chance to use the whisk. For someone who couldn't cook at all it would probably have been fine, but I have made tiramisu several times before and found it a bit strange that the only part I got to do this time was dipping a couple of sponge fingers in cold coffee.

Having said that it was quite interesting and a nice way to spend a Monday night!

First we made ciambellone, which is simply a cake made in a ring shape. It's traditionaly made at Easter as it uses ingredients that are not permitted in the Lent fasting period.

400g sugar
4 eggs
400g plain flour
2.5 tbsp baking powder (yes, you read that right)
300ml milk
100g butter, softened
zest of 1 lemon
icing sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Mix sugar, eggs and butter in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer or by hand. Add lemon zest. Slowly add the milk while stirring with a wooden spoon. Add baking powder and mix. Sift in the flour and fold in.
Grease a ring-shaped cake mould then sprinkle some flour in it. Pour the mixture into the mould and cook for 40 mins. Best enjoyed served warm!

While the cake was in the oven, we made ciambelline al vino - a type of biscotti that uses red wine for flavouring. The name is similar to the ciambellone, above, because they are also ring shaped. They are traditionally eaten along with a glass of wine - with the biscotti actually dipped into the wine! Here they are before they went in the oven.

Ciambelline al vino

100ml red wine
250g plain flour plus extra for kneading
100g granulated sugar
100ml sunflower oil
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Pour wine, sugar and oil into a bowl and mix. Add butter and flour to make a dough. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and knead the dough for five minutes. Leave dough to rest for 30 mins wrapped in clingfilm.
Grease a baking tray. Roll out small pieces of the dough between your hands to make a snake shape. Press the two ends together to make a ring. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the biscuits.

Finally we made tiramisu. We made the topping in the same group manner (i.e. my only input was to give it a quick stir), but we each dipped our own sponge fingers and had a small tin foil tray to make our own portion to take home. I won't repeat the recipe here as there are plenty available online and it really is pretty straightforward. Here's my finished product!


  1. Looks like a fun evening and you got tiramisu to take home! How do 4 people crack 1 egg? I'm not sure about the group method - I went to a cooking class that was similar and didnt enjoy it as much as being able to actually do the cooking/baking myself.

    1. One egg each, I meant! Though it was quite funny as there was one young guy (a university student) who looked like he had never cooked before and looked terrified when he was asked to crack an egg! He hit it on the side of the bowl so gently he had to do it four times, bless!

  2. Watching isn't nearly as much fun or as useful as getting stuck in. Still, you got to learn a bit of Italian and find out about using more unusual ingredients.


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