Posts

My passion for cheese stems from my roots and is ignited whenever cheese is the protagonist of an initiative. For this reason, also this year I enthusiastically accepted to participate in the “Choose your taste, sweet or spicy, only from Europe” project in collaboration with the European Commission and the Italian Food Blogger Association to promote knowledge and consumption of Provolone Valpadana PDO.

Spicy Provolone Valpadana PDO in my Valentine’s Day dessert

provolone valpadana DOP

I told you how Provolone Valpadana PDO is produced when I prepared my Savoury Muffinsbut this time I used the spicy version of this cheese to prepare a fantastic dessert that left all my guests literally speechless. For those who do not have time to read about the production process of Provolone Valpadana PDOit is really interesting to know that the sharpness of this cheese is only determined by the use of kidrennet instead of calf rennet: every tiny detail opens up a world of differences in cheese with Designations of Origin!

Why this recipe? Because I wanted to propose a perfect idea for Valentine’s Day, namely a spicy dessert, just like love! And also because I love cheese eaten with pears and walnuts, two very classic pairings that reconfirm time and again that sweet and savoury can give us great taste pleasures.

So I prepared a custard using coconut milk so that this dessert could be eaten not only by those who are gluten intolerant, but also by those who are lactose intolerant because Provolone Valpadana is naturally lactose-free! The other star is pears in red wine, a fragrant winter pampering, the ideal partner for cheese. Finally, I created crunchiness with toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts, which are the most neutral part of the recipe, essential to bind all the elements together in a warm and affectionate hug.

Have I convinced you? Run to buy the ingredients and surprise your loved ones… with just the right amount of sweet spiciness.

Coconut Cream with spicy red wine pears

21.23 g carbohydrates per 100g

Ingredients for the coconut cream for 4 servings

  • 225g coconut milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 40g sugar
  • vanilla from the pod

Ingredients for the spicy red wine pears

  • 4 Kaiser pears of about 140g each
  • 250g red wine
  • 50g sugar
  • 1/2 star anise berry
  • 2 cardamom berries
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients to complete

  • 40g breadcrumbs**
  • 30g shelled walnuts
  • 10g butter
  • spicy Provolone Valpadana PDO

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Heat up the coconut milk on the stove and in the meantime whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and a dash of vanilla. When the milk is about to come to the boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the beaten egg yolks, stirring with a whisk; put the cream back on the heat and let it thicken for a few minutes. Put it aside to cool, then store it in the refrigerator.
  2. Prepare the pears: peel them, leaving the stalks, and place them in a saucepan large enough to hold the pears close together. Pour the wine, sugar and spices into the saucepan, then put the lid on, bring everything to the boil, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Let the pears cool in their cooking liquid, then remove them and allow the liquid to reduce to a caramel-like thickness.
  3. Put the knob of butter in a non-stick pan, melt it and add the breadcrumbs to toast them. When the bread is almost ready, add the walnuts after breaking them up lightly with your hands. Toast for a few minutes.
  4. Assemble the cake at the time of serving. In a deep dish, pour a small ladle of custard and place one pear in the centre of the dish. Using a large hole grater, grate slivers of Provolone Valpadana cheese over the cream and pear; top with the toasted bread and walnuts and the reduced wine sauce. Serve the dessert cold, possibly paired with a small glass of Barolo Chinato or Port wine.

crema al cocco con pere speziate al vino rosso

Version with gluten of Coconut cream with spicy red wine pears

With the exception of the breadcrumbs, the recipe contains only naturally gluten-free ingredients, so replace the gluten-free breadcrumbs with conventional breadcrumbs.

While still loving the ‘old’ way of travelling, I decided to embark on a journey of discovery of the Provolone Valpadana PDO through the project “Choose your taste, sweet or spicy, only from Europe”in collaboration with the European Commission and theItalian Food Bloggers Association. The project aims to improve the manner in which European quality labelled products are recognised and promote their consumption, and I did it with my Savoury muffins with Provolone Valpadana PDO.

logo progetto 

My encounter with this product dates back to my childhood when I accompanied my father to the International Dairy Cattle Fair in Cremona , where the food stands present at the social event for breeders from Northern Italy displayed huge cheese wheels, shiny, sometimes round and sometimes cylindrical. Their size fascinated and, at the same time, frightened me.

After so many years, discovering how this cheese is made fills my heart with joy.

The sweet and spicy Provolone Valpadana PDO

Where does the name of this cheese come from? From the Italian word prova “try” (because in the past, when there were no technological means to verify that the curd was fermented to the right point to be spun, pieces of it were taken and spinning tests were made repeatedly (hence the name Provola and its augmentative Provolone) until the results were perfect to proceed.

marchio

The production area of Provolone Valpadana PDO includes part of Lombardy, part of Veneto, the province of Piacenza and part of the province of Trento, an area characterised by the presence of the Po Valley.

The production process in brief

  1. Milk preparation in the boiler within 60 hours after milking.
  2. Addition of fermented whey from the end of the previous day’s processing and, if necessary, of additional lactic acid bacteria always obtained from the whey of Provolone Valpadana PDO.
  3. Rennet and curdling, the stage from which the differentiation between mild and piquant Provolone starts, thanks to the addition of calf rennet in the former and kid rennet in the latter, which cause the milk to curdle at a temperature of between 36 and 39°C.
    coagulazione

    Curdling (photo by Consorzio del Provolone Valpadana PDO)

  4. Fermentation and cutting of the curd, when the curd is allowed to rest by fermenting on suitable surfaces and, once ready, cut and then stretched.
  5. Stretching, a process that takes place in water at 85-95°C, consists of melting the curd by pulling it to form long threads.
  6. Moulding, cooling and firming, when the curd is moulded either by hand or in special moulds and placed in ice-cold water to promote rapid cooling and subsequent firming.
  7. Salting, which consists of immersing the cheeses in brine for a period of time depending on their size.
    salatura

    Salting (photo by Consorzio Provolone Valpadana PDO)

  8. Tying, possibly smoking and maturing are the final stages of production since once the cheeses are tied, they can be smoked and matured or stored for a short time in the case of sweet Provolone Valpadana PDO.
stagionatura

Maturation (photo by Consorzio Provolone Valpadana PDO)

Many shapes for many flavours

As a great cheese enthusiast, I find the variety of shapes in which Provolone Valpadana PDO can be presented really unusual, because each size will have its own uniqueness in terms of flavour. So not only is there a difference between sweet and piquant, but within those, ranging from small 6kg wheels to huge 100kg cheeses, the sensory profile develops in a multiplicity of nuances.

For this reason, maturation periods can vary from a minimum of 10 days to over 240 days!

How to use Provolone Valpadana PDO

Given the variety of flavours, textures and maturations, Provolone Valpadana PDO can be used in an infinite number of recipes, which will then be characterised by our choices: a delicate version with a milky scent or a strong touch of flavour and spiciness, as if we had added a pinch of chilli pepper.

Provolone can be used directly raw or in preparations that are to be cooked in a pan or in the oven. Here is the recipe I have prepared to share with you and which I cooked using mild Provolone Valpadana PDO, but which you can easily modify using the piquant version of the same cheese to obtain a completely different result: have fun experimenting!

Savoury muffins with Provolone Valpadana PDO

33.43g carbohydrates per 100 g

Ingredients for 4 large muffins

  • 90g wholemeal rice flour*
  • 75g Provolone Valpadana PDO sweet or spicy (sweet in the photo)
  • 2 eggs
  • 35g tapioca starch*
  • 30g milk
  • 25 g extra virgin olive oil
  • 20g dried tomatoes
  • 5g baking powder for savoury pies*
  • salt and pepper

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Coarsely chop the Provolone cheese and dried cherry tomatoes and set them aside.
  2. Place the rice flour and tapioca starch in a planetary mixer or bowl, then mix with eggs, milk and oil until smooth and creamy; finally add the yeast, Provolone cheese and cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour the mixture into 4 rather large muffin tins, filling them 3/4 full.
  4. Bake the muffins in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 10-20 minutes.
  5. Take the muffins out of the oven and eat them warm – they are mouth-watering!

muffin salati al provolone

Version with gluten of Savoury muffins with Provolone Valpadana DOP

The recipe contains only naturally gluten free ingredients, so no adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.