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Alessandra Mauri's Lake Como

Lake Como

A guest post by Alessandra Mauri

Italy's Lake Como is the deepest lake in Europe, in the foothills of the Alps and is just a short drive from Milan . The area boasts impressive scenery, with mountains rolling down to the waters edge, and while the summer months are hot it is often still possible to see snow on the peaks of the mountains across the lake. Just about every town on the lake side has its charms. Some of the most spectacular views are to be found near the middle of the lake, between Tremezzo, Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna where the sheer scale of the area, from the depth of the lake to the height of the mountains around, can be seen.

The lake has long been a popular destination for Italians escaping the heat of the cities. The area's beauty has earned a reputation among the stars! As a result a large number of celebrities and artists have made of Lake Como their favorite destination for their holidays in total relax and tranquility. There are many historic and beautiful villas lining the shores, some of them converted into luxury hotels and they all deserve to be paid a visit. Lake Como is used as a location for many movie shots, like the recent James Bond film or Casino Royale.
Lake Como

 But Lake Como is ideal also for really active people who like to spend their holidays doing all sorts of sports. Hiking ancient trails, skiing on the imposing mountains surrounding the Lake still enjoying the expansive panoramas the area is offering in any season of the year. Water sports are a must in the summer, from sailing to surfing, swimming, canoeing, etc. Bellagio, Como or Milan can offer the possibility to do some serious quality shopping too. So the area is largely suiting every kind of tourist because many are the entertainments offered. Food and wine are to be mentioned too. The northern side of the Lake Valtellina is an important wine area not to be missed while visiting Italy.
Lake Como

Gittana is a small hamlet that dates the end of 15th century, where families with children or couples can find their ideal and safe environment better suited for relaxation. Gittana represents the ideal place to spend your holidays immersed in the silence of the countryside but located only 5 minutes uphill from beautiful Varenna and not far from all the other main destination on the lake.

I have come back living here after a long brake in Chianti Classico Tuscany, and some travelling around the world. I have come back to Lake Como falling in love day after day with everything that surrounds me. Nature, people, food and wine, but mainly in love with the evidence of the past, such as historical sites, buildings, and the unspoilt natural environment, considered as the precious inheritance of present-day. What my ancestors have left to me I consider it the true treasure I am trying to share with all my guests!

Grazie, Alessandra! Thank you for sharing this post with our readers about Lake Como.
Find Alessandra here:

Post and photo credits: Alessandra Mauri


Cherry-Almond Focaccia

Cherry-Almond Focaccia

I know it's been a while since I've posted here. I have been dreaming of cakes and cookies to share with all of you! My children are noticing the lack of sweets around here these days!

My daughter mentioned she's pretty bored with my different versions of banana breads, apple cakes and crostatas. I even haven't impressed them much with my chocolate chip cookies! What's a baker to do!!

I did know I had something to look forward to with our new #TwelveLoaves bread baking challenge. A new challenge meant something different had to be created to share with all of you!

This month, the #TwelveLoaves bakers are baking with CHERRIES!

Cherry-Almond Focaccia

Looking for a bread with cherries inspiration? Check out  these recipes by our very talented Twelve Loaves bakers:

#TwelveLoaves June: Cherries. The month of May was filled with lovely onion breads! We have chosen cherries for our June theme. Choose a recipe including cherries (fresh, dried, canned, jam, or preserves). Whatever you bake, (yeasted, quick bread, crackers, muffins, braids, flatbreads, etc.) have fun and let’s have a delicious month of bread with cherries. Let’s get baking!

Cherry-Almond Focaccia

I knew exactly what I was going to bake! There weren't any doubts or slight HAD to be this recipe I've been wanting to bake since I found it in my Bon Appetit issue 2 years ao (yes, TWO YEARS!!!). Do any of you look at old magazine issues and remind yourself, "Hey, I never baked this recipe. It looks amazing!"

What in the world took me this long?!?

Trust me, it won't be another year until I bake this sweet bread again!

My daughter knows I share our baked goods with our neighbors. Let's face it, I sometimes bake a lot here and there is plenty to share with everyone! This bread was not lasting that long. There weren't that many pieces to give out. I barely finished photographing it and slices were being tugged away from my little photography area left and right! Cherry juice was drizzling everywhere and my daughter warned me she would tackle me if I even dared attempted to share a slice with anyone. This recipe was a keeper!

recipe notes: When I was putting the bread together, I didn't want to press the cherries too deep into the dough. Afterwards, I thought maybe the cherries would fall off the bread and wished I had pressed them a bit more. As the bread was baking, it rose nicely and the cherries found their spots. I didn't add all the cherry syrup on the bread before baking. I did reserve some for the end after I removed it from the oven. You can add as much or as little cherry juice on according to how sweet you like your bread. The focaccia was fluffy and soft with sweet cherry bites. A lovely slight crunch from the almonds...I really couldn't be any happier with this recipe!!

Cherry-Almond topping adapted from April 2012 Bon Appétit

Cherry-Almond Focaccia
  1. Focaccia recipe
  2. 1 1/3 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
  3. 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  4. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  6. 3 teaspoons sea salt
  7. Topping-
  8. 2 cups drained pitted tart cherries in light syrup (such as Morello) plus 1 cup syrup (from a 24–28-ounce jar)
  9. 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  10. 3/4 cup sliced almonds (with or without skins)
  11. 1/3 cup raw sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
  12. quantities of cherries, almonds, and sugar to taste
  1. In a small bowl, add the water and sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and whisk together. Set aside.
  2. In large mixing bowl, add the flour and 3 teaspoons of salt; whisk together or mix together on low speed in your mixer.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and about half of the flour mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula until it is combined. Attach the dough hook to your mixer and add the remaining flour. Mix on low speed for about three minutes. If the dough seems to be too dry, add warm water a teaspoon at a time until you obtain a softer dough.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl (when I put the dough in the bowl I swish the dough around the bottom of the bowl and then flip it over so all of the dough is covered in a light film of oil). Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 1-1 1/2 hours).
  5. Punch down dough. Coat a large rimmed baking sheet (about 16x12 inches) with 1 Tbsp. oil. Press dough evenly into pan, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Loosely cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel; let rise in a warm, draft-free area until puffed but not doubled in size, 45–50 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, bring cherry syrup and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup, 8–10 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl; let cool completely.
  7. Arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 400°. Using your fingertips, press dimples all over dough surface. Drizzle dough with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Scatter cherries over, pressing them gently into dough. Drizzle reduced syrup over, allowing it to pool into nooks and crannies. Sprinkle almonds over, then raw sugar. Let rise until dough is doubled in size, 15–20 minutes.
  8. Bake until focaccia is golden brown, 20–23 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.