At Villa Litta for Ninfeamus

The past 3-day holiday weekend saw the 5th edition of Ninfeamus at Villa Litta in Lainate. Dedicated to nature, the event hosted an open-air market for plants and crafts, and for the first time gave visitors the opportunity to see a variety of orchids in the newly renovated greenhouses (Serre Liberty). The main draw and amusement, as always, was the nymphaeum (il Ninfeo), a series of themed rooms, some in mosaic, with trick fountains that delighted all.

Ninfeamus 2016
Plants and crafts market

Basil plants for sale
A variety of basil and other herbs for sale

Serre Liberty
Serre Liberty

il Ninfeo

Ninfeo - mosaic room Ninfeo - trick fountains
Tiny river stones adorn the walls in this mosaic room; trick fountains pop up unexpectedly

Ninfeo - chicken and golden egg
The best room of the Ninfeo, imho, is the one with the chicken that lays a golden egg when the fountain sprays water. When the spraying stops, the egg disappears. I want one!

Belgian waffles (Liege-style)

Liege-style waffles

A year ago today we were crossing the border into Belgium so I want to share this recipe for waffles – well actually gaufres – that Liege is so famous for. Unlike waffles that are made from a fluid batter, these are made from a dough that is rich in egg and butter with pearl sugar added in after the dough’s first rise. Initially I was forced to substitute brown rock sugar for the pearl sugar called for in recipes until I found some at a nearby shop that sells belgian beer and sweets. The recipe here is adapted from the back of the pearl sugar bag and I’ve drastically cut the amount of butter and sugar to make this more waistline-friendly.

Makes 8 waffles
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm whole milk
1.5 teaspoon dried yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt
4 ounces butter, softened at room temperature
1 (scant) cup pearl sugar or brown rock sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Combine the flour, yeast-milk mixture, eggs, vanilla, salt and butter in a large bowl or Kitchenaid mixer. Mix/knead until it comes together into a ball and the surface is smooth. Cover and set aside in a warm place until doubled in volume.

Liege-style waffles
Dough with brown rock sugar and also pearl sugar (bottom right)

When the dough has doubled, make a cross cut in the center (this will make it easier to work in the pearl sugar) and open up each section. Add the pearl sugar and work it into the dough until evenly mixed. Divide into 8 equal pieces and place on an oiled baking sheet; cover with plastic wrap and let rest at least 20 minutes.

Making gaufres

Preheat waffle maker and proceed to cook waffles until golden brown.

Making waffles