When it comes to baking, FOOBY Sarah's secret ingredient is the vanilla pod. Its heady aroma gives her bakes a unique appeal and she can’t imagine baking without it.
Sarah Brunella brings together all of her favourite recipes in her blog Fragola e Limone (Strawberry and Lemon) and on her Instagram page. This way, no recipe is forgotten. Even family recipes that Sarah didn't want to lose are shared with her community. She takes a very methodical approach to baking and cooking, and preparation is key.
Sarah has a real passion for cakes and yeasted pastries. She began blogging in 2009 – more out of a desire to preserve great recipes and exchange ideas than a need to communicate. She loves preparing recipes in minute detail, enjoys being part of the blogging community, and loves to cook and bake with her 7-year-old son.
What made you take up cooking?
When my grandfather died, my grandmother on my mother's side moved in with us. She looked after me while my parents were at work. I used to love watching her prepare meals. The 20-25 meals that she made over and over again were always perfect, even though she measured out the ingredients simply by eye or by spoon. She never got it wrong. It was like magic to me. I still have photos of myself rolling out dough – holding a rolling pin that she kindly let me play with.
Which fragrance evokes positive memories for you?
One that brings back memories for me is grappa. My grandmother came from Trentino but she lived in Veneto for many years. Crostoli were a must at Carnival time. These classic, sweet crispy pastries are a traditional Carnival treat. They have different Italian names depending on the region (frappe, cenci, galani, chiacchiere, crostoli, etc.) and each region uses a different liqueur. My grandmother used grappa. I'm not usually a fan of spirits, however grappa is like stepping 30 years back in time – I would come home from school, open the door and see my grandmother deep-frying these little pastries. The grappa gave the crostoli an unmistakable flavour and I still make them this way today.
What's your most important meal of the day?
My favourite meal is, without doubt, breakfast. There are certain things I simply can't do without, like a milky coffee. I like to switch up the breakfast table from day to day with different options – muesli, waffles, milk and cereals, brioche, biscuits, croissants or a simple apple cake. Or yoghurt and fresh fruit. It all depends on how I feel and how much time I have. I love breakfast.
What is currently your favourite food?
When I think of a meal that I could eat forever and always, it would have to be pizza. It's a simple dish that can be transformed into something magical every time. To make good pizza, you need quality ingredients. The simpler the meal, the more important the quality of the ingredients. Pizza is a perfect staple food for any occasion. There will always be pizza.
What food makes your soul sing?
Food that feeds my soul? Zopf! On my way home from tennis lessons as a young girl, my dad and I would always stop and pick up a warm loaf to take home. It never – and I mean never – made it home in one piece. Now that I can make my own, I bake one at least two or three times a month.
What food can't you stand?
I'm really not keen on bananas.
What ingredient have you recently re-discovered?
I didn't use to like broccoli or fennel. I only started eating both a few years ago.
What can't you stand the smell of?
Coriander. I don't like it at all.
Which kitchen utensil could you not do without?
Am I only allowed to choose one? I can't do without my dough scraper. And the silicone spatulas are great for mixing fluffy and dry ingredients into a light and airy dough.
Who would you like to share a kitchen with?
Gabriele Bonci or Renato Bosco – both are famous Italian pizzaioli. The art of pizza-making fascinates me. It would be an amazing experience.
Do you have a favourite cooking buddy?
I like to bake and cook on my own. I have my own way of doing things and I'm very methodical. The aesthetics are important, too, as I want to be able to publish the end result in blogs and on social media. So I always take my time. But I have a lot of fun baking and cooking with my 7-year-old son, who seems to take quite an interest in what I do.
For whom would you like to have the opportunity to cook?
I would have loved to cook for my grandfather. He died when I was just 6 years old and loved his food – from what I've been told. I wish I could have spoiled him a little with some of his favourite dishes.
The spice that I use most of all is, without doubt, cinnamon. I don't like to use it in large amounts, however I rarely bake an apple cake without adding at least a pinch of cinnamon.
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