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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 02/19/13

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

THE CARNIVAL OF VENICE, FROM ITALY!!


  The Carnival of Venice historically had a reputation for attracting Europe's aristocracy, but it was also a time when the poorer of society could dress up and mingle with the upper classes.  Venice still has a reputation for being a very expensive city though, if you're on a budget don't let this put you off on visiting the Carnival of Venice as you can actually visit Venice on a shoestring budget.
   The Carnival of Venice starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday.











Venetian Carnival Masks

   Masks have always been a central feature of the carnival; traditionally people were allowed to wear them between the festival of Santo Stefan (St. Stephen's Day, December 26th) and the start of the carnival season and midnight of Shrove Tuesday.  They have always been around Venice.  As masks were also allowed for Ascension and from October 5th to Christmas, people could spend a large proportion of the year in disguise.  Maskmakers (mascherari) enjoyed a special position in society, with their own laws and their own guild.











   Venetian masks can be made in leather or with the original glass technique.  The original masks were rather simple in design and decoration and often had a symbolic and practical function.  Nowadays, most of them are made with the application of gesso and gold leaf and are all hand painted using natural feathers and gems to decorate.

Bauta

   Bauta is the whole face, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding.  One may find masks sold as Bautas that cover only the upper part of the face from the forehead to the nose and upper cheeks, thereby concealing identity but enabling the wearer to talk and eat or drink easily.  It tends to be the main type of mask worn during the Carnival.  It was used also on many other occasions as a device for hiding the wearer's identity and social status.  It would permit the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention.  It was thus useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters.










   In the 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.  It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers.  Only citizens of Venice had the right to use the Bauta.  Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies.
   It was not allowed for the wearer to carry  weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce this ruling.

Moretta

   The moretta is an oval mask of black velvet that was usually worn by women visiting convents.  It was invented in France and rapidly became popular in Venice as it brought out the beauty of feminine features.  The mask was finished off with a veil, and was secured in place by a small bit in the wearer's mouth.












Volto or Larva

The "Volto" was the more common mask used in Venice for centuries.  Volto, means "face", a design that is was the most common, simplest mask.











Mask Makers

The mascherari, or mask makers had their own statute date 10 April 1436.  They belonged to the fringe of painters and were helped in their task by sign painters who drew faces onto plaster in a range of different shapes and paying extreme attention to detail.

HOW TO MAKE PUFF PASTRY THE EASY WAY!


  This diy comes from www.thepinkwisk.co.uk.   Baking desserts and pastries don't have to be have and difficult.  I have watched quite a few chefs make this.  They seem to make it a long drawn out labor intensive ordeal.  Follow this recipe and diy and it shouldn't be all that bad.  Tell me what you think?


How to make Puff Pastry




It’s not complicated but it does take a bit of organising in advance. I do use shop-bought puff pastry and generally have some in the freezer. Making your own is quicker than the time it takes to defrost some
(and it’s not difficult either)
This version of puff pastry is referred to as rough puff pastry, the idea being that you only get 75% of the rise that you would get with traditional puff pastry – getting technical there! However, when you see the rise you get with this its far above and beyond shop bought.
Puff Pastry takes a couple of days to do and also means you have to wrestle with a full pat of butter – hmmmm, I can be organised but not that organised!



Ingredients:


250g strong plain white flour
250g butter, cold
juice of 1/2 lemon
5-6 tbsps cold water to combine
To make the rough puff pastry add the flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and give it a quick pulse to mix.
Cut the cold butter into 1/2cm slices and add to the food processor bowl.





Using the pulse function whizz until the butter is broken up but still in visible lumps. Tip the mixture out into a large mixing bowl.






Make a well in the centre and add the juice of half a lemon and then enough super cold water to make a dough. Use the blade of a table knife to mix the dough rather than your hands as you don’t want to melt the butter.








Once the dough is into a ball wrap in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge for an hour so that the butter hardens up again.
After an hour take the dough out of the fridge, lightly flour your work surface and then roll out the dough into a rectangle shape.






Fold into three like an envelope (see pictures below).







Turn the dough 90 degrees to the right so that the folds are now left and right. Roll again to a large rectangle and fold into three again. Turn and then repeat this step twice more, turning before each re-rolling and folding.






Each time the pastry gets smoother and more refined. Wrap again in clingfilm and allow it to chill for another hour in the fridge.






See? – It wasn’t difficult was it?
The pastry is now ready to be used for whatever you need it for. It can be frozen, wrapped well in clingfilm for upto six months. When defrosting, just make sure it stays dry and doesn’t sit in a pool of water.






Half a block is sufficient for a puff pastry top for a pie so it may be a good idea to cut it into half before freezing.
Traditionally you shouldn’t re-roll puff pastry trimmings. It disturbs the buttery layers within the pastry which you’ve worked so hard to create. However, you can. In these times throwing away pastry trimmings is wasteful and I just can’t do it. Gather together the trimmings and gently squeeze them back together as a ball.  Chill this wonky ball of pastry for half an hour or so until firm again.
This ‘wonky’ trimmings puff pastry is ideal for Palmiers – see recipe here. You can’t guarantee a huge rise or that the rise is in the right direction but it still tastes delicious all the same (and its better than heading for the bin!)