Silvia Baldini, Founder of New Canaan, Conn.-based culinary group Strawberry and Sage, is the first woman chef in Fairfield County, Connecticut to take home the Chopped victory and claim the title of Chopped Champion. And how sweet it is.
After enduring April Fools’ Day pranks including a toy snake slithering across the kitchen floor, a mystery basket of duplicitous ingredients including an onion disguised as a candy apple, and a grueling twelve hours of competition against younger, up-and-coming chefs from the hot culinary scene in Charleston, South Carolina, Chef Baldini impressed the judges with her unusual dessert, sweet canederli, to bring home the Chopped title and $10,000. Canederli are bread dumplings, a regional specialty of northeast Italy where they are served as a first course or dessert. Considered part of ‘cucina povera’, they are made of simple and inexpensive ingredients including stale bread moistened with milk or cheese bound with eggs and a small amount of flour. This tasty treat exemplifies Chef Baldini’s signature “chic and simple comfort” cuisine, a style rooted in making beautiful food to share with loved ones.
The victory is extremely important to Chef Baldini. “I left behind a successful career in advertising to become a chef. Hopefully this win is a small step towards women in food the recognition they deserve” said Baldini. “I have to admit, it feels great to win against three much younger, accomplished, hipster chefs.”
Chef Silvia Baldini plans to use her $10,000 in winnings to create an educational food program that teaches people to cook and share food based on her philosophy that we enjoy food more when we are well-versed in its origins, culinary history, and traditions.
Congratulations to my friend Chef Silvia Baldini on winning Chopped and becoming the first woman in Fairfield County, Connecticut to earn the title of Chopped Champion!
Balsamic Strawberry Soup and Sweet Canederli
By Chef Silvia Baldini, Fairfield County, Connecticut First Female Chopped Champion
For an easy-to-print version of this recipe, and to get the story straight from Silvia, read the blog post on her website SilviaBaldini.com.
Silvia prepared this dessert to win the third and final round in the Chopped competition.
For The Canederli:
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
1 lb. fresh ricotta, drained
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup stale bread cut in small pieces
1 cup bread crumbs
For the Strawberry Soup
3 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 6 cups)
½ cup sugar
4 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
For The Poaching Liquid
4 cups of water
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 stick cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cloves
4 tablespoons sugar
1 small piece of cheesecloth and string
½ teaspoon salt
For the Strawberry soup: gently mix the strawberry, sugar and balsamic vinegar in a bowl and set aside to macerate for at least half an hour.
For the dough: Put the ricotta into a large bowl, and stir to loosen it and break up lumps, then blend in the eggs, the vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle the flour on top, and fold it in gently; add the stale bread. The dough will be stiff and somewhat sticky. Refrigerator for at least half an hour. When cold, shape the dough in small balls with wet hands or a spoon. Keep on a parchment-lined tray in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Toast the breadcrumbs in a pan with the butter, then add cinnamon and sugar.
Prepare the poaching liquid by boiling the water with the lemon juice and zest, sugar, and salt. Tie all the remaining ingredients in the cloth and place in the poaching liquid. Simmer.
When ready to cook, gently place the canederli in the poaching liquid and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes. Roll in the toasted breadcrumbs. Serve on the strawberry soup.
About Silvia Baldini:
After completing her classical studies in Italy, earning a degree in architecture, and graduating from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Baldini entered the advertising world. She was an art director for many years at famous NYC ad agencies where she produced successful, award-winning campaigns. However, she always dreamed of becoming a chef.
Baldini returned to school and graduated from the Cornell and ICC Institute in NYC with a degree in restaurant management, then continued her culinary education with a Cuisine Diploma from the prestigious Cordon Bleu in London, where she graduated at the top of her class. Baldini took a job as a chef at the Ritz, and quickly moved up the ranks to work at all the stations.
After working as a stagiare at several prestigious European Michelin star restaurants, she founded Strawberry and Sage, a creative food group that is an outlet for her real passion: food. Here she gets to expand her culinary horizons and combine her love of food with her passion for design and artistic talents honed during her seventeen years in advertising. She now lives in New Canaan, Connecticut and works on making her vision for Strawberry and Sage a reality.
Clients served include the Royal Scottish Society, Bank of America, Vista Caballo, JMcLaughlin, Ralph Lauren, Wheelock Maidique, the Rye Nature Center, The New Canaan Library and The Carriage Bar Arts Center. She works with private clients, celebrities, and fashion and food photographers. Baldini has appeared on local TV, national TV, and food shows. She is the first woman chef in Fairfield County, Connecticut to win The Food Network’s Chopped competition and earn the title of Chopped Champion. Baldini is currently writing her first cookbook.
About Strawberry and Sage:
We offers catering and food preparation for select clients, event management, strategic partnerships in the food and media industry, cooking instruction, menu development, recipe development, writing and testing; photography and food styling; cookbook and media consulting including TV, digital, and social media; and restaurant and kitchen consultations.