June 24


Saint of the day:
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Nativity means Birth

Patron Saint of Baptism

Saint John the Baptist’s Story

Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His baptism, he said, was for repentance. But one would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John was not worthy even to untie his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).

John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. Jesus thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic.

The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, when he was in prison he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.








Ein Karem, Jerusalem




Italy (Florence)

  • Sagra di San Giovanni is the oldest historic event on Lake Como. Hundreds of tiny lamps float in the lake and there's a big fireworks display the evening. The following morning brings a boat parade with traditional boats decorated with flowers followed by folk dancing and flag throwing competitions. Events are held the weekend closest to Saint John's Day.

  • San Giovanni Feast Day is celebrated in Florence the Sunday following June 24 with a medieval tournament followed by music, drinking, and feasting. In the evening on the Arno River, there is a palio of rowboats carrying lit candles followed by fireworks.

  • Palio di San Giovanni is a 4-day event in Fabriano, in central Italy's Marche region, culminating on June 24 with a beautiful infiorata, tapestries made of flower petals. Events include traditional medieval competitions with participants dressed in period costume, flag throwing performances, and crafts and food stands. 


Also, on the night of June 23 and on day of the 24th, Saint John is celebrated as the patron saint of Porto, the second largest city in Portugal. Porto's Festa de São João is one of Europe's liveliest street festivals.



Apple Cider Risotto Cheesecake



  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 4 tablespoons melted butter

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 4 cups apple cider

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 cup arborio rice

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 16 ounces cream cheese

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  • 3 medium apples, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices

  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

  • 2 tablespoons butter


To make the crust:

  1. In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter.

  2. Press into an even layer on the bottom and about 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

To make the risotto:

  1. In a saucepan, bring the apple cider to a simmer, then reduce the heat just to keep the cider warm.

  2. In another saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to look translucent.  Add one cup of the warm apple cider, stirring often until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding the cider, one cup at a time, until all the liquid is absorbed.  When adding the final cup of cider, also add the teaspoon of cinnamon.  The entire process will take about 25 minutes, so be patient.  Remove the rice from the heat and allow it to cool.  The rice must be completely cool before adding it to the remaining filling ingredients.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

  4. Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil and reduce to a simmer (this will be used in the oven when the cheesecake is baking).

To make the cheesecake filling:

  1. In  the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the sour cream and vanilla; beat until well blended.

  2. Gently stir in the cooled risotto until evenly incorporated.

  3. Pour the cheesecake filling into the graham cracker crust.

  4. Place a roasting pan or oven-safe baking dish on the lowest rack in your oven.  Pour the 4 cups of  hot water into the pan.  Place the cheesecake pan on the middle rack above the water.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.

  5. The top of the cheesecake should be just starting to brown and the center will still be a little jiggly.  Remove the cheesecake for the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.

  6. Run a sharp knife around the inside perimeter of the springform pan to loosen the cake and then remove the side of the pan. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours before serving.  Add the apple topping when the cake is cooled.  You can also top the cake with a fruit or caramel sauce or a simple dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

To make the topping:

  1. Place the apple slices into a bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch and lemon juice.  Use your hands to gently toss the apples until they are well coated with the other ingredients.

  2. In a large skillet, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat.

  3. Add the apple slices and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the apples are just slightly tender.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Arrange the slices in concentric circles on top of the cheesecake starting from the outer edge to the center.


Italian Apple Crumb Cheesecake

(Makes one 9-inch cheesecake)

This is not a typical cheesecake with the fruit simply poured over the top of the cake.  In this recipe the apples are first gently cooked in a brown sugar and spice sauce to develop their flavor.  Then the apples are folded into the cheesecake mixture and poured over a graham cracker crust.  The crumb topping is added to create a  crunchy contrast to the creamy interior.  There are a number of steps involved in making this cheesecake but it makes a beautiful dessert.



  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 16 squares)

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Apple Mixture:

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar

  • 2 pounds Macintosh,or similar, apples (about 4 apples)

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice

Crumb Topping:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped


  • 16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 cup heavy cream

Confectioners' sugar


To make the crust:

  1. Combine the melted butter, crumbs, and sugar.

  2. Press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9-inch spring form pan.  

  3. Set aside.

To make the apple mixture:  

  1. Peel and core the apples; cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.

  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat.

  3. Add the brown sugar, apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.

  4. Cook until the apples are soft but still holding their shape, 7 to 8 minutes.

  5. Transfer the apples to a colander to drain off excess liquid.

  6. Set aside to cool.

To make the crumb topping:

  1. In a small bowl, use a pastry blender to combine the topping ingredients.

  2. Use your fingers to form the mixture into crumbs.

To make the cheesecake:

  1. Using an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, and sugar until 

  2. light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and then add the cream.

  3. Continue beating until the mixture is thick and creamy.

  4. Gently stir in the cooled apple mixture by hand.

  5. Pour the cheesecake batter into the spring form pan.

  6. Spread the crumb topping over the top.

  7. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

  8. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing the sides of the pan.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sprinkle the top with confectioners' sugar right before serving.

Wakes Cakes

The origins of Wakes Cakes dates back to the 7th century. Wakes days (and later weeks) in Britain were periods of localised celebration in honour of a patron saint of a particular church or parish. It was traditional to keep watch, or ‘wake’, in church on the eve of the dedication day, but over time the wake became an evening of feasting, often in the church-yard.

This gradually degenerated into drunkenness and rowdy celebrations, and increasingly wakes became more secular in character as the churches condemned the behaviour on its premises.

Wake Days became linked eventually with fairs, holiday days, then eventually in the 19th century to short holiday periods for workers in the factory towns of Northern England and Scotland.


  • 8oz plain flour

  • 6oz butter

  • 1 egg, well beaten

  • milk (to mix)

  • A good cupful mixed dried fruit (about 4oz)

  • 3 - 4oz white sugar


  1. Mix flour and salt, rub in butter, add sugar and dried fruit.
    You can more or less dried fruit according to taste - I opt for more.
    I usually cut down on the sugar though, to 3oz, rather than 4.
    If you have a sweet tooth, stick to 4oz.

  2. Mix to a stiff dough with beaten egg, add a little more milk if necessary

  3. Knead the dough lightly, then roll to the thickness of a coin
    (about an eighth of an inch).

  4. Cut into rounds the size of a small saucer - approx. 5" in diameter

  5. Bake in a moderate oven for 15 minutes, or until golden.

  6. Cool, then sprinkle with sugar

  7. Enjoy! Will keep for a few weeks if wrapped in foil.




You can find variations to the basic ingredients around Lancashire and Yorkshire, according to the mill town.

Other regional recipes can include:

  • ground almonds

  • caraway seeds

  • discreet amounts of spices, like nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon

  • brandy or rum soaked dried fruit

  • lemon peel



June 24 is the Feast Day of San Giovanni (St. John the Baptist), the patron saint of Florence, and traditionally it's also the day when unripe green walnuts (noci) are gathered for making nocino, a complex, nutty, and slightly bitter dark-brown liqueur.

Walnut Dream / Plaisir Aux Noix Pastry

Plaisir Aux Noix / Walnut Dream 
Le Plaisir aux noix is a creation of Gaston Lenôtre. He was a French pastry chef known
as a possible creator of the opera cake, the founder of "Lenôtre" a culinary empire…
The original plaisir aux noix filling is based on crème Anglaise buttercream lightened
with some Italian meringue. It can also be achieved using mousseline cream.
This version is based on creme diplomate; easier to execute, lower in fat and sugar.

Serves 8 +

Walnut praliné

  • 230g walnut halves, chopped

  • 150g powdered sugar


  1. Toss walnuts in sugar and cook to caramel; stirring constantly.

  2. Cool.

  3. In a running food processor, blend caramelized walnuts to fine coarse and save 2.7 ounces (80g) for the succes biscuit.

  4. Continue to blend the remaining mixture until it forms a paste (praliné). Set aside.

Crème Diplômate (Walnut Diplomate Custard)

  • 300ml milk

  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla paste or extract

  • 4 ea. yolks (80g), save egg whites for the succes biscuit

  • 2 ounces (60g) brown sugar

  • 1.5 Tbsp (20g) corn starch

  • 6 grams gelatin sheets, softened in cold water

  • 7 ounces (220g) mascarpone

  • 10 ounces (300g) walnut praliné

  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) rubby Port or walnut wine (vin de noix)

  • 2/3 cup (170g) whipped cream


  1. Heat up milk and vanilla.

  2. Meanwhile, beat yolks, sugar and starch.

  3. When milk is boiling, turn the heat off – temper yolk-mixture with one-third of the hot milk.

  4. Add yolk-mixture into remaining hot milk – bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes; whisking constantly.

  5. Turn off heat, mix in the softened gelatin and mascarpone.

  6. Transfer onto baking tray lined with plastic wrap; film in contact – cool and chill completely.

  7. Beat chilled custard on high speed, add walnut praliné, port and the whipped cream. Set aside.

Succès Biscuit (Macaron)

  • 4 ea. (120g) egg whites, at room temp

  • 1/2 tsp (1g) cream of tartar or a few drops of lemon juice (it stabilizes the meringue)

  • 4 ounces (120g) fine white sugar

  • 2.6 ounces (80g) almond meal


  • 1.3 ounces (40g) almond meal

  • 1.3 ounces (40g) walnut meal

  • 2.7 ounces (80g) powdered sugar

  • 2 Tbsp (30ml) milk.

  • 2.7 ounces (80g) caramelized walnut meal.

  • A couple tablespoons of toasted sliced almonds (toast them quickly in a frying pan).


  1. In a food processor, blend almond meal and powdered sugar to combine and add milk.

  2. For the meringue, beat to stiff peaks: egg whites with cream of tartar and one-third of the fine white sugar –

  3. Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond-sugar mixture. Add remaining meringue and the previoulsy saved caramelized walnut meal.

  4. Turn oven on. On a baking tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper, pipe out two 8 -inch (20cm) diameter disk using the #808 pastry tip (one penny /16mlmØ). Make 2 extra smaller disks with remaining mixture if so.


  1. Bake succes biscuit at 260ºF (130ºC) for 1 hour and 10 min.

  2. Turn oven off and leave succes to dry out for 20 to 30 minutes more. It should be firm to the touch.


  1. Place a succes biscuit (flat side down), pipe out 12 large dollops of walnut diplomate cream from the edge of the succes and fill up the center.

  2. Coat the surface of the second succes biscuit (flat side up) with a thin layer of filling and top with toasted sliced almonds.

  3. Place it on top of the cake like a sandwich and refrigerate it for 6 hours before eating (best overnight).

  4. Dust with powdered sugar or snow sugar (it wont melt).

  5. Walnut dream cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or kept frozen for up to 3 months. Bon appétit!

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