Fromage With Love

The recipes & food loves of a wanderlust cook.

Month: May, 2013

Kitchen Edit

Oh, if money were no option, and I got paid to shop, how sweet life would be. Unfortunately, that is not my reality, but hey,  I can dream, and to satisfy my creative sweet tooth, I present the kitchen edit – a collection of all those things that would help make a happy home.

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1. Smeg, Victoria Cooker

2. GormanEm Tea Towel Pack, $59.00

3. Country RoadTully Salad Servers, $39.95

4. Pantone Teapot $69.95, Milk Jug $29.95 & Sugar Bowl $29.95

5. Peonies – from beautiful florists everywhere!

6. Country Road Brunch Cake Server $17.95, Mellum Napkin (pack of 4) $24.95 & Baker Cake Stand $59.95

Buzz Lightyear’s Pizza Special

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I have never eaten as much pizza in my life, as I have in the past two-and-a-half years I have been dating Buzz Lightyear. For him, the answer to the question, “what would you like for dinner?”, is always “pizza”, said with slight trepidation, as he knows I don’t quite have the same passion for pizza everyday of the week as he does. That being said, even those times I agree almost begrudgingly to yet another pizza, I always end up happy and content, my tummy filled to the brim with carbs and deliciousness.

When I talk of this frequent consumption of pizza, I’m not talking about your Joe-Shmoe on the corner dial-up-and-watch-it-get-delivered-via-an-app kind of pizza. I’m talking the real stuff. We luckily live in close proximity to an absolutely beautiful pizza restaurant, which fortunately for us, also does takeaway. We order so often, and generally, the same order, to the point that they finish our order for us when we dial up.

But these guys know their stuff. The base is beautifully delicate, there’s an array of great produce, and the real test for me, is the fact that the basil is put on the pizza after it has come out of the oven, in big, green leaves, to avoid them getting burnt in the oven.

Buzz Lightyear has a deep appreciation for good food, and great pizza. This naturally lead him down the path one day of making his own pizzas, and this is a man who does not do things by halves. He has read, worked, and practiced, and to this day is continually improving his recipe. It actually amazes me that the pizzas he makes get better and better, because they are, bias aside, the best homemade pizzas I have ever eaten, and right up there in the best I’ve had at home or out.

He is our resident baker here at Casa de Kitchenland. He’s the go-to man for bread in its many forms. And so, today, he features as our guest in this Buzz Lightyear Pizza Special.

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There are a few things that will take you pizza to a higher level of yumminess. One of the most important, I believe, is a baking stone in your oven. We actually keep the stone in the oven permanently – not only is it great when making pizza and bread, but I am a firm believer that it genuinely helps when cooking all sorts of things, like roasts, as the stone heats the dish from below, allowing for equal distribution of the temperature.

Another important factor, is love. Not just in pizza, of course, in all cooking, but there’s something about dough, where you have to work so closely with your product, shaping it with your own two hands, that the idea of love is an ingredient becomes real. You will see the difference in your dough if you pay it the care and attention it deserves. I read somewhere once that if you start to pay attention to your baker, you’ll be able to tell how they were feeling on the day, as it translate directly into the bread they bake. And I believe it! So, make sure not to neglect your dough.

Pizza

Ingredients

Four cups of white flour (00 is preferable), plus extra to knead
Two teaspoons of fine salt
One and a half teaspoons of dried instant yeast
Two tablespoons of olive oil
One and a third cups of warm water (plus extra if needed)

Method (makes 8 small pizzas, or 4 large)

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and start mixing. You can do this by hand, or by setting up your bowl to your kitchen mixer.

Add olive oil, and slowly start pouring in the water, mix til incorporated.

Start kneading, either by using the dough hook on your mixer or by hand, for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Knead for five 5 longer than what you feel is ready. Make sure when kneading, you really stretch out the dough, as this is necessary to stretch out the gluten and make the dough nice and elastic.

The perfect point is when you press into the dough, and it springs back slightly to the touch.

Shape the dough into a round ball, and place in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl in cling film, and let rest somewhere warm (we chose by the window) until the dough has doubled in size, which is roughly 2 hours in Winter, and just over an hour in Summer.

If you have the time, you can put the dough into the fridge for a slow, cool rise overnight, which gives the dough the opportunity to develop a more complex flavour.

When you’re ready to start preparing your dough, preheat oven to the hottest temperature available (we went to 220 degrees celsius).

Press into the dough with your fingers to release the air, and knead, briefly, until it is back into a manageable ball.

Divide into eight even pieces, to make eight small pizzas, or divide in four for larger pizzas. Shape the individual pieces into smooth, round balls and start rolling out using a rolling pin until they are roughly 2mm thick.

At this point, you can top with whatever you like. We personally like to make some infused olive oils while the dough is rising, as this is a great way to add authentic flavour to your pizzas. Simply pour a little olive oil into two small bowls, add crushed garlic to one, and chopped chilli to the other. Top both with salt and pepper, and leave to infuse.

We topped our ‘bianca’ pizzas with the garlic infused olive oil, buffalo mozzarella, as well as regular mozzarella, salt, pepper and then a drizzle of the chilli oil once out of the oven.

Pop in the oven for 10 – 12 minutes until nice and crispy on the edges, with the cheese blackening in parts.
In our next Buzz Lightyear Pizza Special, we’ll delve into perfect pizza sauce, to take your pizzas from bianca to rossa!

Tsoureki & Greek Easter

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I love sweet bread, not sweetbreads, which I learnt the very important difference between a long time ago. Greeks make a few sweet loaves, generally to represent each of the major holidays, but tsoureki has always been my favourite. Tsoureki is just that, a sweet loaf, an almost-brioche, infused with orange peel, vanilla and filled with eggs and butter.

In trying to describe this bread, there is a key ingredient that comes into play. It’s called mahlepi, and it’s the component that gives tsoureki its characteristic aroma and taste. It’s unlike anything else, so it’s hard to describe, but it’s powdery, similar in form to something like almond meal, which makes sense, as mahlepi is nothing more than the ground stones of cherries.

I found this information amazing when I first discovered what mahlepi was. How could so much flavour come from something like the pip of a cherry, which instantly gets spat out when eating the fresh fruit? And as always in culinary questioning, who’s brilliant idea was it in the first place that grinding cherry stones could be edible?

I know of no other recipe that uses mahlepi, though I’m sure some exist, and because of this, it is a smell that instantly transports me to Easter and delightfully renders me a child once more. It was hard to contain my excitement when puffs of baking bread were escaping my oven, and filling my house with all those memories of family, love and the traditional cracking of red eggs.

The week long fast has now officially been broken, and as we return home from midnight mass, our cheeks flush from the crisp air, the divine flame collected from the church burning brightly in the middle of the table, our bellies are full of delicious egg-lemon chicken soup and all that’s left to do is a have a cup of tea, an Easter biscuit, and a slice of freshly baked tsoureki.

Happy Pascha!

This recipe has been based on one from Pam Talimanidis, in her book A La Grecque. I really admire Pam; she is not Greek, but married into a Greek family, and has been running a restaurant with her husband in Airey’s Inlet, coastal Victoria. She seems to have embraced the culture and the food lovingly, and her book is beautifully traditional and carefully thought out. I always find it wonderful when a non-Greek gains appreciation for authentic Greek food, as I feel in general, as a cuisine, it tends to be rather underrated, and constrained purely to the realm of gyros in a pita bread (which look, is not too terrible a meal in itself!). In A La Grecque, though, she tackles a vast array of dishes, and does them well.

For my tsoureki, as I often do, the recipe was used only as a guide, as I like to put my own spin on things. While it’s a bit labour and time intensive, it’s a labour of love, and one that comes only once a year.

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Tsoureki

Ingredients

40g dried yeast
325g sugar
190ml warm milk
1kg plain flour (plus extra if needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 orange
2 teaspoons ground mahlepi
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
350g unsalted butter, softened
1 extra egg for glazing

Method

Warm some milk, then dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in it. Set aside, and leave for about ten minutes to froth up.

Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the sugar, orange zest and mahlepi. Add the frothed yeast, beaten eggs, orange blossom water and vanilla. Mix well, then knead, either by hand, or using the dough hook on a mixer, for about 10 minutes until the dough comes together to form  a smooth, elastic dough. Add extra flour, tablespoon by tablespoon to bring the mixture together if you find it’s too wet.

Oil a bowl, shape the dough into a smooth ball and place, covered in plastic wrap, in a warm place for two hours until the dough has doubled in size. It was a rather cold day when I made this, so I turned the oven on and sat the dough by the door to prove.

Have a cup of tea while you wait.

Punch the dough down then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten it out with the palm of your hand until it’s a disc, about 4cm high. Smear the surface with the softened butter, which may seem like a lot of butter, and it is, but hey, it’s a special occasion.

Fold in the edges to enclose the butter, then place back in the mixer, or with floured hands if you’re mixer-less, and knead until the butter is completely incorporated. The dough will be rather sticky, and you may end up with a few globs of butter on your Kitchenaid, but it does come together to form a dough that should pull clean away from the dough hook.

Finish off kneading for a few minutes by hand, until it’s smooth and glossy once more, then place back in an oiled bowl and leave to rise for at least five hours, or overnight if you can, in a cool place like the fridge.

Now you’re ready to bake!

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, and lay some trays with baking paper. Divide the dough into nine pieces, three for each loaf. Roll each piece of dough into a long sausage, about the length of a ruler. Gather three pieces, stack three tips on top of one another and pinch to join. Weave the length into a plait. If you have red Easter eggs, great! Pop one in one end for a spot of colour, but it is perfectly fine without, too.

Repeat the weaving process for the other two loaves. Place the loaves on their trays, then brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with caster sugar.

Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place (such as by the oven, again) to rise one final time, for 30 minutes.

Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160 degrees celsius before baking for a further 25 minutes til the loaves are a beautiful golden brown.

A Perfect Saturday Morning

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Well, the work week has passed, as always, in great anticipation of the weekend. Greater anticipation, this week, with the looming promise of Eastern Easter, an end to the fast, some wonderful time shared around the table as a family.

But tonight, the celebrations begin just before midnight, which means there was plenty of time to enjoy waking up without the shrieking of an alarm. I made the firm decision that today would not be rushed. I leisurely made my way upstairs, where a sunny morning streamed through our terrace windows. The house was quiet. The world outside was quiet (I must admit a sleep in for me is still relatively early!). A quick stroll to the shops when most Friday night revellers were still content in their beds (including my partner in cooking crime, henceforth to be known as Buzz Lightyear), meant no queues, and the chance to stroll the aisles to my heart’s content.

We are lucky to have a beautiful bakery right on our street, where the window is always filled with juicy looking cinnamon donuts and pizza slices. They also make a most delicious loaf. As I strode home, a crusty seed loaf snuggled in my bag, the florist had just opened, and the blooms greeted me cheerfully. I was tempted, as it is generally a tradition of mine to get a new bunch of flowers to brighten the house each Saturday, but we currently have a beautiful jar of purple dahlias that have lasted quite well, and so onward I went.

The house still asleep when I got home, I toasted up some fresh bread slices, set the kettle on, and pulled down my favourite cup and saucer. The hot bread was lathered quickly with homemade jam (a gift from aforementioned Buzz Lightyear’s father), the tea was poured, a wonderfully light vanilla green, and there I sat, nestled on the couch, as the morning lightened.

It was quiet, and still and absolutely perfect.

Sometimes, the greatest pleasures are the simplest ones.

Welcome to the weekend! x