Monday, April 27, 2009

Challenge Book #37 - Hazelnut Wafers

It's the ANZAC Day weekend here in Australia, the time in which we remember all our servicemen and women. So I really should be posting something iconic and patriotic like ANZAC biscuits or pie floaters or something. But I just didn't quite get around to it.

In actual fact I have spent very little time in the kitchen in recent weeks. I have been caught up in researching my family tree. This is supposed to be my Father's new hobby, but given his complete lack of computor skills I am the bunny that gets to scrawl through endless census returns and electoral rolls. Who knew that there could be so many people born with the same name in the same year in the same town? I'm beginning to wonder if there was ever anyone in England born without the names Henry, William or Edward. Sadly (or not as the case may be) I seem to have no claims to the nobility - this is pure peasant blood in these here veins.

I'm pretty sure my forebears would never have dreamed of snacking on something like this - hazelnut wafers and brie cheese. Bit of a stark change from gruel. But I'm sure they would have loved it. I must have gotten my tastebuds from somewhere after all.

These wafers are feather light, super crunchy and taste of pure hazelnut. They are lightly sweet. I think they went fantastically with a gorgeous brie cheese like this or with a sharp cheddar some dried apricots and apple. And then I ate the rest on there own just like normal biscuits. It was all good.

And they really are not hard to make. I didn't quite spread the mixture as thinly or evenly as I should. So my wafers coloured a bit unevenly. But it didn't seem to matter in how they tasted.

The recipe comes from the delicious days cookbook by Nicole Stich - which is by the way Book # 37 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. Nicole is of course one half of the delicious days website which is a vision of foodie loveliness. I was only given this book recently as a get well present so this is the first thing I have tried. I have, however, tried other recipes from the website, including the most gorgeous foccaccia in the world.

Hazelnut Wafers
(adapted from delicious days)

80gm ground hazelnuts
20 gm whole hazelnuts, chopped
50gm sugar
20gm plain flour
3 egg whites

Mix the ground nuts with the sugar, salt and flour. Break up the egg whites with a fork so that they are a bit foamy (but not stiff). Stir into the nut mixture.

Line a baking tray with paper and spread the mixture in a very thin and even layer. Sprinkle over the chopped nuts.

Bake in a 175C oven for 14-16 minutes until it is an even brown colour. Slide the paper off onto a rack and allow the wafer to cool. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Warm Italian Meringue and Vinicotto Grapes Pizza

It's time for a not such a success story. Don't let this blog fool you (snort - yeah right, as if), I definitely have my fair share of failures. Sometimes it feels like more because, strangely, it all seems to happen at once. I'll be sailing along, baking happily, and then a cake will sink or biscuits will burn or pastry will be soggy. And for the next few weeks absolutely nothing will work - even long standing successful recipes. Curdled custards, lumpy sauces, leaden bread I could go on and on and on. It gets to the point where I throw my apron down in frustration and decide that I am completely useless and there is no point in my ever setting foot in the kitchen again.

And then a butterfly will flap its wings or the wind will change direction or something and it all comes right again. So weird!!!

But this time I do have a bit of an excuse, the recipe. I don't think it was all my fault.

This in case you were wondering is a Warm Italian Meringue and Vincotto Grapes Pizza. The crust was delightful as always and the grapes were simply delicious. I have not really tasted vincotto before. It was fantastically intense and flavoursome. I think the grapes themselves would be great with a whole lot of things. Even in a trifle with some rich custard, I think they would be great.

No, the problem was the meringue. When it came out of the oven it looked fantastic - a huge puffy cloud of meringue. But that lasted about three seconds. It shrank and shrank and shrank to just a little shrivelled ring, a mere parody of its former self. And it tasted eggy. Distinctly eggy. Not what you want at all.

The thing is that the recipe only calls for 1 tbspn (4 tspns) sugar for 3 egg whites. I'm not sure what the right ratio should be, but that sounds way too low to me. But on the other hand there may be a risk that, with more sugar, the meringue would simply burn to a crisp at the high temperatures needed to cook the base. Maybe it needs to be done in two stages. Cook the base and then add and cook the meringue.

I'm certainly going to give it a go, because I think that this will be a fantastic recipe if it can be made to work!!

Warm Italian Meringue and Vincotto Grapes Pizza
(adapted from Pizza Modo Mio)

20gm butter
90gm seedless red grapes
125ml vincotto
3 egg whites
1 tbspn caster sugar
1 quantity of pizza dough

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the grapes and cook for 3 minutes or until just tender. Remove the grapes, add vincotto and simmer until reduced by half. Return the grapes to the pan, toss to combine well, then remove from the heat and cool.

Place a pizza stone in the oven and heat to 250C.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Put the sugar and 1 tbspn water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisking continuously, gradually add the hot syrup to the egg whites and whisk until stiff and glossy.

Roll out the dough into two 15cm rounds or free form shapes. Prick with a fork. Spread with the meringue, place on the heated stone and bake for 4-6 minutes. Remove and scatter over the vincotto grapes and serve.

*This is an Australian recipe. 1 Australian tbspn = 4 tspn (20ml). 1 US tbspn = 3 tspn (15ml).

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Challenge Book #36 - Chocolate Pizza

The chocolate, it calls to me. When I said I can eat limitless amounts of good chocolate you thought I was joking right. No, it's true. Well, my work colleagues did gave a major helping hand with the baked chocolate fudge. It disappeared in short order. And so, it's time for the choc binge to go on - with chocolate pizza.

I know, I know right!!! Sounds hideous. I kinda thought so to. But I was intrigued and had to try it. And now I am here to tell you that this is quite simply DELICIOUS, YUMMY, GORGEOUS. You get the message I'm sure. I was shocked out of my little socks at how good it was.

It consists of a thin pizza crust, which is quite simply the best I have ever made. Lovely and light and gently crisp on the bottom. A layer of nutella, a few dollops of mascarpone, a score of sour cherries, a spattering of chopped turkish delight, a scattering of pistachios and a sprinkling of toffee shards. Does it get any better!!

I I can over one suggestion it is to ensure that there is sufficient sour cherries to have some in every bite. Otherwise the sweetness can just overwhelm you. There is also an option to go for a sweet dough. I thought it would just be too much so I went with plain.
This pizza is supposed to be served with vanilla ice cream. So why do I have a miserable little bowl of cream sitting there? Well, because I am a doofus. The vanilla ice cream I thought was in the freezer turned out to be lemon. Not really chocolate appropriate.

Fortunately I had some cream in the fridge. Which absolutely, stubbornly refused to whip. I have never had this happen before. It just sat there all thin and nyherrr!!! So I gave up. I actually don't think you need it. The pizza is great just on it's own.

And really it should be given that it's from a world pizza champion, an Australian chef called John Lanzafame. Apparently he learned all his pizza skills from his Italian mother. This book has an amazing range of dessert pizzas (among the more expected sort). Banana split, peaches and cream, cherry and almond. All sound divine!!

This is of course, Challenge Book #36 in the KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. This is the first recipe I have tried from this book. Which is quite excusable I think as it was a Christmas present. I will certainly be making many more.

My Favourite Chocolate Pizza
(adapted from Pizz Modo Mio)

115gm caster sugar
1 tbspn lemon juice
1 quantity of pizza dough
100gm chocolate hazelnut spread (nutella)
2 tbspn mascarpone cheese
12 bottled sour cherries, halved
12 bite sized pieces turkish delight
40gm unsalted pistachios, chopped

Heat the sugar and lemon juice over a low heat until the sugar melts and becomes a caramel colour. Pour the toffee onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and tilt until it spreads out thinly. Leave to set. Then break into shards.

Roll out the dough into two 15cm rounds or a free form shape. Prick all over with a fork. Spread the bases with the chocolate spread, and top with small dollops of mascarpone. Scatter over the cherries.

Place the pizzas on a pizza stone preheated in a 250C oven. Bake for 5 minutes or until the base is golden and crisp.

Remove from the oven and scatter with the turkish delight, pistachios and toffee shards.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pizza Dough
(adapted from Pizza mio modo)

1 tspn dried yeast
1 tspn salt
100ml warm water
2 tspn olive oil
160gm plain flour

Put the yeast, water and a tbspn of the flour into a small bowl and whisk together. Leave in warm place for 10 minutes or until the mix has started to bubble.

Add the flour, salt and oil and mix together. Knead for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Rub with olive oil and place in a bowl. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough. If you wish to make a sweet dough add 1 tspn of brown sugar and knead in at this stage. (At this stage you can also leave the dough in the fridge overnight, bringing back to room temperature before continuing on).

Leave the dough in a warm place for 15 minutes until risen by half again. The dough is now ready to use.

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