Monday, November 30, 2009

Supreme pizza

In our household white pizza passes as a delicious vegetarian alternative to the 'real thing'.
For my favorite pizza experience we top the previously described crust with a simple tomato sauce, feta cheese, mozzarella, and an assortment of veggies and meats.
Tomato sauce (for ~4 pizzas):
Finely chop two cloves of garlic and add to 1 tablespoon of preheated olive oil, sautee until fragrant (~30 seconds). Add 6 ounces of tomato paste and 12 ounces of tomato sauce to the garlic, continue heating and stirring. Flavor with sugar and salt to taste. Sugar is a key ingredient here, unless you are using naturally super sweet tomatoes. When the sauce is simmering add 2 spoonful Parmesan cheese. You may wish to include some basil as well.


When your pizza dough is in the shape, its bottom sprinkled with corn meal or semolina, spread about 3 tablespoons of the sauce on the crust. Next add the cheeses and then the other toppings. The above slice had onions, red peppers, Kalamata olives, pepperoni, and hot Italian sausage (I squeeze out the raw sausage mix from one sausage and form little balls).
When you topped the pizza, brush the edge with olive oil and slide onto the top rack of your oven. Turn the oven on to 400°F. Rotate at ~12 minutes and brush the edges with olive oil again. Bake for ~10 minutes more, until the top is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a cookie rack for a few minutes before slicing.
I often sprinkle the pizza with oregano and Parmesan cheese before serving:

Jo etvagyat! (Bon appetit!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

White pizza

Almost everyone likes pizza in one form or another. Food items sold as 'pizza' in Hungary greatly differ from ones sold under that name in Norway or the US. And while I've never been to Italy, I'm sure Italian pizza is yet another business.
However, as pizza happens to be my favorite person's favorite meal (in this statement pizza covers all popular kitchen interpretations of the word), I simply had to learn how to make it.

Living in various dorm environments with limited access to cooking equipment and a decent oven, the process took shamefully long. The initial versions consisted of a basic yeast dough liberally slathered with ketchup, topped with whatever cold cut and cheese we could snatch from the dining halls. My dorm mates always ate it with great gusto. I realized later that this did not reflect the quality of the final product. We were always hungry. Nevertheless, their enthusiasm served as sufficient encouragement to continue perfecting my skill.

Though I still don't have a good oven or a baking stone, the recipe shared here is the best and quickest of the many I have tried over the years. The original idea came from Tammy's blog (listed among my references).
It yields soft but crispy edges, the bottom is usually golden brown and the pizza is never soggy. Various toppings can be applied, here I'm going to describe a white pizza.

Pizza Dough
Ingredients
3/4 cup warm water
2tbsp olive oil
2.5 cups flour
1tsp salt
1tsp sugar
1tbsp dry yeast

Preparation
In a medium bowl mix 3/4 cup warm water, 1tsp sugar and 2tbsp olive oil. Add 1.5 cups of all purpose flour, mix thoroughly. Add 1 more cup of flour, 1tsp salt and 1tbsp dry yeast.
Mix and knead on a lightly floured surface for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be elastic but not sticky. Pour a spoonful of olive oil on the bottom of a medium bowl and turn the dough in it to lightly coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 45-60 minutes in a warm place. (Use 'new' yeast or one you know is functional, since this recipe does not call for proofing the yeast your dough will fail to rise if the yeast is dead.)

While the yeast is at work, you can prepare the topping.


Topping

Ingredients
12 garlic cloves
2/3 cup ricotta cheese (or turo)
300g (10oz) frozen spinach leaves
2tbsp olive oil
5-6 slices of bacon
200g of mozzarella cheese

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Peal 12 garlic cloves leaving only one layer of skin. Take a piece of aluminum foil and add the garlic cloves, a spoonful of water and a spoonful of olive oil to it. Toss the garlic to coat in the liquid and wrap it into the foil. Roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.

When done, turn off the oven and remove the garlic. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Squeeze out from the skin and mash with 1 spoonful of olive oil. Set aside.

Take a few thin slices of bacon and cook until crispy. Remove from the grease and cut into 1cm (0.5 inch) pieces. Dispose of most of the bacon grease from the pan, leaving a tiny amount.

Microwave 300g (10 ounces) of frozen spinach until soft. Drain the liquid from the spinach and cook it with a bit of salt and black pepper in the pan coated with bacon grease. Set aside.

Take 2/3 cup of ricotta cheese and lightly spice it with your choice of spices. I used Piros Arany (a Hungarian spicy sauce prepared from crushed red peppers) and a little bit of salt.

When your pizza dough is ready, coat your pizza pan with olive oil lightly (I use a 15 inch pan to yield a medium thick crust). Pour the dough on the baking sheet without deflating it. Press it into the shape starting from the center and never deflating the edges. Fold over one half of the dough and sprinkle the pan with cornmeal or semolina. Repeat with the other half. Your dough should look like mine on the above picture (unless you are using a rectangular shape :-)

Spread the garlic paste on the dough and distribute your spinach and bacon bits on top.

Distribute dollops of ricotta cheese on the crust and finally top with mozzarella. Brush the edge of the pizza with a bit of olive oil. Place one of your oven racks on the very top slot, putting the pizza pan on the middle of this top shelf. Turn on your oven to 210°C (410°F). Don't preheat the oven!

After 12 minutes remove your pizza pan and rotate your pizza in it. Brush the edges with olive oil again. Cook for ~15 more minutes. By this time the bottom and top of your pizza should be golden brown. Ovens vary, so you will need to adjust these final steps based on your oven.
When done, slide pizza onto a cookie rack and allow to cool for a few minutes. Slice on a cutting board and serve.
Jo etvagyat! (Bon Appetit!)


I usually top this pizza crust with a tomato sauce, meats and veggies. I will share that recipe later. If you try some great toppings, or if you happen to have an ultimate pizza recipe, please share!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hungarian fruit tart

The time has finally come to write my first blog entry.
I anticipate the theme of "Planet of the Crepes" will primarily revolve around cooking, it being my favorite pastime besides reading.

I chose Hungarian fruit tart as the first entry, because my dislike for chocolate and love for all things fruity have long defined my dessert experiences. The very first photo that features me in the company of a cake was taken on my first birthday. My mum prepared a fruit tart following the recipe I am about to share with you here. Back then we didn't have the special pie shape that I used to make this particular specimen, but it did not spoil the taste and there are many creative ways for baking the crust.

The recipe yields a softer, moist crust compared to the ones I usually encounter in US bakeries. If you like experimenting, give it a shot! It's simple, cheap and allows for plenty of creative modifications.



Ingredients
crust: 3 eggs, 120g of sugar, 100g flour, 70g unsalted butter.
filling: one instant or cooked vanilla pudding prepared according to the instructions on the box + fruits, one package of gelatin and 100mL cranberry juice.

Experimental section
Preheat the oven to 160°C (or 320°F for those inhabiting non-metric parts of the world). Thoroughly butter and flour your cake shape of choice.
Mix the melted butter with the eggs and the sugar. Add in the flour gradually and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the baking shape and spread evenly. Bake in the preheated oven until golden (if you are unsure whether it's done, insert a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean it's baked). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute in the shape, then flip out onto a plate.

While it's cooling prepare the vanilla pudding and the fruit. Fill it into the crust. Top with fruit. (My personal favorites are pineapple, kiwi and strawberry on this cake. They are truly delicious with the vanilla pudding.)
Prepare the gelatin according to the instructions on the package, using a fruit juice. When it's about to set distribute it on the cake. Allow it to cool, and serve!
Jo etvagyat! (Bon appetit!)

You can also prepare these as single-serve tarts: