Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Pizza Casareccia

While we all struggle to produce that thin-crusted, charcoal redolent pizzaiolo's pizza and fail, the Italians recognise that you need to go to the pizzeria for that and have instead devised a home-made alternative, doughier and with more topping, but very good in its own but different way - Nigella Lawson

The verdict: I LOVE homemade pizza - homemade from scratch that is! It is so easy and so yummy, and makes you feel very clever. I know pizza is so easy to get delivered, but when you have the time to make it (which I happen to have right now) it is so worth it!

Unusual or substituted ingredients: The great thing about pizza is that you can pretty much use what you've got in the fridge. Most people will have some cheese (even cheddar is fine!) and a bit of meat and some onion and capsicum or mushroom, or whatever you like on a pizza. You can go gourmet or traditional, whatever you like! The recipe (while it gives toppings) is really about making the pizza base.

Special utensils or cookware: None at all! You just need a bowl, a flat surface (on which to knead) and a baking tray. Although if you are me, feel free to cheat by using a KitchenAid with a dough hook for the kneading part - frees up a few minutes in which you can chop the toppings!

Repeatability: I will definitely make this again! Nigella suggested that this pizza should feed 4 people "generously". Husby and I ate all but one piece between us for dinner, it was that good!!

Sauciness: Mmmm, yes. I really liked that the recipe used half a tin of chopped tomatoes, rather than tomato paste, for the sauce. Interesting that this is spread on the pizza base before it is baked, and then you put the toppings on and bake again, enough to melt and brown the cheese (mmmm melted cheese!)

Overall pleasure level: Erm, I think mmmmmmmm melted cheese probably sums it up really!

Monday, 16 March 2009

Boston Cream Pie

This is not a pie at all but a cake ... . ...and for some reason the addition of chocolate brought the word 'cream' into play. - Nigella Lawson
Yes, this is a cake. And it doesn't have cream in it (well, not really). But it does have chocolate, and it does have a custardy filling. And it's a layer cake. What more could you want?

The verdict: It's pretty good in the eating, although the construction failure left me disappointed. The picture in the book shows a very thick, very yellow custardy filling, with thick chocolate ganache just oozing slightly over the side of the cake.
Yeah, my version didn't quite go like that. I guess I didn't cook the creme patissiere filling enough, and even though I was rocking on the chocolate ganache making to 'Born Slippy' by Underworld, I probably didn't beat it enough either. Hence the filling and icing ran right off the cake onto the cake plate. And the table. Sigh. It still tasted good!

Unusual or substituted ingredients: Just Nigella's usual fat-free fare of double cream, milk, chocolate, eggs, sugar and butter (and a few other bits and pieces. Nigella uses her victoria sponge recipe for the cake bit. Who knows if this is traditional, but it works fine - a fairly plain solid-ish cake is probably best I suspect.
Special utensils or cookware: I made the Victoria sponge part using the food processor - last time I made it I did it the traditional way, but I figured I'd try the magimix this time.
That might explain why the cakes turned out somewhat flatter than I would have liked?

Repeatability: This cake is pretty fussy to make - you have to do the cakes, then the custardy bit (creme patissiere) and then the chocolate ganache - the ganache part is done in a saucepan, using an electric hand mixer - optional is the grooving part described above - and so it does require you to set aside some time for the baking etc, and then the construction. But it's an impressive looking thing (or at least, it would be if the filling didn't all run out) and so is a good choice for impressing non-baking guests!

Sauciness: C'mon, anything with chocolate ganache (with plenty left over) is bound to be a bit saucy!

Overall pleasure level: Hmm, 6.5 out of 10 for this. Would have scored higher but for my disappointment after the construction phase.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Autumnal Birthday Cake

That's a benefit of using this as a birthday cake: you can allow yourself a little ironic leeway - Nigella Lawson

I'm not entirely sure it was ironic that I made this cake for a friend who's birthday is February 29, and who turned 41 this year - I did joke that it was entirely appropriate that I was making him an autumnal cake as he entered the autumn of his years at the junction of summer and autumn!

The verdict: With a cake that uses almost half a litre of maple syrup (in the cake and the icing) I'm not sure why I was so surprised when it tasted almost like pancakes!

Unusual or substituted ingredients: Well, I've mentioned the maple syrup already - quite expensive it makes it too, if you use the real stuff (at least here in Australia!) - but definitely worth it, I think - I'm always a bit suspicious of things like "maple flavoured syrup".

Special utensils or cookware: Nothing special required, if you are a baker and have the required tins! It did have an unusual method (well, at least, one I've never used before) to make the icing. It uses egg whites, maple syrup, sugar and a few other bits and pieces - which is beaten with an electric hand mixer in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water, until it thickens like meringue. It was quite amazing to watch the mixture change from a browny syrup into fluffy white meringue!

Repeatability: I've been wanting to make this cake for a while but kept putting it off because it looked a bit fussy and time-consuming - but it's not really that bad at all - I mean, it's clearly not the quickest cake, having to do the cakes and then the icing, but for such an impressive looking cake, it's worth it!

Sauciness: Definitely! Especially the yumbo icing. I really was amazed at the flavour of this cake. And really moist too - very good cake, definitely something a bit different!

Overall pleasure level: I give this an 8.5 - moist delicious autumny goodness!