Monday, May 30, 2011

easy yummy homemade pizza

Who doesn't love pizza? You'd have to be pathologically insane not to. Someday, I would love to own a wood burning oven to have that authentic pizza crust taste. In the time being I need to figure out where to buy a pizza stone from. For now, I have the usual stove-oven fixture that seems so un-foodie of me to admit! Gasp. I am a fraud. (And if you haven't already figured, not a real chef.)

Really simple pizza dough (makes 1 pretty-large pizza)


2 cups flour

1 packet instant yeast *

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

Warm water

*it's a lot of yeast, the recipe was given to me like this but I'm sure you could even use half, or if doubling the recipe, use the same amount of yeast as here.


In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients, making a little well in the centre. Pour the olive oil and some warm water into the well. Incorporate wet ingredients into the flour making a sticky dough. (Have 350 ml water ready to use but only pour in a little at a time - or you might find your dough is too sticky and in need of more flour.) On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for 5-8 minutes. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise until double in size, about 25 minutes.

In the mean time, grate cheddar and/or parmesan and cut some mozzarella into little chunks. Use a ready-made tomato-based pasta sauce (like Woolworths Arrabiata) or make your own simple sauce for the base. Prepare any toppings you enjoy - cube chicken and toss with garlic, spices and mustard till cooked. Saute mushrooms, onion rings and green peppers then drain well on paper towels. Chop roma tomatoes, feta, fresh basil and olives.

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius.

Uncover and punch down the dough. Generously drizzle and spread olive oil into a pizza pan or any baking pan. Roll out dough - or pat directly into pan to your desired thickness. Brush olive oil onto the entire top part of the crust, and bake at 220 for 12-15 minutes until browned. If you bake your crust before topping, it won't get soggy and taste doughy in the middle. Then top pizza with tomato-based sauce, sliced vegetables, chicken, cheese, basil and herbs. Bake at 220 for a further 5-8 minutes, till cheese melts.
Serve immediately!

I didn't have any mushrooms or black olives this time but those are awesome additions. I usually only prefer vegetarian pizzas but really enjoyed this chicken one, perhaps because the chicken was shredded and scattered, hence not overpoweringly meaty.

I think I'm gonna be making pizza again today.
Yum. I just love this super crispy crust.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Donna Hay's Pavlova

About three years ago, I was browsing through Joy of Baking and came across this beautiful dessert that was so weird to me. The only meringue I'd ever tasted was on a lemon meringue tart in a coffee shop and I hated it. Way too sour for my taste. And with my family, baking was super traditional - puddings, biscuits, cakes and the likes. That's probably the reason why I have a reputation in my family as being an adventurous baker, which can be mistaken for 'awesome' but let me assure you, some of the new recipes I try have sad results.

But not the pavlova. That was amazing. Light and sweet, and perfect with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries. It was so refreshing to have something sweet after dinner without needing much of an appetite. The only problem I had was the lovely marshmallow interior wasn't high enough. However, thanks to Masterchef Australia and Donna Hay, that issue was fixed - and beautifully, I might add. It was just a little something in the method that they mentioned during the episode.


4 egg whites (room temperature)
1 cup castor sugar
2 tablespoons maizena
2 teaspoons white vinegar


1. Preheat oven to 150°C

2. Place the eggwhite in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with your handmixer, and whisk until stiff peaks form (This is the part I'm talking about - if you do this before adding sugar, you'll have a great marshmallow interior!). Gradually add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Add the cornflour and vinegar and whisk until just combined. Shape the mixture into an 18cm round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. (With a rubber spatula, shape your pavlova a bit higher and smaller than you want it to be - it'll get slightly flatter and wider during baking. It doesn't have to be 18cm, I didn't measure mine.)

3. Reduce oven to 120°C and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven.

4. Decorate with your desired toppings only when ready to serve, or the meringue begins to 'weep'. Otherwise, it can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

In this picture, I topped the pavlova with vanilla flavoured whipped cream and a mixed berry coulis since I didn't have fresh berries!

I love that this dessert uses just one mixing bowl. Less cleaning is always a bonus. If any of you try the Donna Hay method and get that lovely fat marshmallow layer inside, firstly - YAY - and second, let me know.