Tuesday, June 29, 2010

La Pizza - The Provence Way!

Italian pizza, thin and crisp, with fragrant tomato sauce and melted cheese... Yum! Who does not like pizza? Let him cast the first stone!

But today I'm craving another kind of pizza, the one you can find in any boulangerie in Provence, still warm out of the baker's oven, early in the morning... Unlike Italian pizza, the Provencal pizza is very deep pan, almost like bread topped with sauce.

So, that is how I made some...
First, the pizza (or bread) dough, pretty usual, flour, yeast, olive oil, salt (a little bit of sugar as well) and water.

After kneading all the ingredients together, the dough needs to rise. It then feels light and full of air.

Just before fitting the rolled dough on the oven tray, spread some raw polenta grains on the tray. It's brillant to keep the pizza from sticking to the tray. Much more effective than flour. And some of it will stick to the bottom of the pizza, which will give it a very lovely bite.

After rolling it and making it fit on an oven tray, it needs to rise some more. That's probably the difference between thin pizza and deep pan pizza. I suppose that the thin one is topped with the sauce and all, straight after being rolled out. But my deep one needs to rise for a further 20 minutes in a warm place after being rolled out. The best place I found to let it rise in on top of my hob. As you can see on the photo, I put a roasting tray on the hob and the dough in the oven tray on top of it. Beforehand, I would have switched on the 4 hobs for 5 minutes on maximum temperature. After switching them back off, the heat will keep rising long enough to help the dough double in size at least!

Look how nice and puffy the dough is after 20 minutes!

Now it's topping time!

I fancied a vegetable pizza... My ideal was ratatouille pizza but I didn't have any courgettes nor any aubergines (difficult to make ratatouille without those two vegs!) but I still had a few things I could use. It was not a little missing ingredient that was going to stop me, right? So I used red and green peppers, an onion, some asparagus, some mushrooms, homegrown spinach and homegrown rocket (rocket on pizza is absolutely yummy!). I cooked those vegs in a little olive oil before using them on the pizza. If you use them raw, all their juices might make the pizza all soggy. But if you cook them beforehand, their juices are already cooked.

Now, to make your pizza really tastes like Provence, you have to prepare your tomato sauce well in advance, at least a few hours, even overnight if possible! You will need some plain and basic passata (sieved tomatoes), pour it in a jug and add loads of herbs (that's the secret!), thyme, marjoram, and my favorite for pizza: loads of savory!

If you can't find any, no big deal! Thyme, marjoram, oregano, etc, will all do just fine! Then add a little salt to your sauce and a little olive oil. Mix well and let the herbs infuse the sauce with all their aromas.... Miam miam! (Like we say back home!)

Now it's time to top up your well risen pizza dough, starting with the tomato sauce. Don't put too much of it, as we are using vegetables as well, we don't want it to get soggy.

Now the cooked vegetables...

Then the rocket...

And cheese to finish!

And here is the result after cooking it for about 20 minutes at about 180C.

And the result after cutting it and taking a bite out of a slice of Provence.... Yummy!!

When I make it again, I will definitely get some courgettes, aubergines and black olives and make a ratatouille one. Roll on summery Provence!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cupcakes for Miriam's Baby Shower

Cupcakes are very in. Mind you, they were last year, now I've heard macaroons are the new thing. But I don't really mind, I fancied making cupcakes. And if you enjoy making and eating something, I don't believe it can come out of fashion.
I decided on carrot cake cupcakes as they can stay very moist for a long time.

This is what I needed as I had to make the cupcakes the day before the baby shower. Making carrot cake is pretty straightforward and easy. The real challenge was what decoration to choose and how to achieve it.
So first, let's start make the cupcakes themselves and be done with them.

Now, what about the decoration? I looked at all kinds of icing, ganaches, accessories, etc... But I had to keep in mind that the occasion is a baby shower for a little girl. And the weather is all summery which invites sunny colors, flowers, etc... I eventually settled on butter icing. First of all because it seemed easy to make! And easy to color the way I want. I did a baby pink, a baby blue and a purple batch. Later I made a yellow one as well.

And little decorations to adorn the icing, sugar flowers, silver sugar balls, and little green leaves that I made out of marzipan.

I never piped icing before, it was very tricky indeed! But it was very enjoyable and I will definitely do it again. I have been bitten by the cake decorating bug!

Here are the finished products!

Beautiful Handmade Jewel Giveaway!

My friend Virginie (the one who made me do this blog, remember?) is a very talented jewel maker. She uses the most beautiful lampwork beads, the finest crystals, and of course the best of tastes in her creations.

She has a blog, http://www.vivibijoux.com/ as well as a fan page on Facebook, also called Vivibijoux and a boutique on Etsy. Check out any of those pages and see what I'm taking about, a picture definitely is worth more than all my words.

And this week would be the perfect time for you to discover her creations as there is on her blog a contest to win a fabulous necklace she made. All you have to do is leave a comment on her blog or her Facebook page! I don't think you will ever be able to win such beautiful jewelry with so little effort! Nothing easier!

Now if you would excuse me, I have a contest to enter!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cake Making and Decorating

As you can see from the description of my blog, I love cooking, quilting and crafts of all kinds. I tried some cake decorating and I absolutely loved it.

I want to make something special for my parents' 30th anniversary and the fact that it was gonna coincide with their holidays here in Ireland made things easier.

I had help from a friend, Betty, who is as well a professional baker, specialized in beautiful celebration cakes : wedding, engagement, etc... Despite having a broken hand, she helped me make the most beautiful cake for my parents' anniversary! It wasn't a too complicated cake by all means, but because it was my first one, it still took me 4 hours to decorate it only! I was exhausted by the end of it, but boy was I happy! And the result was worth the effort.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Like a proper writer (even though I am very far from being one), my first post should be an "acknowledgment" or "thank you note" if you will. And I am more than happy to do so! It will be a short list as I basically want to thank one person, my friend Virginie who put me up to this. She knew I needed some kind of activity that would take my mind of gloomy thoughts... And here I am! Starting my own blog thanks to her. And I already know I am gonna have a lot of fun doing so! So: Thank you Virginie, for your help and your thoughtfulness.