pizzazz for the pizzas

Barcelona, 2007

me, saying to the waiter at a restaurant: i’ll have the burger and fries, please. thank you.

husband, looking at me with bewilderment (after the waiter had gone away): that’s the third time in a row you ordered that meal here. aren’t you going to try the pizzas? they’re so fresh & good.

me, thinking of the Pizza Hut & Izzi Pizza back in Indonesia and Koti Pizza in Finland, and wondering what could be so special about pizzas: no, thanks.

14 years later, and he still hasn’t let me forget this conversation. 😅

as a silly Asian tourist, back then when we had our first trip abroad together as a married couple i chose to eat burger (what? i love meat!) rather than try a fresh pizza that was–according to my husband–different than the other pizzas we’d had. in my head, pizzas were just pizzas no matter where you go.

that was before i got to know what a Neapolitan pizza is.

based on a page in Wikipedia, Neapolitan pizza is different from the other pizzas from the fact that it has to have specific tomatoes in the tomato sauce and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana in the topping, and also that when the pizza is done it is soft & tender from the middle part.

my first experience of eating a Neapolitan pizza was actually done in Finland. there is this hip & trendy Neapolitan pizza restaurant in the city center, and after our first try, my husband & i fell in love with it. we’d go there for special occasions, and for the first time in my life, i really understood what my husband meant when a pizza can be ‘so fresh & good’.

the restaurant’s pizza con salame.

the restaurant’s diavola pizza.

and then, just like the other things, 2020 happened and ruined it.

for over a year, we couldn’t go to that restaurant and we missed those pizzas so much.

but 2020 didn’t only bring bad things.

it brought me new friends, and one of them is my lovely Italian friend, E.

during my mental health problem days in 2021, i asked if she knew how to make Neapolitan pizza dough. to my delight, she said yes, and generously gave me the recipe!! 😍

i was so excited to try it, and even though we don’t have stone oven (my Italian friend doesn’t have one either), we decided to give it a go.

FYI, before that, i had never made pizza dough on my own in my whole life. so when it all came out perfectly & the taste was exactly the same as the one we used to buy from the restaurant, i was so damn proud of myself!

kneading the dough by hand is supposedly a ‘must’ for making Neapolitan pizzas.

i’m too shy to share the actual recipe (because who knows, a Neapolitan might see it and scold me that it’s incorrect or whatever), but i can tell you that the dough consists of flour, yeast, water, salt, and sugar. olive oil is optional, but of course i use it all the time. i personally think this is what makes the dough taste exactly the same as the restaurant’s pizza.

olive oil… yum!

the original recipe from my friend said to use less amount of yeast, and the rising time is 12 hours.

let it rise… for 8 hours!

12 HOURS?!?!?! yeah, i might have fainted when she said that. but then she said if i double the amount of the yeast, i can let it rise for ‘only’ 8 hours, so i opted for this method!

slice into the tomatoes just a tiny bit…

for the tomato sauce, my friend said it’s okay to use canned tomatoes, but we really wanted to have the best ingredients possible, so we found a recipe online on how to make a Neapolitan pizza tomato sauce. just like the Wikipedia page said, it needs San Marzano tomatoes.

… and let the tomatoes simmer in boiling water for a few minutes.

it may sound like a hassle for some, but believe me, it’s actually kind of addictive. being able to do everything from scratch gives a new meaning (to me) to eat this delightful food, as if there is a purpose to everything i do. ❤ it gave me back my appetite which wasn’t around for a time back then, and it made me love eating again.

now the tomato skin gets off very easily!

so for the tomato sauce, we used fresh San Marzano tomatoes (peeled and crushed), olive oil, salt, oregano, and basil leaves.

crush, crush.

before reading the Wikipedia page about Neapolitan pizza, my husband and i planned to copy the topping ingredients from the restaurant’s menu. our faves were the Con Salame pizza and Diavola.

more olive oil.

i asked my Italian friend if she knew good mozzarella cheese for the pizzas. she was the one who told me about Bufala mozzarella, and trying our luck, we searched for it.

chopped basil leaves: check!

luckily for us, we found it, and also found some salami that is also from the Naples, and even Nduja sausage (a very spicy sausage ‘spread’), all of which are the very same things that were written on the restaurant’s menu!

the wait was finally over! phew!

out of laziness (hello, this is me we’re talking about), i always spread the dough by hand. and funnily enough, now that i found that Wikipedia page, it turns out that it should exactly be made like that instead of with a rolling pin!

i do try to make it as thin as possible, but since i’m not a pro, i guess sometimes they’re still a bit thicker than 3mm.

con salame: Neapolitan salami, Bufala mozzarella, basil leaves.

the first few times we made the pizzas, i cut the Bufala mozzarella into small pieces like the picture above. lately, though, i’ve been cutting them in thin slices but let the whole width be the way they are.

fresh from the oven!! 😋

the first time we made this pizza on our own & ate it, i almost cried from happiness. it was just so surreal to taste the exact same Neapolitan pizza as the ones we used to buy from the restaurant after more than a year of not having them, and the fact that we did it ourselves was just an unforgettable experience.

sometimes we add chili flakes to the con salame pizza just for a bit of spiciness.

we’ve been making these pizzas now at least once a month. not only does it save a lot of money, it gives me such a pleasure to make them.

diavola: Nduja sausage, Bufala mozzarella, pecorino romano cheese, basil leaves.

even when it’s a workday for me, i’d just get up an hour earlier to make the dough in the morning, leave it to rise as i go to work, and then after coming home we’d continue the rest of the process.

a slice of the diavola pizza, before the Nduja sausage is spread.

if you ever want to try making your own Neapolitan pizza, i suggest you splurge on the topping ingredients. try to go as close to the original ingredients as you can. believe me, you won’t regret a single penny you spent on it!

after spreading the Nduja sausage, this is what it looks like.

next time we can travel again (and i’m already dreaming of going to Italy, of course), i’m definitely going to try to eat the local pizzas. who knew there are all kinds of pizzas out there?

for now, at least, these pizzas are my newfound treasure & hobby. 🍕🥰 buon appetito!

butter makes everything better

raise your hand if you agree with me. 🙋🏻‍♀️

okay, so i haven’t been exactly diligent when it comes to writing blog posts these days, but i’ll blame it on the pandemic, along with everything else that’s been wrong with me and my life. it’s the truth, though.

earlier this year, i had some health problems that made me unable to eat as usual. and i used to LOVE eating. when we go traveling somewhere, eating something new and unique is one of my fave things to do. it made me double sad when i couldn’t go anywhere during the pandemic time and couldn’t even find the joy in eating.

so i pushed myself to start learning new recipes. together with my husband, we learned to cook new things. food that we usually bought ready-made or frozen, we now do from scratch.

and, i pushed myself to bake new things. it had been a while since i last tried any online recipe for sweet stuff, and the first thing i decided to try to make this year (because it looked so simple) was something called voisilmäpulla in Finnish. the name literally translates to ‘butter eye bun’, hence the title of this blog post.

i used this recipe and it worked out so well!

there’s always something magical about seeing your dough rise. kind of like watching your baby grow, in a lot smaller scale! 😄

this bun recipe is slightly different from my mom-in-law’s bun recipe, but i followed it to the t and it was a successful experiment, even for a beginner like me!

time to add the butter! ❤

so where does the butter go, you ask?

right to the top center of each bun! the above picture was taken when i first tried the recipe, which was why the ditch were quite small. i have since learned to make them bigger so i can fit more butter into the bun!

the white thing is the additional flour after the butter and sugar are inserted to the ditch.

time to bake them!

needless to say, just smelling the fragrant scent of the butter made my mouth water already. and because i did it all from scratch, it made me feel useful (like i had a purpose) and want to eat them, because otherwise it would be such a waste!

so buttery. so good.

yes, they tasted as good as they looked!

after baking these, i started seeing food the way i used to again. it made me work up my appetite and the more i cooked & baked, the more i felt like eating normally.

and you know what? having good food always make me feel instantly great. for me, it’s the butter that did it this time. it really did make my life better!

i’ll try to post more from now on, as i do have more baking/cooking/sewing stuff lined up for blog posts. in the meantime, i hope you’re all keeping yourselves healthy, both physically and mentally!

PS. i’m having a hard time using the block-editor to post this, as the image captions can never look like the way i want them to anymore. 😢 since there’s no way i’m paying to upgrade my blog to be able to have the classic editor plugin, i’ll just have to live with this weird-looking caption now.

go green (tea)

now that we still had the mini amount of green tea powder left, there was this one more recipe i had been dying to try out.

i was actually looking for a green tea brownie recipe some time ago when i came across this recipe instead: Green Tea Chocolate (or Truffles) by Just One Cookbook. after seeing the options of white baking chocolate available here, i decided to try it using Fazer white baking chocolate.

trufflea1with the incident of the bitter soufflé still fresh in my mind, i tried making the first batch of these truffles with only 1 tablespoon of matcha powder. and the result was too sweet!

trufflea2it was more of a white chocolate with a tiny hint of matcha than matcha truffles. which is of course not a problem for white chocolate lover, but… i want my matcha! 😀

another mistake i made was to only let the batch cool down in the fridge for 4 hours. it was way too soft & sticky to cut into nice looking blocks, hence the terrible looking shapes.

so of course i had to make a second try. this time i used all what’s left of our precious matcha powder… two tablespoons for the mixture + last sprinkles for the topping.

truffleb1this time around, i left the batch cool down in the fridge overnight and a few more hours (about 19 hours in total). by the time i took it out, it was harder than my first batch, but still quite sticky & hard to cut. maybe i just don’t have good enough knife, i don’t know. but these blocks are okay. and look how much one batch made! (that is: all that you see in the above picture plus 11 more blocks already on our plates since they couldn’t fit to these boxes anymore.)

truffleb2the colour certainly looked more promising than my first batch, and when we ate them, they were more bitter (in a very good way) than the first. we could definitely taste more matcha now. but, i still have to say it’s more white chocolate-y than matcha. i’m guessing the problem lies in the white chocolate i used, but it’s really hard to tell since there isn’t any other comparison (so far) and i doubt i can find better options here.

truffleb3the good thing is that since they’re quite sweet, it’s enough to eat 5-6 blocks whenever i crave for it.

i brought some of the first batch to my work place, and at least my co-workers liked them (because they like white chocolate, LOL). maybe one day, if i get another craving and can find better white chocolates AND have enough matcha powder, i can try this recipe again. for now, i’m gonna indulge in these truffles for a few days! ❤

and while we’re still on the green (tea) topic, let me say for the record that i have also tried the soufflé recipe for the second time… with less matcha powder!

souffleb1i also put the butter inside the bowls more generously than the first time, and look how my soufflé grew in the oven!

souffleb2next time, i need to remember to put them on the lowest shelf in the oven, because when i put them in the middle shelf, they always got a bit burned on the top. but that is not something the sprinkles of icing sugar cannot fix!

souffleb3and after the first bite… i was in heaven. it was truly perfect this time, and just super delicious! i love, love, LOVE it! ❤

thank heavens for matcha & matcha recipes around the internet! 😉

soufflé, s’il vous plaît

being a matcha lover in Finland is hard. not because you can’t get matcha products, but they’re still quite rare here as there is no big matcha trend like in Asia. this means that while there are stores here that sells matcha products, the prices are almost always quite expensive. one store sells a matcha mini kit kat pack of 12 for about 7.50€, another sells the regular matcha pocky for 4€. well, you get the idea.

and the matcha powder that i usually use for baking? it costs about 18-22€ for a 30 grams pack. that’s a lot of money for a small amount of powder, in my opinion. and in my dictionary, that means every recipe made out of it has to be successful, there’s no margin for error! so we passed 2016 without baking any matcha things (thankfully last year we went to Indonesia and Singapore. oooh, the matcha galore!).

but now when i saw this recipe from The Tummy Train, i couldn’t help it anymore. we decided to go and get the matcha powder, and even the soufflé bowls since we didn’t have any. and let me remind you before we go forward that i am a true novice in baking, and have never in my life made anything even near a soufflé!

the pressure was now on, but as i usually am in sewing, in baking i’m also so determined to not let anything go to waste. i did everything by the recipe, and things were going great until i had to make the meringue. it refused to be stiff and i was almost ready to give up until my husband found out from the internet that the problem could have been when i was separating the yolk and the egg whites. that’s what it clicked that i did accidentally let some of the yolks into the egg whites, thinking it wouldn’t really matter! well what do you know, little things DO matter in this recipe! thankfully i had extra eggs so i started making the meringue from the beginning again, this time really making sure that none of the yolk went into the egg whites. it worked like a charm! i had no idea making a meringue can be so fun! 😀

so then it was time to put the mixture into the bowls… and found out that our bowls are probably a lot bigger than the ones used in the recipe. i used 11 cm (in diameter) wide & 6 cm deep bowl, and guess how many bowls this recipe filled? T W O. all those work for 2 bowls of soufflé!

ah well, the show must go on. this was after all only my first time of making a soufflé, so i kept my cool and put them into the oven anyway.

souffle1

fresh from the oven!

when they came out… they looked pretty! okay, maybe the right one was slightly burned, but whatever! (fyi, it was about 10 pm when i finished making this, so anything goes!)

souffle2

a sprinkle of icing sugar to make them look prettier

soon it was time for the truth: the texture & taste!

souffle3

the texture looked correct (yay!), so i dove straight in. it was good! but, of course i found another mistake. since there was no telling what kind of matcha powder used in the original recipe, and no telling how strong or faint the powder i’m using for this recipe, i ended up using 2 tablespoons of the powder (which is like the maximum in the recipe). it turned out to be too much! next time i’m going to only put 1 tablespoon, because otherwise the soufflé is going to be too bitter. and for the record, i always use Kabuse matcha powder no. 1 for baking.

souffle4but nonetheless, since the texture of the soufflé itself is so airy and light, we finished them in no time, bittersweet and all.

the end verdict is that this was a nice change from our usual green tea muffins, but considering all the work, it’s best to be ‘saved’ for more special occasions. but hey… i made my very first soufflé! yippie!

take it slow

in case you’re wondering (which i’m sure you haven’t been doing) where i have gone to for the past month, here is the answer: nowhere. i haven’t really been offline, though i have been lagging in terms of reading other people’s blogs & updates. here’s something new: i haven’t been sewing either.

it’s not another case of depression this time. it’s simply the realization of just how much clothes i have vs how often i actually wear them. sounds familiar?

usually one would have this problem when one buys clothes, cheap ones, clothes on sale, etc. but when one sews one’s own clothes, is that really possible? well, yeah.

you know how it goes. you can’t seem to stop yourself from getting a nice looking fabric–same thing that goes for nice looking clothes applies as well to fabrics–and you end up getting a few too many. and when you finally have an idea to make something, you open up your fabric stash only to find that nothing there is the right one for your idea! you quickly have to go out and get a new one. repeat by a hundred times.

and then you finally get to make what you wanted. you wear it with pride once, twice, and then you already have another idea for another sewing project, and you repeat the same process all over again.

i’m not saying it happens overnight, of course. i’ve only been sewing now for about 8 years, and already i can see that i have a problem. so i started ‘throwing away’ my old(er) clothes that i bought from stores, and by this i meant either giving them up for charity or bringing them to H&M for recycling. but still it seems that my closet is just getting more and more clothes.

i don’t know yet how it’s going to end, but at least i can tell you that i’m trying to reduce it now before it’s too late. i mean… i’m sure we all know by now just how ‘dangerous’ fast fashion is, right? dangerous for the environment and dangerous for the human resources. now if you thought by making your own clothes you can at least reduce that danger, think again. where do you think the fabrics come from? not all of them grow on trees either. there are still human resources, other than you, the seamstress/tailor, involved in the making of that. it makes me sad sometimes, seeing somebody make dozens of clothes a month, either for him-/herself or for others, and this is just because he/she can. of course i can’t tell just how hollow or full his/her closet is, but still… i think it’s wiser to not be excessive in anything, don’t you?

with that in mind, i am trying to be more careful in what fabrics i buy & what i’ll make from them. i no longer set myself to sew at least 2 sewing projects a month or at least 20 projects per year, or whatever, but instead sew something i actually need & will definitely wear for a long time. i hear you, i’m saying “good luck!” to myself as well! 😀

so anyway, to really answer that question as to what i’ve been doing for the past month, here are some things:

  • read the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child script book. i wish i could one day see the production of this, it looked great in my own imagination! 😉
  • got a short social visit from my uncle and aunt, yay! auntunclenmeit was their first time here in Finland and of course it had to be super windy when they were here. ergh! but at least the sun was shining, the foods were great (i again of course had to introduce muikkuja aka vendace to them), the talks were fun, and i was just so grateful that somebody from the family could visit me!auntnmewe got to visit Suomenlinna – the Fortress island despite the harsh wind, enjoyed our walk in the city and the market square, and also went to the Helsinki City Museum, which is also very nice and surprisingly nostalgic for all of us (even though we come from a different part of the world!). they were really nice 2 days that i spent with them! and hey, that’s the second time this year already that i got to play tourist in my own (new) country!
  • my husband & i and my mum-in-law taught our nephew to say our names, and he succeeded! he remembered who we were, and whenever we ‘tested’ if he knew which one of us was which, he always got it right! and he liked our names so much that my sister-in-law sent us a video a week after that, where it showed that he just kept saying our names over and over again. ❤ that feeling when somebody small who couldn’t really say much of anything yet suddenly kept calling your name is just unbearably lovely!!
  • i learned how to make my first lasagne! also how NOT to make it, LOL. i only followed a recipe though, so it really wasn’t any rocket science. the first time i made it i only managed to put in 2 layers of the lasagna sheet, because the sauce were all already used up, ahahaha…. needless to say, i had to make another one, pronto, and with advices (and okay, a little bit of help) from my husband, i finally got it right this time. lasagne1no picture of the first lasagne because it was quite embarrassing, haha! not that this second one is a good looking one either, but whatever! lasagne2it’s a vegetarian lasagne with spinach and cottage cheese as the main content. it was really good for a beginner’s attempt!

that was pretty much it. of course there are other boring things like going to work and doing house chores some time there in the middle, and oh, watching some series in Netflix, but really… nothing else worth mentioning. :p

it’s time for me to take it slow and enjoy life as it is.

my summer holiday 2016…

… has ended. i swear, if there’s any 4 weeks in a year that goes by too fast, they’re always during the summer holiday! pffft.

here’s a quick recap of all that was done, minus the trip to Singapore because that one already had 3 separate blog posts.

Summer cottage, re-painted

as usual, we went to my husband’s grandparents’ summer cottage. but this time we went there with a mission, and i don’t mean to have fun: we had to re-paint the main building and the warehouse building next to it. don’t get me wrong, painting is fun (yes, even painting a house), but the part that was tough was the preparation. first we had to brush, brush, brush off the old paint & green moss with a mini metal brush, and brush them some more until they are evenly non-coloured…. and then and only then we could start painting. huffff! we were so busy, we didn’t have time for pics on the brushing, but there are proofs of the painting! (plus my fashionable country-side get-up, ha!)

seeing the result & the scenery around the cottage, i suppose it was worth all the work, and i can only say: thank goodness the paint ran out in the middle, otherwise we would still be working there! 😀

on the last pic, though the 2 buildings are quite far, i hope you can see the result of our paintings. if you compare the colours of the building from the first 2 pics while i was painting them and this last pic, you can clearly see the darker paint… and how lovely it is painted, right? 😉 we managed to do the staircases too just before the paint ran out.

Newcomer

my mum-in-law and her husband lost their dog 3 years ago. we had been trying to persuade them to take a new one for years to no avail, but suddenly when we were in Singapore they made an announcement: they were adopting a cat!

H is a bengal cat and he is very shy. i don’t remember now how old he is, maybe around 2 years old? at first when we came around for a visit, he didn’t want to come near us and only hid under the sofa. but after a while, he realized we posed no threat, took a nap beside me, and even let us pet him. ❤ welcome to the family, H!

Pie experiments

summer equals fresh berries here in Finland, and there’s really nothing better than Finnish strawberries and blueberries! i have always been fond of strawberries, so of course a strawberry pie was called for.

i used 1 liter of strawberries (yep, that’s how we measure strawberries here, by liter), and in my opinion i could’ve put some more! 😀 the best way to eat it (the Finnish way) is with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, of course. it was quite successful, except that the crust was too thick on the sides–or maybe it just needed more strawberries, like i said. but the taste was superb!

we planned to make another pie after successfully making this one, to give to my husband’s granddad. but this time we decided to try the blueberries, because he happens to love blueberry pies. and so, the experiment began again.

for the blueberry pie, i used 600 grams of blueberries and just a very small amount of sugar. the first pic shows the pie before baking, and the second pic was the result! it was an even better success, and my husband’s granddad loved it. 🙂 for Finnish blueberry pies, it’s also good to eat them with hot caramel sauce. mmmm….

Turning 35 (!!!)

can’t believe i’m already halfway through my thirties! but anyway, there’s always a reason to celebrate, and my choice of celebration this year is sushi. AGAIN.

woot! they were gone in 60 seconds. 😀 just kidding, of course it took longer than that, and i did not finish them all by myself!

flamingo

being 35 doesn’t have to mean being old & boring, right?

that is all we had the time to do this summer holiday. didn’t i say it went by so quickly?

my first pie

in middle school, while reading my fave Betty & Veronica (of the Archies) double digest comic book, i came across one story in which Veronica read an article in a silly teen magazine that if a woman was to ever get married, she must first know how to bake a pie. Veronica wailed and cried and confessed to Betty, her best friend/rival, that she couldn’t bake anything, let alone a pie.

while we all know that baking pies is hardly any “condition” for women to marry these days, i must say that my heart went out for dear Ronnie. because: i also could not bake a pie. thankfully, i am already married. ha!

but here is the irony: my mum-in-law had actually won, many times, the annual local competitions for the best pies. oh yes, she’s been queen of pies for many years. she always comes up with the best ingredients for pies, salty ones and sweet ones, and they always taste yummy. we’ll talk about those someday, but let’s stay on topic for now.

ever since i had “mastered” making apple roses, and as my husband always has a soft spot for apples, i had been thinking of trying my luck in the world of pies. and what else would be better than asking for a recipe from my mum-in-law?

if you are not familiar with Finnish pies, i must first remind you that it’s not really the same as American ones. most pies here are not “covered” with another layer of crust; instead, the “topping” is just there on the top. if you remember what egg tarts look like, well, imagine that… but bigger and thicker. 😀 there you have it, Finnish pies.

since i’m still not an expert in any baking stuff, i will not post any recipe. but the main ingredients i used for this pie’s crust are: all-purpose flour, baking powder, whipping cream, sugar, butter. i forgot that i wanted to add cardamom while making the dough, so i ended up adding it when the dough was already on the mould. oops.

for the topping, i used 5 big apples, small amount of butter, and lots & lots of sugar and cinnamon.

and when i took it out from the oven…

applepie1

… ta-daaaah! i was so proud! it looked just like a real Finnish pie! ❤

and now, for the texture & taste.

applepie2

oh, yes. it’s a Finnish apple pie alright. 😀

too bad i didn’t have vanilla ice cream to eat it with (= how the Finns usually consume apple pies), nor vanilla cream. i did, however, have tiny leftover of the whipping cream, so we used it as an extra.

applepie3

i was so happy and touched as i ate it. somehow i never thought i could finally be able to make a pie from scratch, but i did it!

now i feel even more contented because i am married AND i can bake pies! 😀 wherever Veronica Lodge is now, i hope she is just as lucky & contented!