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!

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!

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!

night baking

it was a bit after 8 pm when we finished dinner, and we realized that we didn’t have any sweets for dessert. i had, however, just bought the ingredients to a new recipe for cookies i wanted to try making, though i had planned to make it some other day, when my brain is fresh etc. but my husband “demanded” (well, okay, actually he asked nicely) if i could do it that night instead.

ufff, testing a recipe i had never tried at night seemed scary, but whatever. i tried my best.

the recipe is from here. i had never made cookies on my own, the only time i “made” them was using a dough my mum-in-law made, and all i did was flatten it with the rolling pin and made nice shapes etc. this recipe only used 3 ingredients, so that really sounded perfect for a lazy beginner like me.

chococookie1

before putting them in the oven

i actually had expected that i would encounter problems already when making the dough (as i usually do, since i don’t have kitchen scale & only guesstimate the measurements). but thankfully it went okay. they look very oily in the picture, but i can assure you that they’re fairly easy to work with: not too sticky, not too tough. as i said, this was my first time making cookies from scratch (well, almost), so pardon the not-so-perfect round shapes.

after baking it for about 8 minutes (and being scared that they wouldn’t harden at all), it was time for the truth.

chococookie2

after being in the oven

and the truth was they actually looked like cookies! yay!

since i was still a bit scared of failure, i let them cool down a while before finally i couldn’t hold back the suspense. alright, let’s try them!

chococookie3

i was mainly afraid that the stuffing, that was meant to be melted like in the picture, would become hard after the cookies were baked. but to my happiness, it wasn’t hardened. so there goes the second yay!

chococookie4

and since the author of the recipe noted that she prefers the cookies to be chewy, hence the short baking time, i followed her advice. the result was indeed chewy textured cookies, which is just heavenly delicious! i also love the fact that the cookies aren’t overly sweet, i think they were just perfect! third yayyyy!

as a tiny little footnote, when i was first thinking of trying this recipe, my husband wasn’t too excited. he thought baked nutella tastes more like nuts than chocholate. he wasn’t thrilled at all when i went ahead and bought the ingredients.

but when he took a bite of these cookies… he just couldn’t stop eating them. 😀 now he already wanted me to bake a second batch!

i’m so glad this recipe turned out great for me. it took me probably around an hour to prepare (i am slow), but since this was a successful night baking, i did not mind it at all. 🙂

PS. i stored this cookies in a closed container in room temperature to keep the stuffing melted. it worked, though to be honest it did not last very long until the whole batch was eaten.

multi-tasking on Easter holidays

this year i was fortunate enough to have 5 days of “holiday” right on Easter. and i didn’t even ask for it! 😀

before the holidays, i thought 5 days feel like such a long time, i would probably manage to do many things. but as always with holidays, when you’re actually in it, the days go by one by one and suddenly you’re at the end of it and when you think back of what all you have done… it turns out that you didn’t get to do anything much at all.

well, i was quite determined that that wouldn’t be my case, so when 4 days had passed, i multi-tasked to “save time”. :p

sandalsdress3

self-made dress & necklace, socks from Plaza Semanggi – Jakarta, Bianco shoes.

i had kept this Harlequin fabric (the print is called Twinkle Toes) for years without really knowing what to make from it. it’s 100% heavy weight cotton, the kind used for home interior stuffs. the top part of the dress is polyester jersey.

sandalsdressdetail1

i used no pattern for this project, both the top and bottom part of the dress are basically just rectangles. for the pockets, i used the same technique that my co-worker J taught me when i copied a COS dress for my Moomin dress.

at first i thought combining these 2 fabrics is a great idea. well, in terms of colours and prints i still agree. this dress reminds me of cotton candies and little kids’ dreams of owning millions of pretty shoes & eating sweets.

sandalsdress4

but how silly of me for forgetting the fact that thick fabric & thin stretchy fabric just can’t get along that well… especially since i didn’t use any proper pattern. you can see on the picture above (side view of the dress) that because the bottom part of the dress is stiff & thick, the waist part (the seam between top and bottom) is hanging awkwardly.

sandalsdress2

well, the deed was done and me being me means i’m too lazy to fix anything. and anyway, silly & awkward suit me. :p

sandalsdress1

so as i was saying about multi-tasking, while sewing this i actually had the time to do some baking as well. yes, “some”. the first one was apple roses. 😀 i’ve been making improvements on it, as i now got the hang of it. they were requests from my husband who was craving for apple.

the second one was a new recipe from J’s brother (a professional chef specializing in desserts). i had never tried this super simple but super delicious recipe for mud/chocolate cake, but even so i managed to make this in under an hour. and it was a great success!mudcake1

it may not look that different from brownies, but this one is actually much softer & more sticky than brownies, especially if eaten right after it’s baked.

mudcake2

the next time we ate it, it had been cooled in the fridge for a few hours, giving it a more dense texture but still soft and just SO good. it’s also very sweet, which is why J suggested to eat it with whipped cream or some sort of less sugary icing. but my husband said this is just perfect already, and without any icing/cream it feels more lightweight (yeah, as if this actually supports my diet…).

seems pretty amazing now that i think of it, how a few years ago i was huffing & puffing & sweating when i first learned how to bake, and now i can even sew and bake at the same time! 😀 though of course it depends on the sewing project & the baking recipe, but i would say this is already a big improvement.

and there goes my long-but-short holiday! i think this time it went quite productively. 😉