Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Triple-Pepper Sicilian Pizza

I hadn't made a pizza in a long time and was hankering to bake a round. It was then that I espied Mark Bittman's recipe for a rustic Sicilian-style pie in the New York Times. The dough required 24 hours of refrigeration and multiple origami folds, all but ensuring failure in the hands of the clumsy Crumpet. A challenge! I accepted. The recipe, with some variations a la Crumpet, yielded a pie bursting with the colors of fall foliage and supported by a crisp yet billowy crust studded with air pockets. I don't know if I'll ever go back to rise-and-punch pizza dough.

yields a large rectangular pie cut into 12 slices


You will want to start the dough about 24 hours before baking time.


3/4 tsp, or 2 grams, yeast (less than half a packet)
1 7/8 cups water
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil


Heat the water to wrist temperature.

Obtain a large, rectangular Tupperware container. In it, mix the yeast and 1 3/4 cups of the water (save the remaining 1/8). Mix in the flours with your hand. (I love to use my hands while cooking! If there isn't a little bit of hand in there, or, in one memorable case, part of a finger, it's not a Tipsy Crumpet production.) The flour will be rough, moist, and shaggy. Let it rest for 20 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Dissolve the salt in the remaining 1/8 cup of water. Mix the salt water into the dough. It's okay if it doesn't fully combine. Let the dough sit for another 20 minutes, covered in plastic wrap.

Moisten your hands, then spread 1 Tbsp olive oil on top of the dough. One-third of the way down the length of the dough, lift that end as best you can and fold it under so that the third of dough is underneath the rest of the dough. Do this on the other side. Basically, imagine folding a piece of paper one-third of the way down on both ends so that the ends meet and form a seam underneath the paper. Does this sound hopelessly confusing? I wish I could draw a diagram. It's not that complicated once you do it.

Put the lid on the Tupperware and slide the container into the refrigerator.

An hour later, repeat the process.

An hour later, repeat again. You have now folded over the ends of the dough three times.

Go and do something else for the rest of the day.

The next morning, perform your folds yet again with the remaining Tbsp of olive oil.

Three hours before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Rick Easton, who helped develop the recipe, says that refrigerating the dough until baking is fine, but the Tipsy Crumpet took a more cowardly approach.

Now that the dough is relaxing at room temperature and forming bubbles, let's think about topping the pie.

Slice with sauce and toppings


The original recipe called for no sauce, but I wanted a richer, more tomatoey pie and adapted a garlicky red pepper and sundried tomato spread I found on the One Perfect Bite blog. It should be thick but spreadable.


1 cup drained and coarsely chopped roasted red peppers from a jar
3 Tbsp water
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil and herbs, mostly drained (a teaspoon or two of oil drippings is okay)


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add water as needed to thin the sauce for spreading.


Before beginning the topping, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Slide a heavy, nonstick jelly roll pan or cookie sheet (at least 13 by 18 inches) into the oven to preheat.

You can top with anything you like. Here's what I chose for a bright fall pizza.


1 small bag of mini multicolored bell peppers (contains about 10-12 little peppers)
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably the tiny, multicolored ones you can get at the farmers market)
1 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 bunch fresh oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste


Remove the tops, seeds, and cores from the peppers (decapitate them and scoop out the innards as best you can). Slice them into thin rounds.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the peppers for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, tear the mozzarella into small pieces.

Putting it All Together

When you have your peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and herbs assembled, return to your dough. Turn it onto a floured surface and gently prod until it's a rectangle roughly 1/2 inch thick.

Carefully take the pan out of the oven. Spread a tiny bit of olive oil on the bottom and sides of the pan and even more carefully daub the oil with a paper towel to blot.

Flip the dough onto your arm. Lift the other end with your hand so as to retain the shape of the rectangle as you carry it to the pan. Set it down flour side up.

Spread the sauce on the dough. Top with mozzarella, then peppers, then cherry tomato halves. Sprinkle the rosemary on top, with a little salt and pepper.

Retain the oregano: you'll add that once the pie has been baked.

With oven mitts, slide the pan onto the lowest rack of the oven. Bake for 5 minutes. Slide the pan to the middle rack and bake 15-20 minutes more.

When the pie is golden-brown and seems done, remove it from the oven.

Sprinkle on the fresh oregano leaves.

Slide the pie onto a cutting board and slice into 12 squares.


Look at those air pockets!


  • Bittman's recipe calls for the oven to be preheated to 500. Most baking pans warn you against going above 450, so I turned down the heat and upped the baking time.
  • You could possibly get away with 1 cup more whole wheat flour and 1 cup less white bread flour in the dough.
  • I would love to try different topping combos including, but not limited to, sliced white mushrooms, red onions, kalamata olives, basil, tomato chunks, homemade tomato sauce, garlic, veggie sausage, whole sundried tomatoes, etc. The key thing is to not have a soggy, heavy topping: a thin layer of sauce or tomatoes, a reasonable amount of cheese, and a smattering of flavorful, well-chosen toppings is all you need.
  • Bittman specifically calls for a metal baking pan rather than a pizza stone. After two hours of dithering at Le Creuset, Strosnider's, and Williams & Sonoma (I was in Bethesda), I bought the Williams & Sonoma Goldtouch 15 by 21-inch baking pan, which worked like a champ. It has little ridges all along the bottom that caused the pie to glide off the pan with no scraping at all (Bittman describes a mixture of blind faith and elbow grease to release the pie, which terrified me). I could hear a slight amount of metallic settling in the oven, but the pan worked wonderfully to produce a crispy, airy crust and is well worth the $40 you'll spend to be fancy.
  • Bittman calls for putting the pan atop a baking stone that has been heating for at least half an hour. I would have done this, but my baking stone started releasing funny scents a few years ago and had to be put out of its misery. Hence, my decision to preheat the pan itself.
  • It was easy to cut this pie, even straight out of the oven. It's all about the crust.


5 stars: great leftovers; bliss on a cool autumn night

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chardonnay Winter Fruit Pie

I have been on a pie kick lately and wanted to make this creation from Ken Haedrich's superlative tome on all things pastry-encased, Pie. I tweaked the recipe just a bit, but it is a sophisticated and drunkenly delicious dessert no matter what you do. Imagine immersing winesaps, bartletts, and braeburns in white wine and sugar for an hour, simmering the wine to reduce it to a heady syrup, and then baking both wine and fruit in a tender crust, resulting in woozy spoonfuls of flaky dough, winter fruit, and buttery white wine reduction. Try it for yourself and wait for your neighbors to come knocking on the door clamoring for whatever you've got in the oven.

That layer of soup at the bottom is a puddle of Chardonnay goodness.

for one 9.5-inch deep dish pie pan

Flaky Mostly Butter Crust

I've been experimenting with crusts and decided to go with a 3/4 butter, 1/4 shortening crust for flavor, flakiness, and ease of rolling. The results were tasty and produced a delicate crumb. 


3 cups flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold butter (12 Tbsp)
1/2 stick cold shortening (4 Tbsp)
1/2 cup ice-cold water 


Sift flour, sugar, and salt into a large bowl. Slice the butter and shortening along the tablespoon markings on the wax paper and crumble them into the dough with your hands until the pieces are as the size of small peas. No wait, I'm sick of that comparison! The size of those pebbles that get into your shoe and annoy you, but not enough for you to take the shoe off and do something about it. The size of the camera window on your iPhone. The size of those Cheez-It bits you get at the bottom of the box that are too small to eat one by one but too big to ignore, so you pour them into your palm and stuff them into your mouth as quickly as possible. Much better!

This is where I take my little bowl of water that I put in the freezer five minutes ago out of the freezer and sprinkle it on the flour. There is some ice lining that bowl. Scrape it in as well. Mix everything together with your hands until you get a shaggy lump, adding a tiny bit more water as needed.

Divide the dough into two rounds, one slightly bigger than the other. Wrap in plastic and slide those frisbees into the refrigerator. Now break out the bottle opener or, if you're like me, ready your hand for the screw-top, because the wine is coming out!



4 large apples: a mix of varieties delicious for pies, such as winesap, jonagold, braeburn, etc.
3 large pears, preferably comice, bartlett, and/or bosc
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
1 cup Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio (I used Concha y Toro Xplorador: $10 cheap!)
3 Tbsp cornstarch
zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces


Slice the apples and pears. No, don't peel them! The skin is good for you, it doesn't mar the flavor at all, it doesn't taste obnoxiously granola once baked for an hour, and who doesn't want those red color accents making the pie look as if it really is full of apples? Keep that crispy, yummy skin on and slice that fruit up as thinly as you can. Toss it all in a bowl.

Stir in the 1/3 cup of sugar, mix, then pour that cupful of wine into the bowl. Your fruit will gurgle happily.

Leave the fruit to luxuriate in its Chardonnay bath for an hour, stirring occasionally. 

Strain the liquid into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer at medium-high heat until you have about 2/3 a cup. (I kept measuring in my glass measuring cup, which seems to handle heat pretty well.) Be careful: if the liquid gets too hot and stays that way, you'll start to smell burning sugar. You want your wine happily toasty, not snapping at you.

Pour the reduced syrup over the fruit and mix well. Ohhhhhhh, that smells good.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining two Tbsp of sugar and the cornstarch. Stir the mixture into the apples and pears, then stir in the lemon zest, vanilla, and salt. 

Preheat the oven to 400.

It's time to pour your beautiful mess into a pie shell. But wait, where's the shell? Take the larger of the two dough disks out of the refrigerator. On a floured surface (I use a silicon mat), roll it into an even circle that looks to your spatially challenged eye as if it could cover the interior of your 9.5-inch pie pan.

This is the first time I tried this, but it worked like a charm. Place your silicon mat on a surface where it doesn't matter if it gets rained on by a little flour (not my tablecloth, alas). Place your pie pan top-down on the pie crust. With a confidence you may not really feel, flip pan and mat over. Gently prise the edges of the dough from the mat: voila! Your pan is filled. Nudge any overhang to the top edges of the pan to create a fancy edge for your crust. 

Pour the fruit mixture into the shell. Top with the two Tbsp of butter and place in the fridge.

Now, roll out the top crust. Once your spatially challenged eye has hazarded that it may cover the pie, take the pan out of the fridge and use the same technique as above to top the pie with the dough.

Does the dough cover the pie? Why yes, it does! Form a rustic edge with your fingers. You can crimp if you want; I used a fork to tame my voluptuous hillocks.

Slash the top of the pie with a knife a few times to create steam vents, or prick with a fork.

I then like to put the pie back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Colder is always better when it comes to pre-baked pie crust.

Line the bottom of your oven with foil, especially if you went overboard with the Chardonnay like I did.

Place the pie on the center rack and bake for 30 minutes.

Lower the heat to 375, rotate the pie, and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. The filling should be bubbling through the golden-brown crust.

Pull the pie from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes before trying a slice. The book says to cool the pie for two hours, but you are not likely to do that: if you had that kind of willpower, you'd be baking broccoli! The pie will be runny when you cut into it, but slurping up the hot, winey filling will more than make up for any aesthetic discomfort, and anyway, more Chardonnay means a brighter post-baking glow.


  • I used bosc pears, but found them to be slightly watery and insipid. I'd go with a firmer, tarter green variety next time.
  • Next time, I think I would use 14 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp shortening for the crust, just to experiment. You could also try 8 Tbsp butter and 8 Tbsp shortening: you won't regret anything so long as you make your crust from scratch.
  • This pie needs no ice cream or whipped topping! The flavors are so good, you won't want to obscure them. This is a complex pie that needs to be savored on its own to be fully appreciated.


5 stars.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Golden Squash Chocolate-Chip Muffins

It was a snow day! And I had a glowering squash, face penciled in by a gourd-averse boyfriend, whose time was come.

Why was the gourd so pensive? Did he/she know he/she would one day be muffins?

I discovered a recipe a year or so ago for muffins so tender and moist, they taste more like shaped oatmeal than something that could go stale (to make them breakfast-worthy, I use half oats and throw in a hefty amount of flax). To do the squash justice and sweeten its ovenbound fate, I decided to forego butter and buttermilk for coconut oil and coconut milk, throw in some island spices, add a splash of bourbon, and shower the batter with chocolate chips. The results were golden treats that stick to the ribs and warm you on the chilliest of mornings.

makes 6 large muffins and two medium ones or 12-14 medium muffins


1 butternut squash
1/3 cup coconut oil
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
splash bourbon or rum

1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne
dash salt

1 cup white flour
1 cup oats
1/3 cup flax (optional)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

5 oz dark chocolate chips (half a bag) 
1 cup coconut milk (I used lite)
1 tsp vinegar


Preheat the oven to 400. Halve your squash with a large knife, scrape out the seeds, and scrape out most of the stringy bits with a spoon.

Rub the cut sides of the squash down with coconut oil. Place the squash on a baking sheet cut-side down and bake for 40 minutes, or until a knife easily pierces a squash half. Take the squash out of the oven.

Lower the heat to 350.

Allow the squash halves to cool. Scrape the squash into a bowl, leaving the rind forlorn and in tatters in your sink. Puree the squash so as to meld the stringy bits into one golden mush (I did this using an electric beater and ended up with squash streaks all over my walls. Kitchen decoration is a bonus!)

Add the coconut oil, sugars, eggs, and bourbon or rum. Puree or otherwise mix until wet ingredients are uniform. Inhale.

Add spices and salt, then sift in flour. Add oats, flax, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix gingerly (ha ha!) until mostly combined.

Set out your coconut milk. Add the vinegar, stir, and let sit so that the mixture turns into coconut buttermilk.

Shake chocolate chips into the batter and combine until the batter is as full of chocolate promise as you want.

Pour the coconut milk into the batter and stir gently until you get a moist, uniform mixture.

Grease 2 medium muffin tins or 1 large muffin tin. You will probably have some extra batter, so you may want to have another tin handy.

For medium muffins, bake for 20 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out mostly clean.

For large muffins, bake for 35 minutes.

Let cool on a rack.


  • Should you decide to go with more conventional ingredients, use 1 stick of butter, softened, in place of the coconut oil, and 1 cup of milk or buttermilk in place of the coconut milk (no need for vinegar if you're using buttermilk).
  • I used bourbon because I didn't have any rum, but I REALLY wanted to use rum. 
  • Do not eat more than one of these if you're not in a position to take a long nap.


4 stars. These make for a pleasing and nutritious breakfast that will give you the caloric boost you need to get through an unseasonably cold March day.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spiced Cranberry-Oat Bars

It was a cold day in February. I had a hankering for Smitten Kitchen's Cranberry Crumb Bars with Mulling Spices, but I wanted them to be more wholesome and breakfast-y so that I could eat them at any time with at least a modicum of respectability. I increased the cranberry content and added oats, flax, walnuts, and a splash of Grand Marnier. The results made for a toothsome snack that delights the tongue and sticks to the ribs. Tender oat cookie dough encases a tart, fruity filling that adds color to the wintriest of days.

for a 9 x 13 baking pan




2 sticks cold butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
a few healthy shakes of flax (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup sugar
dash salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon or ginger (depending on whether you want your bars sweet or snappish)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1 egg



1/2 cup walnuts
zest from one orange
juice from half an orange
splash Grand Marnier (optional; if you don't use this, use the juice of the remaining orange half)
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch 


Line your 9 x 13 baking pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment and the sides of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Filling first. Toast the walnuts in a pan until golden-brown and fragrant. Grind them or finely chop them in a food processor. Combine all the other filling ingredients, then add them to the food processor. Pulse until the cranberries are coarsely chopped. Put aside.

Now for the crumb. Combine the flour, oats, flax, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand with deliciously fattening pebbles. I cut the butter into tablespoon-sized squares and crumble them with my fingers. Yes, the Tipsy Crumpet's fingers work their way into all her culinary creations. Sometimes, they even stay there, as in the unfortunate case of a bowl of pickles into which the tip of my index finger was hacked. . . and never found again. It was almost worth it! But no finger tips will make it into your final product, because now, all you need to do is crack the egg and massage it into the batter. Yes, it's a little awkward.

Now, pat half, or slightly more than half, of the batter into the pan. It will be a bit crumbly, but trust that it will coalesce into a shortbread-like crust during its incubation in the oven. Spoon the filling onto the batter and spread it so that it's even. Pat the rest of the batter on top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Cool on a rack, then cut into bars.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Curried Veggie Pie with Buttermilk Crust

Someone gave me a bag full of parsnips. "What will I make with these?" I asked myself. My love of all foods encased in dough caused me to Google "parsnip pie"; a recipe popped up that I tweaked to my liking. The result was a deep, creamy pie full of veggies, cashews, and raisins encased in a tender crust washed in egg and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Perfect comfort food for a cold winter's night.

for a 9.5-inch pie dish





1 1/4 cup white flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
2 sticks cold butter, sliced
splash or two cold buttermilk
egg (for the wash)
black sesame seeds (for sprinkling on top; optional)




4 parsnips, sliced thinly
4 carrots, sliced thinly
8 shallots, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
4 small golden potatoes, diced
1/3 cup cashews
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 1/4 cups whole milk
4 oz grated sharp cheddar
salt and pepper





Sift flours and add salt, pepper, and oregano. Cut in the sliced butter (I usually crumble it in my hands until the flour is uniformly coarse, with some pieces as big as peas). Add the buttermilk a splash at a time, mixing with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball. Divide the ball into two, flatten into discs, and wrap each disc in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or freeze for later use).



Place parsnips, carrots, potatoes, and shallots into a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover with water and heat until the water comes to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then drain the veggies, saving 1 1/4 cups of the stock.

While the veggies are simmering toast the nuts on a pan over high heat until they are golden-brown (a little burnt is okay).

In your pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and curry powder and stir for two minutes. Add the veggie stock and the milk. Simmer for two minutes, stirring until the roux becomes uniformly thick. Remove from heat and add the cheese (it's okay to keep the pan on the heat for a minute or so if the cheese doesn't melt; I use Grafton cheddar, which is particularly resistant to the charms of fire). Stir until the cheese dissolves to make a thick, creamy sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the veggies, peas, cashews, raisins, and cilantro. Mix well. Your kitchen will be the envy of all your neighbors as they inhale the warm Spice Islands aroma.

Let the mixture sit as you roll out the pie crust.

Preheat the oven to 400. 

Place one of your discs on a large piece of parchment paper. Place another large piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the disc until it fits in your pie pan as the bottom crust. Poke a few holes in the crust with a fork, place some pie weights on top, and bake the crust for 10-15 minutes, until it begins to turn brown.

Meanwhile, roll out the remaining disc in the same way.

Allow the crust to cool (20 minutes is okay). Pour in the filling. Place the top crust on top and pinch along the edges. Hopefully, everything fits like a dream. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up the top crust.

With a large knife, slice from the center of the top crust to the middle of the crust. Do this in a circle all around the crust. You'll have 6-8 slices radiating from the center of the crust to its middle. It will look fancy and delicious, like a pie in a stock photo. Beat the egg and brush it on top of the crust (I use my hands; the Tipsy Crumpet has no pastry brush). Sprinkle liberally with black sesame seeds. Your pie looks stunning!

Place the pie in the oven, but wait! Be sure there's a layer of aluminum foil on the bottom rack so that you don't have any burning pools of curry smoking up your kitchen as the pie begins to bubble. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the curry simmering beneath it. If you've refrigerated the pie longer than 30 minutes (you can leave it in the refrigerator overnight), bake for 40 minutes.

Remove and dig in!


  • You can use any combination of veggies you like for this recipe. Next time, I'm going to sub 1 cup each of chopped cabbage, small broccoli florets, and small cauliflower florets for the parsnips. The parsnips tasted better to me over time (this pie ages well and will taste just as good, if not better, five days after baking), but at first, their sweetness seemed to clash with the savoriness of the other veggies. Green beans sliced into manageable pieces would also be killer in this pie.
  • I used to enjoy a similar pie at Sally Lunn's, an English tea shop in Princeton, NJ that has since closed. I added the raisins in homage to Lunn's. 
  • You could easily make this pie vegan by subbing coconut milk for the regular milk; in fact, this might work even better with the curry. I didn't taste the cheese at all after baking, so you could probably use another Tbsp of flour as a substitute. 


5 stars. This is wholesome and winsome, with flavors to die for. The crust perfectly complements the spiced veggies in their curry cream, and a small slice goes a long way. This is a winter dinner to last all week.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bittersweet Nutella Cake with Frangelico

A party for a European friend. . . what to make? Europeans love chocolate. Europeans love hazelnuts. Europeans love boozing it up in style. One of my favorite candy bars is Ritter-Sport's whole hazelnuts in dark chocolate. And so this cake I'd been dying to make for months sashayed to the top of my recipe pile, and I'm very glad it did. The cake has no sugar and no flour, but you'll never miss those ingredients because it engulfs an entire tub of Nutella, has one delicious cup of ground hazelnuts and one fragrant cup of toasted whole nuts, and uses an obscene amount of high-quality chocolate. It is sprinkled liberally with Frangelico when still warm so that the liqueur infuses the body of the cake and renders it lusciously moist. All of a sudden, Americans don't look so classless after all!

lightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's Nutella cake




6 eggs, separated
1 pinch salt
9 Tbsp butter, softened
13-oz jar of Nutella
1 Tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
1 cup hazelnuts, finely ground into meal
4 oz bittersweet chocolate (dark is good--70 percent isn't too bitter for this recipe)

Ganache and Topping

1 cup whole hazelnuts
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp Frangelico
5 oz bittersweet chocolate


Preheat the oven to 350.

In a double boiler or rude approximation (pan within a larger pan in which water boils), melt the chocolate. Remove from heat when almost melted, stir until melted, and allow to cool.

Beat the egg whites and salt until the whites are stiff but still wet.

In a separate bowl, combine the yolks, butter, Nutella, Frangelico, and ground hazelnuts. Whisk until velvety smooth. Add a spoonful of the egg whites, and then add the rest of the egg whites gently, one-third at a time.

Liberally butter a 9-inch springform pan. Pour in the batter and bake for 30-40 minutes. The center of the cake will still be wobbly, but the cake will smell done (and heavenly), and the sides will have begun to pull away. Place the cake, still in pan, on a rack to cool. Poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or skewer. Sprinkle Frangelico on top (or pour some into your cupped hand and pat it onto the cake, as I awkwardly do). You may want to do this a few times to really infuse the cake.

A few hours later. . . 

Toast the whole hazelnuts in a pan over high heat. Remove from heat when the nuts smell fragrant and have begun to brown. Peel the skins if you like by rubbing the nuts in a towel. I don't mind the skins, but I remove some for a varied appearance.

Chop the chocolate, then heat the chocolate, cream, and Frangelico gently in a saucepan. Once the chocolate is melted, whisk until the consistency is uniform and the ganache shiny.

Unmold the cake, but leave the bottom of the cake pan be, as cake and bottom are codependent at this point and need one another for structural integrity. Spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Once the hazelnuts are fully cool, top the cake with the nuts.

Cut and serve.



  • I pulled the cake out of the oven after 35 minutes, and I think it would have been fine after 30. The cake will settle in on itself and turn into a delightfully moist solid once removed from the heat.
  • I had ganache troubles that may have stemmed from my unorthodox mixing methods: I heated a large lump of chocolate using my double-boiler method and then added the cold heavy cream and Frangelico. The ganache did not mix well and was drippy and lumpy; an unsightly yellowish oily substance trickled into the springform pan gutter once I spread the ganache on the cake. I refrigerated the cake and then wiped out the gutter. The taste was fantastic, the cake looked great, and no one noticed anything amiss, but I wonder if omitting the cream and Frangelico and simply using the melted chocolate wouldn't be just as good. If you've already Frangelicoed the cake, it will be boozy enough. I think you could go this route without harming your dessert.
  • I used El Rey chocolate, one of my favorite brands. El Rey is so fancy, it's sold in a special section at Whole Foods devoted to REALLY snooty shoppers. El Rey chocolate is single-sourced and superior to most other brands--just press it to your nose and inhale, like I always do, to the disgust of my fellow shoppers, and you'll smell the difference. I used 71 percent for the cake and a blend of 71 percent and 58 percent for the ganache. I think I could have gone with all-71 percent without making the cake unpalatable. My cake had a slight bitter tang that worked to render it a sophisticated, adult dessert rather than a saccharine confection.
  • If you are having a Frangelico crisis and are facing an empty bottle, you have my permission to use rum.
  • At the party, a chocolate hater tried the cake and ate an entire piece. That is the kind of cake it is.
  • My photography skills are substandard, so my cake slice photos turned out wretchedly, but here's a close-up of the crumb of this cake. Moist, moist, moist!


5 stars.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Smoky Vegetarian Pepperoni Rolls

It was the Super Bowl! Time for some snacks. These rolls are based on the pepperoni rolls native to West Virginia, but they have a twist: instead of meat pepperoni, they have the veggie kind, and instead of regular cheese, they have smoked. This year, I added herbs and spices for a flavorful bite. You'll want to dip these in pasta sauce--I like fra diavolo or puttanesca; something with an edge. This recipe makes enough for a party, but if you're making rolls for one or two, you may want to halve the recipe.

makes about 24 rolls




3 cups water
1 Tbsp sugar 
2 packets yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
6 1/2 cups white flour
olive oil
2 packages veggie pepperoni (I prefer Yves)
4 cups shredded smoked provolone
ground black pepper
red pepper flakes
dried basil
dried oregano



Heat the water in a saucepan until it is wrist temperature. Add the sugar and yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, combine flour and salt. Mix with yeast water. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. I like to coat my hands with olive oil as I'm kneading. When the dough is pliable and smooth and responds when poked, with that living quality yeast dough takes on, coat it with olive oil, pat some around the inside of the bowl, and let rise. I like to put a damp cloth over the bowl and set it in a barely-warmed oven. The rising should take 1-1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Once the dough has risen into a puffy mass, punch it down and roll it up again. Divide into four rounds. At this point, you can save the dough for later by coating each round in olive oil, sliding it into a one-gallon plastic bag, sealing the bag TIGHTLY, and putting the bag in the refrigerator. You want to make sure to seal the bags oh-so-tightly because, any gap, and you'll open your refrigerator to an oozing dough monster that has snaked out and expanded to engulf other food items. You may want to open the fridge and punch down the dough in each bag every so often until the dough has chilled into submission.

Pepperoni Rolls

40 minutes before you want to bake your rolls, set your oven to 500. Put your pizza stone, pizza pan, or other pizza-baking device in the oven so that it heats up and gets all ready to produce a crispy crust for you.

Get out your grated cheese, your pepperoni, and your spices. If you wish, divide pepperoni into four piles.

Obtain a large sheet of parchment paper and lay it on a flat surface. Sprinkle plenty of cornmeal on the parchment paper. Take your first round of dough, lay it on the cornmeal, and turn it to coat it on both sides. Smush it horizontally into a long, flat shape. Lay another sheet of parchment paper on top and then roll out the dough with a rolling pin until the dough is flat and vaguely rectangular. This is not an exact science, and the dough doesn't need to be paper-thin (maybe 1/8-inch thick). You want about a four-inch width. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cover with a layer of grated cheese. Sprinkle with pepper, red pepper flakes, basil, and oregano. Then, layer with pepperoni. A single line of continuous, slightly overlapping pepperoni is fine. Again, not an exact science.

When you have the right balance of pepperoni, cheese, and spices, roll the dough lengthwise into a long, thin cylinder. Pinch the ends closed. Cut the cylinder into segments with a knife: maybe five or six. If you want, you can create dimpling in each segment by pressing the blade of the knife down a few times without breaking the dough.

Place the pizza rolls on a third sheet of parchment paper and repeat the process with the other three rounds of dough.

Pull out your pizza stone or baking sheet and--very carefully--place your pizza rolls on top. Put the stone back in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly brown.

Remove from oven and serve with dipping sauce. Your kitchen will smell like Sicily.


  • This seems like a lot of effort, but it's really quite easy.
  • I usually like to add whole grain flour to anything I bake. Not this time, though. Whole-wheat pepperoni rolls sounds downright un-American.
  • In the past, I used smoked mozzarella instead of provolone. Smoked provolone has more flavor and a meatier texture, in my opinion, but mozz will do if that's what you have. 
  • I estimated four cups of cheese, but I grated mine right on top of the dough, so I'm not sure. You may want to go the Tipsy Crumpet route and improvise until it feels right. Tip: you can't really overdo it, but you can underdo it.
  • The recipe I used said to boil some water and put it in a baking pan underneath the pepperoni rolls to create a steamy atmosphere. The oven sauna seemed to create a tender, airy texture, but the bottoms of the rolls weren't as crusty as I wanted. You can try this or not; the rolls will be scrumptious either way.
  • You will end up sweeping up a lot of cornmeal. But those golden crunchy bits add the perfect bit of texture the final product. Viva Quaker!


4 stars. A great snack, and leftovers will keep for about a week in your fridge in an airtight container. Don't microwave, though; this is one snack best reheated to toasty perfection in the oven.