Thursday, June 08, 2006

Pizza Madness

I’d seen a couple of ideas for roasting strawberries. Popping them into the oven for a while. Apparently this brings out a nice flavor and interesting texture.

All very nice for the culinary academics, who have mountains of strawberries to plow through. Able to frivolously squander these seasonally precious beauties on whatever trendy wind was blowing at the moment.

I usually pass right by this sort of stuff. Especially with something as temporal as a strawberry. You got a few weeks, max, of optimal flavor. Then the taste goes quickly. And you have another 10 months till they’re good again.

So it’s hard work to even get your fill of the berries in balsamic, or over vanilla ice cream, or in a nice clofoutis pudding.



But then, while paging idly through a chef-driven recipe Web site, the word Pizza leapt out and caught my eye.

I don’t know if it was just the word pizza, something I love to eat and to make, or the word next to it, that caught my eye.

An unusual word. Not unusual in and of it’s own right. But unusual in the context of pizza.

The word was strawberry.

That’s the moment I knew I would have to make some strawberry pizzas.



Now, here is clever food marketing.

It’s really just strawberries baked on puff pastry. With a little almond paste to glue the strawberries to the dough.

Baked Strawberries in Puff Pastry with Nut Paste? Yawner. Next!

But Strawberry Pizza? What? What do ya’ mean, pizza? With strawberries? What’s that? Who would be crazy enough to … Let me see that! What the f… Hmmm.

And they’ve got you. Well, they got me, anyways.

So it was decided.

I read a lot about frozen puff pastry as well. I am not a fan of anything frozen. Just as a general life philosophy statement. Based of years of freezing in a hideous northern town known for the some of the worst weather in the world.

A town that makes commercials for local products based on all the people who have left the area and can’t get the products anymore. “I don’t live in that s***hole anymore, but if I did, I would be drinking Genesee Cream Ale! Yummy!”. Clever things like that. Notice that everyone left. Me too.

I’ve even made my own puff pastry. Years and years and years ago. With lots of butter, and lots of ‘turns’. When I was really young and had excess energy. It seems to me that it turned out pretty well.

But, no time for that now days. Anyways, I’ve been meaning to try the frozen stuff, just to see, and here was an opportunity.

The recipe is simple. Defrost the dough, and cut it into shape. Make a nut paste. Wash and trim the strawberries. Bake. The whole thing took 20 minutes.



I will say, that some practice is needed with the puff pastry. Clearly there are lots of tricks to getting a maximum puff. Not the least of which is to avoid watery leaks of filling onto the area that is supposed to puff. And the ones in the baking pan rose MUCH higher than the ones placed on the baking stone. But that was part of the goal – try it out, see what works.

The result was apparently stunning. The pictures hardly do it justice. People actually said “Ohhh!! Ahhh!!”. And not from some sort of anticipated pain. But with wide eyes and relatively happy faces.

The flavor – excellent. The strawberries had sort of melted a bit. Retaining their shape, but becoming very soft, they melted in the mouth. And you could taste the light carmelization of the sugars. Very nice.

The original recipe called for almond paste. But we could not find almonds for a price I was willing to pay. So we made hazelnut paste. Sort of a hazelnut Marzipan. Not sweet like Nutella, but a rich balance to the strawberries. And it did the job of gluing the berries to the dough.

This is a dramatic dessert. Lighter than it looks. It would be a fantastic finish to an elegant meal, or, shared, a culinary prelude to a long evening of amorous noshing!



Strawberry Pizza
Recipe by Chef Hans Röckenwagner of Röckenwagner – Santa Monica, CA
Adapted by

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

Frangipane
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup superfine sugar
2 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon almond extract, or 1 teaspoon Amaretto
1 cup finely ground blanched almonds (almond meal)
1 Tablespoon all purpose flour

Pizzas
1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 pints whole strawberries, stemmed
1 large egg yolk
4 sprigs fresh mint
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Method:

For the frangipane:
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the almond extract. Remove the bowl from the mixer and combine the almonds and flour by hand until evenly blended with the rest of the mixture.

For the pizza:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 1/8 inch thickness and with a very sharp knife cut four 7 inch circles. Transfer to non-stick baking sheets or baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Spread a circle of frangipane in each, leaving a one-inch border. Place the strawberries stem end down on the frangipane. Beat the egg yolk and brush the outer circles of the puff pastry with it. Bake the tartlets for 20 minutes until the edges are golden and the pastry is backed through. Place a sprig of mint in the center of each pizza and dust with the confectioners’ sugar. Serve hot. It goes well with vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!


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2 Comments:

Blogger Fran said...

This sounds absolutely fabulous! I would imagine you would need a light hand spreading the filling on the crust. Looks stunning!

6:28 AM  
Anonymous Indira said...

What a gorgeous creation!
I would love to try this dessert.

1:30 PM  

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