DSC05100I’m planning a birthday pie.

Specifically, Andy wants a banoffee pie. A portmanteau of banana and toffee, this is a British dessert that consists of a crushed cookie crust, a layer of toffee, a layer of banana, and a topping of whipped cream.

To make the toffee, I opened two cans of condensed milk and poured them out into a 9-inch pie plate. I covered the top tightly with foil and then I put the pie plate in a baking tray. I poured hot water in the tray so that it came halfway up the sides of the pie plate. Then I baked it at 425˚F/225˚C . I checked the toffee at 25 minute intervals to make sure the water did not boil out, and to add more hot water as needed. There was no need to open the foil cover because I could see the milk through the glass sides. As soon as it turned light golden brown, I took it out of the oven. It took 1 hour and 40 minutes to make this toffee.

white pizza with avocado, arugula, and mozzarella

DSC05116I did it! I made pizza from scratch. Pizza on the griddle.

I used two dough balls of pizza dough  to make two “small” pizzas, each about  6-8 inches in diameter. I used arugula (also called rocket salad) instead of spinach. That’s about the only substitution for this White Pizza recipe from The Kitchn. Once I got past making that quirky recipe for pizza dough, making the pizza was quite easy. Each one took just 6 minutes to make in a griddle pan on the stove top. As you can see, the crust puffed up quite nicely. It just goes to show that you do not need a grill nor an oven to make a delicious pizza.

Every once in a while I like to have a White Pizza. Tomato sauces can be heavy! This white sauce is creamy and garlicky. The avocado is best if it is a little on the just ripe side; then it’s firm and won’t get mushy when it is heated. Besides swapping arugula for spinach, I’d like to add some chopped ripe olives to this pizza. How was the crust? Well, it was chewy but not doughy. It’s what I would call a substantial crust, thin but satisfying. To make the crust crispy and light like a cracker–that’s another challenge.

White Pizza with Avocado, Arugula, and Mozzarella

White Sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used home-made ricotta that I’d frozen)
1/8 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup whole milk (the milk and cream combined make half-and-half)
2 large cloves garlic, minced (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pizza for Two (6-8 inches each)
2 balls of pizza dough
Couple handfuls of arugula (preferably organic)
1 small round of mozzarella cheese cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

If the dough was in the refrigerator, let it rest about one-half to one hour. It depends on how hot it is in your kitchen!

Prep the white sauce. Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

I oiled my granite pastry board and put a dough round on it. Using my fingertips (also oiled) I stretched and pulled the dough into a rough circle. If the dough springs back, let it rest a few minutes.

Meanwhile spray a griddle pan with olive oil or brush it with olive oil. Heat it on high then put the dough circle in the middle of the pan. Let it cook on one side 1-3 minutes or until the underside begins to get brown marks from the griddle. Flip it over and turn the heat down to low.

Working quickly, spread about 2-3 tablespoons of white sauce on the browned top. Sprinkle on a few red onion slices and cover with shredded arugula. Put about 3 slices of avocado on top and 3 slices of mozzarella on top of the avocado. I covered pizza in the griddle with a pot cover, the inside of which I sprayed with oil to prevent the cheese sticking to the cover. It took 3 minutes to melt the cheese and brown the bottom of the pizza. Repeat.

To serve, grind some sea salt or Himalayan pink salt and a few turns of cracked pepper. Enjoy!

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the best pizza dough for grilling

Whenever a cooking blog makes a claim like that, I think it’s a challenge.  So I think, I’m gonna try this puppy…

Earlier this week, I had read the (April 28, 2015) Kitchn blog by Anjali Prasertong for tips on how to tell whether a recipe from the internet is reliable or not. Besides the no-brainer, “read the comments” and making sure the ingredients match the instructions, Prasertong advises looking for specifics in the ingredients and instructions. I think of my mother-in-law’s quirky butter cake recipe to use “6 eggs.” Well, it made sense. In her day eggs only came in one size, small.  But today, we have four choices as to size: small, medium, large, and jumbo.

Prasertong also recommends looking for descriptions of what you will get at certain stages. America’s Test Kitchen’s marinara sauce recipe includes the reason why deglazing the pan is essential for full-bodied flavor. The last Kitchn recommendation was intuitive; read the whole recipe to get a sense of the recipe-writer’s experience with the recipe. I’ve read many recipes where I was sure the writer never tried the recipe  (or was holding something back) because the result couldn’t be replicated. Many cheesecake recipes on the internet are maddeningly like that. In my experience, another tip-off that the recipe isn’t reliable is the lack of pictures, either of the process and/or the product.

Yesterday, 5 p.m. I applied The Kitchn’s own advice to their recipe for pizza dough.  There were no pictures. The lack of specificity to  “mix the water and yeast together” was a tip-off that all was not well. I could not get the yeast to “bloom” using their instructions to “let stand a few minutes.” After 20 minutes nothing happened but a few feeble bubbles. So I started over, adding a teaspoon of sugar to the water and warmed it. Success. However, the dough kneading was also problematic. The dough wouldn’t form a ball and it was still sticking to the sides of the bowl after 7 minutes on low speed (according to the recipe instructions). Tyler Florence to the rescue. The dough was too wet! Now I don’t know if the dough is over mixed as a result, and as it was too late to make pizza for dinner, I put the dough rounds in the fridge to rest overnight.

The next day, 9 a.m. I removed the pan of dough from the refrigerator. The dough had doubled in bulk quite nicely in the fridge. I separated the balls and put them on a baking tray 2 inches apart on top of a sheet of waxed paper. You can use parchment. I covered the balls with the plastic and put the whole thing in the freezer. But I saved 2 to try for supper. I’m planning to make The Kitchn’s White Pizza with Avocado, Spinach, and Mozzarella.


citrus water

DSC05086This is a citrus-infused water made with San Pelligrino sparkling mineral water. I cut up half an orange, half a lime, and half a lemon, poured the sparkling water over the fruit, then let it steep for one hour. Serve over crushed ice. The mineral water is slightly bitter so it goes well with the tartness of the citrus fruit. So refreshing!

strawberry pie with graham cracker crust


The glaze of this strawberry pie really is that ruby-jewel color! There is absolutely no food dye in this pie glaze, and the photograph is not photoshopped. I used to make this pie in the summer-time in Milwaukee, a long time ago when it was a two-newspaper town! So it brings back memories of college days, of friends and neighbors, and the children when they were babies.  So when I saw imported strawberries on sale for the unbelievable price of Baht 59 (US$1.60) per pint, well…As they say, food is memories.

Strawberry Pie with Graham Cracker Crust (adapted from: The Milwaukee Journal)

1 1/2 quarts strawberries, hulled and drained
1 cup sugar
3 -4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water

9” graham cracker crust
1 2/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 tbl melted butter.

Make the crust: Pat crumbs into a pie pan and bake 10 minutes at 350 until golden brown. Cool thoroughly.

Crush 1 cup strawberries. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Stir in water and crushed berries. Cook over medium heat, stirring to boil. Reduce to low heat for 2 minutes. Mixture should be thick and translucent. Set aside to cool.

Place whole berries in pie shell, reserving the best for the top. Pour cooled glaze evenly over the strawberries. Chill for 2 hours at least. Serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, if desired.

Crème Fraîche
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream or Greek Style yogurt
2 tablespoons sugar

Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Whip all ingredients until stiff peaks form.

café mocha mix

DSC05077I tried Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix recipe and liked it very much. I added a teaspoon of coffee to a cup I was drinking and liked that very much too. So, I made another batch and added powdered espresso coffee to the mix. The result has a smooth coffee-chocolate flavor. Recipes for mixes like these always say to add hot water to the powdered mix, never the other way around. Why is that? If the water is very hot, won’t the mix dissolve regardless?

Café Mocha Mix (adapted from Alton Brown’s Hot Cocoa Mix, Food Network)


1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar (it tends to be sweeter at full strength)
1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk (low fat is recommended)
1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered espresso coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more or less to taste
Hot water


Sift the powdered sugar. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly. If it is lumpy, process in two batches in a food processor until smooth.

In a small pot or in a microwavable heat-proof cup, heat 1 cup of water.

Fill a mug one quarter to one third full with the mixture and pour in the hot water. Stir to combine. This can also be made with warm milk.

Seal the mix that remains in an airtight container as it keeps indefinitely in the pantry. In Bangkok where it is hot and humid, it is best to freeze the remaining mix in plastic one-quart bags or refrigerate it in a glass jar with a rubber sealing ring.