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FRIDAY FEAST with Rachel Bailey

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Now, Feasters, lay down that checked tablecloth, plonk that bottle of chianti on top, shuffle the iPod to That’s Amore and channel your inner Sophia Lauren, because this week on Friday Feast we’re talking everyone’s favourite Neapolitan snack food, PIZZA.

And who better to discuss such a worthy topic than USA Today bestselling author and Romance Writers of Australia President Rachel Bailey. Hanging with the movers and shakers. Yep, that’s us.

Besides walking the corridors of power in RWA central, Rachel writes deliciously intense, fast-paced modern romances for Harlequin Desire. Now, if you’ve never read a Desire, then I suggest you duck down to your nearest store and grab yourself one (preferably a title by one of our many, very talented  Australian authors) because they are fabulous reads. Powerful, passionate and provocative. The sort you can’t stop gobbling down. A bit like pizza, really.

A prime example of what Desires are all about is Rachel’s newest release, What Happens in Charleston…  Take a look.

 

What Happens in Charleston…

Money has always given Matthew Kincaid whatever he wanted. Yet now his son needs something even his millions can’t buy. The widower’s sole recourse is the surrogate who gave birth to his child – for she is also the boy’s true biological mother.

Susannah Parrish needs no prodding to offer her assistance – a child’s life is at stake. But to their mutual surprise, the minute she’s back in Charleston and residing in Matthew’s home, passion consumes them. Is this a relationship doomed by deception? Or is it the one chance at a love they both secretly crave?

 

I’d buy this book from the title alone but that blurb? Ooh, la la!

Now here’s Rachel.

 

Two People, A Paddle and a Pizza Stone

Hubby and I went for a great lunch at a friend’s place a couple of months ago where we had pizzas that our friend made on his new pizza stone. We were hooked. It all looked so easy and the result was scrumptious. We couldn’t wait to buy our own stone and make great pizzas ourselves.

I should say at this point that I’m very fond of food. This will surprise no one who knows me. Or, I guess, anyone who’s read one of my books because I usually mention food somewhere (though sometimes I’m more subtle than others).

For example, in What Happens in Charleston…, Susannah is staying with Matthew and his little boy while the boy has some medical treatment and she takes on the job of cooking the meals. And every night, she ends the meal with a rich, decadent, sinful dessert. Coffee and hazelnut cheesecake. Crème brulee. Triple chocolate mousse.

Let me tell you, coming up with the actual desserts Susannah made was no chore – it was one of my favourite parts of writing the book. Hubby and I love eating dessert and love discovering and making new ones. In fact, we love cooking and experimenting with new methods and ingredients for savoury food as well.

So buying a pizza stone and making our own pizzas should be a cinch, right? Hmmm…

The first time we used it, hubby made a gorgeous roast pumpkin and caramelized onion pizza with a herbed tomato sauce over the home-made base. Only problem was, it was completely baked *onto* the stone. We had to pull it away, bit by bit, meaning the toppings fell off as we did. Once it was free (and we’d left half the thickness of the base on the stone), we reassembled the toppings and served. The base (what was left of it) wasn’t cooked through, but other than that, it was delicious.

Afterwards, I did something only the truly desperate do – I read the instructions. Oh, you’re supposed to put the stone in a *cold* oven? Well, that would probably make a difference. We had made sure the oven was up to temperature before putting the stone in. Right, we’ll know better for the next pizza.

The second time we used it, we were careful to assemble the pizza on the stone *before* we turned the oven on. This pizza was olive, fetta, semi-dried tomato and char-grilled capsicum. I couldn’t wait! We were ready to pop it in the oven when I had an idea so brilliant, so fiendishly simple, that it will impress you. I decided to read the instructions to the *end* (instead of stopping after the bit about a cold oven like last time).

Turned out we had a slight problem. Yes, the stone goes into a cold oven and warms more evenly as the oven heats up, but the stone goes in that cold oven *without* the pizza. Oh.

It made total sense – a hot pizza stone would sear the bottom of the base enough that it wouldn’t stick. Brilliant! Problem was, our pizza was already on the stone and not keen on coming off again. It took four hands and several kitchen implements but we eventually got the base off, onto the floured paddle that had come with the stone (we’d wondered what that was for!), cleaned the stone and put it in a cold oven.

The resultant pizza was again delicious, if slightly misshapen after all the extra handling.

This weekend we’re planning on making our third pizza on our new pizza stone. We intend to 1) heat the pizza stone in a cold oven until it’s hot, 2) make the pizza on the paddle (that has a layer of flour to stop it sticking) before slipping it onto the stone, and 3) have different toppings to the first two.

So I’ll make you a deal: I’ll share our easy peasy pizza recipe if you give me some suggestions for vegetarian-friendly toppings for our third attempt. I’ll give away a copy of What Happens in Charleston… to one commenter.

 

Easy Peasy Pizza Base:

1¾ cup self raising flour

½ cup grated cheese

¼ cup oil

½ cup hot water

Mix together and press into the base / plate / pizza paddle.

Then I spread with a tomato-y base (fried onion and garlic, with tinned tomato added when onion is cooked, and herbs to taste). Or with pesto, depending on my mood. Then top with all manner of yummy toppings and bake for 35 minutes.

 

Ahh, pizza, such a joy. Although perhaps not so much when it sticks to the stone. Thanks, Rachel, for your hugely entertaining post. Glad that stone is coming good for you. We love our ours at Chez Hein. We had two until I dropped one on the tiles and shot stone shards all over the kitchen and into my foot. There was a stage when we used to sprinkle the surface with polenta before slapping on the pizza, but now we just turn the oven up to flat out and the stone gets so hot the dough seals straight away. Not as good as a proper pizza oven but it beats a takeaway any day.

 

So, Feasters, you heard Madame Prez, share your favourite vegetarian pizza topping and you could win a copy of her fabulous new Desire release, What Happens in Charleston…

Entries close midnight AEST, Tuesday 27th March 2012. Open internationally.

 

If you’d like to learn more about Rachel and her wonderful books, please visit her website. You can also connect via her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

 

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to our lucky winner, Imelda. A copy of What Happens In Charleston… will be winging its way to you soon. Thanks to all who visited and commented. We had some absolutely delicious-sounding suggestions for pizza toppings.  Enough to keep Rachel (and the rest of us) going for quite a while.