Archive for the 'Bread and baking' Category

Roasted butternut squash, spinach and feta tart

February 13, 2011

After a rather big night out with the girls I am feeling a smidgen jaded and have a wee tiny hangover. Sunday lunch with the family today and unfortunately I’m on cooking duty. The last thing I feel like doing is cooking! Can I go back to bed please…… Something simple and quick is in order me thinks. A whip round in Tescos for some essentials – tasty tart and salad, that’ll do nicely. Did I mention how much I love puff pastry? Shop bought puff pastry is a winner every time. No faffing around making your own and to make it even easier you can get ready rolled pastry – how good is that? Tarts are very simple and you can pretty much put anything on them. Mushrooms and caramelised onion, leek and Gruyere, Roasted tomato, basil and goats cheese etc etc. There are so many different combos to chose from. You can even do fruity sweet tarts too. YUM!

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tin peeled tomatoes
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 butternut squash (about 700gm unpeeled)
250 grams of spinach
Parmesan (about 50 grams)
1/2 block of feta (about 100 grams)
1 ready roll sheet of All butter puff pastry

Method

First thing you will need to do is get the butternut squash prepared and in the oven to roast. Peel the squash and dice into 1cm cubes. One of my friends recently posted a status update on Facebook whingeing about how he had just been struggling with peeling a butternut squash. His biggest mistake was he was using a peeler. I strongly recommend you do not “peel” a squash you cut the peel off with a sturdy chef knife. Cut the top and the bottom off so that it sits on the board without rolling around then cut the bulbous end off (the bit with the seeds in). You should be left with the long thinner part and the bulbous bit. This will make cutting the peel off a heap easier. Does that make sense?

Ok now you have your butternut squash diced, pop it into a roasting tin or oven proof dish season with salt and pepper and toss in olive oil so it is evenly coated.

Roast in the oven at about 180 degrees for 30 mins or until soft and golden.

Set aside.

While the squash is roasting you can make the tomato sauce. Finely dice the onion and crush the garlic. Saute on a low-medium heat with a good hearty glug of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft and sweet and the harshness of the onions has disappeared.

Add the tinned tomatoes and simmer until tomatoes have broken down and sauce has thickened up – about 30 minutes. The sauce needs to be the consistency of a pizza sauce.

Wash the spinach and saute in a pot with a splash of olive oil and season with S & P. Cook until just wilted then squeeze out the excess liquid through a sieve or colander.

Time to put the tart together.

Pop the sheet of puff pastry onto a non stick baking sheet. Score the pastry sheet along each edge about 2 cm in to create a border.

Spread the inside of the tart (not the edge part) with tomato sauce.

Finely grate over some Parmesan, sprinkle with butternut squash and dot with spinach. Crumble over 1/2 the feta and pop in a preheated oven 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes or until edges have puffed up and pastry is golden.

Serve immediately with a huge bowl of salad.

You will probably have enough to make 2 tarts and depending on how greedy your guests are it’s probably worthwhile having another puff pastry sheet on hand just in case (we had 2 between 5 of us AKA greedy).

Lemon meringue pie – and oldie but a goodie!! This ones for you bro.

January 11, 2011

My brother-in-law is a little bit of a sweet tooth, actually he is a lot of a sweet tooth. His absolute favourite dessert is Lemon meringue pie (LMP as I prefer to call it). He loves it so much that I think he could turn violent if someone threatens to take a piece of “his” pie. It was his birthday last week so I decided to make his day by tackling the LMP. I have made plenty of lemon tarts and brulees and tons of meringues but never actually combined them to make an LMP (shock horror!) With a little bit of pre-pie research I decided to “wing it” and make it up as I went along. My research uncovered an excessive use of lemon curd for the filling – what’s that all about! I do love lemon curd but how much better is a lemon tart? This dessert does have a rather high “faff” factor but it is well worth it.

Ingredients

Pastry: See “Ginger and rhubarb brulee tart” for ingredients and method

Lemon filling:

4 lemons
350 mls cream
6 whole free range eggs
120 grams caster sugar

Meringue:

4 egg whites
280 grams caster sugar
1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

First things first follow the recipe from the “Ginger creme brulee tart” pastry case (only), bake it blind as per the recipe ensuring that there are no gaps in the pastry (if there are holes or gaps the filling will pour through and it will make a right mess of your oven).

While the pastry case is baking blind you can get the lemon filling prepared. Zest and juice 4 lemons and pop in a non reactive pan with the 120 grams of sugar. Warm through until sugar has dissolved then remove from heat. Heat the cream but do not boil.

Whisk the 6 eggs together until combined (not fluffy) in a large bowl.

Strain the lemon mix through a sieve into the eggs and whisk making sure to squeeze all the liquid out of the pulp/zest. Then add the cream and whisk through.

Drop the oven temp to 140 degrees Celsius once the pastry case has been removed.

Place pastry case (in loose bottom tin) onto a baking sheet and then fill with the lemon mix. Place in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 mins until set but not firm.

Once the lemon filling has set remove it from the oven – remember it will continue to cook in it’s own heat AND it is going back into the oven with the meringue on top so a little wobbly is good.

It is now time to whisk up the egg whites for the meringue. Make sure your bowl is spotlessly clean. It there is a scrap of oil the whites will not whisk properly.

Separate the eggs ensuring that you do not get any of the yolks in the bowl. Use an electric whisk (you can use a hand whisk but prepare to have a burning arm!). Whisk until soft peaks form then slowly add the 280 grams of caster sugar. The meringue mix should be shiny and thick. Once all the sugar has been whisked in fold in the teaspoon of vinegar.

You are now ready to pop this on top of the lemon tart. You don’t need to be delicate here – just get it on with a spatula. You can swoosh it around a bit to make some peaks which will crisp up when cooked.

Pop it in the oven and drop the temp down to 120 degrees.

Cook for a further 20 mins or so until the meringue is firm but not hard.

Let the pie cool in the oven with the door slightly a jar this will stop the meringue cracking up too much.

Voila you now have a delicious tooth rotter of a dessert – a good old LMP!!! It is great warm and cold and will last for a few days in the fridge (if Euan doesn’t eat it all in one go that is!)

Note: if you are feeling lazy you can use shop bought short crust pastry. I wouldn’t use the sweetened one as they are always too sweet and try to use an all butter one if you can.

Peach and amaretto frangipani tart

August 30, 2010

Slice of peach amaretto and frangipani tart

When I made the last batch of dribble-fest creme brulee tarts I made a spare tart shell baked it blind and then froze it (this works really well surprisingly!!). Anyway I decided to use it the other night and had brought some sweet ripe peaches so decided to make a frangipani tart. I checked out a few recipe books to get a frangipani recipe and James Martin had a pretty easy one to follow so gave that a bash adding some amaretto to jazz it up a bit and ended up with a fab dessert. My friend Renee makes a cracker of a raspberry frangipani tart, she is one of those people who whips up a bit of delicious baking without any fuss or mess. Actually I must pester her for her cream scone recipe……

Ingredients

Filling

3 medium sized ripe peaches or nectarines

4 eggs
225 grams caster sugar
225 grams butter
175 grams ground almonds
50 grams plain flour

50 grams of pinenuts

1 tart shell baked blind (for recipe see creme brulee tart recipe)

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Cream butter and sugar

Cream butter and sugar until well combined.

Almond meal and plain flour

Measure out the flour and almond meal and combine.

Creamed butter and sugar

Add egg and flour mix

Add one egg at a time to the butter and sugar beating in with some of the almond meal and flour mix. Keep adding until all flour and all eggs are combined.

Add approx 3 – 4 tablespoons of amaretto and mix through.

Slices of peach layered in tart shell

Slice peach and layer over the bottom of the tart shell.

Peach frangipani tart

Fill tart with frangipani batter.

I placed a few slices of peach on top for decoration.

Bake in oven for 20 mins then sprinkle pinenuts over the top and continue to bake for another 15 mins.

Peach frangipani tart

Check to see if the filling is cooked through by inserting a skewer or knife. The skewer or knife should come out relatively clean, not totally clean though.

You may need to bake the tart for a little longer – just keep checking it. It will also cook a little when it comes out of the oven too remember.

Once cooked leave to cool a little before eating – lovely warm or cold and will last a few days. Serve with whipped cream, clotted cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Fab!!!

Leek and Gruyere Tart (not for those on a diet)

June 8, 2010

Leek and Gruyere tart

Quiches, tarts or flans are great to serve for an easy lunch or dinner . There is no last-minute flapping they can be made in advance and warmed through or even eaten cold. Savoury tarts/Quiche are extremely versatile, so long as you have pastry, eggs and milk or cream you can pretty much add anything as your filling. My favourite is leek and Gruyère. However there are many many many more fabulous combinations you can try:

sautéed mushrooms and carmelised onions
Broccoli and blue cheese
Smoked salmon and spinach
Roast tomato feta and basil
Pea and feta
Roast pumpkin feta and spinach
Char-grilled courgette red onion and roast tomato

The list goes on…..

Ingredients

Pastry (this is Stephanie Alexander’s pastry recipe and uses quite a lot of butter but it is worth it – a lovely flaky pastry)

240 grms plain flour
180 grms unsalted butter
Salt
Ice cold water

Filling

5 eggs
150 mls double cream
150 grms of Gruyère
4 large leeks
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Pastry Method:

Kick off with making the pastry, pop the flour into a large bowl and chop the cold butter into cm cubes and add to flour. Add a pinch of salt and rub the butter through the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add cold water – bit by bit – until you form a soft dough (but not sticky or wet at all – if it is sticky add a little more flour). Try your best not to over work the dough.

Wrap dough in cling wrap and pop in the fridge for about 30 mins.

Once chilled roll out on a floured surface and line a 24 cm loose bottom flan tin. If possible try to leave at least 1cm of pastry above the edge as the pastry will shrink when baked.

Put the pastry back in the fridge or freezer to chill down again for at least 20 mins.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Line pastry case with foil and pastry weights or dried beans.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes then remove foil and beans and brush pastry with beaten egg white and bake for a further 5 minutes (this seals the pastry case to prevent the filing leaking out).

This sounds like a lot of work but you can do all of this whilst preparing the filling.

Filling Method:

Peel off the tough outer layers of the leeks and cut off the toughest part of the green part – not all the green bit through as this is really tasty and adds colour.

Slice down the middle and wash really well to remove any dirt/grit.

Finely slice and add to a large heavy based pot or deep frying pan with a large pinch of sea salt and about 3 tablespoons of olive oil.

Saute on a medium heat – do not brown – reduce heat if necessary.

Stir regularly and cook for about 35 – 40 mins, when ready the leeks should have reduce to about 1/4 of the original size and be soft and sweet. You may need to add a little more oil or a splash of water to prevent the leeks sticking/burning. Cover the pot with a lid most of the time so that it doesn’t dry out too much.

Leek

Crack eggs into a jug, add cream, a pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder. Lightly whisk with a fork trying not to get too much air into the mix.

Grate the Gruyère.

Evenly spread the leeks into the flan case. Sprinkle over the Gruyère and pour over the egg mixture. Do not over fill with egg.

Pop into the preheated oven at 200 degrees Celsius and bake for about 20 – 30 minutes.

You want to bake the Quiche until the egg is almost set in the middle as when you remove from the oven it will continue to cook – you don’t want the egg being rubbery.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and a green leafy salad.

Fantastic!!!!!

TIP: Always put the flan tin on a baking tray just in case the filling leaks out – it is a bit of a pain having to clean the filling off the bottom of the oven (have done that a few times!!)

Kefalonian spinach and feta pie (with roast pumpkin thrown in)

May 24, 2010

Spinach Pumpkin and feta pie

How can you go wrong with puff pastry? It’s just great, obviously not the best diet food but everything in moderation.

I am a huge fan of Greek food – good Greek food that is. Stuffed veggies, slow roast lemon potatoes, Tzatziki, Greek salad and my absolute favorite Spanakopita.

While I was at Art College I managed to wangle a job in a bar on the Greek island of Kefalonia for the summers. I had an absolute ball, at the time I was in my late teens early twenties and I really can’t think of anything I would have enjoyed more!

After work my friends and I would head off to get something to eat. It was usually about 5am and the place was always buzzing, our options were to head down to the square for Souvlaki, the beach for a toasted sandwich or to the bakery for fresh out of the oven Spanakopita.

My first choice every time was the bakery. Gorgeous flakey puff pastry filled with spinach and feta. Yummy!

So I decided to make my own version tonight but with a little difference I added some roast butternut pumpkin because I had some in the fridge, and pumpkin, spinach and feta goes really well together.

Ingredients

1 block of puff pasty or sheets
200 grams of English spinach
1 red onion
1 large lemon
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon of fresh mint finely chopped
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan (Padano or Reggiano)
150 grams of feta crumbled
1 1/2 cups of 1 cm diced butternut pumpkin
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 egg
Sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Finely diced onion

Finely dice onion and add to large bowl.

Finely sliced spinach

Wash dry and finely slice spinach and add to the onions.

Onion spinach and lemon with pinch of salt

Add a pinch of salt to the bowl and the juice of one lemon give a good mix through.

Diced pumpkin

Pop pumpkin pieces into a roasting dish and add a pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder. Add a glug of olive oil and toss so that the pumpkin in coated.

Put pumpkin into the oven for approx 20 – 30 mins until the pumpkin is cooked and slightly golden in colour. Make sure you regularly stir the pumpkin to ensure that it does not stick and roasts evenly.

Squeezing out the liquid from the spinach

After the spinach has been sitting for about 20 – 30 mins it should have released a lot of liquid. Empty the spinach mixture into a colander or sieve and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can.

Spinach feta parmesan thyme mint

Pop the spinach into a clean dry bowl and add the thyme leaves, finely chopped mint, crumbled feta and grated Parmesan. Season with pepper and a little salt (if you need it). Stir through thoroughly.

Spinach mixture

Once the pumpkin is cooked add to the spinach and cheese mix.

Add pumpkin to the spinach mix

Increase the oven temperature to 220 degrees.

Rolled out puff pastry cut into 15 cm squares

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface and cut into 15 cm squares.

Spinach mixture onto pastry

Add a large spoonful of the spinach mixture to the center of the pastry squares.

Press edges together with fork

Brush the edges of the pastry with lightly beaten egg and fold over to make triangles. Press the edges together and either mark with a fork or fold over on its self to create a sealed edge.

Pies on a baking sheet ready to go in oven

Brush the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place on a floured baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown – make sure you check the underside of the pies – this should also be golden brown. If not put back into the oven and back for a few more minutes until the underside is golden brown.

Pies cooked

Serve with a leafy salad.

Spinach feta and pumpkin pie with salad

You could make smaller versions of these for finger food or picnics.

Delish! And also good cold.

Scones or cupcakes – I’ll take a scone any day…and here’s the recipe

May 21, 2010

Scones with butter and rhubarb jam

While the world is being overrun by cupcakes I have been going back to basics and baking the trusty old scone.

The novelty will wear off cupcakes soon I am sure, don’t get me wrong cupcakes are great but they are just so sickly sweet.

Now a scone, that’s a different story. They are not particularly trendy but who cares they are just fabulous and so versatile. I am passionate about the simple scone.

For the past couple of months I have been picking the brains of family and friends for their “best” scone recipe. After a few trial runs and a combination of different recipes, hints and tips I think I have nailed it.

I cooked a batch today and we sat out in the garden in the sun eating them with our neighbours homemade rhubarb jam freshly picked from their garden. How fabulous.

Ingredients

4 oz self-raising (SR) flour
4 oz whole meal flour (I used plain flour as I didn’t have SR)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 oz cold unsalted butter
1 oz caster sugar
Milk

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add pinch of salt. Add butter and rub through flour to create a “bread crumb” type mix.

Butter being rubbed through flour

Add caster sugar and mix through milk until you get a wet-ish dough.

Milk being added to scone mix

Turn out onto a floured surface and gently pat down so that it is about 2 cm thick. If you have a scone cutter use that to cut scones, I didn’t have one so I used a glass. You should be able to get 6 -8 scones depending on how big your cutter is.

Scone dough

Scones being cut

Put onto a floured baking tray and place quite close together as this will help them rise.

Brush tops with milk.

Scones in oven

Pop in oven for 12-15 mins or until cooked through.

To tell if the scones are cooked you can tap the bottom of one and if it sounds slightly hollow the scones are ready.

Freshly baked scones

Serve with butter and jam (and whipped cream if you want).

Scones with butter and rhubarb jam

Spelt bread

May 10, 2010

For a very long time now I have been wanting to make my own bread. I have made many a pizza base in my time but never a loaf of bread. Would you believe it! Due to a little bit of an issue with wheat (it bungs me up) I usually have Spelt bread however this is pretty hard to come by in Bonnie Scotland. Soooo…..I managed to find some Spelt flour in a health food shop and bought a couple of bags. Since then it has been tucked away in the kitchen cupboard. Each time I open the cupboard the guilt sets in….why have I not made bread yet. For some bizarre reason I have been putting it off. Can’t be that hard, can it? Today I broke the voodoo and baked 2 loaves of bread – woo hoo.

They were pretty damn good if I say so myself.

Ingredients

500 grams whole grain stone ground organic Spelt bread
1 sachet of instant dried yeast (7 grams)
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of sea salt (fine)
Warm water (blood temp)

Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl with the honey, slowly mix in warm water until you mixture forms a soft dough. It will be a bit sticky. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it for min 8 – 10 mins. The dough should become soft and smooth and will become less sticky.

Wash out the mixing bowl, lightly oil it with olive oil and pop the dough back in. Cover with cling wrap and a tea towel and put in a warm draft free area for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

After an hour knock back the dough by punching it firmly in the middle, then tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for another 5 mins.

You can cut this dough in half and make 2 separate loaves – one free form and one in a tin. However I think that it would be better to just make one larger loaf out of this.

Pop the dough on a floured baking sheet in a round (or any shape you wish really) and score a criss cross pattern on the top, then dust the dough with flour.

Cover with a damp tea towel and put in a warm draft free place for another 45 min – 1 hour. The dough should rise again to about double size.

Pre heat oven to 210 degrees Celsius.

Once the dough has risen again pop it in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 190 degrees Celsius.

Bake for 40 – 50 mins, check after 40 mins and tap the bottom of the loaf – if it sounds hollow it is ready.

Cool on a rack and eat with lovely butter.

After my first successful bread making experience I am really inspired to create some more exciting breads, adding pumpkin and sunflower seeds, maybe some olive oil or more honey, some nuts, olives, cheese, herbs etc etc etc. Will keep you up dated with all my bread adventures.

Raspberry shortcake

May 10, 2010

Raspberry shortcake

My sister and I popped into Sainsburys on Friday night to pick up bits and bobs to make pizza. On our way out they were giving out little strawberry shortcakes to promote strawberries which are in season. Never ones to say no to free food Fiona and I dug in. They had used a packet shortbread (Deans to be precise) some thick custard (Fiona thinks it was cream…) and a slice of strawberry. To our surprise it was really rather good.

So when we were working out what to make for Sunday lunch dessert I suggested we make our own strawberry shortcake. We went to the supermarket and there were no bloody strawberries!!!

Sods law!! Anyway after some debate about whether or not to “just buy a packet frozen lemon tart” (please NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!) or not I managed to convince my sis that we could do the shortcake with raspberries instead.

Anywho neither of us had made shortbread before so we consulted Fiona’s selection of fabulous cook books and Sue Lawrence (excellent Scottish cook) came up trumps with a relatively simple recipe.

Fiona made the dough on Sunday morning before I had even woken up and pre running the Edinburgh 10 km race (well done Fee).

After we had cooked the shortbread we were sure we had stuffed it up but miraculously it turned out perfectly and tasted absolutely amazing!!

Here is the recipe (care of the lovely and talented Sue Lawrence)

For the shortbread:
225g /8oz butter (slightly salted), softened
110g/4oz caster sugar (golden caster if possible)
225g/8oz plain flour, sifted
150g/5oz cornflour, sifted

Method

1. Make the shortbread: Place the butter and sugar in a mixer or food processor and cream until pale.
2. Once well amalgamated, add the flour and cornflour and blend briefly, just until thoroughly combined. Tip into a buttered Swiss-roll tin (23x33cm/9×13″) and, using floured hands, press down so it is level all over.
3. Prick all over (do this carefully, so that you do not disturb the level surface) then bake at 150C/300F/Gas 2 for 50-60 minutes. What you are looking for is a uniform pale golden all over. Do not allow it to become golden brown.
4. Remove and dredge all over with caster sugar then cut into squares. Leave for 5 minutes or so then carefully decant onto a wire rack to cool.

******BTW we didn’t have any cornflour so we just added in a bit more plain flour AND ours was a wee bit browner than the recommended “pale golden” but still tasted fab AND we didn’t put any additional sugar on it – it really doesn’t need it as it’s super rich anyway.

Also when it comes out of the oven you will think that you’ve done something wrong as it is soft “and shortbread is supposed to be firm!!” but don’t worry it will be ok once it cools.

Anyway back to the recipe:

1 punnet of raspberries
approx 200 ml tub of double cream (not the thickened cream)
Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Icing sugar for decoration

Add a few drops of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of caster sugar to the cream. Whip cream until it forms soft peaks.

I cut the shortbread into approx 4-5 cm squares and put one on the base, a dollop of cream and a handful of raspberries on top then I placed another square on top. Then dusted it with a little icing sugar.

Super easy, rather impressive and will definitely cook this again!!!

The good things about this is you can cook the shortbread in advance and have it in an airtight tin ready to use when needed.

Pizza from scratch

May 10, 2010

Homemade mushroom, courgette and mozarella pizza

I don’t know why but my friends are always seriously impressed when I make pizza “from scratch”. Instead of admitting it is laughably easy (which is what I usually do) I probably should soak up the praise and say nothing. However that is just not me – I like to share.

You will need to have a little bit of time on your hands but other than that – easy!

Pizza Dough (2 large pizzas)

2 cups of plain flour (I like to use a white spelt flour but wheat will do)
1 sachet of instant dried yeast (7 grams)
1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of white sugar
warm water (blood temperature)

Bung all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, slowly add warm water combining it with your fingers until a soft dough forms (not too sticky). I find that if you separate your fingers and almost comb through the dry ingredients whilst mixing in the warm water stops too much of the dough sticking to your fingers which can be a right pain.

Pizza dough

Once you have a soft dough turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. You should feel the dough getting smooth and soft – this is the gluten being released from the flour.

Rinse out your mixing bowl dry and lightly oil. Pop the dough back in and cover with a damp tea towel. Put the bowl in a warm draft free area. Leave for about 40 mins or until it has approx doubled in size.

While the dough is rising you can make your sauce.

Pizza Sauce

1 medium red onion
4 – 6 cloves of garlic
1 kg of ripe tomatoes (or 1 tin of best quality tinned tomatoes)
Basil
Sea salt and pepper
Good quality olive oil

Finely dice the onion, crush or finely chop garlic.

Chopped onion and garlic

Add to heavy based cold pot or frying pan with a good glug of olive oil (approx 3 – 4 tablespoons) and a large pinch of sea salt.

Pop on a low – medium heat and saute until soft and sweet (do not brown).

Finely dice the fresh tomatoes removing any tough cores.

Add finely diced tomatoes (or tinned tomatoes) to onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until tomatoes have broken down into a thick sauce. This should take between 25 and 35 mins.

Fresh tomatoes added to onions and garlic

Pizza sauce cooking

At this point taste for seasoning and if it is slightly acidic add a small amount of white sugar (maybe 1/2 teaspoon). Add in finely sliced fresh basil about 1/4 of a cup.

Also add salt and pepper if needed.

After your sauce is cooked check on the dough. If it has risen to approx double size it is done!

****Note: if your dough has not risen check the use by date on the packet it might be out of date – actually do that before you even begin. If you are a wee bit worried about the yeast not working you can add it to the warm water with a teaspoon of sugar and it should foam up after a few mins – this shows that the yeast is alive. Another reason that your dough might not rise is it has not been left in a warm draft free area.

Bring the risen dough back into the kitchen and knock back – this is the fun bit.

Basically “knocking back” means punching the large pillow of dough in the middle to knock out some of the air.

Pull the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead for 2 mins. Split the dough into 2 balls before you roll out.

Pizza dough being rolled out

Your oven should be on, preheated to as high as you oven can go approx 250 degrees celsius. At this point and all your toppings prepared, oven hot and ready to go.

I like my pizzas very simple, give me a buffalo mozzarella tomato and basil any day!!!

I think the key to success with a good pizza is do not overload your pizza with toppings and as I say with pretty much all cooking – Keep It Simple Stupid.

I prefer a thin base for my pizzas. So I roll out the dough as thinly as possible, I then put it on some baking paper so that it can easily be transferred to the oven. Ideally onto a piping hot pizza stone but if you don’t have one that is fine – straight onto the racks or a thin pizza tray.

Sauce being added to pizza base

Once you have rolled out the dough get a large spoon and spread out a thin layer of sauce over the base – don’t put too much on or it will make the base a bit wet. Now you can do whatever you like with your pizza here are a few options:

Tomato buffalo mozzarella and basil – I start off finely grating some Parmesan Reggiano over the top, not too much. It just enhances the flavour. Tear pieces of buffalo mozzarella and dot them over the pizza, add some whole basil leaves and if you want to you can pop some super sweet cherry tomatoes (make sure they are the best ones – if you can’t find good ones leave them out)

Mushroom, courgette, mozarella pizza

Mushroom and courgette – start with the Parmesan as above and dot with a cow’s milk fresh mozzarella, use a speed peeler and peel ribbons of courgette onto the pizza, sprinkle with very finely sliced mushrooms – I like to use Swiss browns or chestnut mushrooms (small ones).

Roasted butternut pumpkin with feta and baby spinach – very quickly wilt the spinach in a frying pan with a little olive oil, roast cm cubes of the butternut pumpkin until soft and caramelised. Prepare pizza with sauce and grating of Parmesan – pop the pumpkin, crumbled feta and spoonful dollops of spinach onto the pizza bake until ready.

Now just a little point on the timing for baking – this totally depends on your oven temp, if you have a pizza stone and how thick your base is so if I were you I would put your timer on for about 7 minutes and then keep checking it.

All the cheese should be melted and a little golden and the base should also be cooked through and ideally a little golden on the underside.

Just before I serve the pizza I like to pop on some fresh basil and drizzle over some top-notch peppery extra virgin olive oil – or a chili oil.

There are just so many pizza topping options it is ridiculous.

Salami
Prosciutto and rocket
Artichoke, ham, mushroom and olives
Aubergine and goats cheese

And so many more….

Leftovers:

By the way I made some pizza on the weekend and woke up with a little bit of a hangover the next day. I was looking in the fridge thinking “I have to eat eggs!!” and thought I really fancied a Huevos Rancheros. However I didn’t have any of the ingredients I needed apart from the eggs.

All of a sudden I had a bit of a brain wave. I need to mention at this point please bear with me and don’t judge!!!

I fried 2 eggs, warmed a large slice of pizza (it was a mushroom and courgette one). I popped the soft fried eggs onto of the warm pizza, sprinkled it with a bit of freshly chopped Italian parsley and some Maldon sea salt. Joy on a plate. I felt MUCH better after I had that!!

I strongly recommend you try this – I know you are thinking that I am mental but PLEASE give it a go.