Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers October - Pizza!

A big thank you to Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums because I loved this month's challenge! We make pizza at home pretty regularly but lately have resorted to pre-made bases because none of the dough recipes have been turning out very well. Until now that is!

We made 5 different types on 2 occasions and can honestly say the bases were some of the best I have ever eaten, at home or abroad. I am delighted to be able to add this recipe to my repertoire.

We also kept the toppings to a minimum on each - a maximum of 4 ingredients or flavours per pizza which is just how I like them usually. Light and simple and not overly weighed down with cheese.

Apologies for the bad photos. The light in our kitchen is shocking and I wasn't about to let my slices get cold while I played around!

Classic Ham and Pineapple

BBQ Chicken with Red Onion and Mushrooms

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella

Cheesy Potato and Spring Onion

Dessert - Nutella with Flaked Almonds and Raspberries

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast (I used 1 1/2 ts)
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil (a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. ( My dough was too sticky and delicate to toss)

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time. During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes. (I needed 10 – 12 minutes)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

Anything with chocolate in the name is sure to please in this house! This week's recipe was chosen by Clara of I Heart Food4Thought.

It seems lots of people had problems with the cupcakes being dry so I decided to use greek yoghurt instead of buttermilk and used a very rounded 1/2 cup of it for extra moisture. I also kept a really close eye on them while baking. They ended up need only 18.5 minutes instead of the 22 to 25 Dorie suggests.

While I toyed with the idea of Halloween style decorations I decided against it for a few reasons. Firstly that Halloween isn't recognised here at all so there aren't a whole lot of orange and black anything and secondly, I'm very anti food dye at the best of times but particularly now which limited my choices even further!

So I went with toasted flaked almonds both for flavour and crunch and it was perfect.

The taste test ...

Oh my god. These were anything but dry! I found them rich, fudgy and intensely chocolatey ... and that was before I added the glaze. Hubs loved them too, managing to eat 2 of them after a slice of pie and a slab of steamed pudding (both of which I will be posting about in the coming days)!

Next week another first for me - Rugelach

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Perfect Ginger Cookies

Being Australian we would call these biscuits not cookies but seeing it's not my recipe, cookies it is! These really caught my eye when I saw them on Priscilla's blog. I absolutely love anything with ginger and in fact have a big mug of ginger tea first thing every morning (and not just because i'm pregnant!).

I changed the recipe slightly, using golden syrup instead of molasses and adding a little baking powder to give them some lift. I also made them smaller, getting 16 out of the mix instead of 12.

The smell of these freshly out of the oven was intoxicating ... warm, sweet and spicy. I ate 3 while they were really to hot to handle and they were fabulous broken up over vanilla ice cream or just with a cup of ginger tea.

You can find the recipe at Priscilla's Baking Adventures. Yum!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins & an Announcement!

You may have noticed posting has become a little scarce of late. This has been partly the result of blog fatigue but mostly because there has been something much bigger and much more exciting happening ... i'm pregnant! N and I are thrilled to be able to announce that come April we will be parents.

I've been very lucky not to have had any morning sickness but my tastes have definitely changed and I haven't been cooking much lately, at least nothing blogworthy anyway. I'm planning on remedying that starting this week.

I had to sit out last week's TWD. Apologies to Gretchen of Canela & Comino, the biscotti looked great but I just didn't have the time or energy. I did however, get to this week's recipe for Pumpkin Muffins chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

Whenever I hear pumpkin in a recipe it sounds very American (with the exception of our very Australian pumpkin scones of course!). You can't buy canned pumpkin in Australia so I steamed and mashed my own.

I decided to follow the recipe exactly as I am one of the seemingly rare TWDers who actually like raisins! They came together easily but I generally prefer the melt and mix type muffins where you simply add the liquid to the dry ingredients. Creaming butter and sugar is what you do for cupcakes in my opinion.

The taste test ...
I really enjoyed these though I have to say they smelt divine while baking but weren't as fragrant in the mouth. Next time I would increase the spices considerably. I ate mine warm out of the oven with butter and marmalade and it was the perfect morning tea. Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding the rest of the batch got left out on the bench overnight and weren't edible the next day. Boo. N hates pumpkin so it was doubly disappointing because he was actually going to try these! Oh well. I'm sure there will be a next time.

Next week we have the scrumptious sounding Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Jam Doughnut Muffins

Oh. My. God. I'm actually a little worried that I made these because now I know how easy it is I could make them all the time! I've had doughnuts on the brain for the past week or so and while I considered making some the whole vat of hot oil thing does scare me a little. Then I remembered these little beauties that I bookmarked months ago and voila ... doughnuts! Well doughnut muffins to be exact but the end result is truly awesome.

The recipe says it makes 6 and I made 6 jumbo sized ones. It is telling that I ate a whole one but take my advice and make them smaller ... your hips will thank you!

Jam Doughnut Muffins
recipe from

300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
2/3 cup caster sugar, plus 1/3 cup extra to coat
80ml (1/3 cup) vegetable oil (I used melted butter)
1 large egg
175ml buttermilk (I made my own with 1 tbs apple cider vinegar topped up with milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract (I just realised now that I forgot to add this!)
6 tsp good-quality strawberry jam
100g unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a 6-hole muffin pan. Sift the flour into a medium bowl, then add a pinch of salt and the caster sugar.

In a jug, combine the vegetable oil, egg, buttermilk and vanilla extract. Add to the dry mixture and stir to only just combine.

Place a spoonful of the mixture in each muffin hole and make an indent in the centre. Fill each indent with a generous 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry jam. (I misjudged slightly so my jam ended up in the bottom third of the mix). Cover the jam with the remaining muffin mixture and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter. Combine the extra sugar and the cinnamon in a large bowl. When the muffins are cool enough to handle, brush each muffin with the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar.

Serve while still a little warm (the jam in the middle really holds its heat so watch out!)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

This week's recipe was chosen by Tammy of Wee Treats by Tammy and what a great choice! Considering how decadent Dorie's picture looked I decided we didn't need a whole cake, so I thirded the recipe and made 3 muffin sized cakes.

The cake mix worked perfectly. I lined a jumbo muffin pan and baked them for 25 minutes at 150 deg C. The texture was probably more cake than brownie but very soft, moist and intensely chocolaty. Maybe a few minutes less would have given a more fudge-like middle but I was totally happy with these.

The taste test ...

The cake was delicious! I will definitely be making this again. The muffin size works really well and I love doing individual serves. My only issue was with the caramel.

It took about 15 minutes to get a beautifully clear, deep amber toffee (I was tempted to make toffee apples at this stage) but when I added the cream and butter it all went wrong. The caramel went really milky and cloudy looking and cystalised as it cooled. The end result looks dull and uninviting. It tasted nice but a bit sugary rather than smooth as I had envisinged. While I did halve the recipe I've never had any trouble working with sugar before.

So if anyone out there can tell me where I went wrong I would be very grateful! My taste testers didn't care but the perfectionist in me really wants to make it, well ... perfect!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The price of gluttony is $12.95

This is all that remains of a bag of mini Reese's. Despite my best intentions we ate the entire bag in 24 hours!

A few years ago (actually 7 but it makes me sound old) I spent a summer at Marquette University in Milwaukee finishing off my law degree plus some extra time travelling around. The food was definitely a highlight ... real bagels in New York, deep dish pizza in Chicago, frozen custard in Wisconsin. Yum!

But the real highlight for me was the discovery of these addictive little chocolate and peanut butter treats. I ate them by the bagful. The problem is here in Australia they are obviously imported and considered 'gourmet'. While we were out shopping yesterday I spotted a bag in the window of a lolly shop and had to have them despite the fact it was $12.95 for a tiny 340g (12oz) bag. Aaah!

On the way out the guy told he was about to get much bigger bags in. Bags that would be much better value. Double aaah! For the sake of my thighs we will not be going back there anytime soon. *sigh*

On a happier note Nigella has a copycat recipe that is the closest thing to Reese's I've tasted. We'll be making them again for Christmas this year (and giving most of it away). Bring on Christmas!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Anzac Biscuits in October

So Anzac biscuits are normally baked in April on Anzac day to commemorate the Australian and New Zealand troops landing at Gallipoli in 1915. I always make them then but really they are fantastic to make any time.

Part of their appeal is they they contain ingredients that I always have in the pantry and can be whipped up at a moment's notice.

There is a lot of debate as to how they should end up - soft or hard, chewy or crunchy. Personally I go for crunchy on the outside and slightly chewy in the middle. I mounded these up a bit and didn't cook them for quite as long as I normally would. But follow the instructions and you will get thinner biscuits perfect for ice-cream sandwiches!

Anzac Biscuits
Recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly Original Cookbook, 1977, p187

1 cup traditional rolled oats (not instant)
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar (I like raw sugar for these)
1 1/2 ts bicarb soda
2 tbs boiling water
125 g butter
1 tbs golden syrup

Combine oats, sifted flour (I generally don't bother sifting), sugar and coconut. Melt the butter and golden syrup together over a gentle heat. Mix bicarb with boiling water and add to the the butter mixture. It will froth up like a crazy science experiment. Stir this mix into the dry ingredients.

Spoon dessertspoonfuls of mixture onto greased oven trays, allowing room for them to spread.

Bake at approx 150 deg C for 20 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown. They will be very soft straight out of the oven so don't try to move them until they are cool.

Makes approx 30.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...