Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pizza to be Proud of

The picture is not so alluring but I was in a hurry to tuck in to my freshly baked pizza. The dough had puffed up beautifully around the edges and the underside had cooked through, a home-made pizza miracle had happened and I don't get those very often.

The dough recipe is from Dan Leppard's book Short and Sweet and pizza is this week's ShortandTweet challenge. The weather has turned beautifully warm and sunny and I really enjoyed tucking in to my pizza outside in the early evening sun.

I am going to attribute some of my pizza miracle to my new consignment of flour from Shipton Mill:


I ordered their strong white flour and am delighted with how easy it was to work with. It kneaded up into a silky smooth stretchy ball, rose beautifully and baked up without any gumminess at all. I ordered from their online shop and it arrived beautifully packed and pretty quickly too.

The pizza dough recipe is very straight forward but you are given options to make a slower rise dough which I must try to see if the dough tastes even better with a long rest. I use a baking stone in my oven to try and maintain a high temperature as the pizza goes in. I also prefer pizza to have very little topping which is useful as it does make it easier to get the base cooked through, as well as easier to eat with your fingers. Over on the BBC website there are some interesting  Pizza Notes put together by Dan on achieving a good home made pizza.

Dan's  recipe makes quite a large batch of dough and I turned what was left into a rosemary loaf which also baked up pretty well. This was a good accompaniment to cheese and cauliflower soup.

I missed writing up last week's challenge but I did have a go at the weetabix muffins and they were quite good, but no more. This was just personal taste and I could not even say why I would only describe them as quite good. I really liked the orange and cinnamon flavouring though and will try and incorporate that into a different muffin recipe next time I am looking to make some breakfast muffins.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Real Bread Maker Week

Well we have just come to the end of the 2012 Real Bread Maker Week which is being championed by the Real Bread Campaign so I was delighted that the #ShortandTweet challenge for this week focused on bread.

I have had a go at two of the challenge recipes, the two-day loaf, pictured above, and the wholemeal loaf, although the wholemeal recipe I actually baked as rolls. In celebration of good bread I also made some Bath Buns but not as part of the #ShortandTweet challenge.

The wholemeal loaf recipe made a very good batch of rolls with a nice thin crust and  a fairly moist crumb, not damp and not that awful sawdust texture you often meet in wholemeal bread. I prefer my bread to have a little more spring to it so I would add a fair portion of strong white flour to the dough if I made it again, but I would say this was a success and well worth playing around with to add in other flavours from seeds, malted grains etc.

It seemed very apt for a week celebrating real bread to make a two-day loaf as the slow pace of this loaf really does develop good flavour but I did not get the texture quite right. This may well be partly because my loaf was not left to rise quite long enough once shaped. I was using a stoneground flour from Gilchesters  in Northumberland which does have a good creamy colour and fresh flavour but I don't think I did it justice in terms of the finished loaf. If you are keen to try a 'real bread' style recipe and do not have Dan's book Short and Sweet then the recipe for this two-day loaf is also available online via Dan Lepard's Guardian series on  How to Bake

I finished the week on a sweet note as I baked Bath Buns from a book by Bernard Clayton . I have always had a great fondness for sweet buns and these are nicely spiced with a hint of mace. They were rather good and had to be put in the freezer quickly before I ate too many.

I have been in search of the sugar nibs that are usually found on bath buns for a while and finally found something similar at both  the German Deli and also this  pearl sugar from the Scandi Kitchen.

Finally I would like to show off my two new members of the recycle team who at 4 weeks old are not actually fully on board yet, but who did have a little nibble of a crumbled wholemeal roll.  I have only named the chick at the front so far, as her friend may be a boy and not allowed to stay very long, but the sweet one at the front is Cilla and they are Buff Orpingtons.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Kitchen Catch Up

Despite good intentions my plans for last week did not happen quite the way I had hoped so this week I found myself with a lot of ingredients in the fridge that were in urgent need of cooking up. Every time I opened the fridge door I was reminded of all the things I did not get around to last week and it was getting quite annoying.

So today with time to use and no wish to garden in the pouring rain I caught up on some of that cooking. Highest on the list was the ShortandTweet challenge which for last week was cheesecake. I had missed the report back deadline by several days  but as I had bought all the ingredients and they were now very close to their use by dates it was time to knuckle down. I opted to make the 'Classic Cheesecake' from p458 of Dan Lepard's book Short and Sweet. The recipe makes rather a lot of cheesecake so I halved the ingredients and it worked out fine.

I did change the biscuit base a tiny bit as instead of adding butter to the  crushed oat biscuits I added a finely ground hazelnut butter (another ingredient lurking in the fridge in need of using up). I really like the taste of toasted hazelnuts but if you are not sure about them I would stick with butter as the hazelnut flavour is quite pronounced. I also baked my cheesecake in a square rather than round pan but only because I could not find a suitably sized round dish.

So here is my dessert garnished with a home produced blackcurrant sauce, a good tangy contrast to the smooth and rich cheesecake.

This cheesecake was very easy to make as there was no fuss with the usual separated eggs  having to be whisked and folded or water baths to struggle with. By the time the biscuit base had been baked for ten or so minutes in the oven I had the filling prepared. It was then into a slow oven for over an hour so plenty of time to get on with something else.

Next on the list was the excess of cauliflower. I had forgotten that last week's veg box cauli was still in the fridge when I ordered another one for this week. I have been using the www.eatyourbooks website for a while now to manage my collection of cookery books and 'must cook' lists and it is now the first place I look when I need a recipe to use something up. The web site authors are now also indexing popular food blogs and sites along with magazines so it has become quite a wide ranging resource. I quickly found a recipe from the ChocolateandZucchini blog for saffron roasted cauliflower The florets of cauliflower are roasted in saffron infused oil and are liberally sprinkled with ras el hanout spice mix. This made a perfect lunch along with some feta style cheese.

I am rapidly becoming a bit of a bread anorak and if you will forgive the indulgence my last pic is of a slice from a loaf I baked today. I was really pleased with the crust and even crumb texture, but yes, it is just bread.