Wednesday 29 October 2008

Daring Bakers October Challenge: Pizza Dough

This month’s challenge was to make an authentic pizza dough that had been allowed to age and mature overnight. As an extra challenge this month our host Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums, said we had to attempt to toss the dough in true Italian style!

Although we had to make an authentic pizza dough, our toppings were allowed to be as unauthentic and experimental as we pleased. So running with this freedom I chose to top my pizza with pureed apple for the sauce element and spinach, pumpkin, ricotta and walnuts for the toppings. Sounds a little crazy I know but I was thinking autumnal foods. Apple and pumpkin go together and so do the nuts. The ricotta works well with sweet and savoury flavours so that was in and the spinach, well it added a nice colour and it goes well with ricotta. No matter how strange the combo might sound it turned out to be a hit. I especially loved the apple ‘sauce’ – apple on a pizza who knew?!

I was also very impressed with the dough. It was a little sticky to work with at first but produced a great soft and stretchy dough. I froze most of my dough balls for future use but kept one in the fridge overnight to ferment and mature. I ended up leaving it for two nights and when I peeked at it after the two days it looked like it was trying to make a bid for freedom out of its bowl and was full of large air bubbles.

Tossing the dough was fun although I need to improve my technique as the middle ended up nice and thin but the edges stayed fat and puffy but I just squished it into place. Also, how do you produce a round pizza base? Mine always turn out oblong. I’m afraid the photos of me tossing the dough aren’t great, I was on my own and had to set balance the camera on the back of a chair and then try and catch the timer – but you get the idea.

I adored the flavour of this pizza base. Letting it mature really improved the flavour, it was almost like a sourdough, crisp brown crust, slightly chewy texture and full of air pockets. I had worried my apple topping would result in a soggy pizza base but it crisped up beautifully. All the toppings worked well together and when it came out of the oven I gave it a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg – essence of autumn on a plate.

Click here to view more daring bakers pizzas.

Pizza Dough
From “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).Ingredients:
620g white bread flour
1¾ tsp Salt
1 tsp Instant yeast
60ml olive oil
420ml water, cold
1 tbsp sugar
Semolina or cornmeal for dusting
Method – Day One:
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).
5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
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.
Day Two or After Proving: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.
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 re-flour 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.
14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.
For my toppings
1 large cooking apple
50g ricotta cheese
2 handfuls fresh spinach
25g walnuts
75g pumpkin or squash
Freshly grated nutmeg

Peel and core the apple and cut into small cubes. Heat in a pan along with 1tbsp water until soft and mushy. Allow to simmer gently until thick. Taste and if very sharp add a little sugar to sweeten (but you don’t want it too sweet). Leave to cool.
Cut some slices out of the pumpkin and remove the skin. Cut into small dice sized pieces.
Wash the spinach in hot water to wilt it slightly and remove any dust or grit.
When ready to top the pizza spread the apple puree evenly over the surface of the dough leaving a 1inch gap around the edges.
Lay the spinach leaves over the top of the apple. Scatter over the pumpkin chunks and distribute dots of ricotta in-between.
Break the walnuts into pieces using your fingers and scatter over the top.
Bake as instructed. (My pizza took nearly 15 minutes but I suspect this was because the apple was quite wet, but the base was wonderfully crisp).
Makes enough topping for one large pizza.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Spelt Rolls

This is a recipe I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make on one of his latest programmes – River Cottage Autumn. He was talking about one of the most ancient wheat grains – Spelt. It has been around for decades but has only recently been popular and started to be used again. It is higher in protein than traditional wheat and its molecular structure is different meaning it can be more easily tolerated by some wheat allergy suffers.

The wheaty looking rolls Hugh produced got me wanting some for myself and so a short visit to the shops to get some flour and I was all set to go. The dough came together very easily, a little sticky at first, but keeping working with it and it soon becomes soft and smooth. It also uses only the 4 basic ingredients of flour, yeast, water and salt.

I noticed the spelt flour seemed courser than standard flour, but I think this added to the great texture of the rolls, slightly dense and yet very tender with a slightly chewy outer crust and a nutty wholesome flavour. I tore one open when still warm and inhaled its warm, just baked wheaty aroma – one of the best smells in my book. They tasted wonderful with a bit of butter and jam, but Hugh suggests serving them with some good veg soup. Either way, I’ll be making these again.

Spelt Rolls - (I halved this recipe and got 8 small rolls)
Recipe from River Cottage Autumn by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
1kg wholemeal spelt flour
3tsp dried yeast
3 tsp salt
600ml warm water

Add the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Pour over the water and mix with one hand until a dough is formed. Add a little more flour or water as needed to produce a soft and sticky dough.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed for 10 minutes until smooth and no longer sticky.
Lightly grease a bowl and place the dough in the bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to prove for an hour, until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough and divide into 12 – 14 pieces. Shape into rolls and place on a baking tray about 1inch/2.5cm apart.
Leave to prove for a further 30minutes until risen. Preheat the oven to 250C.
Bake the rolls in the oven for 12-15 minutes (depending on number of rolls) until risen, nicely brown on top and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack.
Eat while still warm with butter, jam, soup, cheese, pickles etc.
Makes 12-14 rolls

Monday 20 October 2008

The Cake Slice: Cappuccino Chiffon Cake

This is our first official posting for our first cake baked by The Cake Slice group. We are going to spend a year baking one cake from 'Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes' by Alicia Huntsman and Peter Wynne each month. It’s the creation of Gigi from Gigi Cakes and I was thrilled when she asked me to be co-host. To launch the group, we started with a recipe for Cappuccino Chiffon Cake and it truly is irresistible.

It involves three layers of light espresso chiffon cake, each one doused in rum (I used Amaretto) spiked espresso syrup and sandwiched together with mountains of cream. To finish it off, a dusting of cocoa powder is added to the top in the design of your choosing. I put a ring of chocolate coffee beans around the cake and cut out a stencil design of a steaming cup of coffee for my decoration. I dusted over the top of it and then peeled off the paper to reveal the design.

What can I say about the flavour of this cake? – Oh it’s divine. It is so moist and light with a really strong espresso kick while the sweet syrup keeps it from tasting too strong. The final dusting of cocoa finishes it off perfectly and it tastes just like a tiramisu. Heavenly.

Be sure to check out the other cappuccino cakes from my fellow Cake Slice bakers. See you next month with another irresistible layer cake.

Cappuccino Chiffon Cake
Makes an 8inch triple layer cake

For the cake layers
55ml vegetable oil
6 eggs, separated
6tbsp cooled freshly made espresso
160g plain flour
340g caster sugar
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cream of tartar
Cocoa powder for dusting

Espresso Syrup
70ml hot espresso
150g caster sugar (I used 100g)
50ml rum (I used Amaretto)

Vanilla Cream
600ml double cream
40g sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the bottoms of three 8-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, egg yolks, espresso, and vanilla; whisk lightly to blend. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, 200g of sugar, the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In the large bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar on medium-low speed until frothy. Raise the mixer to medium high and gradually add the remaining 140g of sugar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Do not whip to stiff peaks or the cake will shrink upon cooling.
Add the espresso-egg mixture to the dry ingredients and fold together just until combined. Add one fourth of the egg whites and fold them gently into the batter. Fold in the remaining egg whites just until no streaks remain.
Divide the batter among the pans.Bake the cakes for 18-22 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Run a knife around the rim of the pans to prevent the cakes from tearing while cooling. Allow the cakes to cool completely in the pans.
Invert onto a wire rack and remove the parchment papers.
For the espresso syrup
In a bowl, stir together the espresso and sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the rum and let cool to room temperature.
For the vanilla cream
Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in large chilled mixing bowl with chilled beaters. With the whip attachment, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.

To assemble the cake
Place one cake layer flat side up on a cake stand or platter. Soak the cake with a third of the espresso syrup.
Spread 3 tbsp of whipped cream evenly over the top of the cake. Repeat with the next layer, syrup, cream, cake etc.
Finally top with the third layer. Soak with syrup and frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream.
To decorate
Smooth out the whipped cream as much as possible on top. Lay a paper doily or stencil design on top of the cream and sift over cocoa powder or cinnamon.
Carefully remove the doily and serve.
Keep refrigerated until required and eat within 3 days.
Serves 12

Thursday 16 October 2008

Spiced Cranberry & Orange Bread

It has been a hectic week and I was in the mood making some bread to help get rid of the built up stress. I was walking back from uni and thoughts of cinnamon and raisin bread kept running through my head. I started to gather my ingredients and went to get the raisins, only to find…I’d run out of raisins. Humph. I had a rummage around and found some dried cranberries and so decided to make a spiced cranberry bread instead. I added ground ginger, mixed spice and the grated rind of an orange as I adore the flavour of orange and cranberry together.

Feeling happier I set about making my bread, breathing in the orange and spices. It was then able to sit happily on my windowsill while I got on with an essay before being baked and devoured as a reward.

I was a little worried that I had overcooked the crust slightly, but upon slicing I found it to be perfectly soft and tender within, the egg keeping it moist and springy. The zesty orange is the first flavour to hit your palate, closely followed by a sweet tangy cranberry and a subtle spicy after-note. The bread is not overly sweet so I won’t feel at all guilty having it for breakfast tomorrow, lightly toasted with some jam.

This is also my entry to Zorra’s 3rd World Bread Day. Click here for all the info.

Spiced Cranberry & Orange Bread

250g strong plain flour
45g caster sugar
1tsp dried yeast
40g butter
1 egg
125ml milk
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
1 orange
50g dried cranberries

Add the flour, yeast, mixed spice, ginger and sugar to a bowl. Grate in the rind from the orange. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub through the flour mixture until its evenly blended in.
Heat the milk until warm to the touch but not hot. Beat the egg into the milk and pour over the flour mix.
Bring it together with your fingers until it forms a soft dough. Add the cranberries and kneed until well distributed.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to prove for 1 hour until.
When the hour is up, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knock it back by kneading gently.
Shape the dough into a log and place into a 450g/1lb loaf tin. Leave it a warm place to rise and double in volume for 1½ - 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200C. Bake the loaf for 22-25 minutes until a deep golden brown in colour and hollow sounding when tapped.
Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Serve with jam or a light spreading of cream cheese.

Update: The complete roundup of all 246 entries can be found here.

Monday 13 October 2008

Chocolate Overload Cake

I have quite a few backdated recipes that I need to post about and as today is the start of National Chocolate Week it seems fitting that I start with this one. Back in August it was my brothers birthday. He is a huge chocoholic and will only eat chocolate based cakes and desserts. Often when I make him something chocolaty he says it’s good but it could have done with more chocolate. This is usually followed by groans and rolling of eyes by everyone else at the table. So for his birthday I was determined to make him a cake that was absolutely choc full of chocolate and this chocolate overload cake was the result.

It’s comprises of a chocolate sponge which is filling, topped and covered in a rich chocolate fudge icing, surrounded by a wall of piped chocolate candles and decorated with all the chocolate goodies I could get my hands on, including, maltesers, chocolate buttons, fudge, coins, minstrels, flakes and rolos! Needless to say he loved it and insisted on another one the following week for when he had his mates over – success :)

I love this chocolate fudge icing because it doesn’t rely on icing sugar, unlike a lot of fudge icings, which I find can make them taste a bit grainy. Instead it involves boiling evaporated milk with some sugar to produce a thick caramel and then whisking it a lot of chocolate to produce a rich, smooth fudgy icing. It tastes like a sweeter version of a chocolate ganache and has the added bonus that it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge.

Chocolate Overload Cake
For the cake

150g self raising flour
175g butter
175g caster sugar
30g cocoa powder
3 eggs
1½ tsp baking powder

For the fudge filling and topping
125g butter
300g dark chocolate
410g can evaporated milk
275g light soft brown sugar

For the chocolate candles
50g dark chocolate
100g white chocolate

For the decoration
1 bag maltesers
1 bag minstrels
Chocolate coins
1 finger of fudge
1 packet rolos
1 bag chocolate buttons
1 flake bar

Method – for the cake
Preheat the oven to 175C. Line two 8inch/20cm round cake tins with greaseproof paper and grease the sides.
Beat together the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Beat well until everything is incorporated and the batter has lightened in colour slightly.
Divide the cake mix between the two tins and bake for 24-28 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring onto a wire wrack to cool.

For the fudge icing
Meanwhile make the fudge topping. Heat the milk and brown sugar together in a pan, stirring continuously until all the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and leave on the lowest heat for 5 minutes stirring every minute to prevent from burning on the bottom. It should be barely bubbling.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and once melted, beat in the butter.
Allow to cool for an hour before transferring to the fridge for 20 minutes before you want to use it, to stiffen.
Once fully cooled, beat briefly before using a third to sandwich the caked together. Spread the rest over the top and sides of the cake.

For the chocolate candles
Find an outline of a tall straight candle and copy it many tiny on a piece of paper. Lay the paper onto a baking tray and over the surface with a layer of clingfilm, ensuring it lies smooth.
Melt the dark chocolate and put into a piping bag fitted with a small writing nozzle. Draw round the outline of the candle and flame using the dark chocolate. Leave to set before continuing.
Once the outline has set, melt the white chocolate and filling in the rest of the candle keeping within the dark chocolate outlines.
Leave to set for 2 hours in a cool place or preferably overnight.
Carefully peel off the cling film when ready to use and attach to the outside of the cake. Try not to handle them too much or they will start to melt and break.

For the decoration
Chop up the chocolate flake and finger of fudge into small pieces. Scatter over the top of the iced cake along with the rest of the chocolate goodies.
Serve and enjoy.
Update: I am submitting this cake to Not Quite Nigella's Ultimate Chocolate Cake Challange.
The delicious round-up can now be viewed here!

Monday 6 October 2008

Caramel Apple Cakelettes

I was flicking through a cook book looking for inspiration for a quick dessert and came across a pear and ginger cake. It looked delicious but I wanted something lighter and a bit more dainty and so moved on, but I couldn’t get the cake out of my head so I decided to alter it by using apples and cinnamon instead.

I hit upon the idea of baking them in individual tart tins and placing the apple in the base instead of on the top, turning them into upside-down mini cakelettes. I also added a layer of caramel syrup to the base, to create a sort of take on tarte tatin only with cake instead of pastry.

For the apple I used Red Delicious as its deep red skin and firm flesh make it ideal for maintaining its shape and colour during cooking. I’m not a fan of the apples to eat raw as they can sometimes be a bit fluffy, but this they were perfect. Golden syrup formed the base of my caramel syrup which does away with the need for a sugar thermometer and speeds up the process no end.

Once baked, I nervously upended the cakelette onto a plate (with the help of rubber gloves) and it came out perfectly – hurrah! It looked so pretty and smelt gorgeous, all apple, cinnamon, moist sponge and sweet sticky caramel.

Caramel Apple Cakelettes
For the sponge
110g self raising flour
100g butter
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 level tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 eating apple (I used Red Delicious)

For the caramel syrup
2½ tbsp golden syrup (100g)
55ml single cream or whole milk
10g butter

Preheat the oven to 180C and arrange 4 small tart tins on a baking tray.
First make the caramel syrup. Add the golden syrup, milk and butter into a small pan and heat gently, stirring until all the ingredients have melted together.
Then increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil and allow to bubble for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
To make the sponge, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and beat again. Sift over the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and beat together along with the vanilla.
Then cut the apple into quarters, remove the core and slice into very thin slices, so you end up with crescent shaped apple slices.
Drizzle a few spoonfuls of the syrup over the base of the cake moulds, until the bottom is covered, but leave a couple of spoonfuls left over for decoration.
Arrange the apple slices neatly in the syrup, so that they overlap slightly. Remember, this will become the top once they are turned out.
Spoon over the sponge mixture in small blobs, spreading it out into an even surface right to the edges of the tin to form a seal. If possible make sure the syrup does not rise up above the sponge layer.
Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes and golden and springy to the touch.
Allow to cool for 3 minutes before running a knife around the rim of the tin and turning out the cakes onto a plate, bottom side up. (Wear rubber gloves to hold the moulds)
Decorate the plate with a few dots of the remaining syrup and serve straight away.
They also taste great cold.
Serves 4

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Oaty Melting Moments

These cookies are very light and tender. They have a crisp outer edge and a soft crumbly centre that melts in the mouth. The slightly unusual twist to these cookies, compared to other melting moment cookies I have seen, is that the dough is kept soft and sticky so that mounds of cookie dough can be generously rolled in oats before baking. This helps gives the cookies their crisp outer edge and a slightly nutty flavour.

I have fond memories of baking these with my mum when I was very young. We used to call them cornflake cookies as we often rolled them in lightly crushed cornflakes instead of oats. Either way they are delicious and must always be topped with half a glace cherry.

I’m now living back in Sheffield and in my final year of Uni and I’m sharing a flat with a lovely photography student called Amie. I am really excited by this as she has all the photographic know-how when it comes to taking pictures, as well as a nice camera, so we have agreed that if I help her learn to bake, she will help me out with some photos and afterwards we both get to eat the goods – it’s the perfect arrangement. It was dark outside when we had finished baking (we got the late night munchies) but Amie took these pics for me and I love how the cookies in the background fade into the distance while the front ones are still in focus. I have camera envy. If I pick up any good tips, I’ll be sure to pass them on.

Oaty Melting Moments
100g butter
75g caster sugar
½ egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract
170g self raising flour
5-6 glace cherries
Rolled oats or lightly crushed cornflakes for coating

Heat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Crack the egg into a bowl, whisk until combined and then add half to the butter mix along with the vanilla or almond extract. Beat again until well incorporated.
Sift over the flour and mix well.
Scatter a layer of oats or cornflakes over a plate.
Take tablespoons of the batter (it will be sticky) and shape into rounds. Roll the dough in the oats/cornflakes until well coated.
Transfer to the baking trays and flatten slightly. Leave a 2inch gap between each one.
Cut the glace cherries in half and poke a half into the centre of each cookie.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire wrack to cool.
Makes 10-12 cookies