Monday, 28 March 2011

Pete's pizza dough

This isn't sourdough, and it's a bread machine recipe. But it's a lovely pizza dough, and one which Pete, my partner, has perfected over the years.

I don't understand people who ooh-ahh over the fact that we make our own pizzas. It's simplicity itself and you can make them in advance.

I make these in two Mermaid trays - but I like them thin. If you like your pizzas thick well, I'm not sure I have much to say to you really. Pizzas shouldn't be thick.

From start to finish you can have pizzas on the table in about fifty-five minutes. The pizza-dough cycle on my bread machine takes 40 mins, then you just roll out, put toppings on and they're cooked in 8-10 mins. And for those of you who have children, this is a lovely thing to get them involved in.

Here's what you need (Pete works in ounces, I work in grams, I've kept true to his recipe here):

8floz hand hot water
2tablespoons olive oil
12oz of plain white, soft flour (note: not bread flour)
1teaspoon caster sugar
1teaspoon salt
2teaspoons yeast

You put all the ingredients in your bread machine in the order the manufacturer recommends, above is the order I put mine in as that's what Panasonic recommends. The pizza dough cycle is, as I said, 40 mins long on my machine. (The regular dough cycle is 2.20mins so that should give you an idea, you don't want a long cycle.)

The pizza dough before rolling

When it's done, oil a suitable surface (I use a very large chopping board so that I can move it about if need be) and your hands, and take the dough out. Sometimes this dough is really sticky, other times more manageable. It makes for a better dough when it's stickier (higher hydration) so there is a compensation.

Because I use the dough across two baking trays, I cut mine in half; but if you're making - say - four round pizzas, cut into four..etc. I'm sure you can work it out..

Roll out the dough, as thin as you can, to fit your tray/tin. If you can do that thing of throwing the dough up in the air to make it thin, great: do teach me how to do it too!

When it's rolled out to an approximate size, I lay it on the tray (note: I oil the tray and coat it with polenta/cornmeal), rest if for five mins and then stretch it into the corners/sides.

Now you can, at this stage, go straight into doing the toppings and either cook it or put it in the fridge (naked or with all the toppings on, I put mine in naked). You can also freeze it (in which case cook straight from frozen, just give it a few more mins). I cover mine with cling film place one tray on top of another (if no toppings on) to save space in the fridge.

When you're ready to cook, if you haven't already, put on whatever toppings you want. For the tomato bit on the top, I use Waitrose Sundried Tomato paste - a tiny amount spread on the pizza base (it's quite salty so go carefully). Then I put on artichoke hearts, salami slices, olives, ham, mushrooms, mozzarella, asparagus if in season etc. Or just the tomato paste and some mozzarella for those who like it really simple (boring..) Just before it goes into the oven, splash some olive oil on it and cook it for 7-10 mins. My oven is very hot and has a pizza setting, yours might too. You can tell when it's done as it will have bubbled up and be golden.

Take out and slide onto a chopping board, slice up, eat and feel very virtuous. Pizza doesn't have to be unhealthy..or at least whilst not pretending this is a health food, it's as healthy as pizza can be.

La pizza, I put the rocket on after it came out of the oven

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Le Couronne, or the loaf with the hole

I got really excited when Patrick from Bakery Bits, tweeted to say he had a new banneton in stock in a couronne, or ring shape. It was in cane, which I've never used before (all my bannetons are wicker and lined in linen).

I've a healthy collection of bannetons that I've built up over the last year, but in baton and round shapes. I really fancied a couronne shaped one. (I've been obsessed with round bread with a hole in it since my purchase of a Tortana from Flour City.)

So I bought one, and also took the opportunity to replenish my Aroma Panettone, which immediately transports me back to my childhood (you seen that scene in Ratatouille where whathisface the restaurant critic, goes back in time to his mother's kitchen? That's what this does to me).

Anyway, I was EXCITED about it. Made a batch of my every day bread, put it into the fridge for a retarded proof and got up in the morning.

First thing: the dough stuck to the banneton (the middle bit is wood). Not a good start. I slashed and cooked it and the hole completely closed up so that I ended up with a round loaf with a tiny dimple.

Not good.

I emailed Patrick. He recommended rice flour to aid non-stick (I had used rye). That remedied the sticking situation, but I just couldn't get the hole to keep. (Sadly no pictures of bread proved in this banneton as I just never had a camera handy.)

When you cook bread, you want it to rise, but you can't choose where it rises, so any hole you make (like in bagels) has to be bigger than you want it to end up with. But I just couldn't get the hole to stay.

I knew the fabulous (and far more experienced baker than I) Joanna from Zeb Bakes had also bought one, so I asked her what she thought. She was also struggling with it. We both thought the middle bit should be thicker.

Patrick was v.helpful and kept going back to the manufacturers who said it should work. But it didn't. Patrick got another banneton in, this time in linen lined wicker. He sent it to me free of charge. This banneton just looked much better, the middle bit was thicker and the whole shape was more promising.

It worked much better, too. Here is the loaf I made that first time. I did however, enlarge the hole once it was on the baking tray, which isn't for the nervous. I haven't fully got the hang of slashing the dough however (any thoughts anyone?) as I find it quite hard to make slashes on such a small ring of dough, such as it is before it puffs up.

First loaf using linen-lined wicker couronne banneton. V.nice.

Second loaf in the couronne, this was a white dough

Second time I made a white loaf but was more gung-ho didn't enlarge the hole on the tray. This is what happened:


The third time I tried sticking a muffin ring in the middle. This did indeed hold the middle open, but a) the middle didn't crust up properly and b) the ring sort of got swallowed into the bread. It was fine, and a really great loaf. I'm going to carry on experimenting with a tin in the middle and maybe even - gasp - put ice cubes in there. Just till the bread has developed a crust and then remove the tin.

In the meantime, if you're careful you can get a really nice ring shape, but you need to play around with the dough on the tray. I do love the couronne bread shape however as you get maximum crust, not great for children who are fussy about these things, but good for me, who does.

Any more experienced bakers out there with any tips, I'd welcome them. Grazie!