29 October 2008

Daring bakers

Two days work, two days work, in a heap on the floor, arghhhhh!

The Daring baker's challenge always comes around quickly, and reveal day, where the months challenge is announced is always a exciting day.

This months challenge is very poignant to all Daring bakers, old and new, as this challenge was to be co-hosted with Sher from What did you eat, Glenna from A fridge full of food and Rosa from Rosa's yummy yums. Sher sadly passed away this summer, a dear loss to all Daring bakers.
Glenna has also left the Daring baker's due to personal reasons, so Rosa is now hosting alone.
In memory to Sher her chosen recipe is this months challenge, and a exciting choice it was too.

This months challenge is 'Bake your own pizza's like a real pizzaioli'. To make our own real pizza dough, the recipe chosen was "Pizza Napoletana" from Peter Reinhart's "The bread baker's apprentice"

The challenge: to make your own pizza dough, and try the tossing method for at least 2 of the bases. Try to get a photo of the dough tossing in action.
The rules: To make pizza dough as stated in the recipe, a pizza sauce and topping. You must use both sauce and toppings but have the freedom to use whatever sauce, ingredients you wish.

I must confess, in a tiny little voice "I don't like pizza" yes, I know, I know, I am the strangest person to walk the earth but it just doesn't do it for me....or my children who also will not eat pizza. However I was still looking forward to trying this recipe as I do often make pizza for my OH.

The recipe given yields enough dough for 6 pizza bases, I halved the recipe to make three, I planned to make 2 pizza's for the challenge (one for my OH and a sweet version for me and the kids) and freeze the remaining dough for a rainy day.

While I am confessing I also have to admit I failed miserably in the dough tossing photograph challenge, I only had a seven year old nearby to take the picture and the results weren't good, lol.
The full recipe can be found on Rosa's blog

The dough had to be made over a two day period, on day one the dough was made in a mixer, kneaded by hand, split into balls and placed in the refrigerator overnight. I loved this dough, it was a little sticky but not gloopy, it was a very silky dough...if that makes sense.

On day 2 the dough is ready to be used, and then the fun starts.

Exactly two hours before you need to use the dough you must remove it from the fridge.

The dough had to be sprinkled with flour and shaped into disks, covered and left for two hours.
45 minutes before baking a pizza stone needs to be heated in the oven, as hot as the oven gets.

To toss the dough, generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with cornmeal, flour your hands.
Take 1 piece of dough, 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.
When the dough has the shape you want, place it on the back of the jelly pan making sure there is enough cornmeal on it to stop the dough sticking to the pan.

I enjoyed tossing the dough although it was a little scary at first. It nearly ended up on the floor a few times. The dough shaped really quickly and gave a thin centre and thicker edges, which concerned me a little.
Now to get adventurous.

I used one piece of dough to make a sweet pizza, along the lines of a danish pastry. I spread the dough with apple puree, and covered the pizza in cubed, blanched apples. Sprinkled the apples with slivered almonds, butterscotch sugar and cinnamon and baked in the extremely hot oven for 5-8 minutes. After cooling the pizza slightly I drizzled with glace icing.

This sweet pizza was heavenly, absolutely divine. I adored the pizza crust but the centre was awfully thin and fragile, and couldn't cope with the liquid that came from the fruit. I decide to combine my two remaining dough balls to make a larger pizza for the savoury version.

I found it much easier tossing the larger dough portion than the smaller one, it thinned out more evenly.
For my savoury pizza I used a basic pizza sauce, this one comes from Jamie Oliver's book "Jamie's Italy"

Tomato sauce:
extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked
1 x 400g tin of good quality plum tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a saucepan, add a splash of oil and the sliced garlic and cook gently. When the garlic has turned light golden add the basil, the tomatoes and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook gently for 20 minutes, mashing the tomatoes until smooth, then taste, season again and put to one side.

I made this pizza to my OH's tastes, authentic it ain't.

I spread the sauce over the dough, sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese, add sliced mozzarella, peperoni, sauteed onions and a sprinkling of oregano. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Then it happened........the pizza emerged from the oven and I had to stop OH from eating it until it had it's photo taken....the batteries were flat, every other battery in the house wasn't powerful enough for the camera. With a "do not eat that pizza!" warning, I raced to the shop, raced back and got snapping. Pheww!

OH tucked in and announced this pizza was fantastic, delicious, passed a slice to his friend, friend agreed....delicious, passed a slice to friend number two, yep, still delicious.

Then, bang, whilst helping him self to a second slice, OH miss judges where the table is and my delicious pizza is a mangled heap lying on the floor.

It was one of those super slow motion moments, I could have cried, so could the boys, they were all really hungry.
So, I am asked " how long will it take to make another one"
I answer " two days...."
the boys "eh?!?!"
I loved this challenge, it was great fun. Would I use this recipe again, I'm not sure, the recipe is good, works well and is delicious but two days for pizza dough is a little much for me.
Thanks to Rosa for hosting this months challenge and don't forget to check out other pizza's on the Daring bakers blog roll.

21 October 2008


Fruited teacakes, not the marshmallow-y Tunnocks variety, always remind me of home. My Grandma always had teacakes in the house, and she was very pernickety about them, they had to be bought from the post office at the end of her street and they had to be that mornings batch, she didn't want them to have sat around. We would slice them open, toast them on the open fire, smear them with butter (always salted in my Granny's house) then we would 'write' our names on then by drizzling golden syrup off the end of a spoon over the hot, toasted teacake.
It took longer to toast and drizzle them than it took to eat them but it was fun, and they never tasted the same in anyone elses house.

I must admit I'd forgotten all about teacakes, instead I settle for a bought cinnamon and raisin loaf from the supermarket...oh the shame...in fact it is really delicious and my kids instead on a slice of it, toasted before bed.

Then we ran out of raisin bread.......tears before bedtime indeed.

After the kids went to bed I thought about replicating their favourite fruit loaf and that's when I remembered teacakes. I knew my kids would love them.

I found this recipe on my bookshelf, I should really look through books after I buy them. It comes from the 'Big book of bread' by Anne Sheasby, mentioned on the Focaccia thread. I tweaked it slightly by adding some much needed spice.
Fruited teacakes:

450g strong, plain white bread flour
1 tsp salt
25g butter, diced
1 1/2 tsp easy blend yeast
25g caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
115g currants/ raisins
about 250ml warm milk, plus extra for glazing.

Grease 2 baking sheets and set aside. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl,then lightly run in the butter. Stir in the yeast, sugar, spices and dried fruit.

Make a well in the centre, then stir in enough milk, mixing to form a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Shape into a round, then place in a oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough on a floured surface, then divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll and shape each piece into a round teacake and prick each one twice on top with a fork. Place on the baking sheets, cover and leave to rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200c/ gas mark 6. Brush the teacakes with a little milk, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. The teacakes will have a lovely soft top.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To serve, split each teacake in half, toast lightly on a roaring open fire (a grill would suffice though) spread generously with butter and write you name on the top with golden syrup.

20 October 2008

Chocolate chestnut muffins

Chocolate chestnut muffins.

I was in the mood for something sweet after dinner tonight, but not sickly sweet, definitely chocolate but dark and sophisticated. I came up with these 'grown-up' muffins, grown up as in more for adults than regular muffins that easily please masses of children. I am the first to admit that I love everyday chocolate muffins but for a little luxury this recipe really hits the spot.

I combined two cake making method to make these muffins, the usual muffins method of wet ingrediants into dry, and the chocolate brownie 'melting' method. I melted very dark, good quality chocolate into butter and stirred in sweet chestnut puree, after cooling slightly I stirred in beaten eggs and a little sugar, then folded in flour and very good quality cocoa, to give the muffins a little depth of colour. As a extra special treat I poured in a glug of Tia Maria, I recently fell in love with Tia Maria and am now finding uses for it all over the shop.

Chocolate chestnut muffins:
100g best quality dark chocolate
100g butter
250g tin of vanilla sweetened chestnut puree
2 eggs, beaten
75g caster sugar
125g self raising flour
25g good quality cocoa
a glug of Tia Maria
Preheat the oven to 180c.
In a large heavy bottomed pan melt together the chocolate and butter, remove from the heat and stir in chestnut puree.
Cool slightly and stir in eggs and caster sugar.
Sift together the flour and cocoa and fold into the chocolate chestnut mixture, spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes.
Now, I did say that this recipe was intended for grown-ups, however my two children loved these and polished off two each before I hid the remaining muffins. They are very light, but a little goes a long way, they are very intensively chocolatey. I do think they would be very good as 'pudding' with coffee, or Tia Maria, after dinner with friends. The first thing that hits you is the chocolate, they are extremely chocolatey, and you can really taste it, I can't stand chocolate muffins that are just brown cakes with no hint of chocolate to the flavour.
Then the chestnut hits you, chocolate and chestnut, a great combination.
The liquor really gives a adult kick, it doesn't alter the flavour of the cakes, just adds a little depth to it.
Do give this recipe a try, and don't be put off by using chestnuts before Christmas, this is how I came to use the chestnut puree tonight, it had been sitting around in my cupboard since last Christmas as it didn't feel 'right' to use it any other time.
I recently heard of baby born born in the height if summer, who had been named Holly.
"you can't call a summer baby Holly" I declared, and so had a number of other people, as babies Grandad was very determined when he said, "It's not just a Christmas name!" So on that reasoning I decided if Holly wasn't just for Christmas then neither are chestnuts. Although these would be very good to leave out for Santa.....

15 October 2008

Stem ginger fruit cake

This is another of those cakes that I lovingly make for others when I don't want to eat cake, I'm not one of those people who can make cake and leave it alone. So rather than gave up baking for a while I simply bake cakes that I don't like. It's logical really.

I am not that keen on fruited cakes, although they are growing on me rather rapidly. However fruit cakes are very popular with my loved ones, this cake is sort of made up on the spot, I started off looking at my regular fruit cake recipe (Bara birth), bored I decided to tweak it, I threw in a bag of mixed red berries (cranberries, cherries etc...) a dredge of cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg then the stem ginger hanging round the back of the cupboard caught my eye, I chucked in a couple of stems (grated) and a spoonful of the syrup from the jar.

The recipe (as I remember it) is

Stem ginger fruit cake:
300g s/r flour
300g dried fruit (I used raisins, currants and a berry mix)
2-3 stumps of stem ginger, grated.
100g soft brown sugar
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
grating of nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
100ml milk
2 tbsp stem ginger syrup.

Preheat oven to 180c/ gas mark 4. Grease and line a 8in loaf tin.
Mix the dried fruit, stem ginger, sugar, spices and salt in a bowl.
Beat in the egg.
Gently heat the milk, stir in ginger syrup. Pour into cake mixture and stir well.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1-1/4 --- 1-1/2 hours.
Cool, slice and spread thickly with the best butter you can find.

The aroma coming from the oven when this cake was baking was delicious, and reminded me of my Granny's house, ginger, cinnamon, mixed spices, perfect scent for autumn.

Maybe I got carried away with the cake, as for someone who didn't want to like it, I found it a little too delicious. It was moister than a lot of fruit cakes, probably because of the syrup, but as there was no fat in the cake it was hugely complimented by a thick smearing of butter.

06 October 2008

Cloud cakes

These little cakes are a firm favourite with my children, they are Nigella's Love buns from Feast, in which Nigella suggests these Mr Whippy-esque cakes as part of a romantic valentine's day meal.

The first time I made them my daughter renamed them Cloud cakes, as the soft gooey meringue topping looks like clouds. The name has since stuck and they will always be cloud cakes in my house.

The recipe is very straight forward, basic cupcakes topped in the most dreamy cloud like topping, a soft meringue cooked on a double boiler. A word of warning though, these cakes don't like heat, they wilt very quickly in the heat of my kitchen, note the landslip starting in the pictures, so I store them in the fridge, yes the cake does suffer a little for it but I prefer the topping straight from the fridge, the texture changes slightly once it's been chilled going a little more marshmallowy, in fact just like a Tunnocks teacake. Heaven!

Love buns (more aptly named Cloud cakes) from Feast.

For the buns:
125g soft butter
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 tbsp milk

for the topping:
2 egg whites
4 tbsp golden syrup
100g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1tsp vanilla extract
(heart shaped sprinkles to decorate - if using on Valentines day.)

Take everything you need out of the fridge in time to bring it to room temperature - this makes a huge difference to the lightness of the buns later - and preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200c.
Put all of the ingrediants for the buns, except for the milk, into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel, to make a smooth dropping consistency.
Divide the mixture into a 12-bun muffin tin lined with papers or heart patterned cases, and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. They should have risen and be golden on top; you want a little peak if possible.
Let them cool in their tin on a rack, and then take them carefully out of the tin to cool in their papers, still on the wire rack.

This is a topping that has a kind of meringue base, by which you whisk egg whites over heat until they are stiff and gleaming. Think Mr Whippy. So make a double boiler with a bowl that will fit snugly over a saucepan of barely simmering water, and put all the ingredients for the icing, except for the vanilla and sprinkles, into the bowl. Whisk everything with a electric beater until the icing becomes thick and holds peaks like a meringue. This will take about 5 minutes, so be patient.
Take the bowl off the saucepan and onto a cool surface and keep whisking while you add the vanilla. Then keep whisking until the mixture cools a little. You want a proper peaked and whipped covering here, so spoon some icing over each bun, and then dollop another spoonful over in a swirly fashion. Cover with sprinkles if using.

Do try this recipe, it would be perfect as Nigella suggests for a Valentine's dessert but even better for kids to get in a mess with, just keep some baby wipes handy as the topping gets everywhere, around mouths, in hair, oh the joy of having children.