Bread is a bit of a weakness of mine, in two ways: I love eating it fresh…but I’m not great at making it. Enriched dough? Fine, no problem. Pizza dough? My nemesis.
I’ve tried, truly. I’ve spent hours looking at flavour combinations I’d like to try and dreamed of jammy balsamic toppings. I’ve put the hours in. Pizza doughs that take a whole day: failed. Pizza dough that’s quick: failed.
Cheaty pizza dough made from a supermarket ciabatta mix? Ding ding ding, we have a winner!
There’s something about making pizza at home that means you can overlook the mountain of cheese because, well, at least it’s not Dominos, right? It’s a pizza recipe you can make on a work night, without faffing about with yeast. That, my friends, is my kinda meal. Read More
he pub was where I realised it: with just over 100 days to go, I am on a crash course for relearning patience. Perhaps not relearning; perhaps stretching through deep breaths and pressing outwards, like yoga. 100 days until the referendum, I mean, of course. Referendum debate is unavoidable now, whether it’s through facebook — oh god, facebook — or thrust into your actual face by a man waving The Sun, in a strangely accusatory manner, in a south London boozer.
Because that’s how the conversations start. Not through a natural topic change, but as a result of one person brandishing their opinion, treating their anecdotes like knuckledusters, as if when they hit you enough, they’ll win.
It won’t relent over the next three months; the same old arguments will continue to be trotted out by the same people, often unprompted, and unnecessary when we both know neither will change their mind. And I will be there thinking, “We could be talking about books right now, or food, or anything, honestly anything, else.” So we breathe, and we press at the barriers of our tolerance, feeling them expand, and we let these next few months run their course.
This bread, too, requires patience, and the ability to know when it’s time to walk away and let things play out. All the grinding and rising and warming and soaking and blitzing that has to be done before you can enjoy the waft of butter and spice from the oven.
On Monday morning, I stepped out of the front door and it smelt like the summer finally turning to my favourite season. There was an edge to the air, the temperature a little cooler. “At last,” I thought, “Autumn’s arrived. Not long till I can crack out the tweed jacket again.”
And by 1pm I was cursing wearing three quarter sleeves and trying to convince myself that it wasn’t really obvious that my entire face was sweating. What the hell, autumn? You’re teasing me.
I tried to encourage you with salted caramel candles, but their smell mingled with my bravest perfume to make my bedroom smell like holiday caravans and now I’m terrified I stepped onto a packed tube smelling musty and a bit like pee.
There are a lot of smells I wish I could bottle: the smell of the house I grew up in, a fragrance you can’t detect unless you’ve been away from it for too long; the fresh crispness as summer turns to autumn and winter turns to spring, smell, taste, and feel all in one; sizzling bacon wafting through the flat.
I could also do with a perfume that smells of baking bread with butter, sugar and spices. Maybe Nigella should do a celebrity perfume. Who wouldn’t want to smell like dessert? (Apart from cannibals, maybe).
Because even if it’s still 26C outside, the aroma of pumpkin, maple, and all the best spices will make everything feel a bit more cozy. In one whiff it’s chilly Sunday mornings and knee high Fairisle socks, wooly hats and coming in from the rain to clasp a huge mug of hot chocolate with both hands.
The maple and pumpkin flavours are delicate, the back up singers to the star of the show – pumpkin pie spice. Since cobbling together a jar of the stuff, I’ve thrown it into yoghurt and onto toast, but I like it best wrapped up in warm, soft dough.
Now I just need the weather to catch up with me.
Pumpkin pie spice
Below is the ratio of spices – it’s easily scaled up to make a jar full.
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Mix ’em up and store in an airtight container!
The dough and the filling both use Moose Maple Butter, a taste revelation that burst into my life a couple of months ago at Food Blogger Connect. It’s UK launch isn’t until November – but it’s worth the wait. Your morning (and lunch, and evening…) toast will never be the same again.
For the dough:
350g plain flour
1 envelope of yeast
1/2 tsp salt
55g maple butter
110g pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
For the filling:
55g maple butter
2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1) Whisk together 2/3 the flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs.nIn a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter until the butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before whisking in the pumpkin and vanilla extract.
2) Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir until evenly distributed.
3) Add the remaining flour, mix until fully incorporated and transfer the mixture to a large greased bowl. Cover with cling film and live in a warm place until doubled in size. While the dough rises, mix together the sugar and spices and grease a large roasting tray.
4) When the dough has risen, tip it out onto a generously floured surface, and lightly knead about 3 tbsp of flour into the dough. Split the dough into two equal portions. On the floured surface, roll one portion out into 25cm circle.
5) Warm the butter until just melted and spread half of it over the rolled dough, using the back of a spoon or a pastry brush to push it to the edges. Sprinkle with half the sugar and spice mix.
6) Use a pizza cutter to divide the circle into 16 segments. Roll each segment tightly from the edge of the circle inwards and transfer to the roasting tray. Repeat with the second portion of dough and remaining filling.
7) Cover with a clean towel and leave in a warm place until almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 180C.
8) When almost doubled in size, bake the rolls on the centre shelf of the oven for 35 minutes, until a deep golden brown on top. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Hands up if you feel like switching your oven on right now!
Tumbleweed, as expected. The nation’s bakers are on strike. Grass is the colour of sand, and people are the colour of lobsters. As we enter the third week of real summer, the country is wilting.
I’m already dreaming of jeans and jackets and pumpkin puree in everything. I’m planning what I’ll make when the temperatures dip below 20 again – hey, remember that? – and I’m not avoiding the oven for fear of melting away like a snowman.
But there’s one major plus to the heat. I first made these rolls – and, indeed took these photos – in March. And by March I, of course, mean “the dead of winter, 2013”. I made the dough, sat the bowl on top of a hot water bottle, wrapped it lovingly in my duvet. I glanced at it every twenty minutes or so, waiting to see if it had grown. Two hours later, it had just about doubled. We’d managed to ward off the cold long enough to get that yeast going.
But these days? It’s just a matter of popping it in a warm room and watching it grow, like a nature programme time lapse video of a butterfly maturing.
The best way to eat these rolls – in any weather – is sliced in half, toasted, and spread with mashed avocado. Perfect.
100g wholemeal bread flour
400g white bread flour
7g fast action yeast (one sachet)
80g cheddar, grated
Lukewarm water (around 350ml)
1) In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, sugar, and salt, keeping the salt and yeast on opposite sides initially. Add around half the water, and turn the mixture with your fingers. Add the rest of the water a little at a time, until all the flour is picked up from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to use all the water. Continue to turn with your fingers until a rough dough forms.
2) Coat your work top with a little olive oil, then tip the dough out and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Allow to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.
3) Lightly flour your worktop and tip out the dough. Knock out the air by folding the dough inwards until the dough is smooth. Grease a 10 inch round cake tin (Springform if you have it!).
4) Split the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll one piece into a ball and then flatten out. Spoon around 2/3tsp pesto into the centre, and top with 1/8th of the cheese.
5) Fold all the edges in to make a ball and place in the cake tin join side down. Repeat with the remaining 7 pieces, cover the tin with a clean tea towel and leave to double in size. Preheat oven to 170C.
6) When the rolls have risen, pour about 3 inches of boiling water into a large roasting tin and place at the bottom of the oven. Bake the rolls on the centre shelf for about 40 minutes, until the tops are a deep golden brown and they make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.
At 4pm, every single day, my phone goes off. It’s that time of day when I’m at my desk, the weight of my lunch having left my stomach, considering a cup of coffee and something to eat. And then my phone vibrates somewhere off to my left.
It’s a text about pizza.
It’s not always a text – sometimes it’s an email. It’s not always Dominos – sometimes it’s Papa Johns or Pizza Hut, because I’m not that into brand loyalty. Sometimes within a five minute window I get two, from two different companies. It’s no coincidence of course – 4pm is when we’re in a slump, between meals and with flagging attention spans. But every time it makes me want a cheesy, gooey delight.
To make it clear, I’m not the kind of pizza eater that can sit down with a side salad and a glass of wine and have a sophisticated pizza-eating session. The vast majority of my pizza experiences in recent years have occurred in one of two ways. A) When I’m walking home after a night out, having repeatedly asked “But what is the rum gone?”, and in desperate need of all of the carbs; or B) 9 hours after A) having sat starring at my laptop whining, “But why doesn’t anyone deliver pizza before 12 o’clock? It’s 10am and I need a meat feast with cheesy crust NOW!”, and then spending two hours gazing forlornly at my un-knocked-upon front door, waiting for a man in a motorbike helmet to relieve my pain.
So you can see why, until recently, I’d never made pizza at home – honestly, it sounded kind of a pain in the ass. It sounded like all the faff of bread making but with added hassle with sorting out toppings. That’s not what you need at 6pm on a weeknight, let alone after one too many bottles glasses of wine. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
This is the part of the post where I should be all “But it was so easy! So quick!” But a liar I am not.
It was kind of a pain in the ass. Even using a quick dough from Smitten Kitchen, it takes a while, although admittedly this is at least in part because I like to jam as much garlic into tomato sauce as possible. But being able to control exactly what goes into it makes the whole job more worth it, because there’s no uneven cheese distribution, and no mystery fat left pooling in a cardboard box when the rest has been hoovered up by your hungover face. You can’t get tricked into eating green peppers.
And the absence of peppers, alone, makes it worth it. See ya later, Pizza Hut. Sayonara, Papa Johns. Au revoir, Dominos.
Pizza dough recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
I used half plain flour and half wholemeal bread flour, but you could use 200g plain flour, or 200g white bread flour. If not using wholemeal flour, you will need less water. Unearthed prosciutto is currently on offer in Waitrose!
I drizzled the cooked pizza with a little balsamic vinegar and served it with a rocket salad.
7g (one sachet) fast action dried yeast
100g plain flour
100g wholemeal bread flour
Approximately 150ml warm water
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
3/4 cup passata or chopped tomatoes
30g cheddar, grated
50g mozzarella, sliced
A handful of spinach, or more as desired
50g goats cheese, sliced
40g prosciutto, chopped
1) Stir together the flours, yeast, and salt, then gradually add the water, mixing with a wooden spoon, until the dough comes roughly together – you may not need all of the water. Gather the dough and tip out onto a lightly floured counter to knead it for about 5 minutes, so that the dough becomes smooth.
2) Coat a medium sized bowl with olive oil, place the dough in it, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to double in size (about half an hour).
3) While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 170C.
4) Lightly fry the onion and garlic until soft, and then add the passata or chopped tomato and simmer over a low heat.
5) When the dough has doubled in size, tip it out, lightly knead it. Tear off a piece of baking parchment just bigger than your baking tray and on this roll out the dough into a rough square the size of your baking tray, about half a centimetre thick.
6) Spread the tomato sauce onto your base, and then layer with the remaining ingredients – apart form the prosciutto – as you wish. (I went sauce, cheddar, mozzarella, spinach, goats cheese).
7) Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 20 minutes before adding the prosciutto. Bake for a further 15-25 minutes, until the base of the pizza is mid-brown underneath.