Monthly Archives: May 2011

Homemade pizza

I am going to tell you how to make a pizza in 20 minutes. That wasn’t really a lie. Slightly bending the truth, I accept that. But wait! You honestly can make a pizza in 20 minutes. You just need to be sneaky… sneaky is good. Sneaky pizza is very good.

Now tell me you don’t want to make it. That would definitely be a lie.

Ingredients:
For the bases (makes 4):
3 tbsp olive oil
1 packet (7g) fast-action dried yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
600g strong white bread flour
large pinch salt

For the pizza:
a few tbsp tomato paste
50g cheddar
50g mozzarella
oregano or Italian herbs
any other toppings you like

Method:
1. Put the yeast, sugar and oil into a jug with 335ml lukewarm water. Set aside for a couple of minutes
2.  Put the flour and salt into a large bowl, then add the liquid. Mix until it all comes together, then knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes
3. Oil a large bowl (or use the same one) and put the dough into it. Cover with a teatowel and leave somewhere warm to rise for an hour
4. Preheat the oven to 230C (fan 210C). Briefly nead the dough again on a floured surface , then split into four and roll out each piece to a 1/2 cm thickness
5. Transfer the pizza base to a baking tray. Spread on enough tomato paste to cover the base, then add the toppings and sprinkle with cheese and herbs. Bake for 10-12 minutes

This pizza was truly delicious – I had it with anchovy paste mixed in with the tomato paste, and onions on top. Stinky but delicious. The second time I made it, I had it with mushrooms. Less stinky, still delicious. This pizza tastes way better than the ones you buy in the supermarket. And because you’ve made it all yourself, it feels positively virtuous. Well, it may not help your daily vegetable intake but the fact that it’s completely handmade has to count for something, right?

The real genius lies in the fact that you can freeze the spare bases by wrapping them in clingfilm. They take barely any time to defrost (I just put one on a baking tray when I get home from work), then barely any time again to whack on the toppings and bake. Not to mention that you can have your pizza exactly how you like it, AND you can save pennies in the process. Great news if you are saving for your imaginary vintage china collection, or, you know, a house in which to keep said china collection (amongst other things). Normally I wouldn’t consider eating pizza off a vintage plate but in this situation I would say it is completely justified. Eat and be happy =)

Eggless double chocolate cookies

I am still searching for the perfect cookie recipe, so I was delighted when I picked up the June edition of Sainsbury’s magazine and found six variations on a cookie recipe. What is interesting is that the recipe uses condensed milk instead of egg, so while I now have half a tin of condensed milk in my freezer that I will pull out in three month’s time and wonder what the heck it is, the brilliance is that you can eat as much raw cookie dough as you like. You could also use it to make cookie dough ice cream, but I suspect I will really start to appreciate the egglessness in the future when I am pregnant. Just saying.

Makes 16

Ingredients
125g butter, softened
125g granulated sugar
2 tablespoons condensed milk
125g self-raising flour
50g cocoa, sifted
pinch salt
100g white chocolate, chopped (or white chocolate chips)

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 150C (fan 130C). Line or grease two baking sheets
2. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the condensed milk, then the flour, cocoa and salt. Finally, stir in the chocolate
3. Roll into balls then squash flat onto a baking tray, leaving space for the cookies to spread
4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are firm but the centres are still soft. Cool on the baking tray for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack (but not for too long. We all know cookies are best still oven-warm)

Firstly, I have to say that the cookie dough was delicious. I probably ate a whole cookie’s worth before I managed to get them in the oven. And the cookies themselves were delicious too – crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I look forward to trying some of the other variations… toffee fudge chunk here I come… after I finish off the chocolate ones, of course.

Giant French Fancy

Ah, bank holidays. After a three day week that felt like it would never end, what better way to pass the time than making a giant version of a Mr Kipling classic? Henry and I decided last week that this was something that had to be done. This is undoubtedly not the way most people would consider spending their bank holiday but hey, that’s just the way we rock and roll.

Due to immense skill luck with the sizing of the pan (which, might I add, I bought specially), the proportions turned out just right. See him there with his baby brother? He’s 96 times larger – the regular size measures 1.5″ square and 1″ tall. Ours was 6″ square and and 4″ tall – not including the dome of buttercream topping – a total of 144 cubic inches of cake. Nice.

For your pleasure here is how we did it:

Ingredients
For the cake:
450g butter
450g granulated sugar
8 eggs
420g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
50g cornflour
9 x 13 inch deep baking pan
Plus a really big mixing bowl (imagine trying to fit 100 French fancies in your mixing bowl… that’s how big it’s got to be. Incidentally, if you halve this recipe you can make a lovely 8 inch layer cake)

For the buttercream topping:
80g butter
3 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
350g icing sugar

For the outer icing:
1 packet ready-roll icing
red or yellow food colouring
A couple of tablespoons of buttercream and some milk to dilute

Method
1. Eat a regular French Fancy so you are au fait with what you are trying to recreate.

2. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 180 (160 fan). Grease and line the pan – I used a non-stick baking sheet that stuck out over two sides of the pan – this really assisted in getting the cake out in one piece. Cream the butter and the sugar in the large bowl. Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl then add the eggs in twos, alternating with the dry ingredients until all are used up. Finally, mix in the milk. Pour into the pan, smooth out and bake for around an hour, turning during cooking. You may need to cover the top with foil to stop it browning too much (mine rose more than I was expecting and got close to the element, so the top was very brown). When done, a knife inserted into the centre should come out clean.

3. Lift the cake out of the pan and leave to cool. Cut into two 6 x 6 inch squares. Do whatever you see most fitting with the spare cake.

4. Make the buttercream: Soften the butter (but don’t melt it), then cream with the milk, vanilla and half the icing sugar. When smooth, beat in the rest of the icing sugar.

5. Assemble the cake: Put the bottom layer of the cake on whatever you’re planning to serve it on. Spread with a thin layer of buttercream, so the top layer will stick. Put the top layer on – careful now! Because of the way mine rose I turned the top layer upside down and put it on so that the risen corners were diagonal to each other, giving a nice flat top to the fancy.

6. Add the buttercream topping: Dollop on to the centre of the cake then smooth into a nice round dome. Keep back a couple of tablespoons for the lines of icing on the top. Pat down with a spatula (or clean hands) for a smooth finish.

7. Put on the outer icing: Knead in the red colouring until you achieve the desired colouring. It helps to have the original to compare. Roll out as big as you can get it and drape over the cake. Mould around the buttercream topping so it’s smooth on top, then smooth around the sides. I couldn’t get mine big enough as it was getting quite thin and falling apart, so I had to do a couple of the sides separately. You can spend an age trying to smooth it all down and get it perfect if you like, or you can decide enough’s enough and move on when it’s satisfactory.

8. Dilute the buttercream you savedfrom step 6 with a little milk, until it’s fairly runny. Pipe or drizzle the stripes on.

I have to say, the giant version is definitely an improvement on the regular size. Not only does it taste better, but did I mention it’s 96 times larger? A pretty good use of an evening I think!