Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pizza for my Grandparents

I’ve had my grandparents over from Tasmania for the past week, not only has this brought about a large amount of stress but also the need to cook food that they will eat (not overly spicy). This has proven to be especially tricky. I failed on the first night with vegetable pasties (how this was too exotic for them, I have no idea) and they were a little uncertain about stir-fry (too much sweet chilli?). By the third night, I was stuck, but the promise of a long Sunday at home with the heating on seemed to lend itself to homemade pizza making. With Anna making pizza as well this weekend, I thought that it was a good opportunity to compare techniques.

Unlike the lovely Anna, I am a little scared of fresh yeast and so stuck with the dry variety. I also found the dough was a little sticky, even with extra flour, and stuck to the bowl it was rising in. This didn’t seem to have any affect on the end result. For the toppings, I made one with cheese and olives (to cater for my obsessive addiction to them) and the other with spinach, capsicum and mushrooms. The grandparents seemed to enjoy the pizza (despite my grandmother thinking that the spinach was mint!) but it is really open to adaptation to suit your own tastes.

Pizza Dough
Makes 4 large pizzas

2 sachets yeast (I used Tandaco brand)
1 tsp salt
800g (5 cups) plain flour
olive oil
2 cups lukewarm water

Mix yeast and salt with flour.
Mix 2 Tbl olive oil with water. Mix into dry ingredients.

Knead until mixture is smooth and elastic (I found that 10-15 minutes should do it).
Grease bowl with olive oil. Transfer dough to bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place (in front of a heater works a treat) until doubled in size (about 1 ½ hours.)

Knock back dough and fold it over gently a few times.
Allow to rise again, covered, for about 30-40 minutes.

Knock back dough. Divide into 4 and press onto 4 large greased pizza trays.
Allow dough to recover for 5 minutes.

Add toppings.
Cook at 200°C for about 15 minutes.

Sweet Potato Irish Soda Bread

I absolutely love dense, heavy artisan-bakery style bread but it is much too expensive - half a loaf of a good sourdough at the market is $6.80! So I usually end up with a soft, squishy rye bread which looks enticingly healthy but is actually just fluff and air - much cheaper but infinitely inferior. Making my own bread didn't occur to me because it sounded too time consuming.

But! Soda bread doesn't take long at all, as it bypasses the yeast and waiting business. It also has a nice, dense texture reminiscent of scones or damper and can be varied in much the same way as yeast bread. I found a good recipe in an old Women's Weekly and added in some mashed sweet potato to liven it up a bit. I found a big sweet potato hiding in the back of the cupboard and wanted to use it before it went bad. That's my new thing - using EVERYTHING in the cupboard, finding a way to use up all sorts of bits and pieces in interesting ways.

This bread was very popular with my housemates and the various visitors we had in the few days it was around. It's very filling and very easy. Next time I think I'll make a version with sunflower seeds and perhaps some spices. I wanted to take a photo of it when it came out of the oven as it looked so perfect, but couldn't get any photographic device to work, and couldn't fathom leaving the house to get more batteries before I tried some!

Sweet Potato Irish Soda Bread

1 large sweet potato, boiled and mashed
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups wholemeal flour
2 1/2 cups white flour
buttermilk, approx 2 cups

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Mix all ingredients in large bowl until they come together as a dough - gradually adding buttermilk as you go. Add more buttermilk if needed, or more flour if it gets too sticky. (Again, I used a baking tray because I strangely do not have a large bowl!). Form dough into a 20cm round.

Grease a large flat baking tray. Sit dough on top, cut a cross shaped slit into the top, about 1cm deep. Brush dough with a bit of milk - it gives it a nice crust.

Bake in the oven for 50 mins - 1 hour.

All done!

Note to vegans: you could use soy milk instead of buttermilk. I'd probably use milk instead of buttermilk anyway because using buttermilk substantially ups the price of this baked product, as it costs around $2.50 for 500 ml. I think soy or cow milk would work just as well, and I will try it next time. One of the main ideas behind these baking adventures is economy!

Home made pizza on a Sunday

Hello there. A short introduction - my name is Anna and I like art, writing, music and cooking and eating, but not necessarily in that order. Cooking is probably up the top for me, alongside eating.

The idea for this blog (co-authored with the lovely Camila) came about whilst doing weekly volunteer work at a gallery we shan't name. Camila and I met at the gallery and realised we had much more in common than a love of art - for example, gypsy music and recipes. We talked increasingly more about food and ingredients rather than what was going on around us in the warehouse-conversion contemporary art space we were located in a the time. The result being - we quit the gallery and spent our time together experimenting in the kitchen.

Anyway, the pizza: I was inspired by Michael Ruhlman's food blog last week (www.ruhlman.com) which practically implored readers to make their own pizza. The following recipe is loosely based on his, but importantly I used fresh yeast instead of dried, mainly because my parents did when I was younger, and I love the smell. (A side note: I bought a 50gram piece of fresh yeast from the Preston Market, which excited me intensely, when I was buying various cheeses and meats for the toppings of the pizza. When I was unpacking my market trolley, I picked it up, smelled it, and exclaimed, 'This smells like my childhood!', to which my crass but loveable housemate replied, 'Did you get a lot of thrush when you were younger?' Appalled, I remarked that pizza making was a big thing in my childhood home, and my Dad had also made his own beer, leaving the house with a yeasty smell. This short convo almost put me off my baking enthusiasm).

Home made pizza

4 cups flour
2 1/2 cups warm water, with 10 grams approx. of fresh yeast mixed in
1 teaspoon salt
dash olive oil

toppings of your choosing...

Mix the flour, yeasty water, olive oil and salt in a large bowl ( I used a baking dish, because I don't have a large bowl. If I had had a large bowl, things would have been a lot easier). Knead together to make a dough.

Scatter some flour on a bench surface, plonk dough on top, and knead for about 10 minutes. Put dough in a greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Put in warm place (if you can find one in this weather!) Leave for at least 3 hours. I left it for about 5 hours, but it doesn't matter really.

About an hour before you want to eat, re-knead the dough (punch it first, apparently) for a little bit, then divide it into 2 balls. Roll out each ball to the size you want your pizza (I used round pizza trays, around 30cm wide). I don't have a rolling pin, so after scratching my head a bit deciding what to do, I found that a wine bottle works just as well!

Preheat oven to 230 degrees C. Press pizza dough onto greased pizza trays. I spread the first one (above) with a homemade pesto of basil, pinenuts, roast garlic and parmesan, then topped it with green olives, white anchovies, fetta and a sprinkle of mozzarella. This one was topped with wild rocket when it came out of the oven.

The next pizza had a smearing of tomato paste, roasted garlic, sliced fior di latte cheese and prosciutto. (I added the prosciutto at the last 5 mins of cooking time in the oven to prevent it becoming a burnt frizzle).

Put them in the oven for approx 2o mins, rotating the oven trays half way through.

Serve with wine! Feeds approximately 4 people.

Note: Please excuse the slightly poor quality of the photographs - I don't have a camera yet! These were taken on a camera phone and tidied up a bit on photoshop - Thanks Andrew :-) He's done a very good job with such a poor instrument...

I would encourage everyone to make their own pizza: it is delicious, cheap, and a very very satisfying. Experiment with toppings to your heart's content...