Sourdough Pizza

I finally bought a pizza stone a couple of months ago after restraining myself for years. I had never cooked with one but they are supposed to make your pizza better and I had been having issues with a soggy and undercooked pizza crust for quite some time. The result? Crispy crust, quick cooking time, all round better pizza in my opinion.

Question: what is a pizza stone? Answer: it is a relatively simple way of recreating the conditions found inside a pizza oven without having to go out and build yourself a new, extraordinarily expensive piece of kit. The moment the dough hits the stone, it is exposed to a huge amount of heat which makes the yeast go crazy giving a super puffy, air-filled crust. The pizza stone retains its heat well so the addition of a (comparatively) cold pizza on top of it does little to lower its overall temperature. This causes the base of the pizza to cook fully and quickly, giving a solid, crisp base that will not be soggy. Any sections of dough which may be a little wet quickly dry, as the pizza stone is porous and thus pulls moisture out of the base of the crust again leading to a crispier base… I think there may be a pattern here. Basically, this can all be summed up as: the pizza stone ensures the crust is cooked quickly and properly and – most importantly – fully before the toppings begin to burn.

I have used metal trays for baking pizza and, while they do work, the best method I know still involves preheating the tray and then transferring the pizza onto it. Unlike the stone, metal is not porous, so any steam which may escape through the base of the pizza is trapped against the dough – causing it to be reabsorbed and softening the dough. Some methods of cooking use both a pizza stone and a metal sheet. The pizza goes on the preheated sheet and the stone rests on a wire rack directly above the pizza. Again, this is recreating the conditions of a pizza oven where extreme heat is being blasted at the pizza from all directions, the base of the oven, the roof, even the walls all help cook the pizza.

When it comes to hand stretching dough, I have found that the best way to learn is watching online tutorials. Written instructions are ok but it is so much easier when you can see what is going on. It may split the first time… or the second… or even once you think you know what is going on but this is fine – I just stitch it all back together and after the cheese is added, no one will be able to tell. Stretching the dough by hand, in my experience, is the best way to get a puffy crust on the pizza. When you stretch it, the dough from the centre of the pizza is slowly transferred to the outside. This can weaken the centre of the pizza though so make sure to keep an eye on it and if any bits seem dangerously thin, try and avoid stretching them any more than necessary.

Sourdough pizza (like normal sourdough bread) takes time and you need to plan ahead if you want to eat it. Luckily, the majority of the time needed is resting and proving so it is not too time consuming when you are actually making it. I prefer the taste of sourdough bases but let me know what you think if you try it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can always make your own or you could get some from a friend. I am sure there will be someone in your local area with one who would be happy to donate a little to you.

 

 

Sourdough pizza:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Rest time: 16 hours

 

To reactivate the starter:

½ cup sour dough starter

1 cup strong white flour

1 cup water

 

For the dough:

75ml water

500g flour

2 tbsp olive oil

10g salt

 

For toppings: tomato passata, mozzarella, any other toppings of your choice

 

Mix the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Cover and leave overnight. You can use the starter straight from the fridge, no need to warm it up as that is what this step will do.

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After sitting overnight, the starter should be very bubbly.

 

In the morning, add the flour for the dough, 25ml water and oil to the reactivated starter. Mix until it forms a shaggy mess – it need not all stick together at this point. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

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Sprinkle over the salt and the rest of the water and knead to combine.

Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

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Cover and leave to rise for six or seven hours. I would set this up before work and leave it in a cool place throughout the day.

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About an hour before making the pizzas, split the dough into four and shape each quarter into a ball. Cover and leave again for half an hour to let the gluten relax.

 

Place a pizza stone into the oven and turn your oven to the highest setting (mine is gas mark 9 at around 250°C). ALLOW THIS TO HEAT UP FOR AT LEAST HALF TO THREE-QUARTERS OF AN HOUR.

Take one of the balls of dough and flatten it using your fingertips. Stretch the dough until it is the same size as your stone. This can be done by picking it up at the edge and rotating the dough so its own weight stretches it. This ensures the dough in the middle of the pizza is nice and thin and the edges are a bit thicker so you get a good crust. You could also use a rolling pin if it is easier for you.

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Spread the tomato paste out from the centre until it is half an inch from the outside of the dough.

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Grate/thinly slice the mozzarella and sprinkle it over the pizza. Top with your favourite toppings.

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Using a single, swift motion slide a peel underneath the pizza. (A peel is just a large, flat paddle. It might be worth practicing getting the pizza onto and off of the peel before you add the toppings (as in when it is just the base)). You cannot build the pizza on the peel as it will stick if it is left there too long. If you do not have a peel (like me) you could use a cake lifter or even make the pizza on baking parchment and slide this parchment from a normal baking tray onto the pizza stone.

By gently shaking the peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for five to ten minutes (depending on your oven temperature). When the pizza is done, it should be able to be tilted by lifting up one side as the base will be cooked and a little crispy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you would like to have a go at normal, non-sourdough pizza, check out my recipe. The crust is super light and fluffy and it tastes amazing. I have been known to lightly brush the outer crust (without the toppings) with garlic oil and give it a sprinkle of sea salt for extra flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious sweet treat.

H

 

 

Cinnamon Buns

The smell of cinnamon buns baking in the oven is hard to beat. One of the best things about baking is that you can fill your house with the aroma of delicious sweet and savoury treats but within those smells there is a definite hierarchy. Bread, chocolate brownies and cinnamon buns have to be at the top of the list; I love cake as much as the next baker but the smell of cake in the oven doesn’t quite make me salivate and prepare to overeat in the same way that breathing in the scent of pure chocolate goodness or hot, sweet, fluffy buns does.

 

Cinnamon can be bought either as sticks or as a powder but, no matter how you try to disguise it, cinnamon is tree bark. There are several species from which it can be obtained but, in essence, it is the dried inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum. This genus is part of the Lauraceae family, which also includes herbs such as bay leaves (bay laurel) and the classic millennial food: the avocado. Cinnamon is extracted by scraping the outer bark off freshly cut trees, beating what is left of the tree until the inner bark detaches from the rest of the plant and finally prying off the inner bark and leaving it to dry. After all of that work, only a thickness of around half a millimetre is actually used for the spice. The cinnamon trees are far thicker than the final cinnamon sticks which you can buy but as it dries, the bark curls up into the tight spirals which can be seen in the sticks (or quills). In Sri Lanka – one of the primary suppliers of cinnamon to the world – the tightness of the curls is used as a method of grading the product.

 

There are records of cinnamon dating back over four millennia, although some believe that what was recorded as cinnamon back then was actually cassia (native to China) – another species within the Cinnamomum genus but not true cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum which is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar). Cinnamon was highly prized and was gifted to leaders as well as being used as an offering in temples. Around 2000 years ago, the price of a pound of true cinnamon (about 1500 denarii) was roughly equivalent to 50 months labour for the average Roman. The price dropped rapidly from there as people started to use cassia which was far more available (a mere 125 denarii per pound) and tastes very similar. Nowadays cinnamon costs about £35 per pound for the standard own brand cinnamon sticks in a supermarket.

 

The primary constituent of the essential oil in cinnamon, and the one which gives cinnamon its distinctive smell, is cinnamaldehyde. This is what infuses your house when you bake cinnamon buns. As the boiling point of cinnamaldehyde is 248°C, baking will not drive off all of this compound so there will still be plenty left in the buns after cooking to give them the taste that you want. Obviously you can change the amount of cinnamon in the filling to suit your own taste but be careful not to put too much in. If you over cinnamon your buns, the filling can trigger pain receptors in the mouth giving a feeling akin to burning – this is what hot cinnamon sweets do. In the quantities given in the recipe, you won’t experience the burn and all you will get is cinnamon flavoured, yeasty heaven.

 

These things really are divine.

 

Cinnamon Buns

For the dough:

500g plain flour

80g caster sugar

1.5 tsp salt

10g instant yeast

2 eggs

60g butter

100ml water

80ml milk

 

For the filling:

100g unsalted butter

90g soft brown sugar (or white sugar if you don’t have any brown)

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

 

Glaze:

150g icing sugar

2tbsp milk

Pinch of salt

Optional: vanilla extract

 

 

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

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In a pan, gently heat the milk, water and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture feels warm to the touch but not hot.

Add the milk and butter to the dry ingredients along with the eggs.

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Mix together slowly using a dough hook until a dough is formed – this will prevent you accidentally covering the kitchen in flour.

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Switch the mixer to medium and knead the dough until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

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While the dough is rising, beat together the butter, sugar and cinnamon for the filling until it is very soft. You need to be able to spread this on the dough after it has been rolled out without tearing it.

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Grease a large baking dish. I use a tarte tatin tin.

Roll out the dough to a 24×18 inch rectangle.

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Spread the dough with the filling making sure to spread all the way to the edges.

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Roll the rectangle of dough up lengthwise into a sausage shape.

Trim off the ends as they will be messy and not have as much filling.

Cut the sausage into twelve to sixteen little spirals.

Place the spirals into the baking dish making sure to leave an inch or so between them so they can rise.

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Cover again and leave to rise for at least half an hour more or until the rolls have doubled in size.

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Bake the cinnamon buns for 25 minutes. If they start browning too much, cover them with silver foil to stop them darkening any more.

Allow the buns to cool in the tray for about five minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. You may have to invert them onto a tray and then back onto the cooling rack as they are very soft and you don’t want to tear them.

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Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.

Add a tablespoon of milk and mix to make a thick paste. If the icing sugar is too thick, you can add more milk but be careful not to make the icing too runny.

Spread of pipe the icing over the still warm buns. The heat will cause the icing to be absorbed more and flow into all the cracks and divots of the buns.

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These can be served either hot or cold. They are so delicious however they are eaten.

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If you are a fan of fun bread, why not try making some bagels? You can make them cinnamon flavoured too…

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a dish which is far easier to make than you would expect!

H

Tricolour Vegetable Bread

A few years ago, I came across a method of plaiting challah which created a circular braid. It was incredibly exciting as this was not a plait that I had ever seen before and the final shape is really something to behold. It’s stunning. Somehow, it looks even better than the bread you can buy in a shop as it is clearly handmade but is precise and beautiful. Fast forward three years and a vegan friend requested that, instead of a birthday cake, I make her a loaf of bread. At the time I was creating my artisan vegetable loaves recipe, which I suggest you try before this one as this recipe is a little fiddly. (That being said, if you want to just go for it- why not? Even if the braid doesn’t work, you’ll still have a really cool loaf of bread.) This recipe is what I came up with for her birthday as I didn’t want to just do a bog-standard loaf of bread.

Challah is an enriched bread eaten by Jews as part of the Shabbat meal. There are many theories about why it is plaited. Traditionally, two loaves are served and each one has six stands. This brings us to the number twelve (the total number of stands) and this is often taken to represent the twelve loaves of bread which would be offered at the Holy Temple. This theory holds water as the number twelve comes up in lots of different shabbat bread traditions. Some families will actually have twelve mini loaves of bread whereas others will have a tear ‘n’ share style loaf with twelve separate sections. I will make an instructional post about how to braid a six-strand loaf of bread at some point in the future.

Another suggestion for the braiding is to make the challah instantly recognisable. As it is often baked in the oven with a meat meal, the challah is not kosher to eat with any dairy products; to prevent anyone inadvertently doing so, the challah was given a unique shape. This reasoning is less necessary now as people who buy challah need not worry if the bread is kosher to eat with meat or milk, it is parve (classed as neither milk nor meat and thus allowed to be eaten with both). If you make your own challah, you will have most likely considered the ‘meatiness’ of the bread already if it is something which concerns you.

As you will see in the recipe, different amount of sugar are added to the different vegetable doughs. The spinach dough has one teaspoon added and the carrot, half a teaspoon. This is because the vegetables all have different sugar contents which will affect the rise of the dough. By adjusting the levels manually, we can ensure an even rise when the dough is proving which is important if we want the final loaf to keep its shape.

I hope you find the recipe as fun to bake as I found to create. You can swap the vegetables for any of your choice or even just try out the six braid on normal bread. This loaf is also good to egg wash but be careful not to let the egg pool in the divots as no one wants scrambled egg baked into their bread.

 

Tricolour Vegetable Bread

Prep: 1 hour

Shaping: 30 minutes

Cooking: 40 minutes

 

Ingredients – makes two loaves

900g flour

1 small beetroot

150g spinach

1 medium carrot

3 teaspoons instant yeast

1 ½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp sugar

 

Peel and roughly chop the beetroot.

Blend it with a few tablespoons of water until a mostly smooth paste is formed – it will still be a little gritty as the beetroot is raw so will not puree as well as a cooked one would. This is fine as the beetroot will cook in the oven and blend into the bread.

Set this paste aside and repeat with the carrot and then the spinach so you have your three colours of vegetable paste.

 

In a bowl, place 300g flour, 1 teaspoon yeast and ½ teaspoon salt.

Make a well in the middle.

Add water to the beetroot mix until you have 200ml and pour it into the well.

Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. If you need to, add more water.

Once the dough has mostly come together, tip it out onto a surface and knead it for five minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Remember, the beetroot will ensure that it is never fully smooth on top.

Cover and place to one side to rise.

Repeat the above steps with the spinach paste (adding one teaspoon of sugar to this) and the carrot paste (adding half a teaspoon of sugar).

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Leave the doughs until they have at least doubled in size – this can take several hours if it is a cold day.

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To shape: split each dough into four even pieces and place two of each colour off to one side for later.

Roll out the dough into long stands – I normally go for around twelve inches.

Follow the diagram below to set up your basket weave.

basket weave

Once you reach step five where all of the stands are in place, number them starting with the top left one and go clockwise around the loaf.

Place strand 1 over 2, 3 over 4, 5 over 6 etc. until all of them have had their first weave and the loaf looks more like the final image (albeit a little neater).

Renumber the strands.

Place 3 over 2, 5 over 4, 7 over 6 etc. until you get all the way around.

Renumber and repeat from the first weaving step until all the dough has been used up.

Once there are no bits of dough left on the outside, tuck any remaining edges under the loaf to neaten it up and move the loaf onto a baking tray to rise again.

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Repeat with the other loaf

Cover the loaves and leave it until they have doubled in size again – I like to cover them with a tea towel as there are no issues with it sticking which can sometimes arise if you use plastic.

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Risen and egg washed

Once the loaves have doubled in size, turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

When the oven is up to temperature, uncover the loaves and bake for 20 minutes. Turn them and bake for another 20 minutes.

If the bread is still not quite done after the full 40 minutes, give it another five but otherwise, remove it from the oven and leave on a cooling rack until completely cold. If you want to cut into it as soon as possible, leave it for at least two hours to ensure the interior won’t be doughy.

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If your oven is small, you may have to bake the two loaves separately – this is fine.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. This bread is wonderfully savoury and goes very well with soups or even toasted and smeared with a little bit of pesto. If you enjoy baking bread, why not try making bagels? They look amazing and taste delicious!

Have a good one an I will be back next week with a recipe for a rich Christmas cake – just in time for Christmas eve (although I hope you are planned and ready by then.

H

 

Basic Bagels

If I were to have to choose a last meal, fresh bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese would definitely be in the final shortlist. There is something about fresh bagels that no other bread comes close to matching; they are simply divine. A tiny bit of crunch on the outside and a chewy, satisfying filling make bagels some of the most delicious baked goods you can get.

Originating in Krakow, Poland, bagels have been around for just over 400 years. The name was derived from the Yiddish word beygal from the original German word beugel meaning bracelet, reflecting the shape of the bread. The ring shape not only helped with an even bake but also provided bakers with a way to promote their goods as the bagels could be threaded onto string or dowels for display in shop windows. Bagels were bought to England by Jewish immigrants and the Brick Lane district in London has been known for its fantastic bagel shops since the middle of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, bagels made their way to America. Introduced by Polish Jews leaving Europe, bagels didn’t really become popular until towards the end of the 20th century when the Bagel Bakers Local 338 (a local trade union which controlled the making of bagels) came to an end after the invention of the Thompson Bagel Machine which could make bagels far faster than humans.

Ignoring all the differences in toppings and flours, there are two distinct types of bagel which are separated by their method of cooking: the boiled bagel and the steamed bagel. Bagels are traditionally boiled which is what gives them their classic appearance, texture and taste but for mass production, the steam bagel was far easier. By removing the need to boil the dough, the speed of production was massively increased allowing steam bagels to be created in numbers much greater than bagels produced the traditional way. The injection of steam into the oven creates the smooth, glossy finish that most readily available bagels have and gives them a far lighter, fluffier texture.

The recipe below is for boiled bagels. They are definitely a little bit more work than steamed ones but really, they don’t take very much longer than plaiting a loaf of bread or even super artistic scoring. I hope you enjoy making them as they are great to break out for guests or even if you just want to treat yourself a little.

Bagels

Prep time: 30 mins

Rising time: 90 minutes

Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Total time: around 2 hours 30 minutes

500g strong white flour

350ml water

1 sachet (7g) instant yeast

1 tbsp sugar plus 3tbsp for the boiling later

2tsp salt

Place the flour, salt, yeast and one tablespoon of sugar into a bowl.

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Add the water and stir until everything starts coming together.

Turn out onto a surface an knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic – around 10 minutes.

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Place the dough back into the bowl and leave to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (210°C).

Heat a large pan of water and add the remaining three tablespoons of sugar to it.

Split the dough into eight pieces and roll them into balls.

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Using the end of a wooden spoon or one of your fingers, poke a hole in the centre of each dough ball.

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Stretch the dough until the hole is around three centimetres across. A common way of doing this is by spinning the dough around the handle of a wooden spoon.

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Once the water is boiling, add the bagels a few at a time (no more than three or four) and boil with the lid on for 90 seconds or until a skin has formed.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bagels and place them onto a lined baking tray before repeating this with the rest of the bagels.

Bake the bagels for 22 minutes until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped.

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Let the bagels cool before cutting as they retain heat incredibly well and whilst delicious, they are not worth burning yourself for!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love making bread, why not try out some vibrant, artisanal, vegetable bread or if you are looking for something a little bit more savoury, why not treat yourself to a butternut squash and sweet potato crumble? It’s easy to make, vegetarian and packed full of flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a soup recipe which will keep you warm as winter approaches.

H

Fluffy Buttermilk Scones

There are many things that create conflict in this world. From politics to religion, people will always find something to argue about but one thing that is always guaranteed to get messy is: how do you prepare a scone. Cream then jam or jam then cream? This is not something that can be discussed in order to convince the other person you are correct, this is a matter of right and wrong. Despite following the Devonshire tradition of cream first, I appreciate that other people are welcome to follow the Cornish tradition of jam first. Of course, I also respect other people’s right to be incorrect but that is totally unrelated to this.

Scones are of course a particularly conflict inducing food because not only is there dispute about how to eat them, there is dispute about how to even pronounce their name. Is it scone or scone? The differences in pronunciation originate from both regional dialects and the old British class system. Scone as in gone tends to be more prevalent in northern England, Scotland and Ireland whereas scone as in cone is the normal pronunciation in both the south of England and the midlands.

Traditionally scones form the middle course of an afternoon tea; between the smoked salmon or cucumber sandwiches and the miniature cakes and pastries. They are bready and filling but not too sweet and are an easy way of getting the cream and jam to your mouth. Eaten around 4 o’clock afternoon tea emerged in the 1840s in the upper classes but by the end of the 19th century it was customary for the middle class to enjoy it too. Nowadays, going out for afternoon tea is a treat. That is of course, assuming you are not the Queen of England. She enjoys afternoon tea every day and is particularly partial to a slice of chocolate biscuit cake with it.

The recipes below are for plain, fruit and cheese scones but I wouldn’t advise using the last for an afternoon tea. When cutting the scone dough, it is important to use the sharpest cutter you can to avoid pinching the edges as this will prevent a vertical rise. You also want to work the dough as little as possible as overworked scones lose their fluffiness. Luckily, scones are very easy to make and of course, are absolutely delicious!

 

 

Scones

16 oz (450g) self raising flour (or 16 oz plain flour with 8 tsp baking powder)

4 oz (110g) butter

Pinch of salt

3 oz (85g) sugar

5.5 oz (150g) raisins with ½ tsp baking powder (optional)

284ml buttermilk (or 140ml yogurt with 140ml water)

Milk to glaze

 

Cheese Scones

16 oz (450g) self-raising flour (or 16 oz plain flour with 8 tsp baking powder)

4 oz (110g) butter

Pinch of salt

100g grated strong cheese + 25g to go on top

Pinch of cayenne pepper

½ tsp mustard

284ml buttermilk or 140ml yoghurt with 140ml water

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2200C).

Rub the butter into the flour and stir through the salt.

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Plain (at the back), cheese (left) and fruit (right) scones all ready to be mixed into a dough.

Use a blunt knife to stir in the raisins/sugar/grated cheese and cayenne pepper.

Use the knife to stir in the buttermilk (and mustard if you are using it) until the mixture starts to come together.

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Once you cannot combine the dough anymore with the knife, pour it onto a surface and gently knead it together into a homogenous ball.

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Roll out the dough to ¾ inch  (2cm) thickness.

Cut out the dough into 3 inch circles and move onto baking parchment.

Use a pastry brush to brush a little milk onto the top of each scone. Make sure not to let it drip down the sides as this will stop the scones rising properly.

For plain and fruit scones, sprinkle a little caster sugar over them or for cheese scones, sprinkle the reserved grated cheese on top.

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Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes, or until the scones are all golden brown on top.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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Serve plain and fruit scones with lashings of clotted cream and jam. Cheese scones go very well with a nice soup or piled high with grated cheese and chilli jam.

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Fruit scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam.
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Cheese scones with sliced cheddar and habanero pepper jam.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are considering making an afternoon tea, why not use a classic Victoria sandwich cake with it and maybe even make the sandwiches with some exciting artisan bread? Looking for a hearty dinner? treat yourself to a fantastic cottage pie. It serves four so you get leftovers too.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a great filling for a chicken pie.

H

 

Butternut Squash Soup

This week took a turn for the cold. With the promise of warm air being bought from Ex-Hurricane Ophelia, we were looking forward to at least a bit less of a bite in the air however up in Durham, it’s just got colder and colder. One of the upsides of the cold is that it’s now soup season! When you are feeling cold after walking home from work or just a bit under the weather, soup is a wonderful pick me up that is really easy the make and incredibly warming.

I am a huge fan of butternut squash soup owing to its simplicity to make and also how delicious it is. You can get 6 portions from one recipe which is ideal as the soup freezes very well and can be whipped out, defrosted and reheated in the span of 15 minutes for a quick and easy dinner. It is also perfect for a starter when entertaining as soup is very easy to spruce up to give a posh finish. I tend to use a teaspoon of cream, a little chilli oil and some chilli flakes as I really like spicy food and the three garnishes give a professional look to the dish.

Another benefit of soup is that you can dip bread in it. Fresh bread – still warm from the oven – is the perfect item for dipping. It makes the whole meal special and just adds to the experience. I try to make soup at university as it is very cheap to make and takes very little effort which is good when I am tired at the end of a week. The recipes are very transferable and you can substitute in different vegetables of your choice to make the soup your own.

Butternut Squash Soup

Servings: 6 – Cost per serving: about 50p – Prep Time: 20 minutes – Cook time: 30 minutes

1 large or 2 small butternut squash

2 onions

1 litre vegetable stock – made to half strength

2 cloves garlic – minced

Salt and Pepper

Olive oil

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They only had small butternut squashes in the shop so I had to use two 😦

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Slice the butternut squash into 1-2 cm thick slices and arrange on a baking tray.

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Grind some pepper and and sprinkle some salt over the butternut squash, drizzle with olive oil and place into the oven for half an hour, turning halfway through.

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After it’s cooked, the butternut squash will go slightly darker and translucent

About ten minutes before the squash comes out of the oven, roughly chop the onions and fry them in a large pan over a medium heat until they start to turn translucent – add the minced garlic.

Remove the squash from the oven and add to the onions.

Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 minutes to make sure all the vegetables are cooked

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Let cool for a few minutes and then blend until smooth.

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I ended up blending the soup in batches as the blender wasn’t big enough for it all. Alternatively you can use a stick blender!

Add salt, pepper and more stock powder (dry) to taste

Enjoy hot with some bread and a sprinkle of chilli flakes

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Let me know if you try this at home – you can find me on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you enjoy simple recipes, why not try my macaroni cheese or if you are looking for something a bit sweeter, try your hand at making a Battenberg cake. It’s easier than you would expect!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next Monday with a recipe for an amazing tiramisu cake!

H

Perfect Pizza

As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.

I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.

This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.

The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.

The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.

 

 

Serves 3 – about £1.30 per portion

Preparation – 30 minutes, Rising – 2 hours, Cooking – 15 minutes

 

Dough:

500g Strong white flour

50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)

300ml water

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Optional

Garlic/onion power

Grind of pepper

Grated hard cheese like parmesan

 

Toppings

500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste

A few cloves of garlic

375g Mozarella grated

 

If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.

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Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.

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While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)

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Make sure the fat you use is cold when you add it to the flour to help prevent it melting during the rubbing in
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After rubbing in, the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and will have a light yellow tinge

Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.

Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Basic ingredients for a Margharita pizza

 

Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Pour out the dough and divide into portions.

Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.

Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases

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We have a large pizza dish which holds two portions and a smaller one which is a single portion

Add toppings of your choice.

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Sweetcorn and mushroom pizza. I also like adding jalapenos however my dad isn’t fond of them so we go half and half
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

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This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last Cooking from Basics recipe – an amazing Mushroom and Chicken Pasta Bake or here if you fancy making some super fudgy, gooey Chocolate Brownies.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week for my death by chocolate tart which is sinfully delicious looks like it’s been bought from a professional bakery!!!

H