Pizza Base Recipe

We probably have pizza of one sort of another every couple of weeks. I’d like to say it’s always home-made. I’d like to say that.

However, I can say that we do make our own pizza regularly. So, I’ve been meaning to put up this recipe before, but for some reason it gets eaten before I think to take a picture. But last weekend, I happened to take a couple of snaps, so here’s the recipe.

It’s based on a recipe in Donna Hay magazine (issue 25), but you’ll need to come up with the pizza topping yourself. This time, we had a “leftover pizza” with roast chicken and vegetables, and a salami pizza with salami and sliced olives. I’m always willing to try new pizzas!

Ingredients

1 teaspoon dry yeast (or 1 packet, approx. 7g)
1/4 teaspoon (~1mL) caster sugar
3/4 cup (~190mL) of lukewarm water
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon (~2mL) salt
1 1/2 tablespoons (30mL) olive oil
50mL tomato paste
dried oregano to taste (approx 2 teaspoons or ~10mL)

Method

If it’s been cool (like it is in Melbourne at the moment), fill the sink with warm water to a couple of inches, and place a large mixing bowl in it for a few minutes to warm it up. The dough will rise better in a warm bowl.

Meanwhile, put the dry yeast and sugar in a measuring cup and fill it with lukewarm water from the tap. Stir well to ensure all the yeast is broken up. Set it aside for 5 minutes.

Place the flour and salt in the warm mixing bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour the olive oil and the yeast mixture into the flour, and stir it together with a butter knife to make a dry dough.

Take off any rings or a watch (this stuff sets like concrete). Knead the dough (you can leave it in the bowl) for a few minutes until it is smooth and elastic. This step can be shared with a young child (!).

Cover the mixing bowl with a cloth and leave somewhere warm for 45 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. I’ve found good places to be: the shed, the car, or even back in the sink with some more warm water.

You can leave it for longer than 45 minutes, but if you leave it more than a couple of hours, the yeast will have eaten all the sugar and the dough will be rather sour.

When you’re ready to make the dough into bases (this recipe is enough for two medium-sized pizzas), preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius. Put the pizza trays that you’re going to use in at the same time, to help ensure a crispy crust.

Pound the dough down into a ball and split into two. Spread each ball out on a piece of baking paper (saves having to flour a bench top), making a flat disc.

If you don’t have a rolling pin handy, or don’t like the hassle of rolling, just pop another piece of baking paper on top of the dough, and using a smooth object (e.g. glass, rolling pin), press the dough out until it is the shape you want.

When you’ve got the two plain bases ready, spread each with half of the tomato paste and sprinkle with the dried oregano. Then, go crazy with whatever topics you like.

Serves 2 adults.

Easter Bread and Butter Pudding Recipe

If you’re anything like us, and had more Hot Cross Buns in your house this Easter than you knew what to do with, then this recipe is for you. Previously, I’ve recommended French-toasting them, but baking them into a pudding is also a very satisfying option. We served them up for a dessert at a family lunch today, and it was very yummy.

This is based on the recipe for Bread and Butter pudding from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2.

Ingredients

600g slightly stale Hot Cross Buns (we used an 8pk of Woolworths bakery buns)
~100g Spreadable butter
4 large eggs
4 cups (1L)  milk
1/2 cup (125mL) brown sugar
1 teaspoon (5mL) vanilla extract
~1 tablespoon (15mL) raw sugar (a.k.a. demerara sugar) for topping
Water for hot water bath

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.

Leave the buns in a block, and slice off the “crusts” from the sides and bottom (leave the crosses on). Then slice the block of buns in half, butter both sides and put back together.

Slice the block into thumb-width strips, e.g. 2 buns long and something like 1/3 or 1/4 of a bun wide. Butter the sides of the strips.

Grease a 6 cup (1.5L) round baking dish, and arrange the strips around the inside. A nice pattern is to put the strips in pointing up, but on an angle, arranged in concentric circles.

Place the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk briefly. Then add milk mix to combine.

Pour the liquid over the buns in the baking dish and stand for 2-3 minutes.

While waiting, boil some water. When finished, sprinkle raw sugar onto the buns, place baking dish into a baking tray, and pour water into baking tray so that it comes half-way up the sides of the baking dish.

Put the whole thing into the oven and bake for 65 minutes (or until the liquid sets).

Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving with cream or ice-cream.

Serves 6-8 people.

Choc-Mint Biscuit Recipe

We took some time off, over the Cup Day long weekend, and I took some of that time to do some baking. The most recent Donna Hay magazine (issue 47) has many seductive pages of biscuit recipes, and I succumbed to this one that makes biscuits that taste like a cross between a choc-fudge brownie and an after dinner mint. Donna Hay calls them Chocolate Peppermint Crackles, but it would be simpler to just call them Choc-Mint Biscuits.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (125mL) hard peppermint lollies
200g dark chocolate
80g butter
1 1/2 cups (375mL) brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (310mL) plain flour
1/2 cup (125mL) cocoa
2 teaspoons baking power
1/3 cup (80mL) milk

Method

Get the butter out and allow it to soften.

Start by turning the hard peppermint lollies (I used the supermarket’s home-brand peppermint) into a power that the biscuits will be coated with. Put the lollies into a food processor or spice/coffee-grinder and process until they become a fine powder. Set it aside.

Break up the dark chocolate into small pieces for melting. You can either melt it the traditional way (in a heatproof bowl sitting above a simmering saucepan of water) or the fast way (a minute or so in the microwave). Either way is fine as the chocolate will be going into the biscuit mix, and it doesn’t matter if the chocolate loses its shine. Once the chocolate is mostly melted, stir until it is fully melted. Then set it aside.

Now we can start on the biscuit mix.

If the butter isn’t soft, give it a little zap in the microwave. Place the softened butter and brown sugar into a mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes.

Add both eggs, beating well after adding each. Add in the vanilla. Then beat on high for another 2-3 minutes until the mix is pale and creamy.

Add the melted chocolate into the mix, and beat well.

Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the mix, stir in the milk, and then beat until smooth.

Cover the mixing bowl with cling wrap and put into the fridge for 30-60 minutes, until the mix is very firm.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (355 degrees Fahrenheit).

Spread some of the peppermint powder onto a plate.

Take the mix out of the fridge. Scoop out heaped teaspoons of the mix, roll them into balls, and roll the balls in the peppermint powder until thoroughly coated.

Lay the balls out, well-spaced, on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes. The balls should spread out and the white coating should crack.

Cool on the trays. Makes between 40-50 biscuits.

Like a chocolate brownie, they are probably better the day after baking.

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Sour Cream, Orange and Raisin Pie Recipe

Sour cream, orange and raisin pieThis is a recipe from the most recent Donna Hay Magazine (issue 38). This is not the first recipe to leap out at you, but I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. It’s not very sweet, and the combination of ingredients is not particularly common. It’s awesomely yum.

Ingredients

1 cup plain flour (for pastry)
1/2 cup caster sugar (for pastry)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder (for pastry)
100g softened, unsalted butter (for pastry)
1 tablespoon of water (for pastry)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (for pastry)
1 1/4 cups raisins (remove all stems)
2/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange rind (equivalent to 1 small orange)
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream

Method

Firstly, we need to make the pastry, so be aware you’ll need about 30-40 mins for this before the real cooking starts.

Sift flour, sugar and baking powder into a mixing bowl. Cut the butter into very small pieces and mix into the dry ingredients with your fingers using a clicking motion. Or just do it all in a food processor. It should form a bread-crumb consistency.

Add the water and vanilla extract, and mix through. It should now stick together form a smooth, dough ball.

Cover in cling-wrap, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Go away and make yourself a cup of coffee, or watch an episode of Scrubs.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

Grate the orange rind. Remove the pastry from the fridge to let it soften a little (especially if you’ve left it for more than 30 minutes like I did).

Warm raisins and orange juice together in a small saucepan over low heat for about five minutes. Raisins will soften. Then add the orange rind, caster sugar and flour. Stir to combine, and cook for another five minutes until the mixture thickens a little. Remove from stove.

Blend sour cream with the eggs in a bowl, and then stir in the orange mixture.

Roll out the pastry. Grease a 24cm shallow pie tin, and line it with the pastry. Place the pie base on a baking tray, and pout the filling mixture into the base (do not overfill).

Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until cooked through. Serves 6-8.

Cheesecake Recipe

Last piece of cheesecakeIs it “cheesecake” or “cheese cake”? The former looks like it has an “e” too many, and the latter looks as bizarre as “salad pudding”. But you know what I mean.

I made this.. uhh.. cake for the first time on the weekend, from Donna Hay’s Modern Classics Book 2. Again, this book has come through for me, and I’ve rewarded it by almost completely plagiarising the recipe below (although she calls it the “classic baked cheesecake”). It was much simpler than other recipes I’ve made before that used a water bath, and at least as tasty.

Ingredients

125g Arnotts Nice (or equivalent) biscuits, i.e. half a 250g pack (for base)
2/3 cup almond meal (for base)
60g butter (for base)
1.5 tablespoons cornflour
1.5 tablespoons water
330g softened cream cheese (do not buy Philadelphia spread – buy the stuff in a rectangular box!)
360g fresh ricotta cheese
4 eggs
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1 medium lemon (or specifically, the juice and finely grated rind from one)

Method

If you haven’t yet, get the cream cheese out of the fridge and let it soften.

Crush the biscuits in a food processor (or like me, grind up in a mixing bowl mortar-and-pestle style using the end of a rolling pin). Melt the butter, then add in the almond meal and melted butter, processing (or stirring) until nicely combined.

Grease a 22cm springform tin, line the base with greaseproof paper, and press the biscuit mix into the bottom to form the base. Put it in the fridge while we make the filling. You can probably get the oven going at 150 degrees celcius, too.

If you haven’t yet, grate the lemon to produce about a tablespoon of rind, then juice it to produce about 60 ml of juice.

Mix the cornflour with the water in a medium-large mixing bowl, until blended. Ensure your cream cheese is softened, cut it up into small pieces and drop into mixing bowl. Stir together until it forgets its original shape.

Add in the ricotta cheese (and stir), the eggs (and stir), the sugar (and stir), the lemon rind (and stir), the lemon juice (and stir). Stir until smooth. Or forget all this stirring and just put it in your food processor.

It’s okay to have some small cream cheese “lumps” in the mixture, but squash any large lumps.

Get the base out of the fridge, and pour the filling in. Then put into the oven for at least 70 minutes (according to Donna).

Maybe our oven is stuffed, but after an hour we raised the temperature to 160 degrees, and kept cooking for another hour again. You can tell when it’s cooked because it will be browned a couple of inches from all the edges, and if you poke a skewer into the middle it will leave a hole when it’s removed.

Let the cake cool a little, and then put into the fridge until it is time to serve. Serve with thick cream.

Serves 8.

Baklava Recipe

The other weekend I baked a few little things for an afternoon tea, and I was asked for the recipe I used to make the baklava. I like baklava, and having it made it now, I’d probably buy it rather than bake it, as it is a bit time-consuming. However, the satisfaction of having done it yourself does add something to the flavour. This recipe is a modified version of the one from Donna Hay’s excellent Modern Classics Book 2.

Ingredients

36 sheets of filo pastry (one 375g pack of Pampas filo is sufficient)
125g melted butter (for pastry)
3 tablespoons oil
1 – 1.5 cups chopped walnuts (100-150g of walnuts)
1.5 cups chopped almonds (150g – blanched is good but not required)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for filling)
1/3 cup brown sugar
45g softened butter (for filling)
1 cup water
2 cups white sugar
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for syrup)
2 cloves

Method

Heat oven to 160 degrees celcius. Defrost the filo pastry. Grease a shallow, rectangular tray about 20cm by 30cm (don’t line with foil or baking paper).

Make filling by finely chopping and combining all the nuts with cinnamon, sugar and butter.

Combine butter and oil. Place a single sheet of filo into tray, and moisten with butter-oil using pasty brush. If a single sheet doesn’t fit, just tear the pastry to size, or even cover with multiple pieces of sheets so that whole tray is covered. Put another sheet down and moisten again. Build up 12 layers of sheets this way.

Spread half of the spiced nut mixture evenly across the pastry. Cover with another 12 layers of pastry, as before. Then spread the remaining half of mixture on top. Finish with the remaining 12 layers of pastry in the same way.

Cut the tray of baklava into diamonds – one set of cuts parallel to the sides, and another at an angle. Should make about 28 pieces. Put it into the oven, and bake for 1 hour. But don’t stop yet, there’s the syrup to make.

Put the sugar, water, cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a further six minutes until it forms a syrup, and then remove from heat. Take the cloves out.

After the baklava is cooked, remove and let sit for five minutes or so, then pour the syrup over. It’s tasty warm, or if you’ve got self-control, wait about a day, and it will be even better.