Tuesday, January 13, 2009

my first pizza!

i think it's only natural if you have been baking bread, that you start to explore further and then try baking pizza. likewise if you start off with pizza, one day you might try bread baking.

so i decided to try pizza one day. wanted to have it for lunch. i've been baking bread for almost half a year now so how hard is it to do pizza?

and you almost can't go wrong with this pizza crust recipe from king arthur flour. why, they even guarantee you'll get good results! what can i lose here?

but i modified the recipe a little.

  • 3 cups of white bread flour - preferably unbleached of course
  • slightly more than a cup of water
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
since this is the first time i'm doing pizza, i didn't want to go wholemeal yet. next time, i will go full wholemeal! never tried a wholemeal pizza before...

also, i happend to have some "00" all purpose flour at home. this is the italian grading of flour, with "00" being the finest grain. now to make a pizza with "00" italian flour... i think this is authentic!

like how you'll do bread, you'll mix everything together first, then knead for couple of minutes, then let it rest for about an hour. it should grow quite a lot. wait longer if want to, bread baking is very forgiving.

then this is when you decide how big/thin you want your dough to be. according to the recipe, if you divide into 2, you'll get 2 1/2" thick 14" round pizzas. since i'm a fan of thin pizzas, i divide the dough into 3s.

oil your pizza pan (or baking sheet, or whatever your fancy) with olive oil, then place your dough on it. stretch each dough gently (but do not flatten) until desired shape. let it spring back. wait couple of minutes, stretch it again. after couple of tries, the dough should be able to cover until the edge of your pizza pan. wait about an hour for it to rise.

then put into the oven! bake at 200c until the edges start to brown, but the centers are still pale looking.

take it out and now is the time for you to go crazy with your toppings!

my friend ew, who has been doing pizza for couple of years now, advised me to go for "hunt's tomato paste". other brands use too much vinegar resulting in a very sour tomato paste. so that's what i used. i mixed 1 tsp each of oregano, rosemary and basil into the tomato paste. oh yeah, some olive oil too.

as you could see here, went crazy with tomato paste, mozarella cheese (according to ew, other types of cheese smell/taste "funny"), capsicum, tomatoes, mushrooms and shredded ham. don't forget to drizzle some olive oil on it. by the way, "bake with yen" has a good deal on mozarella cheese.

then back she goes into the oven! within minutes, the cheese would have melted and you could smell a very nice "pizza" smell.

take it out as the edge starts to turn dark brown or to your desired crispiness.

look at the crust! see how thin it is!

i love thin crust pizzas with moist tomato paste. couldn't believe it's so easy!

next time will try wholemeal pizza crust, with more toppings, more tomato paste...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

capsicum feta cheese bread

inspired by chuck's spinach feta cheese bread, i decided to do a similar version but my experience with vegetables in bread has been mixed. some were really good, some were soggy, some were tasteless... like chuck said, you almost can't taste the spinach. i didn't want this so i went for capsicum. in one of my earlier bread, i did include capsicum along with other veggies. my oh my, only capsicum stood out. the rest just "blended into oblivion"...

so we have the capsicum + feta cheese bread. feta cheese, also known as white cheese, is derived from goat's milk and for some reasons, you could get them here in kuala lumpur from hock choon for a great price. in fact, cheaper than other types of cheese!

note the speckles of white and yellow? the whites are the feta cheese and the yellows are the capsicums, diced of course.

  • 4 cups of flour, i used 1 cup rye + 2 cups wholemeal + 1 cup white (trying to reduce consumption of white flour...)
  • around 1.5 cup of water. this you really have to adjust it yourself. go for 1 cup first, then slowly add more. the dough mixture should be sticky.
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of diced capsicum. ripe ones are best.
  • 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese. you could go more for a stronger taste. i used only 1/2 cup as that's all i have and the bread has a subtle feta cheese flavour. go more if you prefer a stronger taste.
that's all to it!

i wanted to go the biga, pre-ferment method but started so late i just skipped the whole process and just mixed everything together ala the "grant loaf" method. that's why i used a loaf pan here.

baked about 40 minutes at 180c.

the bread tastes very good! you could taste the capsicum and the subtle feta cheese. if you include more feta cheese, then you'll get a stronger feta cheese taste.

yup! so good you could eat it on its own!

Monday, January 5, 2009

more reasons to go wholemeal

the original grant loaf called for 100% wholemeal flour. i went half wholemeal, half white for a lighter loaf but she is right to call for all wholemeal.

on this site, found out this interesting bit about her.

In the case of the nutritionist Doris Grant, who lived to be 98 and advocated the consumption of organic vegetables and wholemeal flour, it might be said that she practised what she preached. The inventor of the ‘Grant loaf’, she advised British women that ‘if you love your husbands, keep them away from white bread ... If you don't love them, cyanide is quicker but bleached bread is just as certain, and no questions asked.’

ok, i was an idiot to assume she's a housewive. sorry.

but she is certainly right! now 100% wholemeal is quite chewy and won't be as light as store bought bread but the additional fibre and nutrients (and great taste!) more than makes up for it.

if you have to use white, then at the very least go for the unbleached type. many organic stores sell this variety so you really have no excuse.

unless you intend to benefit from a big fat insurance policy at the expense of your better half...

no kneading required!

ok, back in the 40s, an american housewife by the name of doris grant came up with this recipe. no kneading required! perfect for working housewives. hey, back in those days, i guess this is women empowerment.

i actually did a combination of the pre-ferment and the grant loaf method. why, i haven't baked for 2 weeks due to all the pesky biz trips, so am suffering from "not-having-enough-of-own-bread" syndrome. also, i started at only 3pm and wanted everything done the day itself. the "pre-ferment" method gives very active yeast and i enjoy working with them (before i kill them off in the oven).

as the norm lately, went with the favourite multi-seed bread, namely flaxseed, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, don't seem to tire of this at all!

  • 4 cups of flour - anything you like! i went for 1 rye, 1 wholemeal + 2 whites
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp honey (more is fine)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup of sunflower, pumpkin and flaxseeds.
  • about 1.5 cups of water
at about 2.50pm, i mixed 1/4 tsp of instant yeast into 1 cup of rye flour and 3/4 cup of water. this "pre-ferment" is supposed to sit for at least 12 hours but i wanted to complete everything that day itself, so at 7pm, i mixed the rest of the ingredients together.

it's mixing and not kneading as the whole mixture is a bit too wet to knead, so your aim is to ensure the ingredients are mixed properly. if it looks dry, add more water! i always feel that when in doubt, err on the "wet" side.

then dump everything into a well-oiled 4" x 4" x 8" loaf pan. just scoop them up and dump into the loaf pan. doesn't have to look nice as the dough will grow nicely into the loaf pan. it's nice to use a loaf pan here as this recipe calls for only a single rise and the loaf pan helps maintain its shape. the whole dough mixture filled up to about slightly more than half of the loaf pan.

at about 10pm, time to heat up the oven! actually i should have waited more, till  it's almost touching the top of the loaf pans but i'm too sleepy... before i put into the oven, i sprinkled some rolled oats and almond flakes on top.

using a loaf pan, a hotter temperature of 200C is better but i went for 180C so i had to wait for about 40 minutes. dang... if you use 200C, i'm sure you could call it a day earlier...

and voila! we have bread!

actually i baked 2 loaves at the same time. one was a bit dry. the "wetter" rose better. the top isn't curved, i guess it's due to all the rolled oats and almonds i sprinkled on top.   hee hee...

once the bread is done, remember to remove it from the loaf pan. don't wait till it's cool! use a bread knife and through the sides, gently separate the bread from the loaf pan. then turn over the loaf pan and gently tap it till the bread comes out. when it does, you'll see lots of steam. nice! then cool on a wire rack like above.

ha! guess you have no excuse not to bake bread now.  :)