Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Pizza

Well I know I've done a post about pizza previously, in fact back in 2009 when I first started blogging. Really though time has passed and I've been vegan and cooking longer and inevitably I've improved since then, so here's where I'm at with pizza nowadays.
This pizza is cheezly and tomato with cracked pepper and basil. This is just one of my favorite toppings and what you can put on a pizza is only really limited by your imagination.
To make my pizza I use a normal perforated pizza tray, but i'm sure the base would be even better if I wasn't so lazy and brought a pizza stone. However I am what I am and haven't gotten around to it yet. To ensure a crispy base I also use a fine coat of fine cornmeal on both sides of the base before I put it on the tray and add the toppings.

Pizza Base

7g sachet of Yeast

drizzle of Olive Oil

150ml Warm Water

1 heaped tablespoon of sugar

350g of plain flour

1 teaspoon of sea salt

2 teaspoons thyme

This recipe for the base makes two large 12" pizzas. I usually use a bread maker for this stage, if you want to do the same just add the ingredients in the order stated by the manufacturer for your machine. In mine it's all liquids first - then the flour - and lastly the yeast, sugar and salt.

Once the dough is ready and risen remove from the machine and punch down. Remove from the pan and lightly kneed on a floured surface before dividing into two (I usually find just cutting with a sharp knife the easiest way). Roll out into your desired shape, then dust both sides with cornmeal before placing onto your tray and putting on your toppings. I normally try not to get too soggy with the sauce and use a layer of tomato puree followed by a light spread of sauce. Experience has taught me that too much sauce leads to very soggy and hard to eat pizza :x
I make sure I pre-heat my oven and normally cook at 220C for 12 minutes, but this might vary depending on your oven. I always use an oven thermometer for baking and pizza as well, it showed me how much the actually temperature inside the oven varied from what was said on the dial and helped me no end.
So there you go, the things you learn through several years of practice - and I even gave you pictures this time.

Warehouse Cafe, Birmingham

On Thursday last week I visited the Warehouse Cafe in Birmingham. I've been here many times, and last year I even did some work experience here.
I dropped by around 4.30 for milkshakes and cake with a friend which then turned into an early dinner!
Aside from us there were only one other table in the cafe so service was exceptionally quick (not something I experience all the time - a trip there on a Saturday afternoon last month left us waiting 50 minutes for food and at least half an hour for the drinks we ordered). In fact on that visit Steven got so hungry waiting for the food that he popped downstairs to the One Earth Shop for a snack while we waited! All in all however this hasn't been a common experience.
The menu here rarely changes, although they do have specials which they change quite often on the board - this has resulted in me having tried many things more than once. They have a good vegan selection, although it is nothing radically different - however well priced and one of the only vegetarian restaurants located anywhere near where I live.
On this visit I had the vegan option of the 'Mexican Style Toasted Tortilla' which is priced at £6 and is from the 'Lighter Meals' section of the menu. I have had this quite a few times before but it has improved as the vegan option now includes vegan cheese which it previously didn't. During my visit I also had Carrot Cake with soya cream (£2.50), Natural Root Beer (£1.50) and a Raspberry Soya Milkshake (£2.50). My lovely dinning companion had the mint tea and the vegetarian starter of Figs and Goats cheese (yuk) which i'm not even going to comment on. No seriously it looked fine and she said it was lovely.
So all in all another enjoyable meal and i'm sure i'll end up visiting many more times.




www.thewarehousecafe.com

54-57 Allison Street, Birmingham, B5 5TH
Telephone - 0121 6330261

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Valentine's Day Gingerbread

I wanted to make something nice for my boyfriend for Valentine's Day but didn't know what to do. My first thought was cake, but to be honest we've both slightly gone off it at the moment (I know it's shocking). What does everybody love? (Well at least me...) GINGERBREAD!

I saw this cookie cutter a while back and bought it because I thought it was cute and knew it'd be useful for an occasion just like this. You could use something similar (or even the same - this one was from lakeland) or make traditional gingerbread men.


400g plain flour
2 tsp bicarb soda
2 tbsp water
150g brown sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp black treacle
180g margarine

The first step is to preheat the oven and measure out all the ingredients. This recipe does make quite a lot, so I often halve this.
In a saucepan put the brown sugar, water, spices, syrup and treacle. Gently warm this while stirring constantly.
Once warm add the marg and mix until it's melted down. Then add the bicarb and flour and mix into a dough.
At this stage the dough will still be warm, so you need to transfer it from the pan and set aside until cool.
Once cool roll out on a floured surface and cut out your shapes. Bake on a lightly greased baking sheet at 180C for around 6 - 7 minutes. Make sure you keep on eye on it as times may vary depending on your oven.

Once baked cool on a rack. They can be eaten as they are or decorated with coloured icing.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Focaccia

One of my many vices in life happens to be bread. More specifically, lovely homemade bread which is full of flavour. The two I made most often are soda bread and focaccia although one of my goals this year is to branch out and try new breads.
I haven't made nearly enough posts recently but I've had many things going on in my life and food isn't my only passion. I've recently started in the world of roller derby again after almost a year's break and I've been broadening my crafty horizons.
I've always made rosemary and sea salt focaccia and I'm well practiced at this. I've always made it in the traditional way but my geekier half (who also happens to have a blog - Lustrous Musings ) has inspired me to try new things. He made amazing deep sun dried tomato & sweet red pepper focaccia over the weekend, which I've recreated (the recipe is on his blog) and a deep version of my rosemary and sea salt focaccia.


Rosemary & Sea Salt

500g strong bread flour

10g fine sea salt

5g fast action yeast

2tbsp rape seed oil

The first step is to place the flour and salt in a bowl to mix together. I combine and kneed the dough in a stand mixer, however it is easy to do by hand or using the dough setting on a bread maker.
Add the yeast straight to the flour and 350ml of warm water and mix into a rough dough, then add the oil and kneed. It needs to be kneeded until the dough is smooth - length of time depends on the method you are using.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for around an hour.
Lightly oil a round spring form cake tin (or for traditional style use a shallow rectangular tin) and press in to fit tin. Cover the tin with a damp towel and leave in a warm place to rise again for half an hour.
Once the dough has risen poke rows of dimples all over the surface of the dough and fill the holes with rapeseed oil, then sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt flakes.
Bake at 200C for 15 - 20 minutes.


Conclusions

I still need a little practice until I am 100% happy with my baking results, but I am pretty happy with my progress so far considering that bread has never been one of my strong points. I realised several years ago that home made bread is in general many times better than what can be purchased at the supermarket and during my uni years (when I had vast amounts of free time) I almost never brought a loaf of bread and mastered the white loaf. I'm not suggesting that baking ALL you own bread is easily achievable (or even desirable) but every now and again it can be a real treat.