Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pizza My Heart

Wow..what can I say about this pizza crust. It was more than what I expected it to be and then some. The crust baked up perfectly. Crisp on the outside but tender on the inside. It made me look (and feel) like a gourmet chef. Everyone that had the pizza raved about it.

Because of the nature of my blog I had initially decided to make a dessert pizza but then I thought that it would be such a waste of good dough since I love pizza so much and so does everybody else in my household.
I decided to make a chicken and mushroom pizza but when I realised that I forgot to buy mushrooms I used Hawaiian stir fry vegetables instead. I also found this recipe for a great sauce on the Internet which turned out to be really great.

The first time I read the challenge I somehow overlooked the part where we were required to toss the pizza dough instead of rolling it. I thought to myself I would never even considered this cause I would hate to waste whatever dough ended up on the kitchen floor. It wasn't until I found this great video on YouTube that inspired me to give it a go.

My great intentions of tossing the dough fell flat since my dough didn't seem elastic enough and was on the delicate side. I don't know if I didn't need it long enough or if I needed to add more was so delicate that I didn't even need to roll it. I just stretched to size and that worked perfect for me.

There were a few good things that I learned about making pizza. Like how it is necessary to brush the dough with a little olive oil (or vegetable oil I suppose) before adding the sauce and toppings as this helps prevent the dough from getting soggy while it bakes.

I also learned the correct order of adding toppings - I didn't even know there was an order. Oil first, then sauce (not too much otherwise your pizza will be soggy), then cheese, then toppings and then more cheese if you want. I also learned that you should use more of the milder cheeses like mozzarella or Gouda and less of the stronger sharper cheeses like cheddar.

This pizza turned out so great and the dough was excellent. After making this I realised that if you want to have a good pizza then you need to have a good crust.

I've fallen in love all over again.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

  • 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 3/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Instant yeast
  • 1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
  • 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


  1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
  2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.
  3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
  4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas). NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
  5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
  6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
  7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


  8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
  9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
  10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and re-flour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn't as effective as the toss method.
  11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
  12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
  13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.
  14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
NOTE ON SAUCE: Your sauce (any) should not be too thick as it will thicken in the hot oven. Less is more but make the less truly more by using quality ingredients.
SAUCE IDEAS: Pestos, white or brown sauce, tomato sauce, sour cream, thick cream, Bolognese sauce, etc…Check here for sauce recipes:
TOPPING IDEAS: Seafood, fish, meat (dry, cured, smoked or ground), cheeses (Gruyère, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Provolone, Ricotta, Maroille, Munster, etc…), nuts, tofu, veggies (tomatoes, bell peppers, artichokes, hearts of palm, zucchinis, pumpkin, red onions, etc…), herbs (mixes, fresh or dried), spices (garlic, gourmet salt, pepper, curry, berbere, ras-el-hanout, za’atar, etc…), nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashew nuts, Brasil nuts, macadamia nuts, etc…)….

All-Purpose Marinara Pizza Sauce

The flavors are fresher and brighter in this sauce than they are in any commercially bottled or canned pizza sauce. Dried herbs are preferable to fresh herbs here, but if you want to use fresh herbs, sprinkle them on the pizzas either just before you put them in the oven or as soon as they come out. Also, if you do not have thyme or marjoram, you can substitute additional oregano or basil to taste. Makes about 6 cups
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato purée
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic powder, or 10 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed, and lightly sautéed in the olive oil, above
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a combination
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients, starting with 1/2 teaspoon salt and adding more to taste. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Thanks to this months host Rosa for a great challenge. Hope you have as much fun as I did.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tartine Brownies

Tartine Brownies
Originally uploaded by uqbar!
So I finally decided to make something from the Tartine recipe book which I purchased recently. There are so many good things in the book it was hard for me to choose what to make first.

I settled on the brownies cause I love chocolate and their require very little time to make compared to other things in the book. I have decided to leave the more complex and time consuming recipes for the weekends.

Understanding the recipe and putting all the ingredients was easy. The only problem I had was knowing what the browinies should look like once they're done.

First of all the recipe states that the brownies should be baked in a glass baking tray. I don't have one so I decided to use my normal baking tray. Secondly I wasn't sure how long to bake them for since it was my first time baking brownies of this nature. The recipe says 25 minutes but we all know - if you bake regularly that is - that this time can vary depending on your oven.

I checked mines after 20 minutes cause our oven gets quite hot. The brownies looked cooked around the edges but when I poked a knife in the centre it looked as if the centre hadn't cooked at all. Now I know that the recipe says that testing this batter this way doesn't work because of the high percentage of chocolate used in the recipe but I thought even still it shouldn't look that raw. So back into the oven it went.

I checked again 5 minutes later and then about 3 minutes later but because it started to burn around the edges I decided to remove them from the oven. I let it cool next to an open window while I took a bath. When I felt they were cool enough I decided to cut them into squares. They were nice and firm around the edges but when I got to the centre I found them too gooey to cut. It's the reason I don't have any pictures.

At first I wondered is it because I baked them in a metal baking tray instead of a glass one. It couldn't be because I had underbaked them since I left them in the oven so long. I was a bit disappointed but loved the ones that I could eat from around the edges.

The next morning the brownies had set nicely but were still fudgy and gooey. The next time I bake these I will definately give them enough time for the chocolate in the brownies to set nicely. Loved this recipe and I will be definately making these again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The first time I heard of Tartine Bakery, a high end pastry shop in San Francisco, was when I saw their book on

I was attracted to the Tartine book by its cover and decided to buy it after having searched inside the book.

When I received the book a few days ago I was so glad that I had chosen it from the many choices. I have yet to try a recipe only because I can't make up my mind which recipe to try first - kinda like a kid in a toy store. I will definitely be trying one later this week but I know it's going to hard try to decide which one to try first.

Because I fell in love with the book so much I decided to look the bakery up on the Internet. From what I've read the restaurant seems rather popular.

Everything in their bakery looks so divine. I've never been to Tartine so I had borrow a few pics from Flickr.

The death by chocolate cake I will be making for my sisters birthday end of the month.

Lemon Meringue Cake...I cant wait to try this cake. I love lemon meringue and I know I'm going to love this cake.

Chocolate Hazelnut tart...Ooh chocolate and nuts what more can I say. This one I will make for my SIL who loves chocolate and nuts.

Chocolate Souffle cake...Now this one is for me (and Kristy who can't eat nuts). I just love the little gold leaf.

The morning bun loved by many. From what I've gathered this bun is a favourite of many who have visited Tartine. It's not in their recipe book but the bun is basically a cinnamon and orange bun baked in muffin trays. Looks delicious though.

An array of decadence. Next to Pierre Hermes pastry shops this one is my next favourite and I've made that decision merely by what they have to offer and the obvious talent and creativeness that goes into making these beautiful desserts. I haven't had the pleasure of visiting any of these pastry shops.

I've always wanted to visit New York but I think I will be visiting San Francisco first.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

Let them eat cake...the words spoken by a queen of France, commonly associated with the legendary Marie Antoinette, upon hearing that the peasants complained that there wasn't enough bread to go around. I recently discovered that the "cake" she was referring to was in fact brioche - "S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche" which is translated to "If they have no bread, let them eat cake".

I have always shied away from bread or anything yeast related until recently. Not because I don't like yeast products but because I've always thought that yeast was difficult to work with. I recent watched an episode of French Food At Home in which Laura Calder was making a brioche. It seemed easy enough so I decided to make mine.

I used a recipe from foodbeam because the recipe that Fanny used was one by Pierre Herme and by now most of my friends would know that I'm a Pierre Herme fan.

I enjoyed making the brioche but was rather impatient having to wait long to bake it - the dough has to rise twice.

It turned out great, a bit rich, which makes me wonder how it is that French women are able to maintain their weight so well.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mmmm Cinnabon...

...Well not actually.

Hands up if you love Cinnabon. It was love of at first bite for me. I fell in love with the delicate bun, the sweet spicy cinnamon filling and the decadent cream cheese that enrobes every delicious cinnabon.

After having tasted every single variant I asked the sales lady at our local (the one and only) Cinnabon store if she could add chocolate sauce to the Caramel Pecanbon which I had just purchased. She politely replied, "sorry we don't do that".

Either way I was determined to have my cinnamon roll with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and roasted pecans...just the way I normally like my desserts. The next day I searched for cinnamon roll recipes and found a cinnabon clone recipe. I gave it a try and was quite impressed with the results. I wouldn't call it a cinnabon but the roll had all the sweet cinnamon goodness that I love about Cinnabon cinnamon rolls.

For those of you who haven't been to cinnabon. You need to go, you won't be disappointed...and they keep their promises too. You will always find them fresh out of the oven.

Pure Cinnabon decadence...

Classic Cinnabon and Caramel Pecanbon

The recipe is easy and the results are great. If you're intimidated by working with yeasted doughs, don't be. I found the dough easy to work with and quite forgiving. I made a few mistakes with it (that's what happens when you trying to fit baking into a busy schedule) and it still turned out good.

Here goes....

First I poured added the warm milk and yeast into a large bowl and gave it a quick stir.

Next I added the sugar, margarine, salt and eggs and gave that a quick stir to combine.

I then added the flour one cup at a time and mixed with my hand mixer using the dough attachment until all the ingredients were well combined.

The dough turned out a bit too sticky so I added about half a cup flour to the dough. It was still slightly sticky and elastic but I didn't want to add anymore flour.

I left the dough in the oven, which I had warmed slightly, to rise until double. The dough was still too soft and a tad bit sticky for me to roll so I kneaded it gently on a well floured surface until it formed a soft dough.

I rolled the dough into a large rectangle - I didn't measure and spread the soft butter evenly over the dough leaving...... I left about 1 inch from the bottom edge (this should be the longer side of your rectangle) clean so that the rolls can seal nicely.

Next I sprinkled the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the surface of the dough leaving a 1 inch space at the bottom edge of the dough clean.

Starting at the far edge of the dough, I began to roll it up tightly towards me. I then trimmed the left and right edges of the dough and cut it into 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) pieces.

I placed the rolls in a rectangular pan. I didn't use parchment/greaseproof paper. Instead I used my silicon baking mat.

I baked the rolls for about 17 minutes until golden brown and then spread a generous amount of cream cheese icing over the rolls while they were still warm. I also drizzled caramel and sprinkled them with roughly chopped roasted pecans.

Cinnabon Clone Recipe

  • Don't be afraid to use margarine in this recipe. I made these twice, first using butter (I tend to snub margarine in recipes like this) and a second time using margarine. Both turned out great. Cinnabon actually uses margarine in their rolls.
  • In South Africa our instant dry yeast comes in 10g packages. I used all of it in my rolls.
  • Add a teaspoon of vanilla when adding the wet ingredient for the dough. It tastes better for me.
  • For those of you who have ever been confused about "packed brown sugar", it's not a type of sugar. The "packed" refers to the way in which you measure the sugar - you need to pack it tightly into the cup when measuring. Use soft brown sugar.
  • Line and grease the pans with parchment/greaseproof paper. Use an 8'' (20cm) square baking pan or 9"x13" (23cm x 33cm) rectangular baking pan. I try to steer clear from dark pans since they tend to burn or brown whatever's been baked in them too quickly. Leave a 1 inch space between each roll.
  • Leave the rolls to stand for about 30 minutes in a warm place before baking. I warmed the oven slightly, turned it off and placed the rolls in there for about 30 to 40 minutes. I removed the rolls, pre-heated the oven and then put them back in to back.
  • I baked the rolls at 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C until light golden brown. They took a little more than 15 minutes to bake. I actually didn't time then, I just gauged.

1 (1/4 ounce / 7 g) package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, softened

8 tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt


First step - Rolls:
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.

  2. Add sugar, margarine salt, eggs, and flour, mix well.

  3. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour.

  4. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

  5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 21 inches long by 16 inches wide.

  6. It should be approx 1/4 thick.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Second step - Filling:
  1. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

  2. Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the surface.

  3. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge.

  4. Cut the dough into 1 3/4 inch slices, and place in a lightly greased baking pan.

  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Third step Icing:
Make the icing while the rolls are baking.

  1. Mix the margarine and cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy
  2. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
  3. Add the icing sugar and continue beating for about 5 minutes
  4. Spread the rolls generously with icing whilst still warm from the oven.