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This month’s Daring Baker’s challenge was set by Rosa from Rosa’s Yummy Yums. We made pizza. We tossed it in the air. It was deliciously thin-crusted and FUN. Daring Bakers we are!!!!

~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
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).

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups (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 (60g) olive oil
1 3/4 Cups (420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
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 tablespooons 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.

DAY TWO

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 reflour 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. I used readymade napolitana sauce. Max and Noah got ham and mushroom, and Lara and I got artichokes and grilled vegetables…

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

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.

Look here for everyone else’s achievements: http://daringbakersblogroll.blogspot.com/

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This post has nothing to do with breakfast and everything to do with the wonderful book that arrived at my door yesterday from Amazon: the recipe book from Ottolenghi. For a while, I’ve been wondering where to find a bit of new culinary stimulation. Most of my recipe books got left in South Africa, and after so many years as a vegetarian, I find myself a bit illiterate in the ways of cooking meat and chicken. Anyway, Nicole has been raving about the Ottolenghi book, so I sent away for that, and for Elizabeth David’s classic Italian Food.

So. The parcel arrived yesterday (“Another day, another parcel for Greenstein,” says Nik), and I discover with much pleasure that Nicole has not been exaggerating. You can just about smell the olive oil and garlic and cumin off the pages. I flicked it open to a random page and found a recipe for koshari. I have only ever eaten koshari in Cairo – at a street restaurant with a crowd of scuba diving mates; in a publisher’s office as a rushed order – in lunch with teachers and education officials, and in the desert midway along a horse ride to see the pyramids at night. Everything about koshari conjures up for me memories of Egypt.

Koshari vendors fill your bowl – first they pile it with a mix of rice, noodles and lentils, then scoop on spoonful of darkened onions – fried to somewhere between soft, crispy and slightly moist with rich olive oil, then top that with a bright red tomato-chilli sauce. Bowlfuls of crunchy tomato-and-cucumber salad and yogurt might get passed around as additions.

I didn’t get a chance to photograph it last night, so here’s a picture of the dive crew sampling it on the streets of Cairo.

Diving crew from Red Sea dive trip 2005

Diving crew from Red Sea dive trip 2005

Koshari

for main dish:

300 g green lentils
200 g basmati rice
40 g unsalted butter
50 g vermicelli noodles (I used spaghetti), broken into 4 cm pieces
400 ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
2 white onions, halved and thinly sliced

for spicy tomato sauce:

4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 red chillies, seeded and finely diced
8 ripe tomatoes, chopped (can be fresh or tinned)
370 ml water
4 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cumin
20 g coriander leaves

1. Start with the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and chillies and fry for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients besides the coriander. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes til slightly thickened. Remove from heat, stir in coriander. Season to taste with salt, pepper, more coriander if you like. Keep it hot or leave it to cool – either will work with the hot kosheri.

(I used fresh tomatoes, and went for the cool option – weather too hot for hot-on-hot food!)

2. To make the kosheri, wash the lentils in a large sieve under a cold running tap. Transfer to a large saucepan, cover with lots of cold water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat, simmer for 25 minutes. The lentils should be tender but far from mushy. Drain and leave aside.

3. In a large bowl, wash the rice in cold water. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add raw noodles, stir and continue frying and stirring til the noodles turn golden brown. Add the drained rice and mix well until it is coatedin the butter. Now add the stock or water, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and then reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a clean tea towel; this helps to make the rice light and fluffy.

4. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and saute over medium heat for about 20 minutes til dark brown. Transfer to kitchen paper to drain.

5. To serve, lightly break up the rice with a fork and then add the lentils and most of the onions, reserving a few for garnish. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly. Pile the rice high on a serving platter and top with the remaining onions. Serve hot with the tomato sauce.

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Nik says I just like getting parcels. He says that’s why I keep ordering stuff off the internet. Me, I say internet shopping is simply the bomb. You can spend as long as you like finding exactly what it is that you want, then buy it in a few minutes, and a day or two later it arrives at your door. So it was with my handheld blender. I was a little suspicious of it at first, as it came with about five different blades, so it wasn’t as straightforward as the Braun blender I was used to. But it’s won me over. And this, my friends, is because it can do what no man can do: it can blend up ice to a thick smooth crush.

I found this recip e at MadCapCupcake’s blog. Like her, I was a little tentative about the idea of a spinach smoothie. It sounds like something only hardcore vegans would like. And despite a foray into veganism some years ago, I no longer count myself among the ranks of what Anthony Bourdain calls “the hizbolla-like splinter faction of vegetarianism”.

So gone are my days of crushing linseeds to make egg substitutes and whipping tofu into sauces. Why, then, would I fill a cup with blended up spinach and ice? Only one, reason, friends, and I ask you to trust me on this one. It’s goddamn delicious. The spinach is mellow and sweet – even sweeter if you add banana as I like to do. Oh, and it uses up the glut of spinach from the allotment.

Spinach smoothie

a cup of spinach leaves, torn up

a few ice cubes

a banana

some milk, just enough to cover (dairy or soya, whatever takes your fancy)

You’ll need a blender that can crush ice. Blend it all up til it’s smooth and green. It will make you feel virtuous!

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Another lovely gathering of the south-east London tribe girls, this time at my flat. We were a somewhat smaller gathering than usual, as Sarah’s still at home with new arrival Florence Belle (congratulations!!!!) and others had other commitments. But Elke, Iratxe, Anja and I managed to magic up a feast of felafel, pita breads, hummous, tzatziki and tehina, while little Irene, Ella and Lukas learned a few new things about chickpeas and vacuum cleaners…


Once you’ve soaked up a couple of bowlfuls of chickpeas, both hummous and felafel are wonderfully easy (and economical) things to make. For the effort involved, it’s worth having at least half a dozen people round – we made enough to feed four hungry adults and everyone took some home for their partners. This is food for crowds, preferably crowds that’ll help you clean the bits of ground-up chickpea and garlic and parsley off every kitchen surface. If you just have a craving for felafel for, say, one or two people, I’d say go along to Burrough Market or else to a decent Lebanese or any other middle Eastern restaurant and get them to make it for you…


Felafel

225 g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
juice of half a lemon
about half a cup of cooking water from the chickpeas
1/2 to 3/4 cup flour
vegetable oil for frying
1. Drain the chickpeas and wash well.

2. Blitz the chickpeas in a food processor with the baking powder, seasonings, garlic and parsley. Leave it for about half an hour for the flavours to mingle. You can leave it longer if you like – you can do up to this bit the day before, if you like.

3. Add just enough cooking water and flour to make a mixture that holds its shape when you make little balls. The trick to making the balls is to have a bowl of water on hand – wet your hands before forming each ball to prevent it from turning into a big sticky mess.

4. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot. (The sides of the pot will help keep the oil from splattering everywhere, which happens when you use a frying pan. Though I was very glad Iratxe brought an apron!) Fry the balls in batches – about 4 minutes on each side – til they’re golden brown and crispy.

5. Drain on a kitchen towel to get the excess oil off. But the sooner you eat them the yummier they are… Try to wait til the pita breads are ready though!

Hummous

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste
juice of 1 (or 2 or 3) lemons, to taste
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
salt
about 1/2 cup olive oil or more
parsley

1. Rinse off the soaking water. Simmer the chickpeas on medium heat for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Put 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda into the cooking water (but NO salt, as salt will make the chickpeas tough). About halfway through the cooking, rinse the chickpeas well and replace the water with freshly boiled water from the kettle. When they’re cooked to soft and smashable, drain off the cooking water and keep some of it aside.

2. Let the cooked chickpeas cool. Cover with some fresh water. Rub them through your fingers to get most of the peels off. You don’t have to get them all off, but rubbing them gently should get lots off, and you can scoop them out of the water with a spoon or with your fingers. Then drain the whole lot again.

3. Blend up the chickpeas in a food processor (or with a hand blender) with the rest of the ingredients and seasonings. If it’s too thick, add a little cooking water. Keep tasting it and adding more seasoning til it rings your hummous chimes.

4. Serve in a nice bowl with more olive oil and finely chopped parsley sprinkled over.

Pita breads

4 cups white bread flour
1 tablespoon active yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water

Punching down dough

2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar. Mix in about a cup or two of the flour to make a thick batter. Let it bubble up for a few minutes – 5 or 10 minutes should be fine.

2. Stir in the oil and salt. Gradually add the rest of the flour.

3. Knead for 5 to 10 minutes til the dough is smooth and elastic. Set it aside for about 1 1/2 hours until it’s doubled in size.

4. Punch down the dough, and knead it a little more. Then roll it out into a rope and break it into 9 or 10 pieces. Each ball should be about the size of a tangerine – roll them out into flat discs about 4 mm thick. D

ust with flour so they won’t stick to the baking tray.

5. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Also preheat the baking tray. Bake the pitas for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. They should puff up with air in the middle.

Tzatziki (subject to corrections by Elke!)

Mix up some yogurt with grated cucumber and salt and lemon juice!

Tahina (yogurt and sesame dressing)

Mix up a few spoonfuls of tahini (sesame paste) into about a cup of yogurt. Squeeze in some lemon juice and lots of chopped parsley. Thin it down with a bit of water til its the consistency of a creamy dressing.

Israeli salad

chopped tomato, cucumber, cabbage, and onion (if you like)

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Those of you that read my other blog (or just keep in touch!!) will have picked up that the past week has been dominated by activities on my new allotment. Have been digging, weeding – and finally, today, planting. And meeting a lot of my allotment neighbours. Today, Sofia sent me and Nik home with a big bag of freshly snipped spinach, tenderstem broccoli and spring onions. This is definitely more lunch (or light supper) than breakfast, but it’s gorgeous, possibly the nicest way you can eat green vegetables (although I’ve been meaning to post the spinach pastizzi recipe for a while… watch this space for more on smugness-enhancing vegetables!) We’d run out of soya sauce, so it’s about the straightest stir-fry you can imagine, with a bit of saltiness from the feta.

Rice with wilted greens and feta

(serves 2)

1 cup basmati rice

a couple of big handfuls of fresh spinach

a handful of tenderstem broccoli

a handful of beansprouts

2-4 spring onions

some light olive oil

some feta, cubed or roughly chopped

1. Get the rice on the boil. The ten minutes it takes the rice to cook should be enough time to assemble the rest.

2. Wash the vegetables well, and roughly chop the spinach, spring onion and broccoli.

3. Get the olive oil into a big pot, wok or pan, on a high heat. Throw in the vegetables and stir-fry til it’s all just wilted, then take it off the heat.

4. Put a pile of rice and green stuff on each place, with a generous load of feta on top. If you’re Nikolai, you can add some hot sauce to give it bite.

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So Thursday afternoon was a gathering of the part-time tribe… a bunch of us that, every now and then get together at someone’s house to do homely bits of work together – a big spring clean, planting. And – more often than not – cooking. Some of us have children; some are expecting; the idea was to get together in a more productive and stimulating way than the average toddler-minding tea party. (The “tribe” idea is borrowed from Jean Liedloff’s offbeat little book, The Continuum Concept.)

This time was at Anja’s house – her friend Sofia had brought over a massip1010368.jpgve sheaf of herbs to make Grüne Sauce (Green Sauce). This is a traditional German recipe, though it might have its roots in the Italian bagnet verde, a simple sauce of minced herbs, garlic and olive oil. The German version is creamier and somewhat fresher-tasting as a result of the mix of herbs: borage, chervil, parsley, cress, chives, sorrel and salad burnet. Alberto at the Il Forno blog sums up the mix of flavours succinctly: “Borage and burnet have both a light cucumber like taste, sorrel gives an acidic note, parsley, chervil and chives contribute their typical aroma and peppery cress adds a bit of spice.”

Most of the herbs were used for the sauce, which traditionally accompanies bowls of freshly cooked potatoes and boiled eggs. But some of it also went into lightly fried herb and parmesan cakes, made by simply stirring some parmesan, breadcrumbs and beaten egg into the herb mixture and forming little flat cakes for frying. All of which composed a very beautiful feast at the late end of a rainy afternoon…

Grüne Sauce p1010381.jpg

about 200 g of the following herbs, mixed: borage, chervil, parsley, cress, chives, sorrel, salad burnet

500 g plain yogurt

250 greek yogurt (or full fat quark if you can find it)

4 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

1. Wash and dry the herbs, then wield the biggest knife you can find and chop them very finely on a big board. Don’t pound them with pestle and mortar, and don’t blitz them in the blender. Apparently it’s just not done that way; finely chopped by hand is the way to go here.

2. Add the yogurt (and any other seasonings you like), and, like Bob Marley says, stir it up. That’s it.

Anja says: ” Now, if you want you can season it with mustard, mayonnaise, onions, garlic, vinegar, and/or sugar. But that’s up to you. Some people use instead of yoghurt/quark soured cream.A bit to rich for my taste. But you can also mix yoghurt with soured cream.
I personally think the less the better. Just herbs and yoghurt/quark. The herbs have such a great taste and strong aroma, that it doesn’t need anything else.”

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Anja was also keen to try baking traditional German pretzels, and – unable to resist the temptation to get up to my elbows in good yeasty dough – I was soon rolling and twisting a dozen or more of the long stretchy strands required for these curiously satisfying little works of breadmaking art.

Pretzels

40 g cake yeast

600 g – 800 g flour

350 ml warm water

1 tsp sugar

3 tsp salt

1 TBSP oil

p1010373.jpg

1. Dissolve the sugar into the water.

2. Crumble the yeast into the water. Briskly stir in a couple of cups of flour to make a thick batter. Leave it for about 15 minutes to get happily bubbly.

3. Sprinkle on the salt and the oil; stir these in.

4. Stir in the rest of the flour, bit by bit to make a smooth dough. At some point you’ll have to switch from using a spoon and other utensils to using your hands.

5. Turn it out onto a floured worktop and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Now here’s the thing: don’t bother leaving it to rise.

6. Roll out the dough into a thick sausage shape and cut it into handful-sized chunks. You should get about 12 or so of these.p1010383.jpg

7. Now the time-consuming bit: roll each piece of dough out into a long, thin strand.

This is a little tricky as the elasticity of the dough will keep making it want to bounce back into a shorter, fatter thing. And you need it fairly long and thin so that you can form the pretzel twist (shown in the photo above).

Some of ours were somewhat too short and fat; others got overly stretched, distended and twisted in places… fortunatly breadbaking is a forgiving sort of business and all shapes taste good in the end!

8. Once you’ve formed the pretty knots, you’ll need to get a big pot of water on the boil. Oh, and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Once the water is boiling furiously, add three tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda to the water. Lower the pretzels in gently with a slotted spoon or egg lifter. They should bob around for a bit, then rise to the surface of the water. Ours seemed to float immediately to the surface – I think this was because we took a while over the rolling and knotting process, which gave the bread plenty opportunity to rise a bit, forming air pockets that would cause the pretzels to float. Nonetheless, a couple of minutes in the boiling water is all they need.p1010385.jpg

9. Lay the boiled pretzels out on a lined baking tray. At this point, you can sprinkle them with a variety of toppings: sesame and/or sunflower seeds; poppy seeds; grated cheese; rock salt. Any or all of the above. (The general inclination was pro-cheese; I preferred the plain rock-salted version.) Although the recipe didn’t say so, I suspect that they brushed theirs with egg for the traditional shiny brown finish in the styled picture.

10. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes in the preheated oven.

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