Monday, 1 October 2012

Meat Free Monday

I can't believe how fast the weeks are going, it doesn't seem like 2 minutes since I did last week's Meat Free Monday feature.

I've been making our bread for the past 7 years and it's so easy to do by hand that I can't imagine using a bread machine. When you live on a boat you always have to watch electricity consumption so I'd have to use the machine while we were cruising or take the power from the batteries. I know people who live in houses who put the machine on a timer to come on in the early hours so they have fresh bread for breakfast and I can see the advantage in doing that, but we turn the inverter off overnight to save power so even that's out of the question.  One of my friends says that she couldn't be bothered to stand and knead the dough for 10 minutes, but for me that's the best bit.  10 minutes physically working the dough i.e. bashing the hell out of it, is a wonderful work-out for the bingo wings and it's a good stress reliever too!

Quite often I split the dough and make one small loaf plus one large pizza, so this week I'm giving you 2 recipes for the price of 1.

I hope you'll give them a try and would love to see photos of anything you make.

Basic White Bread - also pizza base, makes 1 large loaf or 1 small loaf plus 1 large pizza

450g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 sachet dried yeast
25ml light olive oil
350ml tepid water (just feels warm, but not hot)

Weigh the flour into a large bowl and add the sugar and salt. Mix well and then add the yeast.  DO NOT add yeast before mixing as it shouldn't come into direct contact with the salt as this stops it working. I was originally told to think of the effect of salt on slugs to help me remember and I've never forgotten yet.

Add the oil and then slowly add the tepid water, mixing at the same time with a spatula or tablespoon. You probably won't need all the water so don't go mad at first.  Every bag of flour uses different amounts of water and you'd be surprised at the difference between brands too. Asda flour uses far more than Tesco flour so be careful, you can always add more but you can't take it out. Eventually it comes together into a sticky ball that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.

Now for the fun bit.  Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Put the timer on, turn the radio up and just go for it.  Kneading is easy, all you do is push and squeeze the dough with the ball of your hand. Keep dusting the work surface lightly with flour but don't use too much or you'll alter the texture of the bread.  A lot of recipes say use 500g flour to start, but I've found over the years that by using 450g and adding extra to stop it sticking, it works out perfectly every time.

As the 10 minutes pass, you'll feel a difference in the texture of the dough. It becomes much less sticky so you don't need to keep dusting with flour. It also becomes springy and doughy and will form a nice ball.

Wash out the mixing bowl in hot water (to pre-heat it ready for proving) and oil well. Put the dough ball in, cover with cling film and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour or until it's doubled in size. If it's a sunny day, I leave it on the bed in the sunshine. This works even in winter, it doesn't have to be anywhere hot, just warm enough to activate the yeast.

After 1 hour it should have doubled in size, if not, leave it for another 10 - 15 mins.

When it's doubled in size tip it out onto a lightly floured work surface again and GENTLY knock the air out of it.  That doesn't mean knead it again, just poke it with your fingers and it will deflate.

Cut the dough in half to make a small loaf and a pizza base

Put the piece for the loaf in a lightly oiled tin and either slash the top with a sharp knife of cut with scissors to give a nice crusty finish to your loaf.

Cover with a tea towel or loose cling film and leave in a warm place for another hour until double in size again.

To make the pizza base, oil a baking tray and roll the dough very thinly onto it. It doesn't have to be a perfect shape but it's best if you can make it an even thickness all round.  The thinner the base the crispier the pizza, so if you wanted a deeper, chewier crust (like a deep-pan pizza) just roll the dough out thicker.

At this stage you can either leave the dough to rise for another hour along with the loaf, OR you can carry on and finish the pizza now. The double rising isn't important in pizza but it does improve the flavour of the base immensely. It also means you can cook both items at the same time and save gas.

Garlic Mushroom, Chilli & Sweetcorn Pizza - serves 2-4

1/2 jar pasta sauce (I used Lloyd Grossman Sweet Red Pepper)
1/2 small tin sweetcorn
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, de-seeded and chopped (optional)
4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped
dried herbs, oregano,  thyme or mixed herbs
100g grated cheese. I used Cheddar but you could use Mozzarella or any other cheese

Heat 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in a small pan and gently sauté the finely chopped chilli, shallot and mushrooms, with the lid on, for about 10 mins. until cooked.  This will produce quite a lot of liquid but don't worry.  Add salt and black pepper to taste, then turn up the heat and cook for another 5 mins. without the lid to reduce the juices and concentrate the flavour. Keep an eye on it at this stage so it doesn't burn.

When the juices have gone, leave the mushroom mix to cool while you finish the pizza.

The jar of sauce that I used had a lot of oil on the top so I poured that away.

Spread about 1/2 the jar of sauce over the pizza base. It doesn't want to be too thick or the base will be soggy.

Add the mushroom mix and sweetcorn, making sure they are evenly distributed so you get some of everything in every bite. Add a sprinkling of dried herbs of your choice. I used oregano.

Sprinkle with grated cheese.

Bake the loaf and the pizza in a pre-heated oven Gas 8 for 25 minutes.  To check the loaf is cooked, take it out of the tin and knock it on the bottom. It should sound hollow. If not, put it back in the oven for 5 mins.

The pizza will probably take a bit longer. This one took 35 mins. You can tell if it's done by gently lifting one of the edges to see if it's cooked underneath.


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