In Search of the Perfect Pizza

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Pizza ready to be sliced and eaten.

Every Friday was, and now is once again, Pizza Night. Almost every Friday night of the almost  ten years we lived in Bella Italia was Pizza night. Or that’s what is, rightly or wrongly, fixed into my memory. I suspect the year after Sam was born, two full months, prematurely things may have been a little less organised. Early every Friday evening, well by Italian standards, we’d pack the ‘pizza bag’;  no not for ferrying the goodies  back home, rather as my boys were only young at that time, it was full of paper, pens, whatever electronic device that was on the go- PSPs, Nintendo DS, Gameboys of various hues. (I can’t tell you how useful these little gaming machines were on that long car journey from Milan to Glasgow, via Northampton) Friday night pizzas  were one of the highlights of our week.

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The dough after a couple of 'rests'.

All good things must come to an end as  those individuals of a pessimistic inclination will tell you. Stephen’s ten year contract with the European Schools was up, our time in Italy was quickly coming to an end. Soon a large, very large, removal truck negotiated our narrow drive. Box after box was loaded into the van. Every box was numbered and the contents listed. One of the last things to be packed was the computer, as I desperately struggled to list the contents of the final boxes as they were packed. Precious possessions to be placed in store until we could find a home of our own in Shetland. Little realising it would be a full year until outgrown toys and clothes were reunited with their owners.

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Stretching the dough.

A new phase on our lives had begun, it soon became evident that if we wanted an Italian style pizza we would have to make them at home. “No problem”, to quote Sam’s catch phrase. We tried all manner of things to get that thin and crispy base that still managed to be crisp, chewy and still felt like bread. We tried pre –  baking them. They were thin and certainly crispy, but they could not be described as ‘bready’ no more like loaded pitta crisps. Back to the drawing board. Luckily, I don’t know what drew me to it, I discovered the Pizza Pilgrims. I had one of those light bulb moments. Pan- fried pizzas made with a scone type base work well for a quick pizza type hit. Why not try the same method with a dough based pizza?

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Folding the dough.

Ad nauseum, I went on and on about their method. Stephen was now becoming ecstatically delighted. I had  almost convinced him to build a pizza oven in the garden. Almost. I think he can’t have been listening to me when he’d agreed, then showing him some plans online must have struck an alarm bell somewhere. He did have a point; in Shetland,  where the rain is often horizontal, what chance did a pizza oven have of being used more than once a year. I think Stephen realised he’d be the one who’d be in charge of the oven. He is after all  something of a pyromaniac, more about that another day. Those who haven’t glanced at the Pizza Pilgrims book or at the brilliant pizza book ‘Franco Manca’ have a look, this revolutionary method is so so easy. You simply cook the base of the pizza in a heavy based frying pan, top it while the base cooks  then whack it under a ferociously hot grill. Simples.

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Topping the base with passata.

Now once again pizza night is one of the meals we most look forward to every week. It’s a meal that has a great buzz about it. Preparations begin much earlier in the day, usually before midday. For this recipe we use  very little yeast and just let it take its time. Joseph usually makes the dough. Once I’ve worked how to upload the photos from my new Sam’s old camera it’s his hands that are dexterously folding and shaping the dough. You can make a dough and use it straight away, I have done in an emergency before and it will still be a lot better than a takeaway pizza. We just like the rituals of pizza night.

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Adding pancetta. No time to hesitate

Around seven o’clock it’s all hands on deck. The surface dusted with flour. Cast iron baking stone heating up, the grill turned to its highest setting. Mozzarellas drained and halved. Pasatta opened, a small amount poured into a dish. Utensils out i.e. rolling pins, heavy oven sheet, spatula and oven gloves. Pizza boxes made, yep we’ve got the pizza bug really bad! Any other toppings. Last week’s pizzza was a sausage and rocket one; I think its my favourite. The sausage is fried, allowed to cool, casing removed and then sliced.

The assembly line then kicks into gear; Joseph deftly and alarmingly accurately rolls out perfect discs of dough. I then transfer it on to the hot pizza stone, wait for the surface to bubble, once it has I put no more than two tablespoons of passata on the base and swirl it around. Meanwhile, as the next base is being rolled out, I add the rest of the toppings to the pizza. It always amazed us how little was on a pizza in Italy, it is definitely a case of ‘less is more’ in terms of flavour. This pizza is then put under the very hot grill and is watched by who ever is going to eat it. By the time that one is cooked the next one is ready to go under the grill. I’ve tried doing it all on my own but it doesn’t work so well. The kitchen gets too hot and the dough waiting to be rolled out becomes too relaxed and stretches all over the place when you attempt to lift it onto the pizza stone. With all four of us working together it really doesn’t take long, it can get a bit frantic at times but it’s great fun.

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Topped with pancetta and brie ready to go under the grill.

Do give this way of cooking pizzas a go. They’re as close to an authentic Italian pizza as you can get. We could almost be sitting sitting at our favourite pizzeria in Italy, well almost.

The dough will make four 10″ pizzas.

(The pictures are of last week’s pancetta and brie pizza)

500g strong white flour.
2-7g of instant yeast. (Use smaller amount if you plan to make the dough in the morning and the larger amount if you make the dough a couple of hours before you want to eat.)
15g of salt. You can use less, but you’ll need to season your tomatoes.
325g water, lukewarm (22-27°C)

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and combine.
Pour in the water and work together using your fingertips.
Lightly dust your working surface with flour tip your dough onto it.
Knead the dough lightly to make sure everything is all mixed together. Let it rest for a few minutes 10 – 15
Rinse your bowl and lightly oil it.
Place the dough back in your bowl cover with a damp cloth or cling film.
Leave for an other 15 mins and then carefully stretch the dough and then fold it back up. Turn the dough a quarter turn, stretch and fold again , do two more quarter turns and stretch and fold.
After the fourth turn, stretch and fold shape the dough onto a ball and put the dough back in the bowl. Leave for 15 mins and then repeat the stretching, folding and turning. Shape into a ball
Return the dough to its bowl, cover the bowl once more.
If you have used the small amount of dough leave the bowl somewhere cool for 8-12 hours
If you’ve used the larger amount of dough, leave somewhere warm for an hour.
The dough should have doubled in size
Lightly dust your work surface with flour, carefully ease your dough onto the work surface.
Divide your dough into four equal pieces, place in either one very large, lightly oiled, plastic box or two smaller ones.
Leave until doubled. Depend on the heat of your room it could be between 30-60 minutes.

Now the fun begins!
Get everything you will need ready, toppings, baking sheet, spatula.

Margherita
4 balls of pizza dough-  see above
Flour for dusting

Passata, 8 tablespoons
2 x 120g balls mozzarella, drained and torn into pieces
Basil, a small bunch

Pre heat your grill, place the rack in its highest position
Place an oiled heavy frying pan, or cast iron baking stone/ griddle on the hob on a medium high heat.

Dust your work surface with flour and roll into a disc just smaller than your pan.
Pick your pizza base up and plop it into the hot pan. I use a small rolling pin to lift it. Spread it flat.
As soon the top begins to bubble spread 2 tbsp of passata onto the base with the back of your spoon. Put 4 or 5 basil leaves on top and distribute a quarter (60g)of the mozzarella on top.
Cook the pizza for 3-4 mins, keep checking the base, use a spatula to lift it up to see how it’s browning.
Transfer onto a baking sheet and place under the grill for 3-4 mins.
You can put the pizza in the pan under the grill, if it has a heatproof handle. Cook for 3-4 mins.
Once ready garnish with a few more, small, basil leaves and serve either sliced or whole.

Other favourite toppings (in addition to the basic passata and mozzarella)
Sausage and rocket, precook and slice the sausage . Scatter rocket over the cooked pizza.
Salami and gorganzola
Sliced chorizo and goat’s cheese
Anchovy, olive and caper
Griddled asparagus and  mozzarella, drizzled with melted butter when cooked. OMIT THE TOMATO.

Remember have a light hand with your toppings. One pack of pancetta, 120-150g, does four pizzas.

Ciao ciao.

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Oranges and Lemons: well Clementine and Lime Cake

It all started out with a homemade fish supper (aka fish and chips to anyone south of Hadrian’s wall). They maybe a gorgeous Saturday night treat, especially the way Stephen makes them  à la mode de Heston). However; early Sunday morning, feeling fragile, the lingering aroma is less than welcome. I hasten to add the fragility has nothing to do with being ‘worse for wear’.  Alas; due to the ever increasing number of freebies my doctor insists I need to function, anything brewed except tea or distilled is to be treated with caution. I have road tested this advice and I have to totally agree with it.

I digress. One tip I have seen, somewhere, suggests cooking a lemon in the microwave to make it smell fresher. Well if it will work in the microwave why not in the kitchen? Not being one to waste anything, and I mean anything, I recalled baking cakes that used boiled citrus fruit. On Christmas day I made an orange cake from one of  Tom Keridge’s books and in the dim and distant past I’m sure Nigella had a recipe for something similar. I tracked down the recipes and discovered that I did not have the ingredients for either one. Did that deter me? No siree!

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The final product!

The first task was to see what was missing, what could be substituted and what did I imagine it would it taste like. One of my first problems was not enough of any one particular citrus fruit. That was easily solved, just mix ‘n’ match. Into the pan went three clementines, and two limes, that  I must confess, were past their first flush of youth. I kinda figured that after they had simmered for two hours no one would be able to guess how dejected these tangy little monsters had once been. Next task was to overcome the distinct lack of almonds, ground, flaked, whole or blanched. It looked like it was going to have to be good old mix ‘n’ match again. I had desiccated coconut and pistachio nuts to play with. Rather an unlikely combination I must admit. I wanted cake, they wanted cake it’s safe to say we wanted cake. I also figured that with that amount of whole citrus fruits in the cake whichever nuts went in they were not going to be the strongest flavour.  The, now very soft, citrus fruits were chucked into the food processor and whizzed. Next in went 150g of coconut and 100g of pistachio nuts that I’d already blitzed to a coarse powder.  I like a bit of texture! These were hotly pursued by 6 eggs, 225g sugar and 1tsp of baking powder. Just whizz together and pour into a greased and floured tin and that’s it. Simples!

Once everything is combined it should have been a simple matter of baking, cooling and eating. Once I’m off script I really go off script. For some unknown reason I decided to make this in a bundt tin. This bundt tin, with all its little nooks and crannies, for this dense mixture to become attached to. Gorilla glue couldn’t have made it stick more.

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My bundt tin, not THE cake though

I wish I could say this is the cake, it’s not. The cake in question came out of this tin in at least six pieces of varying dimensions. At this point most sane people would have given up. I’m not sane and I hate waste. In the cupboard there was 200g of icing sugar and loitering on the chopping board was half of a lemon. Et voila another bonding agent. I stuck the cake together I iced the cake. There were still visible joins. Distraction tactics were needed. In the snack box there was a wee bar of dark chocolate. Hey presto a chocolate drizzle was born. What surprised us all was that through a serious of unfortunate events I had created an exceedingly good cake. For my husband’s birthday meal I’m thinking along the lines of a lime and coconut concoction, then there’s an orange, hazelnut and chocolate cake to consider. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

I’m not certain about using pistachio nuts again the colour was interesting to say the least.

The cake as it should have been, I’m giving a brief summary of the Ingredients that could be used

375g citrus fruit, either 2 large oranges or 5 or 6 clementines
250g ground almonds, or other nuts
225g sugar
6 large eggs
1tsp. Baking powder

Prepare a 23cm spring form cake tin, grease and lightly flour it.
In a medium pan place the fruit, cover with water and simmer for two hours.
Preheat oven 190°c / 170°c fan gas mark 5
Cut fruit in half and remove any pips, do this over a bowl so you don’t lose any precious juice. Place in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blitz until well mixed.
Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40 mins. Check after 30 and cover with foil if its baking too quickly.

This really is baking alchemy.

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No post is complete without a picture of the pooches.

This really is a simple cake; it makes a delicious dessert served with vanilla ice cream. Last night we added a tablespoon of homemade lemon curd and it was, well for once words fail me!

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You’re Crackers mi’Lady

What do you do if you run out of crackers? Silly question really, you either hop in the car and nip into the local shop or the nearest supermarket. Right?

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My canine hoovers, also known as Filska and Heath.

Or, you put your sensible walking shoes on, go into the outhouse pick up the dogs’ harnesses, collars, coupler and lead?  You then take all the walking paraphernalia into the house; calm the dogs down. Quickly tog Filska up, chase Heath around the sitting room; when you pretend to go without Heath he obediently sits in front of you, looking at you with his big innocent brown eyes as though butter could not melt in his mouth. I don’t know if he doesn’t like having all this gear on, because he certainly loves going out for a walk, or is he just being playful? The latter I suspect. Now back to the matter in hand do I, a confirmed baker-holic, go to all the bother of getting the dogs ready just to go out for a few minutes walk just to buy some savoury biscuits?  Would you? Nipping out in the car is out of the question, it’s in Lerwick and I’m at home. I suppose we could do without. No, impossible! I don my apron, turn on the oven and get cracking.

I’ve been itching to make some savoury biscuits for a while. The last batch I made was months and months ago, well Christmas was nearly four months ago after all. The family declared I was evil at that point as there was no way that they could resist homemade parmesan and cheddar biscuits.

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The madness begins with weighing up all the ingredients.

Today I decided to test their resolve again; however I was going to lighten them up a little: by using no cheese and less butter. My next baking experiment is savoury spelt crackers with a hint of rosemary and smoked paprika to perk them up. The uncooked crackers are quite a lurid orangey colour before they cook but they change to a nicer golden hue as they bake.

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Rolling them out; the first of five or six trays!

If there are more than a dozen left by the time I get up tomorrow I’ll be astonished (and slightly less svelte than I already am).

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Lead us not into.....

Don’t they look so easy to eat, so crisp, so savoury so small and so many too.  ‘Eat me’ is just written all over them.

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Spelt, Rosemary and Paprika Crackers.

300g spelt flour, or wholemeal.
40g sugar
1 TSP salt, I used an extra half of a spoonful more
1/2 TSP pimenton or ordinary paprika
1/2 TSP dried rosemary
100 g butter
100 – 110ml cold water

If you have a food processor place the flour, sugar, salt, butter, paprika and rosemary into the bowl and give everything a quick whizz around.
Slowly pour the water on through the feed tube until everything clumps together. I accidentally added 120ml of water and it was well past the clumpy stage, more pasty really – I added a couple of handfuls of plain flour to make it less tacky to touch. Opps!

Grease, or line several baking trays with baking parchment. I just used silicone mats.

Preheat oven to 200°c or 180°c fan

To make by hand mix the flour, sugar, salt, paprika, rosemary together rub in the butter to distribute it. Gradually add the water until all can be combined onto a ball.

Flour your work surface liberally and place a quarter of your dough on the surface. Keep your rolling pin well floured and roll out the dough as thin as possible and I mean wafer thin. Keep checking that it isn’t sticking, use a palate knife to ease it up and sprinkle more flour under it.
Cut into small squares -about 2cms. I used a pastry cutter but a knife would do the same job. As you can see mine were not all regular shapes. I’m a home cook and this isn’t The Great British Bake Off after all.
(I sprinkled some with salt and pepper, however this is entirely optional )
Carefully lift them onto your prepared baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for about 6 to 8 minutes. Keep an eye on them as they will quickly go from golden to dark, deep brown with a hint of carbonisation!

Leave to cool on a baking tray and they will crisp  a little more.
If you find that once the crackers have cooled they’re not crisp, pop them back in the oven for a couple more minutes.

Store it an airtight container. I believe that they could keep for a week. However; savoury biscuits never last more than a couple of days in our house.

I hope you are enjoying the musings and meandering s of this apprentice blogger. If you can please leave a comment. Thank you.

 

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At last the truth about Niela’s Buttocks.

How on earth did a loaf of really tasty bread end up with such an usual name? I can assure you this isn’t the name given to this bread by Dan Lepard;  it is after all, his milk loaf that provides the inspiration for this loaf.

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Niela's Buttocks!!

Are you sitting comfortably? Well, let’s begin.
I am, the day is rather overcast, but the view and the cappuccino are excellent.

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Having a coffee at Fjaro café bar

My youngest son has been helping out and then working for Nielanell, at her knightwear studio in Hoswick, for about six or seven years. I have hopefully helped to instill in him a love of food, whether it’s a healthy or unhealthy interest I don’t feel able to comment on. However; I’ve seen a jar of chocolate or cookie spread disappear with frightening haste, how he is not the size of a a brick kludgey I don’t know. As usual, I digress. At less than busy times or at the end of a particularly tiring day, when their batteries need recharging, talk turns to food. Niela has been entertained, any one who has met Samuel will be able to confirm that he can be very entertaining. There has been chatter about chips; musings about macadamia macaroons and banter about bread. I’m sorry but I’m a sucker for alliteration.

A change of location, yet another café.

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Why worry if the skies are gray... So let's have another coffee.

Breadmaking is an absolute passion and there is usually a lump of dough lurking somewhere in the kitchen. To cut a long story short, I’m also a sucker for sneaking song titles or well known phrases into my writing as well. I digress! Not being blessed with the worlds largest freezer Niela often ends up with some bread to sample. She also provides me with very valuable feedback. A loaf which reminded Niela of a bread she had eaten during her childhood, was a white loaf I made where I substituted milk for the water and then, in my opinion, added too much butter. My thinking that the fat and the extra sugars  would help to give the bread a softer crumb and a darker crust. The first one I admit was a little too similar to a poor man’s brioche. Back to the burgeoning collection of bread making books. I finally turned to well thumbed copy of The handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard. As usual I made one or two alterations to the basic recipe. I did find that you have to watch this bread like a hawk during its final minutes in the oven as it easily over browns. If this happens just turn the oven down by 20°c I have a fan oven; trying to cover a loaf with tin foil just doesn’t work. The foil just hovers, decorously, above the still burning bread. My husband spotted this loaf cooling, commented on its unusual shape, and that is why it’s now known as Niela’s buttocks. I won’t repeat Niela’s retort on learning the new name of this loaf. It did cast doubts upon the marital state of his parents though

My version of a milk loaf.
475g milk , I always weigh liquid, if you don’t its  just the same amount in ‘ml’ instead of grams (I used some buttermilk and skimmed milk in the one in the photo)
2 TSP instant yeast
75 grams butter or sunflower oil
625g stone ground white bread flour
25g honey
2 TSP salt.

My method does take liberties I must confess.
In a large bowl
Mix the dry ingredients; flour, yeast and salt don’t combine until  you’re ready to make the dough
In a jug or smaller bowl
Mix the wet ingredients; butter – melted, honey and milk
Combine the dry ingredients and pour the milky mixture onto it. I get my hands in a mix together until everything is thoroughly combined. It won’t look very promising, all rough and rather sticky, shape onto a rough ball.
Cover with a damp cloth or cling foil and leave for 20 mins.
Oil or wet your work surface, you don’t want to dry the dough out. Tip the dough onto the work surface, rinse the bowl,  give your dough a light and gentle knead a half dozen stretches and folds should do.
Oil your bowl lightly. Place dough back in the bowl, cover and leave for another twenty minutes.
Do a total of three rests and kneads at 20 minute intervals. Leave for about 40 mins until the dough has nearly doubled.
Tip the dough onto your lightly floured work surface, divide into two equal portions. Grease 900g loaf tin, our local wholefood shop has a ‘quick cake release which is what I use.
Shape the dough into two buttocks balls and place in your loaf tin, side by side.
Loosely cover and leave loaf to increase by about 50%. 
Pre heat your oven to  180°c/ 160°c fan
Depending on your kitchen rising time will probably be on 40 – 60 mins.
Place in the oven and bake for up to 50 mins.
Allow to cool before tucking into it.

This lovely loaf can sometimes be found lurking in our nice new bread bin, not for long though. Which you can just about see it in this picture with a couple of my other favourite bits of kitchen paraphernalia: the pasta machine with electric motor and the sides of my Brod and Taylor bread proofer.

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A typical baking session.

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The journeymenbakers’ blogs so far

https://journeymanbakers.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/an-italian-style-roast-chicken-and-vegetables/

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An Italian style roast chicken and vegetables.

The first time I cooked this meal was for when some friends visited us about a year or so after we moved to Italy. I needed to make something easy, child friendly and likely to appeal to a demi – vegetarian and a fish hating, confirmed carnivore.  Not much of an ask then. Above all I wanted the meal to have an Italian feel and the same time feel familiar. Kids can be fussy and I hadn’t seen one of them since he was a toddler. Meanwhile, I had to be the hostess with the most- ess whilst coping with very little sleep. Youngest son did not develop the habit of sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a time, or on his own, until he was four. For some unknown reason his older brother wasn’t too keen on having this noisy, projectile vomit producing wee darling sharing their his room! Being two months premature and living in a country where there were no health visitors to hold our hands we knew it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride.

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The potatoes and veg waiting to go in the oven.

Something involving some kind of fowl seemed to be the answer, probably chicken, was my thought. I didn’t know how well partridge, pheasant or poussin would be received. The ‘ubiquitous chick seemed an obvious choice. My Italian being rather ropey when it came to reading Italian recipe books, not that there were many available at the time. The cult of celeb. cookery books didn’t exist in Italy;  I had to find something from the couple I’d ordered from a mail order company, the almighty Amazon had yet to become popular.  I had a copy of Carluccio’s  ‘Italian Feast’ or one of Anna del Conte’s books to choose from.  So the winning combination was Pollo Arossto and patate al forno. In plain language that’s roast chicken, which by the way doesn’t see the inside of an oven, and oven baked vegetables and potatoes.

At least we had the weather on our side and the largest ‘paddling’ pool that we could safely fit in our sloping garden. Everything, well almost anything, seems better in the sunshine looking out over the heat haze towards Monta Rosa. With parents happy sitting on the covered patio sipping something cool and refreshing taking it in turns to sit  with a three year old, a four year old and an active almost walking baby in the pool. I don’t think anyone would really have noticed what meals we had; the weather was glorious, the wine plentiful, the company good and the children were content, most of the time. Or maybe my sunglasses were as rose tinted as the mountain that greeted us every morning when we opened the shutters.

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Not very pretty to look at - but delicious.

I digress! That is how this meal has become one of our favourites. It has been a regular all through our  sons’ lives. It has been the choice for birthday meals. It was what my husband chose to have on the last day of the Easter holidays. Another bonus is that the chicken only needs one glass of wine; which means I feel less guilty at opening a bottle of decent wine, as we get to have a glass with our meal.

The recipes for this meal aren’t really recipes at all.
For the chicken
2 tbsp butter
Some herbs- a sprig of rosemary and a few sage leaves
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 chicken about 1.5 kg
1 lemon, unwaxed halved
Olive oil, a couple of tablespoons
A glass of white wine.

Place the herbs, 1tbsp butter and garlic into the cavity of the bird, rub the chicken all over with the lemon  halves, place one piece of lemon in the bird, grind some pepper over it and sprinkle with salt.
Heat the oil and remaining butter in a large flame proof casserole and brown the chicken all over. I often miss this out as once the chicken is carved you don’t notice its peelie – wallie exterior.
Pour over the wine, bring it up to the boil, place the lid on and simmer gently for between  1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Test by pricking the thigh, the juices that run out should be clear. If the wine has evaporated, add a little water.
Place the chicken on a caving board and squeeze the juice from the other half of the lemon over it and cover with tin foil. Leave for a few minutes and then carve.
Serve with the cooking juices.

Patate all Forno
This really can’t be called a recipe.
Use as many vegetables as you want, this is what I often use for four adults.
Preheat oven 200°c /180°c fan

2 large onions, cut into wedges
2 peppers cut into large chunks
600g tomatoes either cherry tomatoes left whole or larger ones cut into wedges
600 – 800g potatoes cut onto thick slices
A few cloves of garlic, unpeeled
100ml olive oil
Good bunch woody herbs, rosemary, thyme, sage..

Divide the vegetables, garlic and herbs between two large shallow roasting tins,  pour the olive oil over them and, with your hands, give everything a good mix up to make sure everything is coated with oil. Place in the oven and cook until the edges of the onions are beginning to caramelise and the potatoes are soft. In my oven this usually takes one hour. Check after 45 mins.

This still remains one of our meals and it is one that seems as though a lot more effort has been put into it than it has. Serve with some good crusty, HOME MADE bread.

If you want to turn this into a full scale Italian meal serve a small portion of risotto or pasta with a sauce as a first course (the primo). Serve a salad after the chicken, potatoes and veggies (the second) and a simple desert (dolci) such as fresh fruit.

I’m now going to finish the leftovers, cold, with a salad for my lunch.

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A big sourdough loaf and another helping of Niela’s buttocks.

The mania goes on and the freezer is now officially  overfull full. As my Dr. has categorically told me that baking is therapeutic I shall carry on regardless. Hmm, she also said something about going out for long walks too. However, I didn’t quite catch that. Selective deafness isn’t confined just to the young, or so it seems. One day fairly soon, I realise, I’ll be heading back to the chalk face and our tightly packed freezer will be worth its weight in gold. Well that’s what I tell my husband and sons anyway. Does any one remember the Krypton Factor? Packing our freezer and cupboard shelves with various bakery products is like one of their challenges.

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Still, I needn’t worry as even though the bread has only been out of the oven a couple of hours there is only half of it left!  Its not in quite as bad as it sounds as a friend had a quarter. As usual we all had to sample it as soon as it was cool enough to be cut.

Yet again it has been quite a busy day. Lemon curd made to have with the challah crescent rolls for breakfast tomorrow. The sourdough was shaped and baked this morning (and tested) and a batch of Glasgow rolls have been made to go with the burgers, using freshly minced lamb from The Scalloway Meat Company,  that my husband is making as I write. Saturday is his cooking day so he normally makes something to go with triple – cooked chips. Funny how anything with chips always appeals to the men in your life, me too if I’m being truthful.

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Sourdoughs, although quite easy to make with a little patience and practice, does mean following a long list of steps. That I think I’ll leave to another time. What I want is to talk about those little delights known as Glasgow rolls which I met for the first time when I met my in-laws for the first time. As James Morton mentions in Brilliant Bread they make an ideal vehicle for transporting, another Scottish invention, square sausage from your plate to your mouth. Although they look similar to any other wee roll, they’re not. The crumb should be pillow soft and the outside should have the nearest hint of a crust- not crackly or crunchy, just a thin almost chewy crust. You’re looking at a roll that is neither a crusty roll or a soft one. It makes an ideal blanket around a Lorne sausage or a homemade burger. Here goes
For a batch of six rolls that are the ideal size to go with a quarter pound burger. With square sausages I would divide the dough into 8 pieces.
Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
7g yeast, instant variety
20g sugar
10g salt
350ml low fat buttermilk.
Note
The original recipe says 330ml of whole milk. I was short of milk but had some leftover buttermilk from making soda bread. It is a substitution I intend to repeat. When we toasted the cut side of the buns,on the blisteringly hot cast iron griddle, they quick took on the characteristics of bread toasted over an end fire nicely flecked with deep dark, almost charred flecks, without the bread drying out at all.

Method
In a large bowl combine all your ingredients, mix thoroughly to combine and shape into a rough ball. Place back in your cleaned and lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth or cling foil.

Leave for 20 minutes, wet your hands and slide them under the dough at one side, stretch the dough and fold it over itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stretching and folding. Repeat twice more 4 times in total.

Leave for another 20 minutes and do another set of stretching and folding.

Leave for another 20mins and complete the final set of stretching and folding.  Form the dough into a ball. The dough should be a lot more elastic now.

Return the dough to your, cleaned and oiled bowl. Leave for one hour to prove. Your looking for it to double in size.

Lightly flour your work surface and gently tip your dough onto it. Divide your dough into either, 6, 8 pieces or even 12 for dinner rolls or for mini burgers- I just can’t call them sliders, I’m a middle aged English, English teacher after all!

Shape your dough by tucking any staggly ends in and putting your cupped hands round it and burling the dough around to make a ball. (If I’m making burger buns  I’ll flatten them out a bit). Place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Leave to rise, they should nearly double in size. Depending on how warm your kitchen is this could be between 30 to 60 minutes.

While your rolls are proving preheat your oven to  220 °c \ 210 fan

When the rolls look nicely puffed up put them in your preheated oven. Your looking for quite a dark bake this should take between 10-14 minutes.

Take the rolls and place them on a cooling tray. Leave for at least 20 minutes before you eat them.

We’ve just had our burgers and they were even better than usual. Just settling down for the evening to start watching the box set of Twin Peaks. Started it last night but we fell asleep hope we have more success tonight. Tomorrow I’ll just have to tackle Niela’s buttocks!!

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