Since I moved to the UK almost four years ago, from a large kitchen to a very small one, I learnt to make do with the basics. I wasn’t sure if I would get used to being cramped in a small space. I got some equipment with me but I left most behind, especially my very much missed Kitchen Aid. However, I now beat almost everything with a normal whisk or with an electric hand whisk, which (when working well) is a life-saver. (I must admit though that recently, I beat some zabaglione by hand. Then I swore I would never do that again!)
One thing which I didn’t have at all is a bread maker. I’m just an amateur cook so you chefs out there please forgive me for owning one, even while you cringe. But now, we can enjoy freshly baked bread everyday. That is what J enjoys most. Long-life super fluffy sliced bread isn’t an option. I have to say though that most supermarkets now have their own bakeries in store that offer good-quality bread and that’s great, but I still prefer making our own. I wouldn’t recommend using it to bake cakes. However it’s perfect for fruit loaves.
Thanks to our bread maker I’ve been making pizza on average once a week, especially on Saturday evenings. I love the feel and elasticity of pizza dough and it’s so easy to roll out. It beats shortcrust pastry, not in taste obviously, but I don’t have to worry about it falling apart on me. Fact is that pizza dough is easy to make with or without the machine. *With* means less mess; all you need is a little flour for rolling it out onto your working surface. The ingredients remain the same for whichever method you prefer.
A note before you start: there is the need for salt in this recipe. Omitting it here is not an option. For two square pizza trays you’ll need:
- ½ teaspoon dried active yeast (I use Allinson)
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 170ml water
The above is the order in which the ingredients go in the machine. By hand try the following:
- Prepare two trays sprinkled well with semolina. This will help you to slide the pizza easily onto your serving plate later.
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7, but consider more if you’re using a non-convection oven.
- Combine the yeast with the water (warm this up, not too much), olive oil and salt in a large bowl and stir until the yeast and salt are dissolved. After a couple of minutes add half of the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the flour and mix well with your hands.
- Put the dough on a clean floured surface and work it well. This dough can take it! Then leave it to rise in an oiled bowl or tray, covered with a damp towel. Once it’s doubled in size take it out of the bowl on to a surface once more and divide it into two. Roll each piece of dough and place on the two trays. (You could use pizza stones instead of the trays. These will work better in a very hot oven.)
- Top your pizzas with anything you like. I am partial to mozzarella or goat’s cheese, some mushrooms, slices of chorizo and onions, oregano and some more olive oil. I generally slice some tomatoes as a base when they’re nice and fresh instead of tinned passata or polpa. This is obviously a guide. Do whatever you want!
If you want to make focaccia, then all you need to do is to spread all the dough onto a well-oiled baking tray and leave it to rise a little (leave out Step 3). Puncture the dough with some fresh rosemary when you can find it. If not prong it with a fork, spread some more olive oil and top it with some onions and again with anything that you like. There’s your Saturday evening dinner sorted. Enjoy!
Now that’s a great combo. That’s why I’ve chosen it for the name of this blog. And if you try this combination, you’ll know – it’ll be a bit of an a-ha moment. You see, to be honest this blog post was a long time coming and I know I will be relieved once it’s published. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you might already know that recently I bought a cook book which I didn’t like that much at first. I thought it was a total waste of money really. Having baked some recipes from it as the weeks passed by, I must now say that although I still have some lurking doubts, I am warming up to it slowly. First of all I must thank this book for this blog’s name. I have cooked with chorizo before and it has become a staple in my pantry. Lorraine Pascale made me want to try it with thyme. It turned out to be a perfect marriage.
The following recipe is my take on her Chorizo and Thyme Fougasse (click here for the actual recipe). I am grateful to Ms. Pascale for this and for some other recipes in her book which I will try very soon. I made this bread after a long walk in the beautiful Surrey countryside and loved it. So here it goes.
A very important note for this recipe: I used my bread machine to make the dough instead of a mixer with a hook. This was less messy and it worked really well for me. I will also include the traditional method later on.
For the bread machine dough method will need:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons yeast dissolved into 250ml warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin if possible)
Have 50g of finely chopped ready-to-eat chorizo and 2 tablespoons of dried thyme at the ready, to add after the dough cycle is ready, and some milk for brushing the dough.
- If you have a bread machine then choose the pizza dough option which will take approximately 45 minutes. Remove the dough from the container.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
- Work the chorizo and thyme in the dough. When these are well combined leave the dough to rise in a warm place, preferably covered with some oiled clingfilm or a warm damp clean cloth for around 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
- Brush the dough with the milk.
- For the crust to remain nice and golden place two handfuls of ice cubes at the bottom of the oven (you can also either spray the oven with some cold water before closing or fill a small roasting dish with water in place of the ice cubes).
- Place the dough on a lightly oiled roasting tray in the oven. Bake for around 40 minutes but keep an eye on it and check its colour every once in a while. I know this is fiddly, but it’s worth it. I’m already smelling the freshly baked bread in your kitchen!
And now for the other method, all you need to do is to replace Step 1 with the following:
- Mix the dough ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.
- Knead for 15-20 minutes. I know you have to work at it and use some muscle power but this will develop the dough’s elasticity. So please, please have patience.
- Put the dough back in a bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
- Continue from Step 2.
Everyone knows I’m a huge Nigella fan. No news there. One of the very few things I don’t agree with her on is bread machines. My hubby J bought us one last year and I love it. I use it almost every day and it’s perfect for both sweet and savoury kinds. I haven’t looked back since.
I am trying a new dough recipe now. It’s one for rolls or baps that I’m going to use for this evening’s dinner. (For anyone who’s asking, it’s home-made burgers.) What’s curious is that this recipe calls for 1 egg. I’ve never used eggs for bread doughs before and I’m wondering how it will turn out. We’ll see…