Pizza dough is a fantastically easy bread to make at home. It’s versatile and freezes beautifully. Make pizza, calzones, rolls or breadsticks. Do use ’00’ flour, which is very finely milled and high in gluten to give your bread a deliciously chewy texture. Simply shape, allow to prove for about 20 minutes and then cook in a high heat oven, around 220ºc/420ºf for the recommended time for whatever you are making.
The classics are always nice, but try to go a little wild with flavours! I, for example, love it with a little rosemary, topped with gorgonzola and pears. The sky is the limit! Well, maybe not anchovies and chocolate…
Prep time: 20mins plus 1 hour for rising
500g ’00’ flour
500g plain, all purpose flour
1tsp fine sea salt
1.5tbs quick yeast
650ml water, warm to touch
1tbsp sugar, caster or granulated
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Whisk the flours and salt together in a large bowl – the largest in your kitchen, big enough for the whole mixture to double in size.
Fill a jug with the water and add the yeast, sugar and oil. Allow the yeast to bloom out and activate by leaving it for at least 5 minutes. It should foam vigorously.
Make a well in the bottom of the flour, pour in the liquid and stir with a large fork from the centre to the outside, slowly bringing in all the flour until a smooth, sticky dough forms. When it starts to get to difficult to use the fork, reach in with a clean, floured hand and work the dough together.
Tip the dough out onto a clean, lightly floured surface – a countertop is usually the best – and knead for 5 to 10 minutes until the dough becomes silky and springy. There should be some resistance as the gluten starts to develop, which will give it a wonderful chewy texture.
Lightly flour the bowl you used to mix the dough in and lay the dough in the bottom, dust the top with flour and cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Leave it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size – it should take about an hour.
Once risen, scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured countertop and knock back, removing much of the air but not all. Using a scraper or a butter knife, portion the dough into 6 portions for medium pizzas, 8 portions for small.
Either use immediately or wrap the portions in clingfilm for the fridge or freezer. If freezing, wrap double.
Crafting this rather large wedding cake was hard work but so much fun that I would do it again and again. I thought I would share a few details of the adventure so here it goes! Let’s start with the final result:
Wedding Cake Kiss
I know you might be thinking ‘it’s only 12 inches, that’s the size of a pizza’, but it’s not like a pizza at all. I have never seen such a large cake tin in my life. You could practically bath an infant in it, though of course I wouldn’t recommend this multipurpose use! The depth feels like an abyss that ingredients might disappear into. If you’ve ever made a cake you might understand the anxiety…
It fit in my oven by some miracle and by one even greater it cooked through. I can’t express the fear felt as you take a cake out of the oven that is four times an original recipe with lots of expensive ingredients. If doing this at home I recommend classical music, camomile tea and maybe a tranquilliser. Phew!
But oh the bliss when it comes out perfect. BLISS. Only 5 more layers to go…
Frosting is another adventure. I can’t tell you the grief of finding that your go-to icing sugar company had switched to a new emulsifier that doesn’t do its job, yielding grainy buttercream no matter the method. 2 kilos of sugar later and I finally decide to switch from a classic to a Swiss-style buttercream. The result was ace! Soft, cloud-like and sturdy all at the same time. Perhaps the sugar gods had a plan for me after all. I’ll never use another frosting again!
Essentially, you start with a Swiss meringue, where you heat caster sugar and egg whites over a bain-marie until the sugar dissolves, then whisk to stiff peaks, add flavour and a ton of butter. It turns into a lumpy mess at first but with more whisking you end up with heaven.
It takes more frosting than you would imagine to cover a wedding cake. I try to go for enough to cover a VW Beetle – I think I might just make it…
Were it not for waning sunshine, Autumn would be my favourite season. I love jeans, sweaters, scarves and boots. I love Halloween and all the pumpkins that come with it. I love the colour orange, crisp morning air and crunching leaves. I love that subtle quiet that comes when all the tourists head back home. Well almost – this is London after all, they tend to keep on coming! More the proud am I to live in such an awesome city.
Speaking of ‘crisp’ and ‘crunch’, how about apples and pears coming into season? How about apple and pear crisp?! Or crumble, for the British lexicon. Crisp and crumble are one in the same and yet another reason to absolutely love Autumn!
Any of you who have searched out a recipe for crisp or crumble will know that there are a million and one ways to make it. Everyone has their own version and is usually at least slightly sentimental about it. It is nuanced dish and rightly so, as is true with any ‘family recipe’.
Sweet and tart with a hint of salt, this staple dessert can be as simple as chopping up some fruit and chucking it into a baking dish with a layer of buttery crumb on the top, but it can also be something a bit more special…
I am dressing mine up a bit by separating out the components to create a more beautiful dish with a blast of colour, suited to a dinner party rather than a standard weeknight supper. I cook the fruit in one step, the crumble in another and then add a couple of very easy bits to make the final dish even more gorgeous.
Apple and Pear Crisp with Raspberry Coulis and Oat Praline
Preheat oven to 180
3 eating apples, cut into chunks
3 conference pears, cut into chunks
50g butter, cubed
40g light brown soft sugar
40g caster sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
grating of nutmeg
50g blanched almonds
50g caster sugar
1tbsp caster sugar
300g frozen raspberries
2tbs icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice (to taste)
For the filling:
Mix spices with sugar. Toss chopped fruit and cubed butter in spiced sugar, vanilla and lemon zest and spread evenly in a roasting tin. Bake on the middle level of the oven until just soft and lightly golden, stirring occasionally. It should take about half an hour to fourty minutes.
Take the raspberries out of the freezer.
For the crumble:
Whiz up the cubed butter, flour and a pinch of in a food processor, or alternatively cut in and rub in until like fine breadcrumbs. See my ‘Shortcrust and Cherry Pie’ post for instructions. Mix through the sugar and oats, spread over a baking sheet and bake on the top shelf of the oven for twenty to thirty minutes until golden and crispy, a bit like crumbled shortbread.
For the praline:
Oil a baking sheet and set aside. Turn on the extractor as cooking sugar always creates smoke, put the sugar and nuts in a frying pan and gently melt the sugar over a low heat. Once fully melted, swirl and cook to a caramel. It should be a dark golden but not burned. Pour the caramel and nuts onto the oiled baking sheet and allow to cool.
Once cooled completely, whizz up in the food processor or put in a plastic bag, wrap in a tea towel and bash up with a rolling pin. Don’t be tempted to do this while warm, you’ll end up with a sticky mess!
While the caramel is cooling, check the fruit and the crumble. If done, break up the crumble and leave both it and the fruit in the oven, turned down to warm.
For the coulis:
Whizz up frozen raspberries, now close to defrosted, with lemon juice and sifted icing sugar. Because the raspberries are still half frozen, the coulis should look a bright pink colour rather than deep red. Think of a smoothie. The ice crystals have this affect by creating tiny bubbles as they cut through the fruit. Let out with water to desired consistency. Put into a squeeze bottle. If you don’t have one, a spoon will do the job too.
For the styling:
Start by squeezing a design on the bottom of the plate. Think of a messy grid. Do leave a border around the food as a frame, it will make the whole dish look more appealing.
Next spoon the apple and pear mixture into the centre, making sure there is some height to the middle – always good for any dish.
Sprinkle over a layer of crumble and then the praline.
Serve with an optional jug of cream or custard on the side, or if you’re me – a neat little ball of vanilla ice cream in a small glass.
There it is – the humble crumble, but so much better.
I recently went out for dinner and we had this chocolate stout cake. It was dense, sweet, malty, moist, bitter (maybe slightly too bitter) – but mainly just a delicious piece of cake. Something worth baking at home, with a couple of little changes.
First thing’s first – it’s the beer that gives this cake depth of flavour by introducing some of its fruity and malty notes, so the beer is one of the most important ingredients to think about.
In Harold McGee’s book ‘On Food and Cooking’, the beer style chart lists stout as being mainly dark and bitter. Porter on the other hand has a bit of caramel sweetness to balance the bitterness from the dark roasted malt. It also has a bit more fizz, which might help to leaven the cake. I’ll tell you what – it works. I’ll never again bake a chocolate cake without it… and the whisky in the frosting? Well, it’s the icing on the, you know, cake.
Porter Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Whisky Frosting
My goodness how time flies! I can’t believe my last post was in September! I have been getting all sorts of experience in the food, including a fabulously beautiful trip to the Amalfi Coast where I ate my weight in pizza, pasta and gelato. Definitely put this on your bucket list. Visit Positano, you will not regret it. The beauty almost hurts your eyes.
I have worked a month as a chef at Kome, a marvelous pop-up restaurant and catering company with food crossing the divide between Korean and Mexican flavours. Then a few more work experiences starting with 10 Greek Street in their pastry section, a few days with Southerden bakery right near me in Peckham, followed by a life changing week at Restaurant Story with Tom Sellers, who I owe a lot to for nudging my towards starting a career in food. Check out some of the snacks I helped make while I was there:
Crispy cod skins with emulsion and gin botanicals
Eel flavoured take on the Oreo with vinegar dust, delicious I swear!
And the beautiful Egg with salmon roe and egg emulsion
You would not believe the amount of prep work that goes into making these little snacks. Now just imagine how much work goes into creating one of their main dishes. Snacks of the Sea for example (I think they like the word ‘snack’…
Or Almond and Dill (I got to make the dill oil!)
There are 10 courses on the tasting menu with 6 additional snacks and every dish is magical. The Story team is so talented and they are more dedicated than most, hence the Michelin star. They are also some of the most thoughtful and humble. I am so lucky to have learned some of the magic. Phew, it’s almost emotional!
In between all that I have done some exciting private catering and before you know it here we are in November. Very little sleep but a whole lot of fun!
Anyway now that I’ve swiftly updated you all with the new notches in my CV, on to an updated version of one of my favourite foods in the whole world… pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner (OMG I HAVE NOT EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THIS YET) and the only thing that could possibly make us feel better about the flames bursting from our pockets as our wallets spontaneously combust is to eat delicious things like pie. So here we are:
Vanilla Pumpkin Pie
Damn I miss home this time of year. The crashing of pans followed by the clinking of glasses and catching up with my American family… This time of year is when London really does feel a bit sad in comparison. Y’all just don’t know what Thanksgiving means! And you’re missing out…
At home, Thanksgiving is the time when we invite our whole family including every possible cousin within a 100 mile radius around our table to gorge on my mother’s fabulous turkey and stuffing. We break out the old linens, the silver, the china and we try our best to pay homage to the past generation’s parties through a balance of grandeur and generosity fit for such an important occasion. In a world where Christmas is often quiet and close, Thanksgiving makes up for it by swinging open the arms of the home and inviting everyone in we can fit. We gorge ourselves to the brim with chat and turkey until we can’t possibly fit anymore… and then comes the pie.
Pumpkin pie is one of those sacred American dishes. You have to have it, no ifs, ands or buts. However, sometimes it can be more of an after thought to all that turkey and stuffing. So, I’ve opted to shake it up a bit, adding a vanilla pod to the mix to ramp up the warming aromatics that make this pie so deserving of centre stage. It’s one of the acts, not an encore! The culinary rules say that since dessert is the last thing to cross our pallets, it had better be impressive, with flavour that beats out everything you’ve eaten thus far this meal. I think this Vanilla Pumpking Pie is just the ticket.
One Quantity Basic Pie Crust (See my post on Short Crust and follow directions for Basic Pie Crust)
425g Solid Pack Pumpkin Puree
2 Large Eggs
284ml Single Cream (or Evaporated Milk)
180g Caster Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Table Salt
1 Vanilla Pod, seeds stripped for use
1 1/4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Fresh Grate Ginger
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
First thing, preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f
Pumpkin pie is terribly easy because all you do is mix your spices and vanilla seeds together with your sugar in a bowl, stir in the pumpkin, then stir in lightly beaten eggs. Try not to incorporate too much air as you want zero bubbles with any baked custard (yes, that is what this technically is). Don’t throw away that vanilla pod case! Put it in a jar of sugar and use this in whatever you like. It add extra oomph to pancakes especially.
Cover the pumpkin mixture and pop it in the fridge to infuse while you sort out your pie crust. Ta dah!
Roll out chilled pie crust and line a fluted 28cm pie tin. Excuse the horrible lighting/sharpness of this photo… I have been playing with a new lens. Cover this with cling film and pop it in the freezer for 5 minutes or the fridge for 15 if you, like me have zero room for anything in your freezer, not even ice. Keep the scraps of dough for patching after blind baking.
After chilling the pastry until firm, line it with a parchment paper cartouche ( a round piece of paper used in cooking), crinkled so it can be pushed into the corners well, and fill with baking beans to the rim. Blind bake (without filling) at 200°c/400°f for 15 minutes or until the sides are set up. Then remove the beans with a large spoon and the cartouche and bake for another 5-10 minutes until lightly golden with no gray patches of raw pastry left behind. You don’t want a soggy bottom! Lower the temprature of your oven to 160°c/325°f.
Now patch up any cracks with scraps from the raw pastry and pour in the pumpkin mixture until it is full as you can make it without slopping over. As this is custard, you don’t need to worry about it rising but it could souffle if cooked at too high a temperature or for too long. So leave about a half cm or quarter inch of pastry at the top. Bake this for 40-50 minutes until the center of the filling wobbles only slightly or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
This is definitely one to practice before Thanksgiving since it’s so delicious and a perfect dessert to follow any special autumn meal. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped cream or for even more excitement, cinnamon ice cream.
Recipe adapted from Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie Recipe
Carrot cake is an all American classic and a signature of Autumn, with its orange and brown colours reflecting the changes in the trees. We had it as our wedding cake two Septembers ago we love it so much, so I suppose I get a hankering for it this time of year in part out of reminiscing… Here is a photo of that gorgeous wedding cake, made by Sugar Rush Bakery in West Seattle, sadly now closed. It was so delicious!
Photo by Marla Smith Photography
There are hundreds of wonderful recipes out there filled with raisins and walnuts but I prefer to make mine with apricots and pecans. My recipe doesn’t make as big as the one above but it is just as delicious. Sweet but not sickly and good enough to eat for breakfast. Come on, it’s got veg in it!
Oh, and just a little hint – if you want it to be really moist make the cake the day before, cool it and wrap it in cling film and leave it out, then frost it the next day. If you have time, it’s worth the wait. Doing this allows the flavours and the moisture to develop.
This cake also freezes wonderfully if well wrapped so you can make it far in advance. Just leave it wrapped and out on the counter for at least 12 hours to defrost fully before use and frost it on the day.
Top it with a generous amount of cream cheese frosting and eat it within three days for best results (as if it will last that long!). Refrigerate it if it is at all hot out and you aren’t eating it within the day of making. The frosting will keep up better this way anyway.
It’s that time of year when we are all getting just a little tired of the fresh fruit bowl… pie season! Let’s start with making the perfect pie pastry, then fill it with what you like. Today, I’ll be filling my pie with cherries, which have been in amazing abundance this year.
Below are my favorite recipes and methods for perfect short crust pastries. Like my grandma’s recipes, the base of these start with a combination of butter, flour and salt with additions of lard, egg yolk and sugar to make them as flakey, rich or sweet as you want them for different recipes. For the purposes of this lesson, I will be making the Double Rich Pie Crust recipe.
Basic Pie Crust 250g plain flour, 1 large pinch salt, 140g cold unsalted butter or 100g cold unsalted butter and 40g cold lard, 2 large egg yolks, 3 TBS chilled water (or 5 TBS chilled water, no egg yolks)
Double Rich Pie Crust 500g plain flour, 1/8 tsp salt, 280g cold unsalted butter/200g cold unsalted butter and 80g lard, 4 large egg yolks, 5-6 TBS chilled water (plus extra)
Sweet Rich Pie Crust To the 250g flour recipe, add 1 TBS caster sugar with salt.
Cherry Pie Filling About 1kg/2lbs fresh, tart, whole cherries 1 TBS Almond Liqueur 3 TBS Corn Flour 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 150-200g/1 cup-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending how tart cherries are) 2 TBS granulated sugar (for topping)
First thing’s first – pop a small jug or cup of water in the fridge to chill down. You’ll need it very cold. Now, follow this same method for each pie pastry recipe and you’ll get there. Start by choosing either the slow manual or quick machine method for rubbing fat into flour, then follow the steps after. For now, let’s focus mainly on the quick method. I’ll add some more photographs of the slow method a bit later… To start, measure flour and salt into a large bowl and cut up cold unsalted butter into cubes. If you don’t have unsalted, for heaven’s sake just use salted and omit the salt in the recipe. Life’s too short for needless extra trips to the grocery store…
The patisseries of Paris make everyone swoon and Pâte sucrée is the base for those fabulous tarts and biscuits that stand at the front of the shop window. Rich yet light, works perfectly with chocolate, fruit, cream, custard, cheese cake, citrus filling and tastes as delicious raw as it does cooked – it really is a wonder of the pastry world. Trust me, when you learn to make this pastry you might not go back to any other! Save for the near-holy american apple pie that is, which undoubtedly calls for short crust… or does it?
It’s not the easiest to make but when you get it right it is oh so satisfying. The recipe and method I am using is adapted from the Leith’s How to Cook book, which I highly recommend. You can of course make it in a Magimix or other food processor if you want to, or bung the wet ingredients in a bowl and knead in the dry, but it won’t be as good. Besides, pastry making really is for those who get pleasure out of the cooking process as much as the eating, so I’m going to show you the old fashioned way.
As with most good things baked, butter, eggs and sugar enrich this dough to decadence. Use it for mini fruit pies as I have here, citrus or chocolate tarts, accompaniment biscuits… anything you think needs a sweet base really. One thing to remember though: as this pastry has more sugar than a usual one it should be blind baked (i.e. without filling) at a slightly lower temprature of 190°c/375°f and on the top shelf of your oven for high heat. If you are using a fan oven adjust accordingly, usually down 20°c.
Have out: weighed ingredients, a pallet knife, cling film (two layers) and a butter knife for the initial stages.
Start by sifting the flour and salt onto a clean smooth surface, then use your fist to make it into a large ring. You’ll be working in the middle of the ring so make sure to leave plenty of space. Now for some hand movement instructions. Remember when you used to make shadow puppets when you were a kid? Make a goose. Ok now you are going to keep the goose’s beak almost all the way shut while you push down with the pads of your fingers rather than your nails. Once you get started you’ll get what I mean… a bit like pecking.
First separate cold eggs, reserve whites if you like and keep egg yolks cold until ready to use.
Put the cool butter in the centre of the circle of flour and push it into the surface with the pads of your fingers so it is smooshed down. Then pour the sugar over the butter and, using only one hand, mix it it in with your finger tips.
Use a few scooping motions if needed to flip sugar back over the butter and pinching motions to smoosh it together. You want to do this step efficiently so that the butter does not melt or become greasy.
If necessary use your second hand to help move more quickly but ideally keep it to one so you have your other hand free to move flour away if you need to.
Hello all! Sorry things have been a bit quiet this week. I’ve got some fabulous news though! I am now enrolled for a Diploma in Food and Wine at Leith’s! This means more recipes and lessons with refined technique to teach you all! I’ll tell you what, I’ve been having some serious fun in the kitchen!
First up – a lesson on presentation.
Ever feel as though you’ve put in all the work and yet it just looks like slop on a plate? Never fear! There are a few tips that will revolutionise your presentation.
Have a look at this plate of vegetables and hummus…
I never knew how to make crudités look so lovely and yet on learning this simple lesson I now see how easily any plate can be made beautiful.
It takes a bit of thought, but the results are ace! In both my two examples, 5 tips have been used to make what might have been a bit of a mess into edible bursts of colour.
Presentation works a bit like a painting, where the eye is drawn to look at the object in a pleasing way. Think about presenting the following when you plate your dish:
1) center height
2) blocks of color
3) diagonal or circular lines
4) where possible, use odd numbers
5) clean plate boarder
You can try using these tips next time you’re making a snack for your guests! I promise they’ll appreciate your efforts, and they may even think the dish is more delicious for it.
The truth for most is, presentation is really just as important as taste when it comes to how you feel about eating something.
This fruit salad may seem a bit fussy, but it looks beautiful, which makes eating it a more pleasurable experience. We do eat to live, but I think we live to eat too. Am I right? I personally might be drawn to the above instead of a chopped fruit salad, for example.
As is per usual, it’s all a matter of personal taste but see what you think about these tricks next time you put something together to serve your friends. I bet you 100 kiwis they’ll notice!
I’ll be incorporating more presentation technique into future posts, that way we can all eat tasty AND beautiful food!
Well, here we are! The new After The Market! It’s been a bit quiet here for a while but I hope you’ll think it’s been worth the wait.
I am so happy to share my new site, with more user-friendly buttons and ways to search. I’ve certainly enjoyed the process of putting it together with mastermind graphic designer David Waters and designer/web builder Kimberley Chan. Thank you so much guys!
To start us off, I think something sweet fits the bill… Enjoy!
Peanut butter: the perfect combination of salty, sweet and that protein taste called umami. Leaving out the nostalgia for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, there’s nothing much better than a peanut butter cake in my book, which is why I keep re-visiting my recipe.
This time I have added Greek yogurt to the mix, which I think has given it a creamier feel yet a lighter texture. The yogurt acts a bit like buttermilk, adding acid to the baking powder to create a nearly frothy reaction. You can see how the batter forms silky peaks.
I’ve topped these ones with dark chocolate ganache and sea salt, so they’re a bit like a fancy peanut butter cup.