Basic Pizza Dough

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Children love playing with dough and my daughter is no exception. They also love pizza. Why not combine both of those and make your own pizza. Its easier than it might sound produces excellent results. We make our dough at home using fast acting yeast and after kneading the dough and while we let it rest for the rising I give a little dough to my daughter to play with. This keeps her occupied while the yeast does its magic. You can make your pizza dough the traditional way by just using white bread flour or mix its with wholemeal flour if you wish. I have played around with the flour mixture many times but have settled for the following amount. The amount below makes three or four medium sized pizzas.

Ingredients
Strong White Flour (Bread Flour) = 350 grams
Wholemeal Flour = 100 grams
Extra Virgin Olive Oil = 1 tablespoon
Salt = A pinch
Fast Action Dried Yeast = one 7 gm packet
Lukewarm water = 350 ml (this might vary depending on the type of flour, sometimes the wholemeal flour might require a slight bit more water. Best thing is to start with about 325 ml of water and then add a bit more if required)

Method
In a large mixing bowl shift in the flour. Add the yeast and salt to it. Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil and the water . Slowly using a spatula or your fingers bring in the flour from the outside into the liquid in the middle. Keep mixing till it kind of comes together. Now pour it over a floured work surface and using a floured hand knead the dough well stretching as you go along. Do this for about 10 mins until you have a very smooth and elastic dough. Form into a ball and keep covered in a floured mixing bowl covered with a damp cloth for about an hour or so until it has doubled in size. Now gently tip out the dough from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Using your fist gently knock out the air from this dough. Now divide this mixture into 3 or 4 portions. Dust with a bit of flour on top. Form the individual portions into a smooth tight ball using circular motion of the palm of your hand. These dough balls can be used straight away or can be stored in the fridge (it will still grow, but slowly) or in the freezer (freeze them as quick as you can and it will stop the growing process).image

ps. I use semolina at this stage. Dust a bit of semolina on the work surface and place this dough ball on. Now dust a bit of semolina and flour mixture on top and roll the dough out. The semolina does a better job of making sure that the dough do not stick to the work surface and the cooking stone or plate and also gives the final pizza a nice crunch. 

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Easy Bread : Irish Soda Bread

20130524_130115Irish Soda bread is one of the easiest and quickest bread to make. I have a basic recipe that I follow but play with the flour mixture from time to time and often add some seeds to the mixture for a different texture. The only thing with this bread is that you need to use it up fairly quickly as it do not keep very well but if you are anything like our household you might struggle to resist it once it comes out of the oven. Its good with a nice bowl of soup, with a hearty Irish Stew, with dips like Houmous and my wife loves it with butter and strawberry jam (as many do in Ireland).

INGREDIENTS :
175 gms Rye Flour (sometimes I use wholemeal flour)
175 gms of white flour
Half tsp Salt
1 tsp of Bicarbonate of Soda
50 gms of mixed seeds (optional)
284 ml carton of Buttermilk

METHOD :
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade. In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients. Now add the buttermilk and form a dough. Sometimes I have had to use a bit more flour at this stage to help form a dough. Whatever you do try and keep the whole process quick as as soon as the Soda comes in contact with the liquid it starts releasing CO2 which helps the bread to rise. Pour it over a floured surface and knead lightly in to a slightly firmer shape. Form a round shape and flatten slightly. Sprinkle a few more seed mix on top. Put it on a lightly floured Baking Sheet. Using a sharp knife make two incisions as a cross going almost all the way down. Dust lightly with some flour and bake for about 30 mins or so (till the bread sounds hollow when tapped). Cool on a wire rack. As said before this is best eaten on the day or the next.