Near Perfect Pizza Dough

Every pizza has to start with the dough. No dough, no pizza. Obviously.

I started making pizzas about year and a bit ago. With ‘started’, I mean that before that I’d only make them occasionally, couple of times a year. It turns out that there’s a lot to it if you’re critical of what you’re doing and aim to make better pizzas than 95 % of pizzerias offer.

Back home, in Finland, a home made pizza used to consist of flattened bread dough with ketchup working as the sauce and fried mince, tinned pineapple, tomatoes and mild edam as toppings. That’s how my grandma used to make them. Today, I think people also have some olives on top.

I know that’s a bit harsh and that’s not everybody’s experience of home pizzas but I think that experience is what made me try harder. Try to make pizzas that actually kick ass and you would hesitate ordering another pizza in a restaurant as you know that you can make better ones at home. It’s a bit like with steaks. Most restaurant steaks are pretty average as it’s not hard to learn how to grill ‘the perfect steak’.

This is why we’re starting Month of Pizza with the dough. With a bit of trial and error, anyone can make a kick-ass pizza dough that’ll rival anything you can whack ten quid on in a restaurant.

Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 500 g of Type ’00’ flour – available in most supermarkets. Use strong bread flour if not available
  • 300 ml luke warm water
  • 8 g dry yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 25 g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 10 g (2 tsp) salt

Method

  1. Mix salt into the flour in a large mixing bowl
  2. Mix water, yeast, sugar and 2/3 of oil together in another bowl
  3. Make a well in the middle of the flour, pour water in that and let it sit for 10-20 minutes until the yeast start working
  4. If you’re using a kitchen mixer such as a Kenwood Chef, mix the dough on low speed for 10 minutes.
  5. While the doing is being mixed, add remaining oil to keep dough from sticking too much.
  6. If you’re hand kneeding, mix the dough by hand in the bowl and pour on your kitchen surface. You should kneed the dough for about 15 minutes and no less to ensure right kind of consistency. There’s plenty of good videos on YouTube to show you how.
  7. (personally, I really like my 1970s Kenwood Chef I got of off eBay.)

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 3-6

Proving

If there’s two important stages to making dough, first is kneeding, second is proving. When the dough is rising, yeast eats and burns sugars from the flour to alcohol and carbon dioxide. The CO2 expands the dough and stretches the gluten, thus making it stronger.

There’s two proving methods I use. First one is quick, just leave it in a mixing bowl and let it rise , covered with cling film or towel, for an hour or until it’s doubled in size.

Cold proving pizza dough

The second is to divide the dough into smaller portions, about four or five, place them into containers with enough room to grow and put them in the fridge. This is called cold proving. I’m not sure of the science and and mechanics of it but it seems like the slow pace the fought tales to rise, it adds to the texture and flavour of the final product. You’ll need to leave it in the fridge for at least 12-24 hours. Many pizzerias that use this method leave the dough to cold proof for up 36-48 hours.

Yes, it’s a lot slow process but results are worth it.

If kneading and rising is done properly, you’ll end up with a dough that can be stretched till it resembles graphene in its thinness. (Your mileage may and will vary.)

Once the dough’s been proven, you need to knock it back. In other words, drop it back on the surface and gently kneed it until most of the air bubbles are gone.

Now it’s ready for rolling, pushing, tossing and stretching into the best pizzas you’ve ever made. These days, I use this amount of dough to make four pizzas but it’s possible to carefully roll up to 8 very very thin pizzas out of this. Once rolled to size, you can leave the base to rest for 10-15 minutes until adding toppings and baking.

If you do end up using this method, please leave a comment and perhaps even a photo on our Facebook page or below!

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Gin

This is one the cakes made for Oskari’s naming party. I’ve since made it a few more times and done some changes to the original recipe. As with most things in life, you can make them better by adding a drop of alcohol. With the lemon drizzle cake, the natural companion is gin.

To prepare the lemon gin liqueur, squeeze juice from one lemon in to a medium size jam jar, mix in 50 g sugar and place to halves of lemon on top. Then fill up to the brim with gin. Close the lid, shake for 30 seconds and leave for at least a week. This will make for an incredibly bitter sweet ‘juice’ to use for moistening the cake.

Now, on with rest of the recipe.

Kristian’s Lemon Drizzle with Lemon Gin Liqueur

Ingredients

  • 225 g soft butter
  • 255 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 255 g self raising (or plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
  • grated zest of a lemon

Topping and moisten

  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 15-20 cl lemon gin liqueur
  • 50 g sugar
  • 15 cl icing sugar

Method

  1. Pre heat your oven to 180°C
  2. Mix the sugar and butter until fluffy and creamy.
  3. Continue mixing while adding eggs one at a time.
  4. Add lemon zest and then flour.
  5. Pour and spread dough into a cake tin and bake for 40-55 minutes depending on how deep the tin is. Use skewer to find out if it’s ready.
  6. Take the cake out of the tin and on to a cake base
  7. After about ten minutes out of the oven, use a dessert spoon to slowly infuse the cake with the lemon gin mixed with 50 g of sugar.
  8. Make a runny icing and mix in the remaining lemon zest
  9. Generously, spread the icing over the cake while letting it drip over the edges

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: up to 50 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12-16

Coarse Pork Liver Patè

We’re back from our holidays and it’s time to get some more recipes up. During our trip, I got started in planning our Christmas meal. Yes, I know, it’s a bit early but we’re hosting it for the first time ever so it’s kind of a big deal. Over the next few months, I’ll be testing out recipes for dishes I’m thinking of offering. You can follow the progress via this tag: The First Christmas. This week, I’ll start with something that’s surprisingly quick and easy to make liver patè.

I’ve made it with port liver, but I’m sure it’ll work just the same with chicken or venison.

Coarse Pork Liver Patè

Relatively easy to make liver patè.

Ingredients

  • 400 g pork liver
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 50 g butter plus some for frying
  • 1 tsb mace
  • 1 tbsp thyme, chopped
  • a few sage leaves, chopped
  • pepper
  • salt

Method

  1. Cut off all the membrane left on the liver
  2. On medium heat, fry the liver and onion in the butter
  3. Add seasoning and herbs
  4. Fry on both sides till the liver is still a little pink inside
  5. Take off heat and let it cool down a bit
  6. Mix in rest of the butter to add moisture
  7. Now, take half of the livers and blend in a small blender until smooth
  8. Blend rest of it only a little bit so that it’s more like a mince
  9. Mix both halves together and pack into ramekins. Try and get rid of as much of the air pockets as possible
  10. Melt a large knob of butter and use it to seal the patè

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

Stinging Nettle Pancakes with Morel Mushroom Stew


For a long time, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with stinging nettles. Nettles is one of the first plant of the spring you can forage for food. It marks the beginning of the summer as it’s often the first thing in our garden to end up on our plates. Unfortunately, it just keeps growing ever bigger and in larger quantities. It attempts to infiltrate its stingy stems everywhere, between the raspberry bushes, strawberries and any free space you can find in the garden. I’ve been trying to turn my hate for into love by using it’s stems for colouring wool, but the colour only ends up being a bleak greyish-green.

Luckily, nettle pancakes, by themselves or with mushroom stew, are delicious!

Nettle Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 3 litres of small nettle leaves, washed
  • 30 cl plain flour
  • 10 cl barley flour
  • 80 cl milk
  • an egg or two
  • 1/2 tsb salt

Method

  1. Mix the dough until smooth and add finely chopped nettles
  2. Let it sit for an hour
  3. Cook on a hot skillet with butter

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Morel Mushroom Stew

Ingredients

  • 200 g morel mushrooms (boiled twice to remove poison)
  • 35 g butter
  • 1/2 onion
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 20 cl cream

Method

  1. Fry the mushrooms on a dry frying pan for a moment until excess water has evaporated
  2. Add butter, onion and salt, and fry for a few minutes
  3. Add plain flour and fry a bit more until slightly browned
  4. Finally, add cream and let the stew sit for about 10 minutes until serving.

Preparation time: 1 hour (if using fresh morels)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4

Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia

Last week, we went for lunch at Benugo in the BFI. I had a very nice veal burger but I couldn’t finish it. Why? Because of the lovely focaccia bread I filled up on before the mains arrived. Shame on me so I decided to make some myself the next day. Here’s what I came up with.

Recipe: Rosemary and Thyme Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 160 ml water
  • 2 tbs (7 g) dry yeast
  • 500 g strong white flour
  • 2 tsb salt
  • 80 ml olive oil (plus extra for coating after baking)
  • 80 ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • flaky sea salt

Instructions

  1. Whisk yeast into about 100 ml of the water and let it stand for 5 minutes
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, make a well in the middle
  3. Pour yeast/water mix in the well and with a spoon stir it until enough flour is pulled in to form soft paste
  4. Let it stand for 20 minutes, this starts the yeast
  5. Add wine, olive oil and 2/3 of rosemary and thyme, mix until you have a nice sticky dough. Add more water if necessary
  6. Either knead for 10-15 minutes or mix using a food processor with dough hook for 5 minutes. When using a processor, I then finish it by kneading another 3 minutes.
  7. Leave the dough in a large bowl to rise for an hour or until at least doubled in size.
  8. Knock it back and place into a cake tin so it covers the base all the way to the edges. I use one that’s 24 cm in diameter.
  9. Let it prove for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours
  10. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary and thyme on top with some flaky sea salt
  11. Bake in 200°C for 30 minutes
  12. Straight after the bread comes out, sprinkle it with plenty of olive oil and let it cool down.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

 

Crazy Good Chocolate Chip Cookies


This is an old time classic recipe my mum makes all the time. You can easily use this as a base for your other type of cookies, too. If you like your cookies with raisins, throw some in. If you like them with white chocolate, find another website.

Anyhow, try this out, it’s fail safe and super tasty!

Recipe: My Mums Chocolate Chip Cookies

Summary: Quick and easy to make, delicious chocolate chip cookies.

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter
  • 85 g sugar
  • 70 g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 150 g dark chocolate
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsb baking powder
  • 1 level tsb vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. turn your oven to 200°C
  2. With an electric hand whisk, mix butter and both sugars
  3. Once properly mixed, add egg
  4. Whisk until slightly frothy
  5. Mix in flour and baking powder little by little continuously mixing
  6. Chop up the chocolate and fold it in the mix
  7. Let the dough rest in the fridge for an hour
  8. Lay large spoonfulls of dough on baking paper
  9. Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes

Variations

You can replace about 1/4 of the flour with porridge oats for extra chunk.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s), idle 1 hour

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12

Sextet of Cakes

Past weekend we had a naming party for our now 15-week-old boy, Oskari. For the party we decided to make 6 cakes spelling his name. See below for the result. Some of the recipes are already here on Crofton Tales, rest will follow in the next few weeks so stay tuned.

There’s two reasons for going with Gotham as the font. 1) it has a perfectly round capital O and 2) it has plenty of straight edges that are easy to cut. Other matters influencing the choice were that this font saw a lot of use in Obamas campaign posters. Name of the font, Gotham, also reminds us of Batman, the one and only true super hero. Not a bad crowd to be associated with.

Making the letters turned out to be pretty easy. I bought two new silicon bases from Sainsbury’s, one square (21 by 21 cm) and one round (21 cm in diameter). I used the O as size guide and printed templates of the letters on A4 sheets. Then it was just a matter of cutting them out once the cakes had cooled down.

It’s worth a mention that most of the off cuts never made it to the party.

Related recipes:

Kristian’s Fluffy Top Apple Pie

This cake was my entry to the 2011 Salehurst/Manwood Road Street Party. I had never made the cake before, just thought about it long and hard. It turned out fine, in fact, it won the first price. Result.

Here’s how to make it.

Ingredients:

Pie base
30 cl plain flour
10 cl sugar
1 tsp baking powder
150 g cold butter
1/2 egg

Filling
4-5 apples
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon

Meringue topping
3 egg whites
150 g sugar
handful of strawberries

Method:

Turn your oven on to 170°C (gas mark n).

‘Pinch’ or mix the flour, sugar and baking powder with the butter. Do this as quickly as possible so the butter doesn’t start melting. Then mix in half an egg. Put the dough in to a fridge till it’s cool again.

Slice and dice the apples, mix in sugar, cardamom and cinnamon. Blast these in a microwave for a few minutes and drain the juices in to a cup. You’ll need this later.

Once your dough is cooled down press it against the sides of a pie tin (about ∅ 25 cm) and fill with your apples. Cover with tin foil and bake for about 30-35 minutes. Once done, let the pie cool down completely.

Meringue top

Pre-heat your oven to 150°C.

Whisk your egg whites till they hold a peak. While continuing to whisk briskly, mix in the sugar table spoon at a time. Once it’s all in and the mixture is smooth, almost has a metallic gloss to it, gently fold in the chopped up strawberries.

Put a sheet of non-stick parchment paper on your baking tray and draw a circle the size of your pie tin. Spread the meringue so it barely fits inside that circle. I like to then cover up the strawberries that show with a bit of mixture so from the outside, it looks like there isn’t any strawberries. Bake for about 60 minutes. (I know this sounds like long but it turns out meringue takes a while to bake)

Once done, carefully remove it off of the baking paper and place on top of your pie.

The Legendary Chocolate Cake

This recipe was originally published in my personal blog at kristian.tapaninaho.com

We were in Tampere, Finland, earlier this summer to organise and plan things for our wedding. One of the main points on our list was to find a cake worthy of us. We had some eight cakes to try out from several different bakeries but non of them really did it for us. There was nothing that stood out.

Apart from this one.

My uncle and godfather, Jussi, was leaving his job after buying a large hardware store and he was making cakes for his old department. The cake, Chocolate cake á la Veranne, was the absolute winner. No point in tasting anything after having had a slice of that. We had to have it.

Problem was of course that you couldn’t just go and buy it. We had to make 14 of them in the week leading to the wedding.

It turned out to be quite a lot work but I learned some tips and tricks along the way so the recipe below have been amended a little from the original.

Chocolate Cake á la Veranne

Ingredients:

  • 1 dl strong coffee
  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • 250 g butter
  • 2 dl sugar
  • 4 eggs

Whipped cream and raspberries for topping.

Method:

1. turn your oven on at 175ºC. Attach a sheet of non-stick baking paper to a 23 cm loose-base cake base.

2. Place a large mixing bowl over a sauce pan with simmering water. Add coffee to the bowl.

3. Piece by piece, mix chocolate with the coffee.

4. Measure your sugar and butter. Cut the butter into smallish slices. Add a little bit of butter and sugar at a time to the mixing bowl. Mix well as you go along.

5. Take the mixing bowl of the heat. Mix your eggs slightly and add them into the dough.

6. Pour your mixture into the cake base and bake in the oven for 1:00-1:15 hours. The cake will rise while it’s in the oven but goes down as it cools and gets a crunchy top. Let the cake cool down completely in the cake base.

7. The cake is at it’s best after spending a night in a fridge.

End notes:

As we could only make few a day, we had to freeze the cakes after cooling them down. Luckily, it turns out the cake freezes really well without loosing any of the taste and the crunchiness of the top stays almost the same, too. As we were making these in bulk, we used nice but pretty basic dark chocolate (in fact, it was lactose free, which limited our choice) so I believe next time I’ll try with some posh chocolate. Perhaps even a flavoured one.

Runeberg’s Cake Recipe

Or, Runebergin torttu, as we say in Finnish.

For me, the favourite day of the year is, of course, 6th February, the day I was born. Second favourite? 5th of February because it was the birthday of another great Finn, Johan Ludvig Runeberg. I’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth and on Runebergs day, we have this seasonal delicacy called, to everybody’s surprise, Runeberg’s Cake. If I was to name my favourite cake, this would be it. Looking at it, it doesn’t look or soundlike anything special but the secret is that it’s laced with rum. In my case, lot’s of it.

Continue reading “Runeberg’s Cake Recipe”