Baking is one of the broadest terms when it comes to cooking as it covers so much from the humble baked spud through cakes, pastry, breads, pizza and uses such a wide range of equipment and even different types of ovens – however throughout all this diversity the following statement is true of all the variations…
“Baking is the cooking of prepared foods by convected dry heat in an oven using natural moisture.“
You can use any number of specialist tins and trays for specific baked items as well general purpose ovens, pastry ovens, pizza ovens and forced air convection ovens. Regardless of the tins or trays and the oven that is used they should always be loaded within their capacity and should be cleaned regularly to prevent spilt food and particles starting a fire.
1 packet of puff pastry
5 – 6 tomatoes, as ripe as possible, diced roughly with the majority of the seeds removed
10 – 12 black olives, finely chopped
Shredded Parma ham (or other dried meat)
Mini mozzarella balls (or shredded mozz)
Handful of basil leaves, roughly torn up
Strong cheese, such as Red Leicester or vintage cheddar, finely grated
Fresh rocket (or oregano, thyme or similar)
Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a snack/starter
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Flour your worktop well and roll out the pastry to fit the size of a large baking tray. Place it carefully on the baking tray and brush all over with the vegetable oil.
Dress the pastry to 1 centimetre from the edge with your toppings, starting with the tomatoes, then moving onto the olives, basil, parma ham and mozzarella. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and place in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edge of the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, cut into large slices and sprinkle with the rocket before serving.
3 x 7g packets of dried yeast
1 large tablespoon of honey
625ml beer (I like Hoegaarden but I’ve also done this with Smithwicks as well)
500g of strong white bread flour
500g of plain flour
Plain flour for dusting
Lets talk about beer for a moment, I mentioned two brands of beer above that I have tried this with, Hoegaarden creates by far the better flavour of these two, but any beer should work, just be aware that a lot of the flavour of the bread comes from the beer so make sure you use a beer that you like to drink and you shouldn’t go too far wrong 😉
Sieve your flour into a large mixing bowl (the bigger the better) and add the salt and make a well in the center.
The next part of this recipe goes against the grain for most guys, we need to warm the beer in a saucepan until tepid. Then dissolve the yeast and the honey in half of this and hold onto the rest. I know it’s difficult to do this to a beer you like but trust me it’s worth it.
Now pour the yeast mixture into the well you made in the flour and with an open flat hand start making circular movement in the liquid moving from the center outwards (bringing in the dry ingredients) until the yeast/beer mixture is soaked up. Next you want to add the remainder of the beer and continue to mix until all the dry ingredients have been incorporated and you have a moist dough.
Now for the most important part of making bread and also the most fun, kneading. Start by flouring a work surface well and placing the dough on it, what you want to do is roll, push, pull, fold and punch your dough for about five minutes or so. If any dough sticks to your hands just rub them together with a little extra flour and it’ll fall right off.
Flour both your hands and the top of the dough lightly and form the dough into a large roundish shape, place it back in the mixing bowl and score the top of it.
Now we’re going to leave the bread to prove for the first time – we want it to roughly double in size. I’ve found it’s best to cover the bowl with a slightly damp tea towel and leave it in a warm draught free place. This can take up to one and a half hours, so there is no point sitting there waiting for it to happen leave it alone and check in every fifteen to twenty minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
At this point you want to knock the dough back by kneading it again for about a minute.
Next, divide the dough into twelve balls and set them on a greased baking tray ready to go into the oven. You want to leave some space between each one, as they prove again they may expand into each other however once cut the joined bread rolls should pull apart easily.
Then cover them again and leave them to prove again until they double in size. They may be a little slower to double this time but don’t panic, it usually takes considerably longer for the dough to rise the second time so hang in there and just be confident, it will.
While they are proving, heat your oven to 225 C.
Once they have doubled in size dust the tops with a little flour. Next you want to place the baking tray into the oven as carefully and gently as possible, after all your hard work to this point you don’t want to spoil them by knocking any of the air out of them. Also, be careful not to slam the oven door 😉
They should only need twenty to twenty five minutes to bake but you can check if they’re done by picking one up and tapping the bottom if it’s sounds hollow they’re done. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on a rack for about forty-five minutes.
You can of course use this recipe for all sorts of bread, just shape it into whatever you want before the second proving and cook in the same manner.
250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
125g good quality unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
1 large egg, beaten
A splash of milk
Makes approx 500g
This is an all purpose sweet pastry mix for making pies and it is remarkably easy to make.
Start by sieving the flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using your (clean) hands gently work the butter in to the flour and icing sugar mix until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Next add the milk and egg. Work it together using your hands until you have a ball of dough. Don’t over work it at this point as it will become chewy not crumbly. I’ve also heard that cold hands make better pastry, so if you have warm hands, rinse them under the cold tap as much as you can to cool them before you start to work the dough together.
Sprinkle a little flour onto a clean work surface and place your ball of dough on this, then flatten the ball until it’s about two and a half centimetres thick. Sprinkle some flour over it and then wrap it in cling film and pop it into the fridge to rest for at least thirty minutes.
At this point you can also place the wrapped pastry in a freezer bag and freeze for up to one month.
Next grab a 9 inch cake tin, preferably one with a removable bottom, and grease it lightly using some kitchen roll and vegetable oil.
Once the dough has rested, sprinkle some more flour on to a large work surface and grab a rolling pin. You want to roll the dough out turning it occasionally until it’s about half a centimetre thick.
The best way to get the pastry from your work surface to the cake tin is to roll it gently around the rolling pin and then unroll it over the oiled tin. Carefully ease the pastry into the tin making sure to get it into the corners. Trim off any excess, by running a knife around the top of the tin and then using a fork, prick the base all over. Place the tin and pastry into your freezer for about 30 minutes, while you heat your oven to 180C.
Take some greaseproof paper and scrunch it up, then use this to line the visible surface of your pastry case, making sure to press it into the sides as well. Next, fill it with either ceramic baking beads or plain rice and bake blind for about 10 minutes.
Remove the baking beads (or rice) and the greaseproof paper and bake the pastry case for another 10 minutes until it firms up and gets a bit biscuit like.
Mix together all the dry ingredients (flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt & all spice) in a large bowl.
In a measuring jug, mix together your vegetable oil, beaten egg and vanilla, then mix into the dry ingredients, until everything has been incorporated. Finally stir in your apples and raisins and mix through well.
Pour into a 9-inch cake tin and bake for 30-35 mins, until a toothpick inserted and wiggled around comes out clean.
Allow to cool fully before cutting.
You can also use this mix to make cupcakes / muffins, reduce the cooking time by approx 5 mins. I also like to soak my raisins in whisky overnight for extra flavour.