Sunday, 13 February 2011
The Guitar Man
There is nothing like toasted home made bread with lashings of butter (unsalted of course) covered in a pool of runny honey. Paws get a bit sticky and the honey,butter crumby mix tends to stick to the whiskers but a good rub with the face cloth and Poo Bear is right as rain.
I've been making bread for the past 30 odd years. I don't use a bread maker but do use a food processor to mix the dough. I find it easy, therapeutic and delicious: the ingredients for a perfect life! I use a variety of flours. For pizza, it has to be an OO grade strong white flour, this gives a wonderfully pliable dough which with the slightest warmth rises and rises and rises. So energetic is this dough that having made it early in the morning and placed it the fridge, by the evening it's taken over most of the shelf space.
I love pizza. It's just the dandiest of foods. "It looks good, tastes good and by golly it does you good." - thank you Sir Bernard for your endorsement.
The ingredients of a perfect pizza:
Besides a scrummy dough which produces a lovely raised pizza base it is the tomato sauce that has to be right. Again making it yourself is no problem. One medium onion finely chopped, crushed garlic, olive oil, or butter, tin of tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper and a bay leaf. If you want a tomato sauce to die for (literally) I suggest Marcella Hazan's treat.
Empty a tin of tomatoes in a cooking pot, add a peeled onion halved and a large dollop of butter - half a pack. Add some sugar, season with salt and pepper and reduce. She uses fresh tomatoes, reduced and puréed but that can be a bit of a hassle. Discard the onion once the reduction's complete and book a cholesterol test at your doctor's.
Your home made pizza base has risen a treat in a lightly greased pizza pan, and you've spread an adequate layer of your tomato sauce. From then on it's up to you which way you go. I prefer it simple. Plenty of mozzarella, anchovies, capers and olives with some fresh basil. Drizzle over some olive oil and in a hot oven for 15 minutes.
You may say you haven't time after a hard day at the office; with the kids etc. to do all that. I found that the 40 - 45 mins it takes to prepare, cook and serve allows me to wind down and at the same time increases the anticipation of a fab food.
Back to bread making. I usually use dried yeast which I find completely satisfactory. Some say it gives the dough an over strong yeast taste, but it doesn't worry me. I've used fresh yeast which used to a bugger to get hold of, but now our local Turkish grocer makes his own bread and will sell you a large block of yeast for 50 pence.
My mate Gregg makes bread as well and has for a long time made sour dough bread. He once told me that a sour dough culture he brought back from California was started 35 years ago. They just kept feeding it and the yeast kept working.
I tried making a sough dough mix a while back but having little success ditched the idea; until a few weeks ago. I'd bought a packet of rye flour and all I could think of using it for was to make sough dough rye.
It wasn't as difficult the second time around. To make the starter dough, you mix equal quantities of flour and water and leave the mixture in a warmish place over night. Next day do the same, leave it overnight and on the third day repeat the process. What is happening is that the natural yeast which is on the flour starts to ferment the sugars etc in the flour when mixed with water. The warmth gets the process going and after three days you should have a fairly frothy mixture of rye flour and water. You can either use it straight away as the starter for your bread or refrigerate until required.
The proving process is lengthy. Mix one measure of starter mixture with one measure of rye flour (add flour and water to the starter mix to keep it topped up), knead the dough until it's non sticky - I use a food processor. Then put the dough in a large covered bowl and leave overnight in a warm place to allow the yeast to do its magic. The next day turn the dough out, beat it within an inch of its life and place it an oiled bread tin. Leave it for a couple of hours so it rises a bit more. Place it in a moderate oven and bake for an hour and a bit.
What you get is a close textured , extremely flavoursome bread. To spice it up you can add caraway to the mix. Cut into thin slices: with butter and a gherkin it is a revelation. You might be tempted to add a slice of smoked salmon and soured cream but that's a sheer indulgence.