Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Who doesn't love pizza? It's one of my favourites but something I don't often have due to the dairy and wheat intolerances but homemade pizza is hard to resist and if I've been off wheat for a few days, I can usually deal with it and I have determined my threshold for cheese is approx a 1 inch square cube so as long as I go (very) light on the cheese, it's PIZZA TIIIIME!
I love making my own dough, that way I can determine the thickness of the pizza or mix herbs into it for extra flavour. This recipe was from a friend and it's my go to recipe for pizza base, always perfect, as long as you are willing and able to knead for 10 minutes straight (which is a really long time when you actually time it and don't just guess). Start working on those pipes!

Basic pizza dough
1 1/2 cups strong white flour
1/4 tsp salt
1tsp easy blend yeast
1/2-3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil
(dried herbs are optional)

Sift flour and salt into large mixing bowl and stir in yeast
make a well in the centre and pour in olive oil and water. (I usually add 1/2 cup water and then add more if needed rather than the other way around-I find the amount of water is THE critical factor in making amazing dough)

Knead dough on lightly floured surface for 10 mins until smooth and elastic. (The test I use for this is poking the dough with my finger. The dough should spring back almost immediately. Place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with cling film. Leave until doubled in size, about 1 hour.I usually leave the dough in the oven after I've turned it on for a few minutes. The warmth helps the dough rise but you don't want it too hot...just some residual heat)
Turn out dough on to lightly floured surface and knead lightly for 2-3 mins ( The best part of this whole recipe, besides eating the final product, is the first punch into the puffy dough)

Roll or shape as required.
(I prefer to press the dough by hand and then stretch it by hand. The rustic texture makes for better aeration and air bubbles. Go really thin with the dough, it will rise a lot so if you want a really thin crust, this dough ball needs to make a 25-30 cm round pizza base. If you've done a good job with your dough, you should notice that it shrinks back a bit when you try to stretch it out.)

For toppings, on this occasion, PB and I had some genoa salami, black olives, mushrooms, artichokes and mozza. I also always drizzle lightly with olive oil and also sprinkle dried oregano or italian dried herbs over the top and this adds a great level of flavour.

Oven should be hot at about 425F and for optimal results, use a preheated pizza stone with cornmeal on it. Failing that, a pizza pan with holes in the bottom or a plain baking tray, lightly oiled.

Tip -most ingredients going on your pizza should be cooked before hand. i.e. if you are putting bell peppers or mushrooms on, they come out way better if you've pan fried them first-just my experience

Other toppings I LOVE (not all together though!):

-oven roasted vegetables
-prosciutto pieces on top (they crisp up wonderfully with the hot oven)
-candied salmon
-caramelised onion
-fresh basil (add after cooking)
roasted garlic (slowly roast the bulb at 350F for about 45 mins with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Squeeze soft gooey goodness out of cloves and spread on base or randomly drizzle on top)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The potato formerly known as Baked

PB and I have a tradition of cooking brunch together at least once a week. Sometimes it's on a Sunday but as neither of us works a conventional Mon-Fri 9-5 job, we will have it whenever we both have a day off together and no particular place to be in the morning. We usually have the same few ingredients:
  • hashbrowns-unpeeled baby potatoes cut in half, parboiled and then pan sauteed over low heat for a bout 20-30 minutes. They are then seasoned with salt, pepper, herbs and garlic powder
  • back bacon or breakfast sausages
  • lightly scrambled eggs (for PB)
  • beans for me with a side of mustard or salsa
Sometimes we have toast too if we're planning to be out all day and not going to be eating much. Toast is always wholewheat or sprouted grain with peanut butter and creamy honey.

On our most recent at-home brunch date we realised on doing our pre-cooking prep that we did not have any baby potatoes left. However, we did have some cold baked potatoes that I had left over from making chili earlier in the week. I suggested we slice them up and pan saute for our starchy side.
Andrew sliced them about 1/2 inch thick and sauteed over low heat until browned and crispy.
He then tossed them in salt, pepper and garlic powder.
I could try to describe the taste but I think the photo will probably already have you drooling sufficiently. Yes they tasted as good as they looked.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

WARNING: This post contains T*fu

Dear non-vegans,

I have discovered a recipe for brownies that could actually be THE best brownies I've ever had. You will be very surprised to find that they contain no eggs or dairy products, yet taste so decadent that you will be thinking about them for days...maybe longer and you may even contemplate veganism (well maybe in the baked goods category anyway).
Sally (aka the vegan baker)

I feel I should explain why my blog contains both vegan recipes and meat recipes...I am vegan when it comes to baking as I can't eat eggs or dairy in any significant amount. So vegan baking is the way to go for me. But I eat meat, hence the giant meat fest pic on my main blog page. And the previous post prominently featuring sausages of the pork kind. Capiche?

The recipe for these brownies is from a cookbook I use regularly called The Everyday Vegan. I have tested the baked result on several sets of co-workers and friends/family and every time the verdict has been that these are hands down WINNER brownies (and that's without them knowing about the vegan part. and the tofu part). I find a lot of people are scared of tofu and anything containing it so I try to keep it a secret until they've eaten the brownie. The most recent testing of the brownie was at my current workplace and one of my coworkers, I call her CC now (short for Chocolate Chip), stated the following on devouring her brownie;

" I just died a little bit inside. In a good way."

I was pretty happy with that and afterwards she said they were the best brownies she's ever had. Another co-worker ate 3. I think it's safe to say that the brownies are now mainstream.
There is a misconception out there that vegan food is either bland, not tasty or super healthy. None of these is totally true. Of course some vegan food can be bland and not tasty as can animal based food. That's down to the cook and the preparation. As for vegan food being good for you....well, for the most part it usually is higher in fibre, free of cholesterol and higher in vegetables but certainly in some categories, it can be loaded in fat, salt and sugar. Dairy substitutes such as tofu can be deep fried as in agedashi tofu or laden with sugar like the premade tofu desserts.
This particular recipe is delicious but it does contain sugar and chocolate as is required for all brownies. However, as far as baked goods and desserts go, I think this is on the healthier side with the use of cocoa powder for decadent richness and only 2tbsp of oil in place of what is usually a larger amount of butter. The plain soft tofu adds smoothness without adding a distinct taste and so no one will know the difference, I promise. Be prepared to reveal your secrets though, they will ask you for the recipe!

Vegan Brownies
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup unrefined sugar ( I use Sucanet but you could use regular sugar also)
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup soft plain tofu
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp water (not sure how much of a difference the 2 tbsp makes)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup non dairy chocolate chips (read the label, most semi-sweet choc chips don't contain dairy)
2 tbsp ground flax seed
2 tbsp canola oil (do not use olive oil or other strong tasting oil!)
1/4 cup non dairy choc chips
1/4 cup walnut pieces (optional)

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and baking soda. Stir in salt and sugar and mix well.
In a food processor (or using an electric whisk) combine tofu, water, vanilla and flax meal and puree until very smooth.
In a pot over boiling water (Tip: for a quicker option, melt in microwave in 20 second increments until melted) melt 3/4 cup chocolate chips.
Add melted chocolate to tofu mixture and then stir the chocolatey goodness into the dry mixture.
Add canola oil just as it comes together, mixing until just combined.
Pour batter into a lightly oiled 8"x8" baking pan. Sprinkle on 1/4 cup chocolate chips (whole or crushed) and walnuts. I also add a small sprinkling of sea salt as I love the salty bursts contrasting with the rich dark chocolate-ness.
MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Lick bowl and spoon :-)
Bake for 30-35 minutes depending on desired level of goo-iness.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan.
Chill brownies before cutting for best results.

This recipe makes 12-16 brownies. I find them rich so I usually cut the portions quite small. Plus there are a lot of mouths to feed at work. Another word of advice... serve yourself one before presenting to the masses. Trust me, your tupperware box will be handed back empty.