That whole hibernation thing still seems pretty tempting. Yesterday I managed not to leave the house until about 5pm, and that was only to go to the corner shop. We briefly toyed with the idea of going to the cinema, but it just seemed like sooo much effort that we decided to stay in and eat potato pizza in front of Come Dine With Me instead.
On the upside, my kitchen was astoundingly productive yesterday. I prepared a few things for this week’s featured book, Skye Gyngell’s ‘A Year In My Kitchen’, about which more to follow, and I rounded off week two of the River Cafe with attempts at focaccia and pizza dough. You know it’s been a good Sunday when you’ve got through a kilo of flour.
I was pretty happy with both efforts – a touch disappointed when the focaccia emerged from the oven and looked generally a bit neat and firm and not really porous or oily enough to be authentic, but when we cut into it (perhaps a bit too soon) it was good: fluffy but doughy with a light, crisp crust, perhaps not quite as olive-oil rich as true focaccia but good nonetheless.
The pizza, similarly, was not quite thin enough if one was being picky, but I like dough. I also, as documented previously, like carb-on-carb action, so the idea of thinly sliced potatoes layered with pecorino cheese and sprinkled with rosemary and sea salt appealed both in idea and practice. And there you have it, my hibernation fare: bread, salt, potatoes.
Focaccia with salt Makes one loaf
I halved the recipe as written, which they say serves 10. I still managed to get about 10 hefty chunks out of my loaf. I also adapted it to use dried, rather than fresh, yeast – I use the dried, granular kind which you rehydrate in water.
375g Tipo ’00’ flour (if you don’t have an Italian deli, you should be able to get this from a well-stocked supermarket; mine came from Waitrose)
1/2 tbsp finely ground sea salt, plus non-ground for scattering over the top
6g, or 1 heaped tsp, active dry yeast
75ml olive oil, plus around an extra 25ml for cooking
Measure out around 250ml warm water. You may need a little less, but the recipe says the dough should be soft and pliable so I erred on the side of more. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and stir it in vigorously. Leave for 10-15 mins in a warm place: it should start to bubble and produce froth.
Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the olive oil and yeasty water gradually, until you can form the mixture into a dough with one hand. When you have something of a kneadable consistency, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until elastic.
Put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place until doubled in size. This should take about an hour.
When the dough has doubled, lightly oil a baking tray (mine was about 20cm x 10cm). Roll the dough out to fill the tray and brush it with oil to stop it drying out (which I forgot to do…) Cover and prove for another 3o mins. Then dimple the dough with your fingertips, leaving a border around the edge, and leave for the final proving, around 30 mins.
Heat the oven to 200c. Sprinkle sea salt over the loaf. You can also add sprigs of rosemary here, which I did. Mix around 25ml each of olive oil and water in a jar and pour this over the focaccia before putting in the oven (apparently this helps keep the dough soft in the grooves). It should be ready in about 25mins, when it’s golden in colour and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Potato, pecorino and rosemary pizza Makes 2 large or 4 small pizzas
Again, I halved the original recipe and adapted it to use dried yeast.
For the pizza dough:
500g Tipo ‘0’ flour, ’00’ or plain flour – I used ’00’.
6g, or 1 heaped tsp, dried active yeast
250ml warm water
It must be warm for this dough to work – the book very specifically says over 25c. Well, it wasn’t the most eco-friendly of recipes: I whacked the thermostat up to 25c and shut the doors. I did turn off the radiators in the other rooms though.
As before, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir in. Leave in a warm place for 10-15 mins or until frothy.
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and add half the yeast mixture. Combine with your hands and then add the remaining yeast mixture until you have a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead for 10 minutes, until elastic. Oil the bowl and place the dough back in, covering well. Leave to rise in your warm place for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Tip the dough back onto your floured surface and knead again for 2-3 mins. Return to the oiled bowl and leave for a further 30 mins (or until you want to make the pizza). Divide the dough into 2-4 balls and roll out thinly into circles or rectangles.
Preheat the oven to 230c. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven on the bottom shelf. If not, use a baking tray. You should use your fan-assisted setting if you have one.
For the topping:
2 large potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
sea salt and ground black pepper
125g fresh pecorino
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Rinse and dry the potato slices (I didn’t bother). Place them in a bowl and drizzle lightly with olive oil to coat. Season and mix together.
Slice the cheese into thin slices, cutting off any hard skin. Pick the leaves off the rosemary.
Place a single, slightly overlapping layer of potatoes on your pizza bases, leaving a border around the edge. Lay the pecorino on top and scatter with rosemary, salt and pepper.
Slide the pizza onto the baking tray or pizza stone and bake for about 10 mins – the potatoes should be cooked through. Serve immediately, although I found this made a great packed lunch the next day even if it was a bit chewy round the edges.
Adapted from Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers’ ‘The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook’.