Pizza Cake (or, happy birthday to me)

This is a monstrosity and absolutely worth your time. For my birthday get-together (which involved wine, quiplash and the five people I know in London all coming to sit in my front room), I made Pizza Cake. 

Pizza Cake is not cake but a stuffed, generally slightly soggy bread cooked in the confines of a cake tin. It is glorious but still very much a work in progress. 

I first read about this on James Morton’s site, and I think I tried it a few weeks later. This first time I made it, I followed Morton’s method pretty much to the letter. I was still quite new to bread baking – this was over 2 years ago now – but it was good. The middle was a bit too undercooked and I think I’d used way too much sauce, but it was good enough that I tried again (here is a picture of attempt one). 

A year later I revisited pizza cake. This time, I reduced the sauce a whole lot more and cooked it for a whole lot longer, and the result was better. The innards were still a little bit gooey, but it was more successful. There’s a picture here

This was my third pizza cake and I think I accidentally stumbled into improving it. There were some things I did deliberately, though. Firstly, I reduced the sauce for about an hour and a half until it was thick. In his recipe, James mentions that you could just use tomato puree which I think would work, but I feel like you won’t get the richness of flavour, so instead I just boiled it down until was nearly the thickness of tomato puree. Secondly, I decided to use pre-grated mozzarella instead of the ball stuff, as it carries less excess liquid. 

It’s important to note that during the assembly of this beast, my flatmate Alice was deep frying blocks of macaroni cheese (which I would say you should also do because holy shit, it was good*). Our kitchen is tiny – we have very minimal surface space, so trying to roll out dough, spread sauce and assemble a ridiculous pizza into a tin is challenging when you’re also trying to avoid knocking over a pan of hot oil. Since we were also doing fried mac and cheese (which seriously I cannot recommend enough), I took a cupful of the sauce out, added a splash of water and this became the mac and cheese dip. Due to the crowdedness of our wee kitchen and the slightly lower quantity of sauce (plus I didn’t buy enough pepperoni), this particular iteration was maybe 1 or 2 layers thinner than past versions (I think I had 5 including the lid). But actually I think this meant it retained the thick, meaty juiciness of the thing, but it did help with making sure it was cooked through. The recipe’s sauce and dough quantities here will allow you to cook one with more layers (you’ll need more pepperoni and cheese, possibly), but in retrospect I think thinner is ok. 

Also important – by the time this was in the oven, I was basically half cut on red wine. So between trying not to get oil burns and being just a tiny bit smashed, I did not even think to check my camera settings. Normally on this blog the photos are not great, but that’s why on this occasion they are **particularly** bad and really quite orange. Fortunately, the method is still very much the same as James Morton’s recipe (as are the ingredients, let’s be honest) – so you can use his for instruction. 

This is the most ridiculous show piece and so I think worth doing. It’s that kind of unholy but satisfying food, you know – like, when you eat a full spoonful of proper cake mix, not even waiting until you scrape the bowl, or the fried chicken you get at 3am on a drunk walk home and then eat ravenously in front of Netflix, knowing you won’t remember what you watched in the morning. It’s messy and gooey and gorgeous and I can confirm it’s also good the following morning when you are a little hungover. 

*As a bonus, here’s how to do this: make 1.5x the quantity of Anna Mae’s original mac and cheese recipe (or your preferred macaroni recipe), spread it over a pan and refrigerate for a few hours. Once cold, cut into strips, dip in beaten egg and then coat in breadcrumbs, before frying in a deep pan of sunflower oil until golden and crispy. Serve with a little cup of the tomato sauce used in pizza cake for dipping. Picture of the finished product here

Pizza Cake
Serves 6
Layers of pizza, cooked in a cake tin. Gooey, sloppy and tasty.
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For the dough
  1. 500g white bread flour
  2. 1 x packet instant yeast (about 7g)
  3. 10g table salt
  4. 40g olive oil (cheap and cheerful is fine)
  5. 325g tepid water (this is about 325ml, too)
For the sauce
  1. Two tins of chopped tomatoes
  2. Some oil
  3. 4 -5 cloves crushed garlic
  4. 2 tbsp tomato puree
  5. Some finely chopped fresh basil (optional, I just happened to also be making bruschetta so had some)
  6. Splash balsamic vinegar
For the other filling
  1. 200g grated mozzarella
  2. A pack or 2 of Pepperoni slices
  3. Anything else you want to put in but try to keep moisture to a minimum
For the dough
  1. In a bowl, measure out the flour. On one side of the bowl, add the yeast, then add the salt on the opposite. Tip in the oil and flour and mix to form a shaggy dough.
  2. You can then do one of two things - the first, leave the dough to rise for one hour, unkneaded and covered with cling film, then return to it an hour later. When it is risen, wet two fingers, slip them into the side of the bowl and fold the dough back in on itself. Rotate the bowl, repeating the finger slip technique until the air has been knocked out. Recover, leave for a further hour. The alternative, knead the dough for ten minutes until smooth, then leave to prove for one hour (I did the no knead method, mostly out of laziness).
  3. If using the first method, put your sauce on after the first prove, if using the second, put sauce on after kneading.
For the sauce
  1. Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic. Stir a little and cook until fragrant, then add the tomato puree. Stir again, and let cook for a minute or two.
  2. Tip in the tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for an hour or so, or until thick.
To assemble
  1. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Line the bottom of a loose bottomed cake tin with parchment paper.
  3. When the dough is risen, knock it back. Roll out a small piece of dough (a piece that is slightly smaller than a fist is a good start) into a large circle a little wider than the cake pan. It should be thin sheet - so thin you can see light through, but not so thin it breaks. A good way to do this is to roll the ball out a little bit, then hold it at the top and let it's own weight stretch it, moving your hands around the edge so it stretches evenly(ish). Lay it on the cake pan.
  4. Spread a small amount of the tomato sauce across the dough. Add pepperoni and a small amount of cheese.
  5. Roll out another piece, and repeat, always leaving some excess dough around the edge of the edge of the pan. Essentially, lay a bunch of pizzas on top of each other. Continue until you have two small pieces of dough remaining and a few tablespoons of sauce.
  6. Take one piece of dough, roll out as before, place on top of the pile but do not add sauce or toppings.
  7. Grease the sides of the cake pan with a little butter.
  8. Cut the excess dough off the sides of the pizzas you have built up.
  9. Take your final piece of dough and roll it into a long strip. Wrap this strip around your existing layers, creating sides. Tuck it under the base if you need to and fold it slightly over the top, or trim it if it's way too wide.
  10. Put the sides back on the tin, then put the cake into the oven for one hour.
  11. Take out the cake, add a final layer of sauce to the lid, plus your toppings, then return to the oven for a final 15 minutes. Once it's done, cut into slices and dig in.
Adapted from James Morton
Adapted from James Morton
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies (or, stodgy cake to cure self-doubt)

Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

I am not very good at social situations. In small groups of people I know already that I love, I am ok; I can make jokes and I can laugh in the right places and offer support and I can feel like I am ok. But in a big group, or in a new group, I am Not Good. At parties full of unfamiliars I can often be found in a corner with the one familiar I have found, and when they leave to have a conversation with someone more fizzy I go and sit in the bathroom for a bit on my own or leave altogether. 

I have often not gone to things where I know I will only know one or two people. I am well-intentioned, normally. A Facebook event for a birthday, a friendly gathering or a flatwarming will pop up in my notifications and I will happily click to say I will come. But then, as the event draws nearer, my stomach will turn and I will feel sick and I cannot and therefore do not go. I remain in my pyjamas. Sometimes, I count down and try to convince myself: ‘Yes, I will leave in half an hour.’ But the half an hour passes, I do not leave. I promise myself again I will go soon, but instead I stay and probably fall asleep at an early hour. 

Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

Slowly but surely, my friends from Edinburgh are migrating down to London. Their lives begin again and I am invited to celebrate new jobs, new homes, new selves. I sometimes struggle to say yes to these things, often struggle to actually get there.

The weekend just gone, some friends threw a housewarming. It was a potluck dinner. In preparation, I made these brownies. They are good brownies. Thick, like slabs of peat, with a bit of sharpness from the raspberries, and a little extra crunch from the chunks of white chocolate. Great with cream, best when still a little warm, but good whenever. I baked them, cooled them, and put them in tupperware, ready to go with me. 

brownie batter

I thought about not going. I had so almost talked myself out of it. But then I realised I had made brownies. The brownies meant I went, because if I didn’t go the preparation would be wasted. Or I would have eaten a huge batch of brownies all to myself, which is a sure fire way to knock out any last trace of self-esteem you might hold on a Sunday afternoon. I went. 

My lovely friends cooked roast lamb, and it was delicious. I did some conversation, laughing in the right places most of the time, and it was lovely. I will never be someone who walks into a room and lights it up. I am not someone who shimmers and sparkles in any social situation. I am awkward and full of worry, but I can make these brilliant brownies, and so I can be brilliant, too; quietly, momentarily brilliant as each person takes a bite. That’s fine by me. 

Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies

Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownies
Yields 16
Brilliant, thick brownies to bring to an occasion and make everyone feel better.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 175g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for sticking your baking paper to a tin
  2. 150g dark chocolate, broken into bits (most brownie recipes say at least 70% cocoa, but I've never much noticed a difference... use the best you can afford)
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 300g caster sugar
  5. 75g plain flour
  6. 40g cocoa powder (again, the best you can afford, even if the value kind, will be fine)
  7. 100g white chocolate, broken into big bits
  8. A punnet of raspberries
  9. Icing sugar, optional, to dust
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 22cm x 22cm deep tin with greaseproof paper, using a little butter to stick the paper down.
  2. Put the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt together. I tend to use the microwave but go for a ban marie if you prefer. Set aside to cool while you do the rest.
  3. In a new bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the sugar and eggs together until they are very thick, like a mousse. This will take you several minutes but it is worth it.
  4. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Fold it in with a big metal spoon (metal will stop the eggs deflating as much), gently but confidently.
  5. Add the flour and cocoa powder, and, again, fold in gently but confidently. Dip your finger into the batter and taste, it will be good.
  6. Add the white chocolate pieces and mix until well distributed.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, spreading evenly and into the corners.
  8. Take a raspberry and push it, whole, into the batter. Repeat, repeat again until you have a lot of raspberries dotted in there or you run out. Take a knife and spread the top of the batter around again to cover the raspberries so they don't burn.
  9. Bake for 35 - 40 mins, or until the brownies are firm and a skewer inserted into them comes out clean-ish.
  10. Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes or so, then lift out using the greaseproof paper. Cut into the desired number of squares (4 each way, making 16, seems right to me), then cool on a wire rack for a while. Put in tupperware, take elsewhere and share.
Notes
  1. You can mix the raspberries into the batter, but I think with this you get a big hit of raspberry flavour and I prefer that.
  2. The size of tin is a guideline, use what you have and adjust cooking time accordingly. I have never used the tin size a recipe stated.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/