Day 3- Wednesday 16th January, 2014
It just crossed my mind that I should point out that our kids are currently on their extended summer school holidays which has provided us with the luxury of being able to cook leisurely meals together without having to dash off to after-school activities or manage homework.
Our latest cooking experience has served once again to remind me that doing anything with the kids usually comes with its share of surprises even when I try to stay at least one step ahead of them.
Day 3: Wednesday 16th February we had Yeast Pizza from Scratch for dinner and Quirky Apple Pie for Dessert. We’ve given both of these recipes the thumbs up and will be cooking them again but not both on the same night. They are both rather labour and time intensive and would be better matched up with quicker alternatives.
Cooking tonight’s meal proved more stressful than previous nights.
I was definitely being over-ambitious making Pizza and Apple Pie both from scratch on the same night, especially when I have an early start getting to chemo in the morning. It also just occurred to me that I hadn’t cooked either of these recipes before and so I was also on a learning curve along with the kids. That said, they were most fairly simple dishes in themselves but having to explain seemingly steps in intricate detail for the kids and demonstrate how to do things like peel and cut the apple, did complicate things and added significantly to the preparation time.
Dinner ran late and the kids went to bed before Geoff and I sampled the pie. The kids had their for afternoon tea on Thursday after I’d arrived home from chemo.
The cooking plans were further over-stretched by what has become our routine pre-dinner swim in the pool. I had been promising to take the kids for a swim in the pool most of the afternoon but had a nap and their swim just kept getting pushed further out. Unfortunately, this promise was wearing rather thin and looking threadbare by late afternoon when I told the kids we needed to make the pizza dough first. From my point of view this was good planning and time management. The dough could rise while we were swimming but the kids weren’t convinced. They could sense a fob off a mile away but they reluctantly acquiesced.
However, then I remembered that we also needed to make the pastry for the Apple Pie and it needed to go into the fridge for 30 mins to rest. In terms of trying to have something resembling time management, that also meant making the pastry before we hit the pool. By this stage, the kids were staging militant protests. They weren’t happy at all! My promises had gone from stretched, to threadbare and were now stark naked and I was bluntly accused of “lying”. I immediately leaped to my defence and did some exceptionally fast back-peddling explaining and they caved in. Somehow I was going to take out the Guinness Book of Records title for making the world’s fastest pastry.
I must admit that I was also keen to get into the pool. I’d missed out on my laps on Tuesday and I needed to get them in today. Aside from medical intervention, this swimming is my best shot at improving and conserving my lungs. It is essential.
Of course, with my little apprentice chefs focused on swimming, they weren’t at their enthusiastic or focused best. They were also starting to bounce off the walls a bit too. It was a hot day and they had been cooped up for too long inside to stay out of the sun.
Making the Pizza Dough
1 sachet of dried yeast (7g)
1/2 teas salt
2.5 cups of plain flour
1 cup of warm water
1 tbl olive oil
- Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Using a pair of scissors, snip open the packet of yeast and add it to the other dried ingredients. Ensure the kids don’t tear the packet open as the yeast will spill everywhere.
- Stir the dough with a spoon to mix the ingredients together and use hands and tip the dough onto a floured board. Knead the dough adding flour or water until the dough is dry to touch yet elastic. It needs to look like the dough you see in the pizza shop window.
- Place it in a large, deep bowl and put it in a sink with warm water, ensuring the water level is well below the top of the bowl. Leave for around 30 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
This recipe came from my Australian Women’s Weekly “Kitchen” Cookbook.
Making the pizza dough is a great educational opportunity to teach the kids about the properties of yeast, its history and how it works. I found this fabulous web site which does a wonderful overview: http://www.breadworldcanada.com/sciencehistory/science.asp
If you are making the dough with more than one child, I strongly recommend that each child makes their own dough. It was an exceptionally fun, very tactile, creative experience for both children and they loved delving both hands into the flour, kneading the dough and getting the right consistency. They were also quite possessive of their dough and there really wasn’t room for two sets of hands. Grin at the mess and bare it.
Just really make sure they wash their hands well before and after. Mine needed to use the scrubbing brush to get it off. If you are worried about germs, you’re better off buying a pre-made crust or doing it in the bread maker. We’re building up our immunity in this household.
Making the pizza dough was definitely what you would call “an experience”. The dramas began when the kids ripped open the little metallic sachets of dried yeast and the yeast spilled all over the table, chairs and onto the floor. To make matters worse, the balcony doors were open and there was quite a sea breeze and the yeast started to blow everywhere. This naturally made the kids rather upset, not to mention me! It was time to start practicing my deep breathing techniques before I lost my cool. I am finding throughout this cooking project that the kids manage to do things I’d never even considered. After all, who would think about the yeast blowing away?
Miss turned sifting the flour into a creative exercise. As she was sifting, she announced: “Pat, pat, pat I’m making a mountain…It’s snowing and I’m at the Snowy Mountains”. She then went on to draw faces in the flour: “Time to make an alien face”.
While I was pursuing culinary excellence, the kids had discovered the age-old wonder of flour, yeast and water and the wonderful squish of dough between your fingers. Miss announced: “No point using a spoon to stir it. Let’s get messy!” Meanwhile, Mister managed to coat his hands in wet, sticky dough. He was having a ball playing with the stuff. It was great entertainment even though it was a very sticky, messy blob bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the neat little ball you see in the pizza shop window.
We managed to make the rest of the dough without incident although Mister’s dough was too wet and Miss’s dough was too dry. Go figure? They were made using exactly the same recipe and I oversaw the ingredients. It is another one of those great mysteries of science. This is where a bit of improvisation comes in and knowing what that lump of pizza dough looks like at your local pizzeria and adding water or flour until the consistency looks right.
We put the dough in a large bowl in a sink of warm water to help it to rise.
Meanwhile time to make the pastry for the apple pie.
Quirky Apple Pie
I don’t know why I felt such a burning desire to make apple pie with the kids. I’ve never made apple pie before unless you count the one I made in the pie machine recently which was simply puff pastry filled with grated apple sprinkled with brown sugar. It tasted great and was super quick but it was hardly authentic.
The Quirky Apple Pie isn’t what I’d call a traditional Apple Pie either but at least we’d made the pastry from scratch and it was baked in the oven with real apples. Geoff said it reminded him of his mother’s apple crumble recipe and with all the brown sugar and cinnamon in this recipe, that’s more the flavour we experienced.
Choosing a recipe for our Apple Pie was quite a stressful, confusing business. There are millions of recipes out there and I just wanted to get it right the first time. I didn’t want to go on some crazy apple Pie baking crusade spending the rest of my life trying that elusive perfect recipe…the Holy Grail. Life’s too short. I was intending to make a more traditional English style Apple Pie, however, I came across a pie plate at the Red Cross Op Shop in Avalon and it had a recipe printed onto the dish. This seemed like a bit of fortuitous serendipity to me. It was meant to be. This would be our Apple Pie.
However, upon closer inspection, it turned out that the recipe didn’t include a pastry recipe so I needed to consult Google on the fly ensure I had all the required ingredients. The kitchen here is very rudimentary.
Pastry for our Apple Pie:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
185g unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon chilled water
- The kids need to measure and carefully slice off 185g of butter making sue they keep the knife straight to ensure measurements are accurate. This proved tricky.
- Beat egg and chilled water together with a fork.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor until a dough is formed.
- Adult removes the blade and the child can scoop the pastry out with a large spoon and transfer it to a bowl or plate.
- Divide the pastry into 2 balls one larger than the other. The larger ball will form the base and the small one will be the top. I asked Miss to put some flour over the pastry. In keeping with the pizza making efforts, however, she buried the pastry in a blizzard of flour so you need to emphasise that the children only use a little bit of flour…a dusting. I pulled out the cling wrap and passed it to Miss who wrapped the pastry up. While she made a comment about “not being a very good wrapper”, she did a great job.
- Keep handling of the pastry to a minimum and keep it as cool as possible. Pastry doesn’t like hot weather.
- Refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes.
So we were now at the stage where we had the pizza dough rising in the sink and the apple pie pastry chilling in the fridge. It was finally time for our swim. We really didn’t have time for a swim but I’d promised and promised and promised. The kids really love our time together in the pool. They were racing me as I did my laps and instead of the piggybacks I gave them the other day, I was their dolphin and they sat on my back while I largely swam underwater. I did my 20 laps and also played mermaids with Miss and raced Mister. I am quite amazed at what was possible despite my muscle weakness and dodgy lungs. Surely, the treatment has to be working?!!
Back to Dinner…Pizza Time!
Tomato paste or pizza sauce
Teaspoon of crushed garlic per pizza
Grated mozzarella cheese
Diced leg ham
½ tin of diced pineapple
½ punnet cherry tomatoes
2-3 slices of wasabi cheese sliced into small cubes about 5mm across
Roasted diced sweet potato
- Preheat oven to 200 °C.
- Grease 2 x pizza trays with spray oil.
- 3. As each child had made their own pizza dough, we had enough dough for two thick-crust pizzas…one for the kids and one for the adults. The kids had a Ham and Pineapple Pizza and Geoff and I had Ham & Veggie Pizza with Wasabi Cheese. As we didn’t have a rolling pin, the kids simply pressed the dough into the tray.
Kids’ Ham & Pineapple Pizza
- Spread the tomato paste and crushed garlic over the top of the pizza base until well covered.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top until it is about 2cm thick.
- Scatter the pineapple over the top of the cheese. Make sure the pineapple is spread evenly across the base to ensure good coverage.
- Dice leg ham into 1-2 cm cubes and spread them evenly across the base again ensuring good coverage.
- The kids sprinkled a layer of grated mozzarella cheese about 2 cm thick over the top and then scattered about 125g of pineapple pieces over the top as well as pieces of leg ham. Had to remind them to spread the toppings evenly over the top. That went into a hot oven for roughly 15 minutes. Aside from making the base too thick and giving it more of a foccacia appearance it went well.
Geoff and I had ham, roast sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, grated mozzarella and small cubes of Wasabi cheese on ours.
The pizzas turned out very well. The base of the kids pizza was too thick and more like foccacia but aside from that it went well. There was plenty leftover for lunch on Thursday for Geoff and the kids while i had my hospital sandwich.
Back to the Apple Pie…Apple Pie Filling
1.5 tablespoons white sugar
1.5 teas cinnamon (original recipe had nutmeg)
4 large granny smith apples (the green ones)
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of butter (60g)
2 tablespoons of plain flour
¼ to ½ cup of grated cheese
- 1. Directions:
- Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
- Grease a deep 9 inch pie plate with spray oil.
- Take the larger ball of pastry. As we didn’t have a rolling pin, we simply pressed the pastry into the pie dish. However, when I pressed the pastry into the pie dish, I forgot that the recipe for the apple filling was printed on the surface so I hastily had to excavate and retrieve it. It was a hot day and the pastry didn’t like being handled but it survived.
5.Sprinkle the top of the pastry with white sugar mixed with a dash of cinnamon.
6.In a large mixing bowl, add brown sugar, flour and 1 teas cinnamon.
7.Peel apples and cut into quarters and remove the core. Slice each quarter into 3-4 slices. I gave each child an apple to peel. Peeling the apple took a bit of patient effort but after a few demonstrations and “can’t do it”, they both succeeded but it was quite a slow process. I tried Mister out on cutting the apples. He couldn’t cut through the apple but managed to cut the halves into quarters but then he cut his finger. Realised I shouldn’t have given him this knife and he should have had something like a standard dinner knife. Wanted to see how he managed. I peeled and sliced the rest of the apples.
8.Add sliced apples to the flour and sugar mix. Toss together with a spoon until the apples are coated by the mix.
9.Add the apple mix to pastry. Arrange the apples slices so they sit as flat as possible to conserve space. The top layer of pastry just managed to stretch across the top of the apples.
10.Cut the butter into bits and dot the apples with the butter.
11.As I mentioned before, we didn’t have a rolling pin to roll out the top so I decided to improvise. Geoff had a bottle of wine on the bench. I coated it in plastic wrap and used it to roll out the pastry with a bit of assistance from Miss. The pastry broke into a few pieces and I wasn’t sure that there was going to be enough to deal the top but we just made it. It actually looked quite respectable… rustically homemade. Not a perfect job but it was good enough.
12.This recipe says to sprinkle the top of the pastry with grated cheese. Now, this seemed a bit odd but it is a bit of a Canadian thing to add cheese to apple pies so I thought I’d give it a try.
13.Put the pie into the oven at 200°C for 30-45 minutes and said a few prayers. It all seemed pretty dodgy to me. Did not feel at all confident that this pie was going to work out at all. Geoff wasn’t too encouraging either. Thought I should pre-cook the apples.
Despite all my misgivings, I was absolutely stoked with the results. The pie totally exceeded my expectations. It certainly wasn’t your conventional English Apple Pie due the brown sugar and butter content which gave in a flavour similar to Apple Crumble, which we all loved. The apples were quite firm and Geoff felt could’ve done with a quick zap in the microwave but I liked that and when we reheated it today, the consistency was great.
We will definitely be making the Quirky Apple Pie again.
Tomorrow night, Geoff and the kids will be cooking Roast Lamb and veggies. This seemed like a quick and easy meal while I’m recovering from chemo.