This week gave us another Bake Off first! During what were apparently some of the hottest temperatures the tent has ever seen (hotter than Palermo we were repeatedly told), the bakers were challenged to create a selection of traditional Italian bakes, while the nation drooled and wished they had some cannoli of their very own…
As soon as the first ever “on your marks, get set….infornare,” were uttered, the bakers were flustered, toiling as they were against the rising temperatures. Speaking of cannoli, this week’s tasks included a cannoli signature (a classic Italian pastry with a crisp bubbly shell and a creamy, sweet ricotta filling), a margherita pizza technical – without rolling pins (dun dun duuuuun!) – and such a horribly complicated showstopper that the sfogliatelle task might as well have been another technical challenge!
After last week’s preview, I was genuinely expecting Kate to be carted off in an ambulanza mid-episode, but it turned out she merely cut her finger on a fan. I don’t know about you, but I want to know what her finger was doing IN the fan?!
Anyway, Italian week saw my favourite baker, Steven finally regain his star baker crown, while the baking scientist and queen of amazingly unusual techniques, Yan was sent home. Sad face!
Back in the Mr Baker’s Cakes kitchen, I’ll admit it, I was feeling cocky. Pizza? I make pizza all the time! In fact, I even help other people make pizza – kids at school, culinarily inept friends – even my other half!
I had to make a couple of minor adjustments to the recipe this week. I know that is technically against the rules, but my local supermarket were out of ‘doppio zero’ (also known as Italian 00 flour) and I didn’t have any fresh yeast on hand. I substituted the doppio zero for normal strong bread flour and the fresh yeast for fast acting Easy Bake Yeast.
I started with the dough, which was pretty painless and against the advice of the recipe, let it prove in an oiled bowl, as I normally would. Due to pizza’s short bake time, I could afford a good 55 minute prove, while still leaving time to cook it throughly.
My first drama actually appeared while making the very simple tomato sauce. My brand new tub of ultra fine sea salt decided that they all wanted in on this bake and erupted out into the pan. Fortunately it was all concentrated in one small area, so I was able to scrape it out and salvage the rest of the mix. I tend to under season anyway (I’m a bit of an anti-saltist), so it probably means my food was adequately seasoned for once.
Once the dough had proved, the fun began. Now I have had my fair share of experience with tossing pizza dough. I think everyone who has made pizza from scratch a fair few times must have at least experimented with it – who knew that being a pretentious poseur would eventually pay off though? The benefit of tossing over rolling is that you form a nice thin base, while still maintaining a thick enough crust to contain all manner of fillings. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to photograph oneself (ahem) tossing and believe me, I tried, so you will need to use your imaginations, I’m afraid.
In the case of this pizza, the only topping provided was the traditional mozzarella, so I generously loaded this on – probably more than I should have done, but I LIKE CHEESE!
I really do like cheese.
Then it was into a roaring oven (240°) for 13 minutes and by the time it was ready, we were both crowded around, ready to enjoy some tasty, bready, tomatoey and cheesy yumminess.
To complete the il Tricolore palette, I added my fresh basil right before serving to ensure it was as fresh as can be. TOP TIP: Leave the largest leaves and aim for those that are slightly smaller towards the top of the plant. They are far more flavoursome!
Confession, we ate the entire thing moments after this picture was taken. Seriously. I was still holding the camera when I took my first bite. While not as tasty as other pizzas I have made, if I do say so myself, this recipe really allows the key Italian flavours of tomato and olive oil to sing and I would happily make it again. And I rarely say that about a Bake Off recipe!
Next week, our final five head into the quarter finals and I shall see you then!