Basic Pizza Dough

Making your own pizza dough is much easier than you think! The great thing about it is that there are no preservatives and that it can be done in a short time.  

Make sure to keep a packet of instant yeast in your cupboard (which will keep for months) and you can make pizza any time. Here is what you need to make enough pizza for 6 people as a main course

1 kg plain flour, possibly use 00 type
1 sachet x 11g instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil
around 500ml luke-warm water - add this slowly as you might require less.

Sift your flour into a very large bowl. Add the salt on one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other side. Never mix the two as it will hinder the yeast activity.

Next add the olive oil and whilst you have the stand mixer running pour in the water.  Make sure to add this slowly as you might not need to use all the 500ml.

If you are mixing the dough by hand, then ideally you could stir with one hand and pour in the water with the other. If not, just add the water and stir well after every addition checking whether the dough needs more water before adding.

When you think you have enough water to achieve a wet dough, stop adding water.
If you feel that you have added too much water, just add a tablespoon or 2 of flour.  A wet dough will give you a better pizza crust.

Once your dough is done, let it rest until it doubles in volume. This should take about 1 hour.

If you are really pressed for time, I suggest you warm the flour in a low oven or for a few seconds in the microwave before you make the dough. This will speed up the process.

Once your dough has nicely risen, place it on a floured surface. Cut the dough into 6 pieces.

Next roll the dough out into the shapes that your baking dish dictates. This could be round or rectangular depending on the oven dish you are using.

Ideally you would let the dough rest in the dish before adding your pizza ingredients, but if there is no time for this, dive straight piling your ingredients.

I like to brush my baking dish with oil or cooking spray before sprinkling the base with a layer of Semolina.

If you cannot find Semolina, just add some flour.

Once your ingredients have been added, bake in a hot oven until the dough is golden.
I suggest you preheat the oven to the highest setting and then lower the temperature to 180 C once the pizzas are added.

The regards to topping, the simpler the better.
Try a combination of Tomato purée or chopped tomatoes topped with sliced onions and olives. Or else mushrooms and ham. Always on a base of tomatoes and topped with mozzarella cheese, oregano and some olive oil once it is out of the oven.

I also like to bake a plain pizza with just the tomato sauce and then add torn pieces of mozzarella di bufala once out of the oven. Again, don't forget a drizzle of olive oil. 

Easter Figolli

Figolli are essentially almond pies done in different shapes to be eaten on Easter Sunday. Originally decorated with fondant, now-a-days you may also find ones decorated with chocolate.
Although modern additions to Easter such as chocolates eggs and the Easter bunny can be found in most shops, Figolli are still very popular.
I like to prepare the dough the night before, this gives it time to rest as well as it reduces your preparation time on the day. Here is what you will need:
Makes 10 large figolli
For the dough:
800 gr. Plain flour
400 gr. sugar
250 gr margarine
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 teaspoons baking powder

For the filling
600 gr. Sugar
600 gr. Ground Almonds
4 to 5 egg whites depending on the size

Start off by preparing the dough, sift the flour into a large bowl and add the baking powder. Now, add the margarine and rub it in with your hands until it has been completely dissolved into the flour and you are left with a sandy mixture. Now, add the sugar and vanilla and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and mix the ingredients together to form dough. Set it aside to rest on a floured surface or place it in the fridge overnight.

For the filling, place the ground almonds and sugar together in a bowl and add the egg whites a little at a time mixing after every addition. Once the almond turns into a paste, your filling is done. You should be able to hold the almond paste in your hands and shape it just like you would with pastry.

To prepare the figolli, just roll out the dough to about 0.5 cm in thickness and cut two identical shapes. Place a layer of filling on one of the shapes leaving a boarder around the edge of approximately 1 cm. Make sure not to press the filling too much when spreading since this will cause your pastry to lose its shape or widen and the top (identical) layer will not fit.

Now brush the edges with a little water or apricot jam and place the second shape over it. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for approximately 30 minutes or until the figolli have nicely browned.
Repeat the process until you would have used up all your dough.
Coat your Figolli with melted chocolate or icing and decorate with silver balls.


Easter is celebrated next Sunday the 23rd. During this Christian period, no sweets should be consumed, however, together with the Caramelli tal-Harrub (carob sweets), it is said by fasters that Kwarezimal or Quarezimal are the permissible sweets during the Lenten period. Figolli, which are essentially an almond pies done in different shapes are to be eaten on Easter Sunday. Modern additions to this feast are chocolates eggs and the Easter bunny which can be seen on most Easter decorations.
Kwarezimal need a little more attention then the Figolli to make. The difference between a complete disaster and perfection can be a few extra drops of water added to the mixture so work slowly!
Here is what you will need:
350 gr. Ground brown almonds (not blanched) with the skin still on
350 gr. sugar
2 ¼ tablespoons golden syrup
4 teaspoons cocoa
2 teaspoons Baking powder
½ tablespoons mixed spices
Lemon Rind
200 gr. plain flour
A pinch of salt
100ml of water (room temperature)

Place all the ingredients, excluding the water, together in a large bowl or electric mixer and stir until all the ingredients are incorporated.
Now add a tablespoon of water at a time and mix well after every addition. Do not be afraid to mix on a relatively high speed, no harm can be done by over mixing it. Make sure to mix for about 2 minutes after every addition as the water take long to mix through the ingredients.
Once a dough consistency is achieved, take the mixture out of the food processor and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 160C and line your flat baking with baking paper. Now shape your kwarezimal by hand into rectangles approximately 10 cm long and 3 to 4 cm wide the height should be approximately 1 cm.
Bake the kwarezimal for 10 / 15 minutes, they should still be soft once you remove them from the oven, but don’t worry, they will harden up on cooling.
Now for decoration, heat up some golden syrup until it is runny. Brush the syrup on top of the kwarezimal then sprinkle some crushed nuts over it.

Baked Tortellini

Thank god for 1Kg packets of tortellini; it makes this dish so much more convenient! Baked tortellini can be very filling so make sure to serve these when you are really hungry or if you are planning a special dinner or lunch. There is a wide variety of tortellini available on the market and you can choose any filling you prefer.

I like using the meat ones for this dish as they are easier to find and come in large packs. If you are using fresh tortellini, then I suggest that you boil them for very little as they would have cooked too much by the time they come out of the oven.
In fact it is best to use the dried variety for this dish!

Here is what you need to serve 4
700g tortellini
1 x 400g Tinned chopped tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
150g cheese
200g mushrooms
200g cream
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
Salt & pepper

Start off by boiling the tortellini for 5 minutes. They should be taken off from the heat and drained as soon as the 5 minutes are up.

In the meantime, place the garlic which needs to be chopped finely into a pan with a little bit of oil and fry slightly. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup of water and cook over a gentle heat.

When the tortellini are ready, drain them and place them back into the pot. Now add the tomatoes which must have not dried up, the cream and the mushrooms.

Now, chop or grate the cheese (I like placing it in a blender). The cheese must not be grated cheese; you can mix some cheddar, Romano and some other cheese. You can also clear up your fridge from any ends left!

Leave about 50g aside and mix the rest of the cheese into the tortellini. Add the milk and the egg and spread it into an oiled baking dish.

Cook the tortellini for about 10 or 15 minutes at 150C. It is best to let them rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

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