Three Pro Baking Recipes Any Amateur Can Master
Mushroom tarts. Photographs courtesy of Popina
How to make chocolate brownies, pizza dough and mushroom tarts, by expert baker Ms Isidora Popoviç.
Any fair-weather cook can knock together a decent dinner after a quick Google search. But when it comes to baking, the amateur pan-rattlers among us often run a mile. Working with flour and water seems more laborious somehow, conjuring up images of burnt bread, collapsed puddings and, well, a lot of mess. So we’re often inclined to leave it to the professionals. But, in the spirit of “teach a man to fish”, what if we could get a professional to teach us some baking basics? One such expert is celebrated baker Ms Isidora Popoviç, who has been trading in London under the name Popina for over 20 years. She has just announced her first bricks and mortar site on Duke Street in Mayfair, so what better way to celebrate than by supplying MR PORTER with some essential baking recipes? Many, many ways, of course, but we asked her anyway. From sweet to savoury, find out how to bake well below.
Ms Isidora Popoviç
Chocolate Truffle Brownies
“This is our award-winning brownie – soft and creamy, made with rich dark chocolate, the squares have a similar texture to truffles, which make them irresistibly moreish. I kept this recipe very simple without compromising on flavour for a velvety, indulgent chocolate experience. Chocolate is an easy ingredient to work with and shouldn’t be out of anyone’s depths – just be sure to use a good quality dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids).”
Makes about 9 squares
240g dark chocolate100g unsalted butter3 eggs135g golden caster sugar55g plain flourCocoa powder, to dust
An 18cm square brownie tin (3cm deep), lined with greaseproof paper
Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF).
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
Put the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk until pale and creamy. Sift in the flour and fold in gently. Finally, fold in the molten chocolate and mix until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared brownie tin and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. The brownies should have risen slightly.
Leave to cool completely, then dust with cocoa powder. Cut into 9 squares and serve.
“I have developed and perfected this recipe for years – novices needn’t worry, this is a simple bread recipe and the trick here is to use great flour. For a richer flavour and a healthier choice, you can also use wholemeal spelt flour. Muscle power will also come in handy: kneading pizza dough requires strength!”
Makes one 12in pizza
300g white flour 00 type (very fine grain flour)2g quick yeast6g sea salt195ml waterSome extra flour for mixing
Mix the flour, yeast and salt together in a bowl. Pour water and mix well until you form a soft dough.
Flour the surface of a bowl and transfer the dough, sprinkling over a bit of extra flour then cover the dough with a clean tea towel. You will need to let the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough should have doubled by the end.
Sprinkle a table surface with extra flour before transferring the dough ball onto. Knead by folding the dough over itself, aerating the mixture. Don’t squeeze the dough too hard to ensure that the bubbles of air remain inside.
Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour.
To stretch it into a pizza shape, use your hands (never a rolling pin) by slowly pressing and stretching the dough out.
Choose your topping then bake at 200ºC (400ºF) for 10 minutes.
“If you enjoy picking your own mushrooms, feel free to experiment with your selection for this tart. You can just as easily use any seasonal variety you might find at your local farmer’s market. This dish looks great and belies the simplicity in making it.”
Makes about 6 portions
For the tart:
220g strong flour1tsp dried quick yeast½ tsp salt2 tbsp olive oil1 egg80ml warm water
For the filling:
15g dried porcini mushrooms1 large red onion, cubed2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to drizzle2 tablespoons water1 teaspoon salt½ teaspoon crushed black pepper1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme, plus extra whole sprigs to decorate2 garlic cloved, chopped150g button mushrooms (halved if big)200g field mushrooms, sliced about 8mm thick180ml single cream1 large beaten egg1 20-30cm fluted tart tin, greased
Mix the flour, yeast and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the oil, egg and water. Draw everything together with your hands until you get a soft dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a little flour and knead again.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until 3mm thick.
Put the porcini mushrooms in a bowl of warm water and leave to soak for 20 minutes. Drain, chop and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF).
Put the onion, oil and water in a frying pan and sauté over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft and the water has evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, thyme, garlic and porcini mushrooms. Mix well and set aside.
Put the button and field mushrooms in a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and cover the tray with aluminum foil. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Drain any excess juice from the mushrooms, then stir them into the onion mixture.
Reduce the oven temperature to 170ºC (325ºF).
Line the tart tin with the dough but do not trim the edges yet.
Mix together the cream and egg in a bowl, then pour half into the tart shell. Spread the mixed vegetables over the tart, then pour in the remaining cream mixture. Now trim the excess pizza dough neatly around the edges.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then decorate with a few sprigs of thyme. Serve warm or cold.