Buttery Sourdough Buns and Off We Go

Astilbe

I will be travelling tomorrow. Or rather – I will start travelling. Cause my job will make me hit the road again which is great. And before I do that here’s a recipe and some pictures from the early autumn at our dacha. Which is overloaded with apples at the moment : ) With this harvest we hardly need any imported apples at the moment…

Astilbe

This is astilba, some weeks ago. And here are the apples:

Apples

We’re having early Indian summer here – or probably just a continuation of summer after some pretty cold days. Sun, oh sun, you do make things brighter when you visit St Petersburg!

Apples

I think the apple trees are my favourite plants in our garden, they are tall but reachable, shady enough to protect you from occasional summer heat, they blossom beautifully  in spring and they give you fruits. Perfect.

Apples

And now on to the recipe. This is the second time that I bake WHITE sourdough bread, that is sourdough bread without adding rye flour (apart from feeding my rye starter with rye flour, apparently). My first try was this real good White Sourdough Bread.

Buttery Sourdough Buns from www.kingarthurflour.com

My sourdough rye starter was almost dead some weeks ago, by the way – I somehow missed its regular feeding, which is usually every 7-12 days, depending on the need for bread, and the poor thing was all pallid with no distinct sour smell and just… dead =( I had to revive it with several feedings during the course of 3 days, leaving it at room temperature (I keep my starter in the fridge). Now it looks much better (bubbly) and smells sourish. Foooouf!

Buttery Sourdough Buns from www.kingarthurflour.com

A year ago – Plum Cakes from Italy and Austria

Two years ago – Apples and Chocolate

Three years ago – Experimenting with ‘Taciturn’ Soviet Recipes

Buttery Sourdough Buns adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com will make rich white flagrant buns with a touch of paprika. The recipe uses sourdough just as addition, so no much time required for these buns. Visit the already much-visited King Arthur Flour website for this and much more recipes.

Here are just my changes:

I used my almost dead sourdough rye starter, unfed. This added a ‘whole-wheat’ look to my buns (you can spot the bran from rye). Added oil (less) instead of soft butter to the dough. But I left the butter + paprika filling to make these buns buttery and not oily =)

Buttery Sourdough Buns from www.kingarthurflour.com

Remarks: This is a very easy leavened buns recipe (if you cope with rolling the dough out and cutting it into buns) with just an addition of sourdough (and you can add it even without feeding or use the sourdough culture leftover from the feeding!), no much of the usual fuss with sourdough, no long hours to wait etc. And I really liked how the dough looked after the first rise – very puffy and springy. Hm, why don’t I just keep adding a bit of sourdough to my leavened baking?

Result: These are buttery no doubt! The fragrance when you take the buns out of the oven is very nice – the buns are rich already plus add the paprika melting with the butter, olala! No photos of the buns separated from each other – when I came back there were already no buns :)

Astilbe

Expect some travel posts soon. Off we go!

G.

Happy Birthday, Hep-i-Book’a and Glimpses of Summer

Eating at Etagi

A forth year into blogging… Rereading my last year 2-year ‘anniversary’ post, Two Cloudberry Cakes, makes me think that, seriously, this time thing is really weird : ) I will not load you up with various statistical data, we’d better just take a look at the summer 2014.

A year ago – Two Cloudberry Cakes

Two years ago – Apples and Chocolate

Three (!) years ago - Born in USSR or Some Soviet Reflections

You already know that this summer was a record one in terms of museum-going in Saint-Petersburg. But apart from that it was also a Saint-Pete-dedicated summer. Thanks to a unexpected friendship with Catherine, I’ve seen a lot – or re-seen the usual things with this shrewd eye that guiding a friend through your city gives you.

From Etagi art center

Roofs of St Pete from Etazhi art center’s cafe

Cafe on the roof in St Petersburg

That day we also made a small tour behind the Moscow railway station area, near Ligovsky Avenue, which used to be a district of horse carriage owners and riders. There’s this old Russian-style gateway:

Ligovsky Avenue, St Petersburg

and these St Petersburg-style blind walls:

Ligovsky Avenue, St Petersburg

with chamomiles trying to fix the gloomy courtyard:

Summer

more blind walls – see a small painting of an ancient Greek somebody right near the ground:

Ligovsky Avenue, St Petersburg

…and how about a time-worn staircase in an old building on Nevsky Avenue?

Staircase on Nevsky Avenue, St Petersburg

or the shiny almost-fitting-in spire of St Peter and Paul Cathedral, formerly the highest building in St Petersburg?

St Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg

Another glimpse on St Pete from an attic window of gallery + cafe close to Gostiny Dvor

Looking over Gostiny Dvor, St Petersburg

…and here’s a different window:

Main Post Office

This is the Main Post Office of St Petersburg, a rather worn-out from the outside and gorgeous from the inside.

Main Post Office

That day they had an exhibition of Soviet posters. This one is from the Moscow Olympics in 1980, with the bear mascot.

Main Post Office

This one welcomes visitors to Moscow:

Main Post Office

More about the Main Post Office district in my 2013 post.

Main Post Office

That day we also visited the Rumyantsev Mansion museum, behind which we found this gates – there was a truck with a cinema studio name on it. I wonder what they were filming round there.

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On our way back to the Moscow railway station from where you can hop on an elektrichka that will take you to Kolpino, we came across this creative car wash service with the inevitable road renovation works:

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And later, criss-crossing our way through the maze of St Petersburg streets somewhere close to my Mother’s university (which is Cinema and TV University) we found this perfect set for a movie on the 90s in Russia! : )

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Thank you for reading my blog! And even if you just scroll it down, I do appreciate it anyway :)

G.

Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 2 – Izhorsky Plant

Kolpino

Once we’ve dealt with Dvorets Kultury, let’s visit Kolpino again in this second part of the architectural walks around Kolpino. This time we’ll investigate into the 19th century heritage still visible in Kolpino, a city that counts 292 years this September. The most obvious choice will be to talk about Kolpino’s ‘foundation stone’ – Izhorsky Pipe Plant, once famous all around the country and now been torn into several private companies.

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One of the oldest buildings in Kolpino is the Izhorsky Plant 19th century main building (eary 19th century), the one in the first picture and below. It is being renovated now. The clock tower is Kolpino’s famous symbol that has been representing the city throughout many years. Unfortunately it’s been showing 12.05 for many years too…

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I guess this Soviet thingy on top of the gates used to show time? Also, look at the blue truck – the legendary ZiL-130 model that used to serve people in all corners of the USSR long after they stopped to produce it in 1994. This entrance to the plant where you have to show your pass is called prokhodnaya in Russian. It used to be a reference point when speaking about something being located this close or that far from prokhodnaya (moreover, there are more prokhodnayas to Izhorsky). Now this reference’s getting obsolete with all the new companies operating on the plant’s territory and some of the previously closed parts of the plant being open to public access.

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Soviet heritage. Used to be a place for the feats and achievements of the plant workers or other great news. Now there’s an empty beer (if not of some well-known pure spirit drink) bottle every 10 cm. I remember my Grandfather’s photo used to be displayed on this wall of fame among the plant’s best workers. As almost the majority of Kolpino citizens during the Soviet times my Granddad used to work at the plant, designing rolling mills for USSR and even some African countries.

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It smells like USSR there :) And if it does, just put a sticker over USSR letters and make it Post of Russia instead:

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More Soviet symbolism around the main building, the Ministry of Communications of USSR:

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Haha, just now noticed the lamp which used to signal the next visitor to come in! This is the plant’s ex-staff department, otdel kadrov in Russia. Ahaha, you can learn the history of the Soviet life all in one photo… Look at the three-piece holder for the flags – an obligatory thing for almost each building in USSR, especially such an important one. Every holiday there were red flags soaring all over the place. The letters IZ in a very early Soviet-style t represent Izhorsky Zavod.

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If you look at Kolpino map you’ll realize that Izhorsky Plant actually occupies a huge territory, comparable to the city’s surface! Well, they call such factories ‘city-forming’ enterprise and that’s true. Peter the Great ordered to build the factory to supply the navy on river Izhora and that’s how Kolpino began. How it then evolved is another story : )

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Some of the old buildings at the plant territory which a regular mortal being will never see apart from looking down in between the fence railings. The dam on Izhora blocks the water and that explains how come the plant is situated 3 meters beneath the river’s and the rest of the city’s level. Right behind this wall is water power station. The waterfall was originally used to power the workshops.

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The plant is a city within the city. They have buses there, they have their own part of Izhora and their bridges, inaccessible for the rest of the citizens. I’ve always dreamed of going there but I never had the chance. To get inside you need to have a propusk, a pass.

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The Plant has a glorious history – if we forget about its rather infamous privatization and grab-steal-and-sell attitude of its owners during the rakish 90s. This is the local ‘eternal flame’ built here to commemorate the brave defenders of St Petersburg who fought or worked at the plant during the Second World War. Kolpino was at the forefront, massively bombarded and almost raised off – and this dam unites two parts of the city was a real firing point. They light the fire every May 9th when Russia celebrates the end of the War.

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I always thought there should be something inside this monument but I guess there’s nothing actually : )  Next photo: One of the urban legends of Kolpino says the fence of the plant was constructed with faulty cannons in the 19th century! And they say it’s true – this is how you recycle things…

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This is to commemorate the year when both Izhorsky plant and Kolpino were founded. Not the best design but it’s duly painted over from time to time.

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Judging from the year on the last bas-relief each representing a point in Kolpino’s history, the thing was created somewhere in 1985. The first date is 1240, the year of the famous Neva battle in Ust-Izhora. Then comes the building of the plant and the city around it, the construction of the railway uniting Moscow and St Petersburg, the year Kolpino officially became the city, then the magical 1931 when the first armoured car was created at the plant, the tragic 1941 and the triumphant 1985 when the ‘5000’ rolling mill was launched (the first of the kind in the country at that time).

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Paint or no fresh paint, it just looks ugly : ( The letters above say Kolpinsky rayon, Kolpino district of St Petersburg. And right here at the wall of Izhorsky Plant let’s put our walk around Kolpino on hold for some time. Next – a post on the early 20th century heritage and then more on the Stalinist era architecture.

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By the way, I’ve found a post with more photos of Izhorsky Plant, here.

 G.

Gulf of Finland and Neva River

In this post I will combine two water symbols of St Petersburg, two of its important water ways – the Neva River and Gulf of Finland, both of which are surely the musts if you want to get a broader picture of the city’s life, today and yesterday.

Back in June and July we went to Ust-Izhora, the place where Izhora River flows into the greater Neva River and where knyaz Alexander won the battle against the Swedes, for which he got titled Alexander Nevsky (and later even canonized – but that’s another story). The battle took place back in oh-oh 1240 but is considered to be one of the greatest victories in the hшstory of Russia. They even reconstruct it every year, should go there and see it one day, moreover it’s close to and actually is officially a part of Kolpino, my home town.

Ust-Izhora

While my Father was taking photos with a model at the riverside, I was entertaining myself : ) Here are some very old bricks found on the Neva shore, as there used to be a pier where we were, apparently. This looks like 69, yin and yang and fish (especially under water):

Ust-Izhora

The name of the factory producing bricks, half of it eaten by the time:

Ust-Izhora

Another factory, the name features the now obsolete letter of the Russian alphabet called yat:

Ust-Izhora

Meanwhile my Father was creating something out of nothing as a true Russian man! I did not notice that among all the wreck of this ex-pier (there was a neat row of bricks in the water as if they fell all at once) there was a bike too!

Ust-Izhora

You can spot the other side of Neva with private houses (both sides outside of the city are very expensive to built your house on) all along the bank. But I was more impressed by the timber and the smell of the freshly chopped wood. It’s a pity we still cut so many of these beautiful birch trees, they are so graceful and so naturally Russian…

Ust-Izhora

The timber also served as a background for my Father’s photo-session, like this one, for example. The results of the ex-pier session can be found here and here.

Ust-Izhora

Birch bark is used for many things in the traditional Russian crafts – from creating boxes to shoes! It was also used to write documents on at the time Alexander Nevsky fought on these shores against Swedes.

Ust-Izhora

Some shots of the life on the Neva banks – this is a children’s playground, very marine-themed:

Ust-Izhora

There was also this building with an almost blind wall which – in theory – was being renovated. It looked quite ominous…

Ust-Izhora

And this is a local post office with a surviving Soviet times mail box and traditional woven rugs drying on the railing. The letters CCCP (USSR) were painted over and the word Russia was written across for a quick transformation from the Post of USSR into the Post of Russia. I guess the real transformation took much more effort : )

Ust-Izhora

I didn’t take any photos of the monument to Alexander or the church in Ust-Izhora (which you can see on my Father’s photo), but I managed to take a photo of this Fire department near Rybatskoye metro station (the closes one to Ust-Izhora) – these guys do know how to attract attention! 01 is the number you call when there’s fire in Russia.

Fire Department

***

If you follow Neva’s flow from the East where we just were to the West, you will eventually get to Finland, as Neva flows into the Gulf of Finland. Gulf of Finland (Finnish Bay as I tend to call it, failing to recall the official name) is one of those places where St Pete people go to make picnics, walk along the shore and surf. People also come here to celebrate weddings, just as my sister did last year. You can hardly swim in there as it’s very shallow – you will have to walk and walk and walk till it gets anywhere close to your waist. Most of the shore used to be occupied by health resorts, now some of them are still operating, some of them got turned into more luxurious places. Soviet elite used to have dachas along the shore, now another elite is enjoying the sea. They say a meter of this land costs ridiculously expensive.

Finnish Bay

Forgive me for this fallen horizon, I was trying to picture this perspective with the stones which are common to this area (especially up there to the North, in Karelia and Finland). Here’s a more straight one with… a shower :)

Wanna take a shower?

A bit surreal with all that wind and clouds and people walking in coats:

Wanna take a shower?

We actually went to a health resort situated very close to the shore to visit our relatives and decided to join in and walk along the water too, meeting everything from this golden statue (obviously a Soviet sculpture left here from the good ol’ times)…

Golden couple

to ehm Ibiza resort bar!

Ibiza bar?!

…and windsurfers enjoying rare sun in their swimming costumes:

Finnish Bay

The sky was amazing (especially through polarizing lenses) – the sun appeared but closer to the end of our visit, so when we were walking along the shore, the sky was more of a ‘drama-drama’drama’ style:

Finnish Bay

So, yes, we do have the sea in St Petersburg, but… Baltic Sea is a rather cold one =)

Finnish Bay

Anyway, sitting there and listening to the waves made us really appreciate (and partially realize) the fact that we DO HAVE SEA IN ST PETERSBURG! :)

Finnish Bay

Moreover, just about 30 minutes later – and you are already enjoying the sun!

Finnish Bay

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Finnish Bay

We also walked in the ‘forest’ nearby, breathing in the pine trees and making our way through the sand hills which gave the name to this place (Dyuny in Russian). Back at the health resort, we spotted these friends who were mock-fighting in a moment:

Friends

And this three-legged fox who was peacefully lying in the sun:

Three-legged fox

The entire family and their izba-style house:

Large family

Almost every animal had their story in that mini-zoo next to the resort (there were also rather threatening-looking crows who were just dreaming to snatch those tourists’ fingers, it seemed : ). The resort itself bears the signs of the recent renovation which as it is normal in Russia is half-finished. We even tried some food at the ‘restaurant’ (ex-canteen) where the patients dine and I for the …th time came to the conclusion that there is no meat-free diet – even a medical one – in Russia = )

Mountain Ash

We also spotted the trees of Mountain ash – the symbol of autumn. When the berries get that red it means it’s high time for the children to go to school : )

Mountain Ash

Just as Bird Cherry we use mountain ash for lots of things, like medicine, alcohol, flour. I’m not saying that we eat it every day but at least it’s known that you can make things out of the fruits. The timber is also used for decorative furniture. And how about decorating the lamp post with the ivy?

Lamp post

I didn’t take the photo of the completely ‘lost’ lamp post so densely covered with the ivy that we didn’t realize at first that was not a tree but lights : ) I wonder if it’s still operating in the night and if yes – how it looks like?

This post is a part of my St Petersburg series.

G.

Italian Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Italian Apple and Cinnamon Cake from silviascucina.net

This last day of calendar summer (and it’s already autumn here anyway), let me share with you this super-soft apple cake perfect for tea with your family and friends. I made it for my sister’s birthday and we ate it quite quickly… So quickly that I didn’t manage to take a photo of a separate piece of this cake. You have to believe me that each slice was tall and beautifully yellow at the top with the unusual sautéed apples + lemon zest crown.

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Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 1. Dvorets Kultury

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Before Kolpino as I have known it for 26 years becomes something completely different, here is an architectural journey from the early 20th century through 1930’s constructivism and Stalin’s neo-classicism to the 1980s brutalism. I’m trying to preserve the traces, so to say, without being particularly nostalgic. Let’s call it my way of getting to know my city better.

This is not the first time I speak about architecture here cause St Petersburg is one of those places where you would go to just to look at the buildings. Kolpino being St Petersburg’s youngest industrial brother (the famous Izhorsky plant which gave birth to this town is celebrating 292 years in 2014) used to have a variety of styles too before the war came. After which the Soviet buildings spread all over the town, especially in its oldest historical part. We still have some older buildings from as early as 19th century but if you’re looking for a limited territory with a concentration of the Soviet styles – welcome to the architectural reserve of Kolpino!

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I will make several ‘architectural walk’ posts out of megabytes of photos I took throughout the summer. Let’s start this particular walk from the Half-Circle Canal and Dvorets Kultury (House/ Palace of Culture) aka DK, a Soviet way of promoting culture and crafts among the working class. I used to study there when our school was housed in the building. We would also use DK as a meeting point and it is still a point of reference when you’re explaining location of something in Kolpino. It used to belong to the Izhorsky plant, now it’s in the city’s hands. The name remains, only its ‘title’ changes – it used to be Palace of Culture and Technology, now it’s a Cultural and Recreational Center.

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The famous wooden staircase in the old part of DK got even filmed in a movie… Imagine how many workers’ feet trod its steps to and fro before it got rented out to various non-cultural organizations. Children and adults still go here to participate in various clubs but no doubt it is not crowded by culture-hungry pionery flocking around a sitting plaster figure of Lenin (I do remember it!). And all the girls and boys got inevitable and irrevocable brown stains of mastic polish on their white stockings (no more mastic these days but we’ve experienced that with my sister). These matching brown doors I’m sure are here from the very beginning:

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The asymmetrical building itself is quite a riddle – its construction started in late 1930s so there’s a kilo of constructivism in it, then proceeded during the neo-classicism era and was complemented in the late 1980s. Its architects were pretty prolific creators of various buildings in St Petersburg. The war did not permit to finish their grandiose plan (with namely a 10 meter tower for the scientific purposes) and the almost completely ruined DK was re-built and re-designed in late 1940s, when Stalin’s Empire style was in full swing. So no 10 meter tower anymore, which was anyway erased by the nazis. But the neo-classicism was grandiose enough – if not in terms of height, but definitely in terms of decoration! Hence this spiral staircase with -unfortunately – now removed looooong-long carpet:

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spinning three floors up (or down :)

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and these bas-reliefs

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  and the chandeliers

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with even more bas reliefs

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and pseudo-Corinthian capitals of the columns

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and overall lots of columns both inside

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and outside

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It’s one of the dolgostroy of our town – these were constructions that took years to complete, normally becoming a part of the city life and city folklore. The latest (or last?) addition to this complex construction was the concert hall, finally built in 1988. It represents a true mixture of both the original constructivism, Stalin’s classicism and the late 1980s khm… style. But oh, its inside decorations with mirrors, chandeliers and crimson velvet benches are just real magic…

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These metal stands outside are still used to hold the hand-painted billboards informing the citizens about the upcoming events and new clubs. In summer DK is deserted and when we got there with my Mother after several years of no-see, the security guard was puzzled at our long walk up and down the stairs. The right wing is being renovated from the inside now and I guess it will lose what was left from the 50s (there used to be a small cinema hall and later a disco).

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DK is haunted with memories. Wait, am I being nostalgic?

 G.

Zucchini Pizza with Flax Seed Crust

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

When the rain is back with some nasty wind, all you want is to please let you stay at home and comfort yourself with some pizza and in my case – Russian-style girl-talk : ) I was looking for a quick pizza dough recipe to get the dinner ready on time, so I chose this ‘healthier’ recipe from my favourite King Arthur Flour website. It contains whole wheat flour, which I tend to add in most cases anyway, but also flaxmeal and even flax seeds! I just HAD to try it : ) Moreover I just bought those tiny crunchy zucchini, probably the last this season. So here’s my quick pizza fix for stormy days and loyal friends!

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

By the way, here is how I usually freeze pizza if I find that the dough recipe will make more than can be eaten the same day:

Arrange the topping on the dough base and place the pizza on baking paper and then on a hard cardboard sheet or a cutting board, depending on how much space you have in the freezer. Don’t forget to cover the pizza (the best way is to place it in a large plastic bag) and put in the freezer. On the day of baking DO NOT THAW, just bake the pizza at about 225 ‘C first on the lower rack and then move it to the top. The baking time might be longer than for a freshly made pizza.

Here’s a closer view of the crust:

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

And here’s my zucchini topping:

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

A year ago – On Soviet Children’s Books and More

Two years ago – Pita, Sourdough Pizza and Stewed Aubergines

Zucchini Pizza with Flax Seed Crust (crust adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com) will make a flavourful cheesy pizza with crunchy onion bites and soft puffy base. For the crust recipe ingredients and procedure, follow the link.

Changes to the original crust recipe: I used smashed flax seeds instead of whole and had to add more all purpose flour. As for the procedure, I did not pre-bake the crust which made the recipe even quicker and easier.

Topping Ingredients for 2 pizzas:

  • 2 thin zucchinis, sliced (look out for the most crunchy ones!)
  • onion sliced in rings
  • a small tin of tomato paste
  • soy sauce
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • fresh dill and spring onions
  • seasonings, garlic powder
  • grated cheese

Procedure:

You may choose to pre-bake the crust as the original recipe suggests but I did not. I arranged the topping ingredients in the following order:

First comes a very thin coat of olive oil. It will be mostly needed at the edges of the base where there’s no topping.

Then there’s the tomato paste made into ketchup-like consistency with the help of soy sauce and some pre-mixed seasonings, garlic powder, chopped fresh dill and spring onions. Spread it on the base. My tomato paste layer is usually perfectly uneven : )

Then arrange the zucchini circles covering all the base. Top them with onion rings. Season with something spicy – the zucchini are usually quite bland.

Sprinkle generously with coarsely grated cheese, the remaining chopped fresh dill and spring onions plus some dried oregano.

Bake at 225 ‘C first on the lower oven rack for about 10 minutes and then on the center or top rack for additional 10 minutes until the cheese crust is browned. You will know by this very special unmistakable pizza aroma : ) Serve with some fresh veggies.

Remarks: I made two pizzas – a deep-dish round one which I baked on the day of making the dough in a greased 26 cm pan (reheated the remaining slices the next day just fine!) and a thin-crusted rectangular one which survived one day freezing alright. Be careful with the salt as the base contains already quite enough to make the overall taste a bit over-salty.

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

Result: The seeds and the use of whole wheat flour add a certain crunch to the pizza base. I assure you that you wouldn’t even guess there are flax seeds in the crust because of the topping and all the cheese, but the main point is that they ARE there, right? This pizza turned out to be extra-flavourful!

More pizza ideas: Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza and Sourdough Pizza and also this quick leftover sourdough pizza.

G.

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