Tuesday, October 28, 2008

That's amore

::loving my first daring baker's challenge::

When the moon
hits your eye,

like a big pizza pie,
that's amore.
Pizza is big in this house. On many an occasion we'll throw together pizza dough on Saturday morning, and let the kids go wild with the toppings when evening rolls around. They're not that adventurous, but even the littlest have been known to love eggplant parm pizza, made with frozen breaded eggplant from a few weeks prior.

Needless to say, I was excited that pizza was my initiation into the Daring Bakers. An easy way to slip into the fold, get to know my way around the mechanism of the beast.

A few things caught my eye when I first read this recipe (at the end of the blog). 1) Water (and even flour) should be cold. 2) This was a two day dough. Couldn't make this one last minute. Cold-fermentation was required for the gluten to form necessary bonds. 3) Tossing the dough wasn't just for fun - it added to the texture of the dough.

I'd never successfully tossed dough before. I've tried, believe me, just for the drama. But this dough was different; it was easy to toss. It seemed to respond well to the movement.

Pizza dough was our blank slate. Toppings were up to us. This night the kids were going traditional, shown above with marinara, fresh mozzarella and salami. For grown-ups with more daring palates was a base consisting of pesto and goat cheese spread on a par-baked crust, topped with sauteed wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella, and asiago. It was fantastic, and it reminded me why I love making pizza at home.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled -
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast -
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

dumpling squash

Yesterday afternoon I roasted dumpling squash at 350deg for about ninety minutes, not knowing exactly what I would be doing with them. My pile of squash from Tantre has been getting larger and larger each week. Needing to address this issue, I pushed myself to create.

After searching the depths of the freezer abyss and the pantry, I came up with ground turkey, dried cherries and small grain brown rice.

Here's what I did. Highly recommend this!
  • saute ground turkey with generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil (that stuff can dry out like the bottom of my sister's boots). add a small amount of diced onion, 1 tbsp of fennel seed and a large pinch of kosher salt.
  • put 1/2 cup dried cherries in a saucepan. cover with water. bring to a boil. shut off heat and let cherries sit while turkey is sauteing.
  • make one batch of brown rice with salt and butter in the water.
  • mix all ingredients together. generously but loosely fill each half with the mixture.
At the last fifteen minutes of roasting the squash halves, I put a pat of butter in each half, creating the yummiest almost-butterscotch flavor in the base of the squash. This really added to the dish unexpectedly!

Perfect healthy but really satisfying dish for a cold fall evening.

Two squash down. Eleven to go.

Monday, October 20, 2008

daring baker

Just an update to let you know :: I'll be posting about my first Daring Baker's challenge on the 29th.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I really don't feel any more American after baking this pie of pies. My daughter suddenly announced that apple pie was her favorite. So to appease the child god I baked. But I'm glad I did.

Monday, August 25, 2008

growing our dinner

Mary Mary quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?


This year's garden was a true experiment for me, as I started all the vegetable plants from seed, inside in late February. The whole process was exciting and pretty remarkable. One of these days I'll get around to blogging pictures of the plants starting inside. But don't hold your breath. I've got a lot to do. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

need I say more?

words would only muddle this glorious moment. well, okay, just a few. sweet tart grape tomatoes with a drizzle of extra virgin, a healthy pinch of malden salt and fresh thyme from the garden intensified by two and a half hours of roasting at 325. we were popping them into our mouths like candy. candy for August foodies.

Friday, July 18, 2008

seeing blue

I'm diggin' my new macro lens. And although my mother mercilessly teased me for shooting these beauties, I would not give in to her taunts.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

summer strawberries

Mid June, jump-starting summer with a trip to the strawberry patch = strawberry jam, cobbler, and loads of frozen strawberries for smoothies in the middle of winter. mmmmm.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jamie at Home

How can you not be in love with the new Jamie Oliver show? I find myself sitting there nodding along with him, grinning as he takes a bite of his food and waves his arms as he processes whether or not to add more seasoning. What turns me on most about it is the connection to the garden. I totally get that and what I can't grow myself, I turn to my lovely weekly abundant Tantre Farm crop share.

Here's the newest thing I tried for the fam. Such a simple little taste and a way to use every part of the plant.
zucchini flowers
Here's another morning favorite that the kids loved.
eggy crumpets
I could go on and on, but check it out for yourself, and you're sure to see something you crave.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

comfort :: nigella style

Nigella Express : I tivo this because I rarely have a half hour to sit and watch a show on Saturday morning. Recently there was an episode entitled Instant Calmer. A dish that caught my eye was her Chicken, Mushroom and Bacon Pie. Not a very appetizing name, but the simplicity of ingredients and process was very tempting. Here's some pictures from the afternoon's fun. I added frozen peas for a little green. And they were lovely, and I would totally recommend it. When I brought them to the dinner table, everyone thought it was a fancy meal, but it was easy as pie. :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


If in the evening my kitchen looks like this, covered with dishes air drying, I know I've had a good day, no matter what else I have on my plate.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

new market

There's a new market in Ann Arbor, Plum Market. Opened in early February. Feels like an urban WF, stylish and updated - Not just intended for the "crunchies" among us. Although I love cooking for my family, once in a while I need a break, and at PLUM there are many options. All of the prepared food that I've tried to date has been wonderful, both fully cooked and semi-prepared. Favorites so far have been the southwestern turkey burgers and tortilla chip crusted tilapia. In both of these items, the flavors were balanced so well; it was as good as homemade. Not something I often find with supermarket prepared foods. My single complaint was the chicken tikki masala dish from the hot bar was made with breast meat. While I'm aware that decision was probably made to lower fat content, the chef should know that chicken breast cannot be braised in a sauce and then kept warm for hours. The meat was tough, almost inedible, if it hadn't been for the absolutely delicious sauce.

Other tasty things we've tried there: chicken salad, minestrone soup, turkey lasagna, sushi & pizza, specifically the pesto artichoke is my fav.

The produce is beatiful and wine selection looks thorough (although I haven't spent a lot of time in that area).

One slightly unsettling thing is the music playing in the background. A cross between house music and music that my massage therapist plays. They pump it outside the building too, so that you feel like you're entering an alternate universe. It wouldn't bother me so much, except for the fact that I'm in there for an hour every time I go, buying much more than I planned. >:D

Monday, March 31, 2008

yuletide pizza

A trip from my dad means that I tend to have the camera out when we're cooking. And some things are better explained with pictures. So here's the short of it - A pizza party on the day after Christmas.

It's late and you get the picture. I'm gonna kick myself in the morning for being up so late.


Although I know that few are reading this on a regular basis, I still feel the need to apologize for not keeping up with it. I'm going to try to back-post a few recipes that I have photo documented. So if you're one of the loyal few, keep reading. Something good will come of this one day.