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.