Thursday, October 30, 2008


OK, now, boys and girls...

Are we ready for the latest Daring Bakers Challenge?


Hand tossed pizza! Or, if you are like me, hand flung/twisted pizza. (I was a little tentative on the tossing part.)

The resulting pizzas, while quite tasty, were a little free-form, kind of like an amoeba. Not pretty. Definitely yummy, though. Not pretty. Yummy.

Here is the recipe and the directions:
Basic Pizza Dough-- 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 bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled.
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 Tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces/60 g) olive oil or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) water, ice cold
1 Tbsp sugar
Semolina durum flour or corn meal for dusting pan or stone
Day 1
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.
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).
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.
If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly roll 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.
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).
If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly roll pan. Do not preheat the pan.
10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly roll pan or a pizza peel 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.
Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.
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 roll pan or on the pizza peel 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.
Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.
13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly roll pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.
After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly roll pan to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly roll pan.
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.

The choices of fillings were up to us. I baked two out of the 6 pizzas the recipe made (I froze the rest.) I topped one with pepperoni, Italian sausage, sauteed red peppers and mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. The other one, which hubby wasn't too sure about until he had a bite, I covered with homemade pesto, sliced artichoke hearts, sliced cooked chicken breasts, and feta cheese. Both were really good!

The dough was very easy to make. The forming/tossing/flinging though, not so much. Since I made two of the six pizzas and froze the other 4 balls of dough, I'll have another try or two at it. I hope I can get the spin of it. Maybe a glass or two of wine before tossing...?

I am actually a day late in posting this. (I could have sworn it said the 30th!)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fried Green Tomatoes

The nights are getting really cold now. Our last tomato plant, a patio tomato in a large nursery pot growing on-- wait for it-- the patio, had some tomatoes left on it that hubby picked. The beams across the pergola top of the patio cover kept it from getting zapped by the frosts we've had lately, but we decided that the tomatoes that hadn't ripened yet were going to become fried green tomatoes.

I sliced them about 1/4 inch thick, sprinkled them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, lightly dredged them in flour, dipped them in a beaten egg, then in cornmeal and sauteed them in a little canola oil. They were crispy on the outside, tender in the middle. And for some reason I'm not aware of, they had a slight lemony taste, which contrasted nicely with the crispy/salty cornmeal crust. I served them with chicken legs that had been rubbed with a garlic, olive oil, and rosemary mixture and baked. A great combination! Next time I think I'll add a little bit of paprika to the cornmeal and use ranch dressing as a dip.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Home Grown Garlic Is the Best

Bob planted the rest of the garlic last week. We have mostly our old standby New York White (AKA: Polish White) which makes up our main crop. But this year we expanded the varieties to include German Extra Hardy, which is a hardneck variety from Johnny's, as well as Killarney Red and Lorz that I bought locally from Susan West at the St Clairsville Farmers Market.

The cloves of the German Extra Hardy were very large, which is good from a cooking point of view, but large cloves mean less cloves per head, which produce less plants for next year. So it will be another year before I have really expanded my crop.

I think the German and Killarney Red are rocambole types which produce a garlic scape that can be picked green and sauteed like asparagus spears or made into yummy garlic scape pesto. I'm looking forward to that treat next year.