Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Pizza Dough!

Our challenge this month is to channel our inner pizziaola! I am still a novice Daring Baker, as this is only my third completed challenge. However, I have followed many blogs of other members in the group for quite some time.

Originally, this month's challenge was to be hosted by Sher of "What Did You Eat" along with Rosa and Glenna. Sadly, Sherry passed away tragically on the 20th of July2008 after having been struck by a massive heart-attack. So, this month is a tribute to a great cook and awesome woman.

For toppings, I admit that I erred on the side of mundane. I figured, "Why re-invent the wheel?" Our pies of love were topped with Italian sausage crumbles, fresh spinach and a blend of Italian cheese shreds and Parmesan cheese. I used a standard marinara for sauce.

Allow me to pause and tell you how much I LOVE the fresh salads and greens that are washed and available in bags!

In order to be able to claim a successful completion of the challenge we were required to TOSS the pizza dough. Not only that......we had to post a picture to prove it! So, here's the proof:

I wholeheartedly recommend everyone that loves a good pizza to try making it homemade. It is unbelievably delicious!


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 - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
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.


2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then 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.

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.


8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and 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.


10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: 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 pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

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


12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: 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 pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: 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 pane 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.

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.

RECIPE SOURCE: “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Lazy Weekend Breakfast

Sometimes comfort food is in order. Saturday mornings cry out for something more special than a bagel on the run or a bowl of cereal.

Behold! Fried Potatoes and Onions! Oh yes, my friends... a southern classic.

No one really wanted eggs, so none today. But breakfast rocked even without them. And yes, those are biscuits stuffed with sausages on the side. Hey, the fruit was healthy!

Fried Potatoes and Onions

1 lb. bag Simply Potatoes (it's the weekend! No peeling!)

One medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (divided)

4 oz. Hickory Farms Summer Sausage chopped

3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in heavy bottomed skillet until hot. Add summer sausage, half of the sliced onions and half of potatoes from package. Salt and pepper. Add remainder of onions and potatoes. Salt and pepper again.

Cook covered on medium heat undisturbed to brown bottom. (about 7 minutes) With a spatula turn browned potates on bottom up to top. Continue to cook, uncovered for the remainder of cooking.

As potatoes brown on the bottom, move with spatula to brown more slices.

Cook to desired level of golden brown.


Friday, October 24, 2008

A Little House Cleaning

I have decided that I cover too broad a range of topics for this one blog. Therefore, I am announcing a new blog that will be more suited to heavier topics and musings.

I promise not to bore you there. (At least I'll try not to.)

This blog from here on out will be devoted to creative pursuits and light topics. While the newer blog will deal with the nuts and bolts of my day to day opportunities to learn.

So, with that.... I'd like to put a "Buzz In Your Ear".

See ya over there.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Best Family a Foodie Can Have

If anyone knows anything about me, they know that I'm an adventurous foodie. For many, that can be frustrating if they are part of a finicky food family. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a family that will try anything that I put before them. (It also doesn't hurt that I've groomed them to have broad and adventurous tastes!)

Like most foodies, I follow many blogs. Tonight's dinner success is owed to two fabulous food bloggers! Dinner was a cyber bow to their artistry.

Sunday dinner featured Asian flavors.

The starter was a Spinach & Romaine salad with mandarin oranges, toasted sesame seeds and toasted almonds. Please forgive the photo, it was taken hastily with a cell phone. The family wanted to dive in. No time for posed food shots!

Next, we moved on to grilled talapia fillets. I used for inspiration the BBQ Mahi Mahi recipe from Ezra Pound Cake. The photo is from that site, and I take no credit for it. But again... the family just wouldn't wait. I used the rub, but did not make the roasted pepper relish.

Next to the starring protein, I made an absolutely tongue tingling Asian Noodle Salad. Again, Ezra Pound Cake rocked the house with the recipe. I left out the cabbage and subbed out half of the fresh cilantro for flat leaf parsley. Also, there were no serrano peppers in the store, so I used one good sized fresh jalapeno instead. Again, the photo is from that site. I only wish I could take such great pics! But with an impatient family... pictures just. weren't. gonna. happen.

The family was very happy with the sumptuous meal. But when I reminded them about dessert their smiles got even bigger. I took my cue from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy for our dessert. I made a Creamy Strawberry Swirled Cheesecake. It is a variation on Susan's recipe: Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake. My family prefers strawberries to raspberries. (I know, I'm sad about that) So, instead of raspberry topping as a swirl, I used a strawberry product. I also could not locate creme fraiche in the grocery store, so I used sour cream. No beautiful embellished decoration, either. My family wants just silky cheese cake. Bummer, because I would have loved to decorate.

But even with the changes, the cheesecake is the ABSOLUTE BEST one we have ever tasted. You absolutely must make time to make this.

Here is the pic from her site:

I only wish I could take great food pics like these wonderful food bloggers. Do yourselves a favor, read some great blogs and make some great food! Your family just might find themselves broadening their palate! And you will feel great mastering delicious new recipes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Give Us This Day

Sunday dinner is one of the ties that binds the hearts of our family.

No need to spend lots of money. We enjoy beautiful, homemade breads regularly.

...and give us this day, our daily bread.

If you'd like to put delicious, easy, homemade bread on your table, I recommend this bread. I found the recipe over at Julie's blog.

It is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg.