Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blizzard + Pizza = Bliss

Can't imagine why the local pizza place wasn't delivering yesterday...wimps. No matter, homemade pizza is so much better than anything your local joint is making, once you try it you'll be hooked. A couple of tips:
- Preheat your oven with pizza stone in place for at least an hour.
- Don't fuss over getting the crust round. Less fiddling is best, and it tastes the same regardless of the shape
- To prevent a soggy crust, instead of a sauce, take whole Italian plum tomatoes and press out most of the liquid between your hands, then lay the strips right on the crust.

My recipe uses a levain, or wild-yeast starter, which I highly recommend, but if you don't yet have one, increase the instant yeast to 1 tsp, and increase the all-purpose flour and water by 80 g each.

Makes 2 12-inch pizzas:

274 g all-purpose flour
48 g whole wheat flour
161 g levain
200 g water
9 g salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
2 teaspoon olive oil (1 teas in dough; 1 teas for brushing the finished crust)

12 ounces fresh mozerella
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes
A handful of fresh basil leaves
Oregano for seasoning
  1. Feed starter at least 2 hours or night before beginning
  2. Combine all ingredients, and allow to rest (autolyse), covered, for 20-30 min.
  3. Knead by hand for 6-7 minutes or in a stand mixer on medium speed for 3 min. Dough should be silky and elastic.
  4. Place in oiled bowl; cover with oil-misted plastic wrap and allow to ferment at room temperature 4-5 hours (can also be refrigerated overnight and brought back to room temp)
  5. An hour before baking, preheat oven to 500 deg. F
  6. Divide in half. Press gently into a disk on a well-floured countertop, then get hands underneath and stretch out using your knuckles, moving the dough with little jumps. 
  7. Drop onto a peel that is well dusted with cornmeal.
  8. Brush crust with the remaining olive oil
  9. Top with strips of tomatoes that you've squeezed most of the juice out of and that have been seasoned with a little salt, pepper, and oregano
  10. Add slices of mozzarella and basil leaves, if using. Optionally, sprinkle a little more olive oil over the top.
  11. Bake till top is bubbly and crust is browned. Don't be afraid of some charring. Most of us have a tendency to undercook pizza.
  12. Allow to sit for a few minutes before eating, or your skin on the roof of your mouth will come off like the peel of an orange. Trust me on this. 
Bon appetit!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Sound of Flour

A photographer came over for a photo shoot this week, and after shooting about a thousand photos, wanted to record the sounds of bread making as well. "I want to capture the sound of flour," she said.

"Artists!" I muttered to myself. If there's one activity that's silent, it's bread making. Except, as it turns out,  it's not. Once I started to listen, the sounds of flour becoming bread became deafening: whipping fresh flour into the starter; the creaking of the oven door; the hiss of steam, the scraping sound of a finished loaf sliding off the peel; the crunch of eating a slice.

Even, yes, the sound of flour -- as it fell into the mixing bowl. Listen to your next loaf of bread; it has much to say to you.

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