Thursday, February 23, 2012


I have made my fair share of pizza, using store-bought doughs as well as a variety of homemade ones. I had recipes I liked, but not one was truly great. Until now!  

The source of the great dough was most unlikely: Earth to Table. I got this cookbook as a gift a few years ago and promptly made a few recipes ... that were total dogs. Just awful. Recipes that make you wonder if the author actually made them, or if he lacks taste buds. Who likes crunchy cippollini? Gross. And, no, it was not me; it was definitely the recipes. So, I set the book aside. Recently, I decided to give it another shot, steering well clear of the recipes with little frowny faces, and quickly found several fabulous recipes and ideas. Like this dough. 

And this topping. I brushed the dough with olive oil, then spread mashed delicata squash, sprinkled rosemary and cheese, and tore prosciutto on top. Wonderful!

My other two topping combinations were also winners: olive, artichoke heart, marinara, roasted pepper, and anchovy; and caramelized onion, potato, roasted garlic, and rosemary on an olive oil base. 

Best Pizza Dough (from Earth to Table)
3 cups AP flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups water, divided
1 T ev olive oil
1 tsp honey

In a stand mixer, combine the flour with the yeast and salt. Add the oil, honey, and one cup of water, stirring either with the paddle attachment or a wooden spoon until pretty much incorporated. Change to the dough hook and start on low speed, gradually adding the remaining 1/2 cup water until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and hangs on the hook, approximately 5 minutes (you might not need all the water).

Turn the dough out and knead until elastic and smooth, about 3 minutes. Place in a large greased bowl and roll the dough around to coat with oil. Cover with a clean, damp cloth and allow to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size. (If it is cold in the house, you can place the bowl in an oven with the light on.)

Divide the dough into four balls. Roll them, tucking the edges under, into small balls. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 15-20 minutes. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Soup and Sandwich

There is little more satisfying on a snowy day than soup and a grilled cheese. I would argue that a good book, a quiet house, and a warm afghan are also nice, but I don't know when I will experience those again what with two young children in the house. But I can and did set about to make the meal happen at least. I picked up Essential Pepin, a cookbook totally worth its weight in gold as I see it, to guide me in the soup department. To trim this book down to its 700+ recipes, Jacques Pepin had to seriously cut. Can you even imagine having a repertoire so vast? I chose his cauliflower soup, which is flavored with curry powder. This is one of the things that makes JP so amazing - he is sooooo classically trained, coming up through the ranks the old fashioned way, yet he is not wedded steadfastly to strict French technique and tradition. He loves corn and sour cream! I think a lot of French chefs would sneer at that. 

I even made the bread for my grilled cheese. I have been gun-shy on bread as of late because of two enormous mishaps. Blunders, really; no, travesties in yeast. I made four doughs that I ended up chucking after baking. I baked for twice as long as recommended - going by internal temperature on the last two loaves and tapping on the first two - and all four were undercooked. So strange a thing too. The inside of an undercooked bread is doughy and moist and smells like beer. So wrong. You think, I can salvage this. Maybe it's not underdone. You take a bite and realize that it is hopeless.

I went to America's Test Kitchen for a whole wheat loaf and hit the nail on the head. This bread was awesome. The crust was perfect and the chew was great. It was not dry, like wheat loaves I have made in the past. I followed the recipe to the letter - even setting a timer for the kneading process - because ATK is all about The Letter. Knead for 9 minutes? Check. Such a relief to get back into bread and have it work out. There's nothing that hurts more than a bad loaf. You put in all this effort and time and you so look forward to fresh bread, and then Yuck! you have to pitch it because it's nasty and unsalvagable. You feel like less of a person. I do, anyway. But I am back in the saddle. Yee-haw.