Monthly Archives: January 2014

Tartine Pizza

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Pizza is a staple food in our household – nothing special, just a weeknight meal. As you know, I’ve been working on bread lately, the quality of which has improved in leaps and bounds.

Just the other day, I tried to make pizza with my Tartine style dough. It was a revelation. Puffy, crisp, chewy crust, filled with large irregular holes and a new subtle depth of flavor. I’m thoroughly converted.

It’s not like we were slouches before. With all the time my wife and I spent in Italy, we picked up some decent skills, and an admittedly snobbish view towards great pizza. We have a pizza stone, two peels, and a bunch of other geekery in the kitchen. At the end of the day though, it really comes down to the dough.

I’m not going to go into the whole process just now. I’m still planning on detailing my whole bread process someday soon, but I don’t have the time tonight. I will say though, I think that a big part of the success was abandoning the rolling pin. Stretching the sticky dough by hand conserved the pockets of gas that were trapped during the long bulk rise. I’m still a long way away from tossing dough over my head, but by gently passing it over the back of my hands, I got a nice round pizza with a well defined crust.

As for toppings, we swerved away from our usual classic Italian combos like Margherita, and went for nostalgic ham, green pepper, and fresh pineapple.

Buon Appetito!

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Wicked Easy Italian Flatbreads: Piadine

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Last night was one of those search-the-fridge kinds of dinners. Once all the ingredients were assembled, I needed some sort of wrapper to turn it into a complete meal.

I turned to a favorite of ours: super easy Italian flatbreads, or piadine.

They take almost no time to prepare and use ingredients I always have on hand. My wife found the recipe on the blog thekitchn, although I’ve adapted it a little to make it even simpler.

I use a stand mixer for this recipe, the lazy man’s method, but you could easily mix it by hand. You just need to increase the kneading time to 8-10 minutes.

Piadine:

4 ½ Cups AP Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 ½ Teaspoons Kosher Salt

1/3 Cup Shortening or Lard

1 ½ Cups Water

 

Add all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of the mixer. Give it a quick spin with the paddle attachment.

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Add the shortening and mix on medium speed for 30 seconds to a minute. The shortening should be broken up in the flour.

Add the water and mix on low until it forms a shaggy dough.

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Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5 minutes on low speed. The dough will be extremely soft and silky.

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Form into a ball and let it sit for 30 minutes.

The recipe I used instructs you to divide into 6 or 8 pieces. I divided mine into 8 and they were huge. They could easily be scaled back by dividing them into 10-12 pieces.

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Form the divided dough into balls and heat a cast iron skillet to medium high.

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Take a ball of dough and roll it out thin. It doesn’t need to be see-through, just thin. I have a nifty little flatbread rolling pin that my parents got for me in Kyrgyzstan.

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Transfer to the skillet and prick with a fork. This prevents air puffing. Cook for about a minute per side.

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Allow to cool or eat warm. The dough for these can also be kept in the fridge and you can make them as you need them.

If you stack them while they cool, they will become more supple and easier to fold.

Fill them with almost anything. We did leftover turkey and capers with a lemony yogurt dressing, baba ganoush, grated carrot, and shredded cabbage. They would also make a great warm PBJ, if you layered two of them with the goodies on the inside and heated them in the skillet… Nutella, peanut butter, and banana… Or… Oh my, the possibilities!

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Facebook Guilt Posters

So you’ve all seen them before, little messages that people share on Facebook, modern versions of chain letters. They usually sound something like this:

-If you like puppies, share this-

Well no. I wish they were so benign. They usually go on to say:

-If you don’t share this, you must like kicking puppies-

Some of them even pile on further:

-Most of you won’t share this (puppy kickers) but my “real” friends will-

Stop.

Just stop.

Don’t post them.

Don’t share them.

But why? What’s wrong with puppies?

Nothing. I like puppies as much as the next guy, but you need to know when you’re being manipulated. The language in these things is extremely manipulative. The best that can come of it, is that you feel warm and fuzzy for a moment. The worst, is that you just made one of your friends feel like a callous fiend (or a puppy kicker). Worse, it groups your friends into the haves, those who get guilted too, and the have-nots, those who obviously don’t like you enough to share.

The puppy example is actually much more tame than the real thing. Most of the ones that I see, relate to things like cancer, or other real life problems that make puppy kicking look like a sport in comparison.

So now, if I decide that I don’t want to spam my friends with this stuff, I’m into cancer.

WTF? I’m really not into cancer!

But it’s just Facebook. What’s the harm?

Probably the worst thing about the whole situation, is that it gives people a false sense of doing something good. You click share, avow your hate of puppy kicking, and go on with your day as a newly minted philanthropist.

What real good was actually done? You’ve been bullied into something with no tangible result.

Do you have something against cancer? Do something real. Donate to cancer research. Say a prayer. Eat more leafy greens so you won’t get it yourself. Do something real.

Just stop with the Facebook guilt posters.

Sandwich Journal: Kielbasa & Fried Egg

With all the yummy bread around, I’ve been making some awesome sandwiches. I think I’ll start a journal of all of them to share with you guys. Today was a kielbasa & fried egg sandwich with Cabot chipotle cheddar, topped with mayo and ketchup, on my Tartine-style bread. Mmmm…

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Doughnuts for the Serious Baker

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Those who know me well, know that I have a thing for doughnuts. I’ve made them a few times before and achieved decent results. My recent foray into bread baking gave me the urge to try to make the best doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. By chance, I think I may have done it.

 

The process that follows is not for the baking novice. There are some great recipes out there that are much less involved. I’ve tried them and this one is my favorite. The resulting doughnuts are as light as air, crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The natural yeast gives a special depth to the flavor that I’ve never had before in a basic yeast doughnut.

 

The recipe is an amalgam of several other recipes, none of which were meant for doughnuts. Most of the measurements are by weight, the most practical measurement for the serious baker, except for things like butter or eggs, where I thought weighing them was a waste of time, or the glaze, where it doesn’t matter how precise you are.

 

The Recipe:

 

150g Leaven (Saving the remainder to act as your starter)

200g Poolish (Using all of it)

150g Warm Milk

43g Sugar

14g Salt

1 Stick of Melted Butter (Cooled slightly)

2 Eggs

4g Instant Yeast

500g AP Flour

 

The Glaze:

 

3 cups Powdered Sugar

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Vanilla

½ cup Cold Milk

 

Oil for frying

 

It’s okay if some of these ingredients seem like complete Greek. I’ll try to explain them, although this is an advanced recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the dough-making process, as I was making bread the same morning and had to get breakfast on the table.

 

The Leaven:

 

This is the part that makes my method unique. I use a natural yeast leaven (sourdough), along with a commercial yeast poolish. This is the spot where, if you’ve never worked with a leaven, you might want to figure that out before continuing.

 

Onward…

 

The night before I plan to fry, I mix 100g of water(78°F) and 100g of flour that is 50/50 white/whole wheat, to a teaspoon of mature active sourdough starter. Cover with a towel and leave overnight at cool household temperature (64°F). A spoonful of your leaven should float in water when it’s ready.

 

Poolish:

 

Also the night before, mix 100g of water with 100g of flour and 2g of instant yeast. Leave in the fridge overnight. It should also float in water the next morning.

 

Morning of:

 

In a large bowl, mix together the leaven and poolish with the warm milk. It will be gloopy and probably won’t come together well. That’s okay.

 

In a medium bowl, mix the butter, eggs, salt, and sugar. Add this to the ingredients in the big bowl. Add the yeast.

 

Mix it all together until it forms a smooth wet dough. It will look shaggy and will likely still not seem like a very cohesive dough. Again, that’s okay.

 

Plop the dough into a clean container to begin the bulk fermentation. I did this step at room temperature.

 

During the next 2 hours, perform a stretch and fold every 30 minutes. How to stretch and fold can be found here.

 

Cutting:

 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough to about ½ inch thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter and place onto a floured parchment-lined cookie sheet. These could also be chopped with a bench knife to make a sort of beignet.

 

Proofing:

 

Cover the doughnuts with plastic wrap and allow to proof 2 hours at room temp. This is where I got started with the photos.

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Frying:

 

Fill a Dutch oven with about 3 inches of light oil like canola. Heat to 375°F.

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Ready a slotted spoon or spider, as well as a set of chopsticks or wooden skewers. These are great for flipping.

 

Set out a stack of paper towel 4 layers thick. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this step. Without the towels, you will have greasy doughnuts.

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Make your glaze by mixing all the ingredients together in a flat-bottomed bowl and whisk with a fork.

 

Fry the doughnuts for about 1-2 minutes on each side, until they’re a deep golden brown.

 

As soon as they can be handled, drop them into the glaze, flipping them once, and then placing them on a wire rack to cool.

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These are best eaten in the first few hours, although the more careful you are to keep your frying temps at 375°, the less oil they will hold and the better they will taste later in the day.

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Sandwich Journal: Ham n’ Cheese

These are what I’ve been living off of since I started baking Tartine-style bread. Ham, Cabot spreadable cheddar (way better than it sounds, adds to the gooey awesomeness of the sammy), bread and butter pickles, mayo, Dijon mustard.

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