Tuesday, February 28, 2012

No-Knead Pizza Dough

If you had asked me 24 hours ago if it was worth waiting 18 hours for pizza dough to rise I probably would have told you no, and I would have been horribly wrong.   This pizza dough recipe developed by Jim Lahey, owner of New York's Sullivan Street Bakery, and published in Bon Appetit magazine, has everything you want out of a traditional pizza dough and all you have to do is wait....

Many homemade pizza dough recipes end up being to "biscuity", often failing to achieve the right texture or consistency.   However, if you are willing to do some planning and some waiting, you can make perfect crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, bubbly, delicious pizza dough.   This dough has great elasticity for making thin crust pizzas if that's your game.   The long hours of fermentation give it a yummy yeasty taste.   Resist the urge to overwork the dough in this no-knead recipe!

Ingredients:  (makes six 10"-12" pizzas.  I halfed this recipe)
  • 7.5 cups all-purpose flour (1000 grams) plus more for shaping
  • 4 tsp fine sea salt (or kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3 cups water
  • Whisk together the flour, salt and yeast in a medium bowl.  While stirring, slowly add 3 cups of water.  Stir together until well mixed.   Mix dough gently with your hands to bring it together into a ball.  Dough will be sticky. 
  • Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature (72F) in a draft free area until dough has doubled in size and is covered with tiny bubbles.  This will take approximately 18 hours (less time in warmer rooms, more time in cooler rooms). 
  • Once risen, transfer the dough to a well floured surface and divide into six portions.   Form each portion into a ball by gathering the edges into the center to create a fold, turn seam side down and mold into a ball. Dust dough with flour and set aside. 
  • Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen cloth and allow to rest for 1 hour.   (Alternatively, you could wrap the dough in plastic wrap and save in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours after taking out of the fridge.)
Making the Pizzas
  • While the dough is resting pre-heat your oven to the highest setting (500-550 degrees on most ovens).  This is also a good time to prep your toppings. 
  • Proceed with well floured hands  With your hands spaced a few inches apart, begin stretching the dough starting at the edges, while moving in a circle.  Resist the urge to flatten the dough (retain as many bubbles as you can).  Continue rotating and stretching until the dough is about 8" across. 
  • Pick up the flattened disc and transfer it to your knuckles (get in your pizza making stance).  Slowly rotate the dough while gently stretching the edges, letting gravity do the work until the dough is 10"-12" inches across. 
  • Flop the dough down onto a floured surface and pull the edges outward.  The dough is elastic and will want to shrink back up.  Don't worry about getting in a perfect circle, it's overrated.  I made mine intentionally oblong so they would fit on my baking sheet. 
  • IF USING A BAKING SHEET:  Arrange the dough on your baking sheet and put the desired toppings on. Bake until the bottom of the crust is crisp and top is blistered, about 10-12 minutes on the middle rack. 
  • IF USING A PIZZA STONE: When ready to bake turn the oven to broil.  Sprinkle your pizza peel or rimless baking sheet with flour.  Prepare pizza on the peel, and with small, quick back and forth movements, slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone.  Broil, rotating halfway until bottom is crisp and top is blistered, about 5-7 minutes.  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Top 3 Online Baking Resources

When I have questions I turn to the internet.  Here's a rundown of my favorite sites for baking help!

King Arthur Flour - I am not the sort of person who normally has a lot of brand loyalty.  I'm a thrift-store-shopping store-brand-buying kind of consumer.   That being said, I love King Arthur Flour.  They are a 100% employee owned flour company out of Vermont.  I love their website for a couple reasons.  Their recipes are always spot on, unlike a lot of recipe aggregation sites all of King Arthur's recipes are tried and true.   What really sticks out for me though is that they take the time to have their professional bakers answer questions and reply to comments posted on their site.   Their responses are great little baking lessons.  Their answers also show that they really understand the science of baking and they really want you to have success with your baking!

Baking 911 - This site has everything you need to know from recipes to techniques.  It's hard to pick, but I think the best part of their website is their Quick Guide (I especially like the "How Baking Works" section).   The ladies at Baking 911 are such advanced bakers I'd almost call them chemists!  I love how informative this website is!   This is the website to go to if you ever have a question about what a cooking term means, or how to execute a certain baking technique.    They won't just give you a list of ingredients and instructions, they will actually help you understand the baking process at the most basic level.   They totally live up to their motto "be a better baker"!

The Fresh Loaf - What a community!  This websites strength is definitely in numbers!  With more recipes than you can count,  lessons, videos and more, The Fresh Loaf is a wealth of information.  My favorite aspect of this website is the "peer-reviewed" quality of their recipes.  The large community of bakers, both novice and expert, have left a wealth of useful comments on recipes to help you really nail it.     

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Technique: Creaming

Knowing what creaming is (and being able to say it without giggling) is a sure sign that you are moving up in the baking ranks out of the novice category.   While creaming is called for in most cake and cookie recipes, the process of creaming itself is often left out under the assumption that you already know the technique.   So, pretty much every person who has tried to learn how to bake has at one point made greasy, flat cookies and wondered where they went wrong.    The secret is proper creaming, my friends. 

Creaming is the process of mixing a solid fat (normally butter but shortening can be used too) with a dry sugar (white sugar or brown sugar most of the time) for the purpose of incorporating tiny air bubbles held in by the fat.   These air bubbles act as a leavening, expanding in the heat of the oven during the baking process and giving your dessert a light, airy texture.  Without these air bubbles the texture of your cake or cookies will not be ideal.  

The process can be done with a stand mixer, a hand mixer or by hand if you really hate yourself.   I think the easiest way is to do it with a hand mixer in a heavy bowl, but you can save yourself the forearm workout and use a stand mixer if you want.  I often end up doing this step by hand, but it takes quite a while and is pretty exhausting. 

You need to start with soft butter.  Most websites and cookbooks will tell you "room temperature" butter, but what they really mean is softened butter that is between 65 and 70 degrees (Fahrenheit, about 18 degrees Celsius).   It should not be greasy or melty, and good god please don't put it in the microwave.  If you are microwaving your butter you've probably already messed it up.    Why am I spazzing out about the temperature of the butter?  Because neither cold butter or melted butter will work for this.   Cold butter will just take longer because you will have to beat it until it warms up enough.   On the other hand, if the butter gets to warm and starts melting the fat starts to break down and release the air bubbles.  The milk solids will separate and air bubbles can't be formed.   I recommend cutting your butter into small chunks and leaving it out for about 20 minutes to soften. 

At this point, if you are using a stand mixer or a hand mixer you will want to beat your butter for a minute or two to get it creamy and then start slowly adding the sugar into the bowl as you continue beating.  A few minutes into the process you will need to scrape off the beaters and the edges of the bowl to ensure that all of it gets well mixed.   Use a low-medium setting on your mixer (the high setting will be to fast and create to much heat).  If you are doing this process by hand use a wooden spoon and basically the same technique of gradually adding the sugar.   With an electric mixer the whole creaming process can take up to 10 solid minutes of beating.  One of the most common mistakes is giving up to soon.  How long does it take by hand?  That really depends on your own mixing fortitude. But it will take a while.  

The most difficult part of the creaming process is knowing when you are done.  An under creamed mixture won't have enough air bubbles, and an over creamed mixture will start melt and break down.   The creaming is finished when the mixture has noticeably increased in volume (from the added air bubbles), the color should be creamy pale yellow, and the mixture should be sticking to the sides of the bowl.   The butter should have retained its plasticity and will form ridges. 

For more details I recommend you check out Baking 911.  Those ladies know everything!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parmesan Shortbread with Fennel and Sea Salt

Oh bright, beautiful, warm sun! After a dark and rainy weekend we are finally getting some sun here in Seattle so I jumped on the chance to take some good photos while there was still light in the house.  Today's recipe my boyfriend declared unequivocally "the best".  It is from Bon Appetit magazine.  Their most recent issue has a bunch of bread recipes that I am dying to test out.  If they all are as good as this one is we're in for an awesome month.  

Shortbread has always been one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) cookies.  It's also one of the first things I learned to bake.  In all this time though I have never encountered a savory shortbread recipe.  Oh man, I did not know what I was missing.    This recipe has all the sweet, crumbly, buttery-ness of a shortbread cookie, with the added savory deliciousness of parmesan cheese and the liquorice like taste of the fennel.  MMMMM.   

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more

  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces)

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds

  • 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt or other coarse salt (I used grey Celtic sea salt)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Preparation:

    • Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat mixture just until dough comes together.
    • Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Dough can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.
    • Place fennel seeds in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Coarsely crush with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet. Alternatively, pulse in a spice mill until coarsely crushed. Transfer to a small bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.
    • Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10x8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut in thirds crosswise, then cut each third crosswise into 6 rectangles. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt.
    • Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), 20–24 minutes. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room tem-perature. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

    Notes:  I did all the mixing by hand and it came out just fine, you just have to do a bit more work and spend more time mixing.  I crushed the fennel and salt together in my mortar.  

    Monday, February 20, 2012

    No-Bake Monday: Pierogies

    "Pierogies? But that's not baking!"

    "I know, but it has dough.  That counts right?"

    (Conversation between me and the BFF.)

    I really just wanted to make these.   I'm not going to post the recipe I'm just going to direct you to Pierogies Recipe at the blog Momofuku For 2.   Let me tell you though, they are really good and will make you feel stupid for buying the itsy bitsy boxes of frozen pierogies.   Naturally, these never made it past my kitchen so I never got to take good photos of them.  That one up there is going to have to hold you over until you click through to the recipe.   Don't worry though, all the beautiful photos on that blog really put me to shame.  You'll get your food porn for the day.  

    Friday, February 10, 2012

    Heart Cupcakes w/ Marshmallow Fondant

    My mom is pretty much the best ever.  For valentines day she sent me a heart-shaped silicone cupcake pan, a set of v-day sprinkles and a big bag of pink and white marshmallows.  All three of those gifts were used to create these adorable cupcakes!  Inside is white cake and the outside is covered with marshmallow fondant.  (Check out my post on how to make marshmallow fondant)

    Even though these were tasty and super cute, I'm going to post my first ever negative recipe review.  I used the "Simple White Cake Recipe" from FoodNetwork.com.  

    You guys know I'm no novice baker, so I should be able to pull off any recipe with "Simple" in the title.   The first time I made these they were so clearly not right that the next day I checked the recipe again and realized I had forgotten an ingredient!  DUH. So, I remade them thinking that all my negativity had been my own fault and that this time they would come out perfectly.  I carefully followed the recipe and even though it was better in round two, the cake was still not what I had hoped for.  It was not as fluffy or light as I wanted my white cake to be.  

    mmmmm, like a vanilla brick

    My BFF said they reminded him of hostess products, which is only semi-complimentary.  Basically, they are really sweet, and really dense.  Not bad though, if you like that sort of thing. 

    Wednesday, February 1, 2012

    Rye Bread

    First, I must say that it's sad that there hasn't been a new post on pete bakes! since mid 2010, because damn that guy had a lot of good recipes on there.  But, I can't really hate to much on him for blog abandonment....(sorry I haven't posted, guys.  It's been dark and cold here.) Pete seems to do a lot of other stuff, so you're forgiven Pete, thanks for the recipes.   

    When my boyfriend first tried this bread he exclaimed that it was as good as deli bread you'd pay like $7 a loaf for.  Damn straight! That's why it's called 

    Ingredients (makes 4 small loaves):
    3 cups warm water
    1 1/2 Tbsp yeast
    1 1/2 Tbsp salt
    1 1/2 Tbsp caraway seeds, plus more for sprinkling on the top 
    1 cup rye flour
    5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    cornmeal (for sprinkling on baking surface)
    cornstarch (for cornstarch wash)

    1. Mix the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix, without kneading. The dough will be sticky. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for approx. 2 hours.  (From here you can store the dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks before shaping and doing your second rise.  The longer you store the dough the more sour the dough will get.  mmmmm sourdough.)
    2.  Dust the surface of the dough with flour and divide into 4 equal parts.  Quickly shape the dough into a ball and elongate into and oval loaf shape. After shaping, leave the dough on a cornmeal covered surface (I used the baking sheet I baked the bread on) and let it rise for another 40 minutes.  (If you kept your dough in the fridge, you will want to wait longer to allow it to come closer to room temperature, wait until the loaves have approx. doubled in size).
    3. preheat the oven to 450 F with an empty broiler tray on the shelf underneath.  If you are using a baking stone head that up in the oven too. 
    4. Make a cornstarch wash by combining 1/2 tsp cornstarch with a small amount of water to make a paste, then add 1/2 cup of water and mix.  Microwave this mix for about a minute then brush on top of the loaves. Sprinkle with caraway seeds and slash the top of the loaves.  
    5. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, until they are a deep golden brown.  As you put the bread in the oven to bake, pour 1 cup of HOT tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door.  Avoid opening the oven during baking.   Allow the loaves to fully cool before slicing. 

     You can find this recipe in Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day. I don't have the book, but they seem to have a lot of awesome recipes (and a very misleading title.  Just sayin')