Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Part I

OK - I've done it.  I've started the great bread experiment.  I'm actually about 4 weeks into. If you're wondering about which "bread experiment" I'm alluding to I refer you back to my early post.

I made my first batch of dough a few weeks ago.

It was as simple to make as the book stated.  Just dump in all the ingredients, mix it with a spoon till everything was incorporated and then put a lid on it.

In hindsight I think I didn't add enough flour - user error in counting. And I tried a new brand of yeasty and it was VERY "yeasty".

Following the directions of the book, after the dough sat in my fridge over night, I formed it into a shape and using my new pizza peel and old-seasoned stone I baked my first loaf.

Drum roll please............................ Tada!

I know, pitiful, huh?!?

It definitely wasn't much to look at, but it tasted fantastic. And just in case you couldn't tell how oddly shaped it was here's the loaf from another angle.

I made 2 more loaves later during the week from the same batch of dough.  Judging when the loaf is done is still kind of tricky for me.  I'm so worried about burning it or over cooking it, that I tend to take it out too early.  I found that I have to bake my bread at least 15-20 minutes longer than it says to in the book.

So the last batch of bread I made from the dough turned out much better, see for yourself:

The bread taste was pretty much consistently the same - great, but the crumb was much improved.  The first loaf was a little dense and moist, this loaf had more air pockets.

Another batch of dough is sitting in my fridge right now.  I haven't had the guts to try one of the flavored recipes yet, because i still think I've got a lot to improve on with these plain loaves.  Once I get them down, I'll go crazy.

One thing I didn't think of though when I started this...I don't usually eat this much bread and I hate to say it but I may be reaching my consumption limit.  I've got to hurry up and perfect this recipe so I can start giving the bread away.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Delicious Homemade Pizza

I just can't own a new pizza peel and not make homemade pizza.  Last week I had a hankering for pizza and so I invited a few friends over for my culinary experimentation - and I scored BIG!


In order to get that perfect authentic pizza crust, I would argue that you need to bake your pizza on a stone.  I've tried the pan method and I don't feel like you can get the same rustic crust color and texture from a pan as compared to a stone.  Besides that, I think every kitchen should have a good stone, because sooooo many things taste better cooked on a stone.

Anyways, back to the important first step -- stick your stone in the oven, second from the bottom tier, and get it heating up.  I turned my oven up to 400 degrees and let my stone heat up for a good 20 minutes - which is about the amount of time it takes to put everything together. ;o)

The Dough

The pizza dough was from a friend of my mom. After putting all the ingredients together I set the bowl aside to rise while I made the pizza sauce.

1/4c. water  with 1 tsp. sugar
*warm water and sugar in microwave until warm, then add
1 TBS. yeast

add yesty-water to
2 1/4 C. flour
1tsp. salt
1 TBS sugar
3/4 c. warm milk

Set dough aside to rise.

The Sauce
And I'm going to do ya'll a huge favor and introduce you to Cento Tomatoes.
This is the secret to a perfect tomato sauce. I swear to you that Cento tomatoes are distinctly different canned tomatoes. Now I'm not a spokes person for Cento, but I am someone who has tried a lot of canned tomatoes. It was obvious from the moment that I peeled back the can lid that these tomatoes were different:
  • there was actually a smell of ripe tomatoes that proceed the first glimpse of the contents of the can
  • the color of the tomatoes was a deep red, not the regular sickly red with spots of yellow and green
  • when I stuck my finger into the can and tasted the crushed tomatoes they were delightfully tomatoey in taste without an overpowering acidity.
With tomatoes like this I really didn't have to do much to make a yummy pizza sauce.  I diced and sauteed a half of a sweet onion and about 2 cloves of crushed garlic in 2 TBS of olive oil.  Once the onions were translucent I dumped 1 28 oz can of crushed Cento tomatoes into the pot, added some dried oregano, basil, and a pinch of rosemary and let it hangout on the stove top on low while I went back to play with my dough.

Shaping the Pizza

Seeing as I make a big enough mess in the kitchen with out throwing dough around, I just stuck to rolling out a hunk of dough on a floured counter top.Thin crust pizza is my favorite (it's the whole dough to toppings ratio thing) and so I probably rolled my dough out more than most people.
I sprinkled the top of my pizza peel with corn meal and then flopped my dough onto the pizza peel.  Transferring the pizza dough from my peel to the super-duper hot stone in the oven required a little shaking and jiggling (the pizza peel, not me).  And here's where the fun began:

  • I let the pizza dough in the oven for 2 minutes, then air bubbled begsn to form and in some cases made my pizza dough look like a big pillow. After two minutes, I opened the oven, and using a fork, I popped all the air bubbles.
  • After about another 3 minutes I used my peel and pulled out the dough (it smells FABULOUS by this point)
  • I covered the top with a light spreading of the tomato sauce (too much sauce can kill the pizza) and added slices of fresh mozzarella and thin slices of Genoa Salami
  • I flipped the oven to broil and popped the pizza back onto the stone for a final back of 4-8 minutes
After that, you pull that pizza out and indulge in warm-cheezy-yeasty-salty Italian perfection.

I've been to Italy and tasted authentic pizza from Rome, Florence, and the hill country of Tuscany, and I'd say that this comes pretty ding-dang close.
This is a photo of my favorite pizza in Rome (this is one unforgettable creation)

What do you think?