Thursday, October 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: Pizza Dough.

October for Daring Bakers was pizza dough. Seems simple enough, but I was excited. It menat I got to try a new dough recipe. The dough I use is just a random dough recipe I found on Food Network's website. And I've posted about it before. The one recipe barely gives me two incredibly thin pizza crusts. This recipe was said to give me six crusts. Hmm. Six -thin- crusts. I despise thin, crispy crust on pizza. I want a thick, chewy crust. I want something there. So. While the recipe says it makes six crusts... I decided to do the recipe a time and a half. And I got five thick and chewy crusts from it. And yes, they cooked completely through. I didn't have any dough bits. I also had my oven up to 550º F and I used my stoneware baking sheet. I don't have a pizza stone. But it's the same material. Essentially. I think.

Anyway. Yes. I made five pizzas. Everyone in my house prefers something different. So when we order pizza, we usually have to settle for the basic: a pepperoni one and a cheese one. I like everything. Nobody else does. One sister likes just cheese. The other likes just pepperoni. She'll be okay with sausage and such, but complains if we get it. I despise just pepperoni. I think it's gross. The things I like that my dad is okay with, my mom doesn't like. We never agree on pizza. And add in the fact that my perfect pizza was finally discovered at this local pizza chain in back in California. So I can only get it if I make it myself. So I did.

Pizza 1: Cheese. For Sister 1.
Pizza 2: Pepperoni. For Sister 2.
Pizza 3: Pepperoni and green bell pepper. For my dad.
Pizza 4: Pepperoni and pineapple. For my mom.
Pizza 5: Green bell pepper, white onion, mushrooms, and half with some pepperoni (because it was what was left in the bowl). With a roasted garlic cream sauce. For me. It's amazing. I love it.

I only managed to get a picture of my mom's and my pizzas. Everyone else had already devoured theirs.

This is the recipe as written. I did one and a half times the recipe to make five crusts about ten inches in diameter or so. It all depends on how thick or thin you want your crust. Plenty of people got six crusts from it, but like I said. I don't like thin crust.

4 1/2 cups unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled (I just used basic bleached all-purpose flour)
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil (optional) (I used it)
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting (I used both) Directions:

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or less, if you want thicker crusts as I did). You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss as shown on page 208. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce:


olive oil
1 head of garlic, roasted
1 small shallot, sliced thinly, or diced. It's going to be pureed anyway.
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
about 2 tablespoons butter
about 3 tablespoons flour

In a saucepan, add the wine, cream, and chopped shallot. Warm this up, then squeeze the cloves of garlic out of the papery coating into the saucepan.

Simmer this mixture for 15 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Puree this sauce in your blender. Set aside.

In your saucepan, melt about two tablespoons of butter. Mix in about three tablespoons flour. Cook for a minute or two, forming a roux. Stir in the garlic cream puree. Cook until thickened. Season as needed with more salt and pepper.

This made more than enough for one pizza. So with the leftovers, I made My Perfect Pizza by way of Pasta.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pi Cubes.

So Blake Makes had this nifty giveaway a little while ago for Letter and Number baking and freezer trays. And I won. The first of these food blog giveaways I won. -Finally-. Haha. But anyway. I won a nifty number tray. And once I got it, I decided I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what I could do. So I went into the pantry and spotted a canister of Tang. Ah-ha! Tang cubes! But then... not -just- Tang cubes. I could make.. Tang Pi Cubes! Yep. I made pi. Because I'm that big of a nerd. This should be expected. I took AP Calculus my senior year as an elective. I didn't need the credit. I just needed a class to fill up space in my schedule. So I took Calculus because I figured it would be an easy A. (And it was for me.)

So yep. I want to make pi cakes, too. :] A friend told me to make pi pie. But I don't think it would work in these. Too small. XD

Monday, October 20, 2008

So. Cupcake Hero, huh?

We were given free reign last month and so I decided to do those pumpkin cupcakes. Even though a part of me kept saying not to do it. Just wait. Because I had a feeling that October would be something like pumpkin or squash. Just because I did pumpkin in September. And look! October's theme is squash. Damn. I couldn't very well do my pumpkin cupcake again. Well. I could. There's nothing in the rules that says I can't. But I felt weird doing anything pumpkin-related. So that was out. And I've done zucchini before. So that was out. I realised that cucumber is a squash. But I couldn't think of what I could do with it. Mainly because I didn't think too hard and I don't like cooked cucumber. I like it cold, raw, and sliced. Just as is. So I thought and thought. And I finally came up with an idea. Butternut squash cupcakes. Have I ever had butternut squash? No. Did I know what it looked like? Yes. Perfect!

So that was good. All I needed then was a recipe. So I wrote one out. Yep. I created my own recipe. Using stuff I'd never eaten before. Aren't I tricky? Anyway. I had my cake. Now all I needed was frosting. I wanted something with maple. I thought about it and came up with either maple cream cheese frosting or maple marshmallow frosting. I asked people their thoughts and I got an even split between cream cheese and marshmallow. So I did neither. I made a maple buttercream instead. Of which I forgot to put lemon juice in. (It helps the texture come together I realised. Because mine looked broken. Even though it was quite smooth and yummy.)

And then for garnish I decided I wanted to put a single pecan on. Toasted, I decided. I had never had toasted pecans. I had only had pecans once, ever. Which was two years ago when my great aunt mailed us a giant Ziploc bag filled with raw pecans from her trees. By the time they got here, they had started to mould. Did I eat them anyway? Yep. I would grab a handful, pick out the mouldy ones, and eat the ones that were fine. They tasted very maple-y to me. We got through about half the bag before the mould took over and we threw the rest out. But anyway. You can put some chopped pecans into the cake if you'd like. I don't, though, because my mom is allergic to them. And after much investigating through the store I discovered that it's cheaper to buy raw mammoth pecans from the bulk dispenser in the health food aisle than anywhere else. The bags in the baking aisle were the most expensive. Then there were bags in the produce section. Then the bulk area. I've taken quite a fancy to the bulk dispensers. I needed a few bay leaves for something I'm making later this week. I got probably five or so for seven cents. I don't need that much, but it works because it was only seven cents rather than getting a jar from the spice aisle for five bucks. Yay for being cheap. Forgive me. I ramble.

So the end result was a spiced butternut squash cupcake (which reminds me of pumpkin), a buttery maple frosting, with a maple-y crunch from the pecan on top. And the cake was very light, too. Unlike most other spice cakes I have tried that are pretty dense.

Oh. And after further investigation, my cake appears to have more spice than I have seen other recipes have. This is because I have tried many recipes where they don't have very much spice, so it doesn't have very much flavour. So I decided to see what my cupcakes would be like with less spice. I baked up an incredibly scaled down recipe (three cupcakes) and tasted them. Without frosting, they were still pretty good. I didn't like them -as much-, but still flavourful. Then I put on the frosting. Yeah. Keep the spices as they were.

I also tried to make a variation on black bottom cupcakes, but with a butternut squash cheesecake filling and no cocoa powder in the cake and I added cinnamon. It was good. But they turned out more like pre-frosted cinnamon cupcakes than what I had hoped they would be. I still ate them. All three. Because I scaled that recipe down, too.

With the remaining butternut squash puree I had, I found a pumpkin pancake recipe and just substituted butternut squash puree for the pumpkin. And.. I used the leftover maple buttercream as my butter on them. They were pretty amazing.

So finally. The recipes.

Butternut Squash Puree. (In case you need help with this.)

1 butternut squash

Pre-heat your oven to 350º F.

Cut the squash in half lengthmish from stem to.. whatever that circle thing is called. If you can manage to do it with a chef's knife or anything, great. I can't. I use the saw from our pumpkin carving kit. The one to cut the lid off. Yeah. It's the only surviving saw we have. Scoop out the seeds. You can either discard them, or rinse them off to roast later.

Brush some oil on a baking sheet. Lay the squash cut side down on the baking sheet. Bake for about an hour, or until tender. Turn the halves over, scoop out the flesh, and puree it in your food processor. Which is probably the easiest route. I don't have a food processor, though. So I put the flesh and a bunch of water into my blender to get it thoroughly pureed. Don't freak out about the water. After it's been pureed, line a colander with cheesecloth (read: paper towels) and set over a bowl. Pour the puree into the colander. Press some saran wrap onto the surface of the puree and put in the fridge to drain overnight. All the water that was added and extra moisture from the squash itself will drain leaving you with a thick puree. Ta-da!

Butternut Squash Cupcakes (makes 24; you can easily divide the recipe in half)

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (one and a half sticks) butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon baking soda (yes, that says tablespoon)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vanilla yoghurt (it was supposed to be plain, but there was only one cup at the store that was all beat up)

Pre-heat the oven to 350º F. Line two muffin pans with cupcake papers.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the butternut squash and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Alternately mix in the dry mixture and yoghurt into the butternut mixture, starting and ending with flour.

Fill prepared tins two-thirds full. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Maple Buttercream

2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (which I forgot to add)
1.5 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, cut into cubes and softened slightly
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Combine egg whites and salt in bowl of a standing electric mixer or other large bowl.

Stir together sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved and washing down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. When syrup reaches a boil, start beating whites with electric mixer at medium-high speed. Once whites are frothy, add lemon juice and beat at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. (Do not beat again until sugar syrup is ready—see below.)

Meanwhile, put thermometer into sugar syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it reaches soft-ball stage (238–242°F). Immediately remove from heat and slowly pour hot syrup in a thin stream down side of bowl into egg whites, beating constantly at high speed. Beat meringue, scraping down bowl with a rubber spatula, until meringue is cool to the touch, about 6 minutes. (It's important that meringue is fully cooled before proceeding.)

With mixer at medium speed, gradually add butter 1 piece at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. (If meringue is too warm and buttercream looks soupy after some butter is added, chill bottom of bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water for a few seconds before continuing to beat in remaining butter.) Continue beating until buttercream is smooth. (Mixture may look curdled before all butter is added, but will come back together before beating is finished.) Add maple syrup and beat 1 minute more.

Then frost cooled cupcakes and top with a pecan half (I think halve sounds better) if you desire.