BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘pizza

The P’s of Perfect Pizza: Pre-Preferment (Poolish), Peel, and Parchment

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Just say no to pre-made dough! You can make much cheaper, better tasting, more satisfying dough at home.

All spring and summer, I’ve meant to blog about my new zeal for homemade pizza. We’ve enjoyed pizza with roasted asparagus (thanks Deena!), pizza with garlic scapes and clams (now in Maine I’ll only use fresh ones), pizza topped with feta, Parmesan and Pecorino, fresh mozzarella and chêvre, pizza crust made from Willamette Valley-grown hard red wheat and even some rye (Alice Waters and others recommend this addition).

The key to good homemade pizza is a good dough. And I have finally found the go-to dough of my dreams in Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson’s fool-proof recipe from their ever-reliable (Portland and Seattle favorite) The Grand Central Baking Book. I’m much more improvisational cook than methodical baker, but Davis and Jackson have me seriously considering playing for the other team. The key to good pizza, as revealed by this book, is a pre-ferment, otherwise known as a poolish or overnight starter. This quick night-before step yields an incredibly chewy yet crisp crust with bubbling air pockets like a good artisan bread. You simply mix flour, water and yeast together and let it sit for about 12 hours. It’s then riddled with holes, with the stringy consistency of melted cheese when stirred (photo is on my other camera card). Then you mix it with the other ingredients (bless you, KitchenAid dough hook!) into dough. No proofing or activating yeast with sugar or honey. Davis and Jackson are also call for a generous amount of salt. That’s key to a flavorful dough. And make sure your flour isn’t rancid. The pre-ferment softens the glutens in a tough hard whole wheat flour, so you don’t need to add white flour. I can’t locate the cookbook in my moving boxes at present, but its pan pizza recipe (which also stresses the pre-ferment) is at least online.

Grilled pizza for the first time, with just-made tomato sauce, fresh pesto, some wilted arugula, goat cheese, garlic, mozzarella, and Capriano, a hard aged goat cheese from York Hill here in Maine. I won’t burn the crust on the bottom next time.

A pizza peel is also almost essential (thank you, dear Intaba!). Once you have one you won’t look back. You, too, really can flick your pizza into the oven or on the grill with confidence. A pizza stone (thank you, dear Hannah!) or at least some unglazed ceramic tiles heated on the rack at at least 450 degrees 30 minutes before baking makes a world of difference. And because The Grand Central Dough is so wet (wet doughs seem to produce superior pizza), it’s hard to handle by hand (so my partner can’t show off his pizza-tossing skills), Davis and Jackson brilliantly recommend stretching it out on parchment paper. The paper chars on the edges but remains moist and intact under the dough, slipping away from the baked pizza.

Only trouble is I discovered tonight, my ChefPapel “culinary parchment” is only “oven safe” up to 425 degrees. Suggestions? Are there more heat-resistant parchments out there? This particularly was a problem when I tried to grill pizza for the first-time tonight, with temperatures that can approach 600 degrees. Any good grilled pizza techniques to recommend? I consulted this one, but my wet dough kind of stuck to and charred on the grates. Otherwise, I’m planning to go back to the stone, indoors, which will be a convenient place to stay warm in Maine this winter. Or maybe heat the stone right on the grill, in these waning days of warmth?

Written by baltimoregon

September 3, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Dandelions…On Pizza and Overtaking the Yard

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Dandelion Greens, Italian Sausage and Fontina Cheese Pizza

Dandelion Greens, Italian Sausage and Fontina Cheese Pizza

Normally, dandelions, and the numerous other weeds that flourish in our yard, are my nemeses. But red cultivated dandelions, sauteed first in olive oil and garlic, sure do taste nice on pizza. And the ones in the yard will be easier to uproot now, with this trusty weeder my father-in-law just sent me. I’d like to forage wild dandelions but I hear they’re too bitter and tough unless picked when newly sprouted.

So I bought dandelions instead from local Denison Farms. Ivy Manning’s beautiful book was once again my inspiration: specifically, her recipe for Dandelion Greens, Italian Sausage and Fontina Cheese Pizza. EatingWell gave it their stamp of approval. Using the dough hook on your KitchenAid mixer, preparing the pizza dough is a cinch. No kneading necessary. I like her half whole wheat blend. Using a cornmeal-dusted backside of a baking sheet, we finally also successfully thrust the pizza onto the hot stone in the oven.

The sharp yet gooey fontina cheese (from Willamette Valley Cheese Co.) stood its own against the garlicky bitter greens. The anise and grease in the Italian sausage sweetened the deal, binding the flavors together. The sausage was supposedly ground from Carlton Farms pork, though the staff at old-school Emmons Meat Market looked at me strangely when I asked if the pig, beef and salmon were local. The pork yes, but the beef was from the Midwest and sadly, the salmon was farmed.

But the pizza was delish! We didn’t even miss the tomato sauce. Now if we only had the truffle oil for drizzling on top (which Ivy said was optional). Ah, the power of suggestion. I did miss it.

Pizza boy

Pizza boy

Written by baltimoregon

June 9, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Hello Challah

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dsc02338dsc02346Never expected I’d be invited to help make challah here in Corvallis, where it first appeared to be an exotic delicacy. But Chef Intaba knows I want to beef up my baking skills, so she invited me to come by the restaurant last night to help her out.

Let’s just say a six-braid challah should be left up to the pros. It was like complicated knitting. So we each did a three-braid (just like doing hair) and stuck the two together for the second loaf (on the right). Great trick, huh? I’m not sure what dough recipe Intaba used, but it had citrusy accents from orange zest. Could you add vanilla too? I like it a bit on the sweet side. Anyone have a good challah recipe to share?

Before challah braiding, I made my own Mediterranean pesto, feta, roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, Kalamata pizza, which Intaba showed me how to roast in Firework’s outdoor clay oven. She also made a spectacular Viennese Jewish pear, walnut and poppy seed pastry tart, substituting Oregon pears for the apples the recipe called for.


Written by baltimoregon

March 28, 2009 at 1:37 am

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Hand-Tossed Pizza and a Simple Salad

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Nothing like a homemade pizza dinner on a Sunday night. I love making my own dough now (though it’s still somewhat soggy in the center, not as clay-oven crisp as I’d like it to be) though it does take time and make a mess in the kitchen, what with flour and cornmeal thrown everywhere. With whole wheat flour instead of the high-gluten Italian one she recommends, I made dough from Melissa McCart‘s recipe, which appeared in The Washington Post’s Food section (I carted the hard-copy all the way out to Oregon with me:). Sauce was from 101 Cookbooks (fresh lemon zest really brightens it up!) but with pureed tomatoes, instead of crushed, for that smooth pizza sauce texture. We topped the pizzas with feta and mozzarella, roasted garlic, rosemary-sauteed potatoes and spinach. No complaints here:)

For a light salad accompaniment, I drew inspiration from Mark Bittman’s recent post on this refreshing fennel-celery salad, with the sweet addition of a crisp, thin-skinned Asian pear.

Written by baltimoregon

March 2, 2009 at 1:58 am

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