Thursday, March 7, 2013

Professional Pizza Crust at Home

You guys. Seriously. I've been trying to find an amazing pizza crust recipe that I could make for dinner on a weeknight, and the bad news is that it just isn't happening. The good news is that with the tiniest bit of work on Sunday afternoon, you can have TRANSCENDENT pizza on Thursday night.

I didn't have any sauce or cheese. Olive oil with a little rosemary, salt, and pepper are great on this crust. 


The secret is in aging the dough in the fridge for at least four days. Bread flour is also required--I like King Arthur. I know it's a tease to tell you about the deep flavor, chewy inside and crisp outer shell on the pizza crust when you won't be able to eat it for four days, but it is So. Worth. It. Once you try it, you'll be putting a batch in the fridge twice a week so you can make this pizza every day.

See all of those teeny bubbles on the crust? Shatteringly crisp. So good. 


Combine 2 3/4 C lukewarm water, 1 Tbsp of sugar, and 1 1/2 Tbsp bread machine yeast in a big bowl. Let the yeast bloom for a few minutes and combine 1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt (for regular salt use a bit less than a Tbsp), 6 1/2 C bread flour, and (optional) 2 tsp vital wheat gluten (it helps develop the crust, and you're going to make so much of this dough that it's worth it to buy a bag) in another bowl. 

Stir 1/4 C olive oil into the water and yeast, and then dump the dry ingredients into the big bowl. Stir until all of the flour is moistened. It's ok if it's a wet dough, you'll add more flour when you need to handle it. If it's dry, add more water. Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit in a warmish place to rise for two hours. 

After two hours, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or the cover that came with the bowl if you want to be fancy about it. Put it in the fridge for four days and forget about it. Seriously, just get pizza out of your mind. It's going to be really hard, but you can power through. 

After at least four days, grab a handful of dough from the bowl and roll it in enough flour so that it doesn't stick to your hands. A handful will eventually become a good 12-inch pizza crust, so only take out as much dough as you'll need that night (it's just going to keep getting better as it ages, so you'll thank yourself in two days if you have some left). Stretch it out by hand as far as it will go--it won't go too far, the structure of the dough needs to warm up before you can really stretch it--and leave it to rest on a plate or board. Turn on your oven as high as it goes and put in a baking sheet or pizza stone to preheat with it. 

Let the dough sit and warm up for 20-30 minutes. Once it's close to room temperature, stretch it out as far as it will go and put it on a square of parchment paper. Add your toppings (the crust will be thin, so go easy). Use a pizza peel or another baking sheet to slide the pizza onto the stone or sheet in the oven. Bake until the edges of the crust are browned. Try to resist burning your hands and tongue on the pizza. 






Friday, February 8, 2013

An Early Valentine's Treat With Cai's Daily Rant

A lovely blog that I follow, Crowley Party, and a handful of other bloggers decided to do a Valentine's blog linkup, pairing up interested participants and having us send each other little Valentine's treats. I was matched with Cai of Cai's Daily Rant, an adorable teenager from Texas who loves her family, friends, everything Brazil, and rocking her senior year of high school. 

I've loved reading about her jam-packed schedule and wondering what kind of hot mess would have ensued if I tried to blog in high school (were there blogs 11 years ago? Maybe the early days of MySpace, barely, and a few dedicated early adopters on AOL). Kids these days get so much done, seriously. Also, when explaining what I'm looking for from a wedding photographer, I'm just going to show them this post

Cai sent me a kit of her favorite Burt's Bees products for battling dry winter air just in time for the blizzard! I love  Burt's products and I'm excited to try the new-to-me Honey and Grapeseed oil lotion. 


Head over to Cai's Daily Rant to check out what I sent her! And have a Happy Valentine's Day! A and I are taking the day off work on V Day to check out wedding venues :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cracker-Crust Pizza

I love chewy, crispy, yeasted pizza crust (obviously). But it is really hard to accomplish at home (especially on short notice). While I work on perfecting my chewy pizza dough recipe, our go-to for homemade pizza is a St. Louis-style cracker crust


It takes about a minute to measure out the dough ingredients and stir together, and then I divide the dough and let it rest while I grate cheese and chiffonade basil.  If you don't have a batch of pizza sauce handy, it's probably easier to start that first (as a New England girl raised on delicious Greek pizza, I prefer a sweet, thick, and heavily-herbed pizza sauce, but your mileage may vary). I don't do the authentic Missourian smoky Provel toppings with my St. Louis crust--it can support pretty much any toppings in the right amounts.

While most of the recipes I've seen for this kind of crust yield two pizzas from two cups of flour, I like to get three or four (it makes it easier to roll the dough as thin as you can). And if you roll the dough out on the parchment paper you're going to bake it on, you don't have to worry about transferring paper-thin dough to a new surface. 


Sidenote: When shopping for mozzarella for caprese, I've always passed by Trader Joe's standard mozzarella  with my nose up (assuming the flavor would be better for pizza and other melted applications). I discovered with this pizza that it is actually moist and sweet, perfect for eating cold, but not flavorful enough when melted to be great on pizza. Next time I'll try one of the harder cheeses with my cracker crust. 




This pizza is quick and delicious with traditional toppings, and I've also made a Thai version with peanut sauce and a flatbread-style application with fig jam and arugula. The bottom line is crispy homemade pizza crust from empty mixing bowl to table in around 30 minutes!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sectioning Oranges

I was a really, really picky eater for a while there as a kid. As an adult I'll try almost anything once, but I still have strong opinions about flavor and texture.


Over the past few years I've come to really appreciate the bold, clean flavors of winter citrus--who doesn't? Beautiful pink grapefruits, comically oversized pummelos, delicate Cara Cara oranges... they are what I crave in January. The problem is that I hate the taste of bitter citrus pith (even though my mom always said that was the nutritious part) and I really can't handle the texture of a citrus segment with the membrane still on. Enter sectioning!

I can't remember where I first learned how easy sectioning is, but I know it was only a few years ago. I don't really drink anything besides water, so I think of my sectioned citrus and its juice as a special treat.


You basically just peel your citrus with a sharp knife like you'd peel an apple. The challenge is to get all of the pith off without taking too much flesh (the flesh left on the peels you can scrape off with your teeth). Then you hold the fruit over a bowl and cut along both sides of each membrane line, popping out perfect little wedges of flavor. Squeeze the messy leftover membranes over the bowl (a hand juicer comes in handy) and discard.


Enjoy your bowl of perfect, flavorful, juicy fruit!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bread Baking for a Cold Weekend


Sometimes you just have to ignore the piles of laundry, pine needles all over the floor, and hours of work demanding attention and make some crusty bread on a cold Saturday afternoon (last week, of course; this weekend it's 50 degrees in Boston). 

My first yeast bread escapades were back in Portland in Aught Six, when Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman brought no-knead bread into vogue. My roommate had a heart-shaped Le Creuset pot with lid that was perfect for Co.-style loaves. Over the last couple of years I've had pizza stones but no dutch oven, so I've come to like the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method.


Where the Lahey method involves dumping the dough into a preheated dutch oven, the ABFMD method uses a bread stone. The catch is that to create the steam environment required for a good crust (which the preheated pot does beautifully), you're supposed to dump a cup of hot water into a metal pan on the floor of the oven. I've never been able to add the water without a) most of it spattering into the heating element or b) droplets hitting my pizza stone and [ahem] violently turning it into multiple jagged stones. 

My two-part solution is to completely line the rack my stone rests on with tinfoil, and to just place a metal pan full of water on the bottom of the oven when I start preheating--the crust is nice and thick and the steam lasts longer. Next time I'm going to try brushing the formed dough with water just before putting it in the oven.


Remember to slash the tops of your loaves before baking. In the picture at the top you can see on the left what happens when you forget--the loaf picks a weak point and splits by itself. It was still pretty tasty!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Happy New Year!

After a lovely Christmas season, the new year is hitting hard at work and I feel like I'm playing catch up a million times over. Luckily, I have a year of wedding planning ahead to keep me on task :)

My aunt made this adorable potholder to commemorate our engagement weekend!


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holiday Crafting: Advent Calendar

Some of our holiday decorations (and only a little of my crafting mess)

I knew my Christmas decorations wouldn't have been complete without a Christmas countdown or Advent calendar of some kind. 

While I am definitely the crafting half of my household, I wanted A to have a stake in our first holiday decorations together as well. Luckily, he has a serious penchant for covering the chalkboard surfaces in our kitchen with sweet and silly drawings. We (I) decided that he would come up with a picture idea for each day in December leading up to the big day and draw them in little cards for me to open. He loved (complied with) the idea and I made the cards from some red construction paper and plain newsprint (if you're shopping online at all for the holidays, you'll probably wind up with as much plain newsprint as your heart could desire as packing material in boxes). I used tape instead of glue to stick the number squares and inner drawing squares to the cards since the newsprint was so thin (I think it still looks pretty good unless you get too close). A drew his ideas in the cards and we stuck them on the edge of the kitchen-living room wall. 


The drawings I've opened so far have been adorable and funny, just what I wanted. I love to surprise him with new decorations and crafts, so it's sweet to have some surprises of my own!



Advent calendars usually stop at 24, but I decided that for us, Christmas Day itself needed a card. We both have to work on Boxing Day this year, and coming home from our family celebration on Christmas night is always such a huge letdown. This year I'll have one last surprise to look forward to! 

Advent calendars are a great way for the less crafty partner to be involved in creating the holiday decorations. You could fill the cards with pictures like ours, love notes, messages of faith, or anything your heart desires!

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