I also wanted to let people know to keep tuned to Lisa's Blog - she should be announcing her fundraising event soon. I know that money is tight this time of year, but please remember that people need assistance every part of the year - not just at holiday time!
I hope every one has been having a happy new year! Did you resolutions involve learning something new this year? (I also hope all my readers are avoiding the evil flu that is going around. It's had our house incapacitated for over a week now. I love missing three days of work! Yes yes I do!)
Being boring old people, we had people come over to our house for New Year's Eve. We had a couple of beers and I made pizzas from scratch. Ever since I made potato bread with the daring bakers, I've really rekindled my love of working with yeast raised dough. I made a multi-grain bread recipe from Cook's Illustrated and then the pizza dough.
The Multi-grain bread - sorry I was a total slacker and did not take any pictures of it. Mostly because I was pissed off. I usually have good results with the recipes from Cook's Illustrated. True, I think their recipes can be a bit too "fiddly" at times - requiring too many steps to achieve "perfect" results. Sometimes I might settle for less than perfect if it will save me a hour of time. I was intrigued by this recipe for multi-grain bread because it called for using a multi-grain hot cereal. I thought I can afford that! I really hate buying 5 or 6 different ingredients for a recipe, only to be stuck with lots and lots of leftover materials and no idea what to do with them. It crams my already full pantry to bursting and even worse, it deflates my pocketbook.
Being as I am going to discuss specifics, I can't really reprint the recipe. While the list of ingredients isn't copyrighted, the instructions are. You can obtain a copy by cruising over to the Cook's Illustrated site and getting their 14 day free trial. Look for Multi-grain bread in the search engine. However, I can tell you a little bit about how the recipe works. The recipe calls for a natural multi-grain cereal that is combined with boiling water and then allowed to cool until it reaches about 100 degrees. Then the rapid rise yeast is added along with the sugars. You then mix in AP flour and whole wheat flour and proceed with the kneading and rising from there. This is the part that didn't work for me. The whole raising part. Yup - it just sat there mocking me. Damn yeasts. It could have been a couple of things - the rehydrate cereal could have been too hot. I did measure the temp with an instant read before throwing the yeast in - so I do not think that was the problem. The yeast could have been bad - but the other four packets I purchased from the same lot have been fine. So I thought that was probably not it either. My suspect was the AP Flour. The dough just didn't have that smooth glossy feel you get when you are producing gluten during the kneading process.
To confirm my suspicions, I went and got Shirley Corriher's book, Cookwise. She is my go-to gal when things go bad for me in the kitchen. Reading up on her recipe for multi-grain bread, she mentioned that small rough particles can puncture the gluten strands during kneading. True, in this case the grains were pretty finely ground, but AP flour may have been so low in protein that it didn't take much to sabotage the whole mess. So according to Shirley, I could make a batch of new yeast with added flour and knead it back into the mess to salvage the bread. To insure the whole gluten structure, I added a couple of cups of bread flour when making up my "salvage dough". Whoo hoo! victory over microbes achieved! The bread was OK in the end. I think the whole recipe has potential, but will require me to re-work it so I know it will work every time. I will let you know if anything develops.
The pizza dough on the other hand is a tried and true winner - it came from my favorite book "Bread in Half the Time". However, instead of doing their micro-rise system that turns you microwave into a proofing oven, I tripled the batch of dough and did everything the old fashioned way. The reason I love this dough so much is the cornmeal - I know that is kinda nontraditional, but I like thin crisp crusts under my toppings and this crust fits the bill. Of course having a pizza stone helps a lot too.
I did try to make this same dough into calzones – but the cornmeal dough was just not right texture.So back to the drawing board on that. Here are some pictures of the calzones in progress.
A note - I made too much dough for New Year's Eve so I stashed it in the fridge for a couple of days until I could use it. It still rose like a champ. Next time I am going to try and freeze it in small amounts to see if it is something that can be made ahead then thawed for the next evening's dinner.
Cornmeal Pizza Dough
2 C. bread flour
1/2 C. cornmeal
1 t salt
1 T nonfat dry milk
2 t olive oil
3/4 C. hot tap water (120°-130°F)
1 1/2 -2 t. 50% faster active dry yeast
1 1/2 t. sugar
1. Place the pizza stone in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 500°F for at least 30 minutes before baking.
2. Mix the bread flour, cornmeal, salt and dry milk in the bowl of your mixer fitted with a dough hook.
3. Mix the water, yeast and sugar together and let proof for about five minutes. It should look all bubbly on top.
4. Slowly mix the yeast/water mixture and oil into the flour with the hook. The dough should start to come together into a ball. If it stays crumbly, add some warm water little bit at a time until it comes together. Knead until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl.
5. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead by hand for a few minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and put into oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap or tea towel. Rise until doubled.
6. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few seconds. Then roll out into a circle. (Here is the tricky part. The original recipe made one 14” pizza. I roll mine so thin it makes two 10-12” pizzas. ) Place this disk on a pizza peel or a cookie sheet with no sides that has been heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. The cornmeal should act like little ball bearings and slide the pizza off the peel/cookie sheet with no problems. I will “test” the dough before I put the toppings on by shaking it a little bit to see if it will move freely.
7. Apply sauce and other toppings. (Be sparing with the sauce, too much will make the dough soggy. For a 12” round I will use 3-4 tablespoons.) My current favorite topping is fresh mozzarella, crispy bacon and finely diced onion, Yum Yum.
8. Lower the oven temp to 425°F .Carefully slide the topped dough onto the stone in the oven. (Please be careful – I still have burns healing from New Year’s) Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is nice and golden brown on the underside when you peek.
9. CAREFULLY!!! Slide the peel/cookie sheet back under the finished pizza and pull it out of the oven. This is tricky – it took a couple of tries the first time I did it and I messed up the pizza. Trust me, it gets easier with practice.
10. Let cool briefly before cutting and serving.
Ok - enough boring stuff!!! Went to Thurn's this past weekend to stock up on bacon and lo and behold! They had awesomely cool hats that said "oink" on the back. Go buy one - NOW! I command it!
Here is Tony representin'