Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pizza attempts 13 - 16

These were my best pizzas yet. I used a different recipe, from a book called Crust and Crumb by Peter Reinhart. It's pretty similar, except it uses a poolish (a preferment similar to a yeast starter). The dough was also wetter. Since the recipe isn't online, I'll give it to you here:
  • 300g (2 1/3c) unbleached bread flour
  • 10g (1 1/3tsp.) salt
  • 1/6 tsp. instant yeast
  • 4 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 123g (about 1/2 cup) cool water (65-70 degrees)
  • 189g (3/4c + 1Tbsp. + 1tsp.) poolish-style sponge
A few notes about this recipe:
  • I've multiplied the recipe by 2/3, since that makes about two 12" pizzas.
  • I've converted to grams, but also show the volume measures. This shows how easy it is to use grams and change the quantity of any recipe (I know I don't want to measure 0.83 cups of something). Weight is much more reliable than volume!
  • I reduced the olive oil. The recipe calls for 1/3c. of olive oil (scaled down) and that seemed like a lot to me, and olive oil is expensive. I didn't see any reason to use that much. If you do, let me know.
For the poolish, mix 510g (4c) flour, 4c water, and 1/4 tsp. instant yeast. Beat until smooth, then cover and rise for 5 hours. Refrigerate overnight and use, or keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. This is a preferment; it is often used in bread and will contribute great flavor to our dough.

To make the pizza dough, mix all ingredients--using only 200g (2/3) of the flour--until just combined. Cover and rest for 15-20 minutes. This is the autolyse (no, I don't know how to say it either) and it will help develop the gluten. Then, I use the same technique as before. I use my hand mixer with the weird spiral dough attachment to mix for 8 minutes, then I gradually add in the rest of the flour in about 5 minutes. Once the flour is all added, it's too dry for my hand mixer so I knead by hand until it passes the windowpane test. It's very difficult to knead this dough by hand, but try to use as little extra flour as possible.

To do the windowpane test, pull off a small piece of dough and toss in flour. Gently flatten and stretch, like you're making a tiny pizza. The dough should stretch to paper thin without tearing so you can almost see through it. If the dough tears first, keep kneading.

After kneading, make a ball by stretching one side and tucking the sides under itself, kind of like tucking a jellyfish's legs into the bottom. Spray oil in a bowl and place the dough in. Spray oil lightly on top of the dough and cover with plastic. Let this rise for about 2 hours. You're looking for it to rise to about 1 1/2 times it's previous volume. The book says to rise until bubbly for about 3 hours, but I think this is too much. Refrigerate for a day or two.

On pizza day, remove the dough from the fridge. Divide in two and make two balls. I put one back in a bowl to rise and the other goes in the fridge in a plastic bag sprayed with oil. I let the rising dough get to room temperature. Depending on how much the dough rose before refrigerating, the dough may have to rise more again. In any case, I'd get it to at least room temperature. Turn on your oven at least 30 minutes before you think the dough will be ready, enough time to preheat your stone and get the oven as hot as possible. Then it's time to make the crust. Toss the dough in flour and flatten with the heel of your hand. Slowly stretch it out and either toss in the air, or stretch in the air, or stretch with your knuckles, or stretch on the pizza peel. You may have to rest the dough for a few minutes if it wants to shrink back again. Place on the peel and load with toppings. Give the peel a shake before you put it in the oven to make sure the dough isn't sticking. It also may help to press the toppings down on the pizza so they don't fall off when you're shoveling the pizza in the oven. Put the pizza on the stone and bake.

My pizza bakes for 4 minutes. You may want to rotate it halfway through cooking. Here are more pictures:

The dough before decorating. You can see that it was still bubbly in the middle--this made it hard to make the dough thin.

It was hard to get a picture before it was eaten!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Angel Food Cake

When my parents came for the weekend, I made them some angel food cake for dessert. It turned out well and wasn't too difficult. I don't see any way to really improve on this recipe, so I'll include the recipe here with my comments and I won't post on Angel Food Cake anymore unless I improve upon this.

This recipe came from Good Eats, my default source for recipes. I recommend watching the episode "Let them eat foam" to get all of Alton's tips.
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cake flour, sifted
  • 12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice (I used vanilla)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.

In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously at medium speed. Once you have achieved medium peaks, sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. A tube pan is important because the angel food cake is really just foam. It can't hold itself up, so it needs the tube in the middle as a "crutch." As it bakes, the bubbles expand and cook, and the batter climbs up the tube and the sides of the pan. If you grease the pan, then it will be more difficult for the foam to climb up. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out dry).

Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan. Hopefully the tube pan's inner "tube" is slightly taller than the rest of the pan, so when you turn it upside down it can rest on the tube with the rest of the cake slightly elevated off the counter. This step is important because fresh out of the oven, the cake still can't hold itself up while it cools. If you don't turn the pan upside down, your cake might fall.

That's it! Top with fruit and fresh whipped cream.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dinner Rolls

I made these rolls using a recipe at, which actually comes from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible: Beth Hensperger's 300 Favorite Recipes. They were very good, although not as light and fluffy as Ukrop's white house dinner rolls. I'll keep the recipe in mind, but I'll probably try something else next time just for fun.

There isn't too much to say about the recipe. As usual, I didn't actually use buttermilk, but I added 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it sit for 10 minutes. The dough was very wet, but I managed. Below are pictures:

Wet dough!

Ready to rise

Bench proofing just prior to baking.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pizza attempts 11 & 12

This time I tried a little more flour. I used 3/4 c water with 300 total grams of flour. I'm mainly trying to use grams now because (a) it's an international standard, and (b) it has much finer granularity. There's never a need to use fractions when dealing with grams, because there are about 28 grams in 1 ounce. I used 200g flour in the initial mixing, and let it autolyse for 20 minutes that way. Then I gradually kneaded in the rest of the flour. The dough was a bit drier than before since I used more flour.

The most notable point in this batch is that before cooking, I've been putting the dough on the counter covered with a cloth and letting it warm and rise for 3 hours or so. But the dough has been drying out slightly. For pizza #12, I put it in a bowl, sprayed with cooking oil, and covered with plastic wrap. No drying out! This is how I will rise my dough in the future.

The first pizza didn't stretch out nearly as nicely as the last two pizzas, probably because the dough was drier. However, the second pizza stretched out but not very evenly. I had a thin area and a thick area, and I couldn't stretch out the rest of the thick portion of the crust. It was ok though, and the pizzas were yummy. I'm still not getting much browning on the tops of my crusts, which I originally thought was because my dough was wetter. I'm thinking now that it might be because I'm not heating my oven enough. After 30 minutes, it's not quite up to 500 degrees, and my oven is supposed to go to 550. Next time I'll preheat longer.

Pizza 11, with a slightly dried exterior
Pizza 11, stretched to the limit
Pizza 12, still moist from resting in a bowl covered in plastic wrap
Pizza 12, streched to the limit

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Pizza attempts 9 & 10

A major milestone: my dough stretched super thin! I started out with 200g of bread flour and the usual recipe for the rest of the ingredients. I did the autolyse, 20 minutes this time, and then mixed with the hook on my hand mixer for 8 minutes. Then I gradually started adding 90g more flour until I couldn't use the mixer anymore, at which point I added the rest of the flour and started hand kneading for about 10 more minutes. Windowpane test, check! Into the fridge we go.

My wife pulled the dough out at 4pm and covered with a tea towel. At about 5:45 she checked on it and the dough was drying out. She turned them over hoping to keep them from drying out too much, and they just flattened out under the towel. So I arrived home at 6 to two collapsed, half dried out dough balls. Luckily, only the outsides were really dried out. Since this dough was pretty wet on the inside, I patted flour on both sides and started forming the crust. It stretched out beautifully without ripping, and I had a nice large pizza crust.

This pizza still needs some work, but I'm really happy about getting the dough to stretch out. As you can see in the picture, the crust didn't really rise much for the cornice. It wasn't dense really, it was just a little funky. This is probably in part because of the dried out parts of the dough. In any case though, I'm on the right track. I will try a little more flour in the next recipe and see if I can still get the dough to stretch out like this.

The dough stretched out nicely without tearing, but you can see how it's a little funky from drying out

The first pizza out of the oven