Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My First Daring Bakers Challenge!

October brought my first challenge with the Daring Bakers. It is a group of bakers which issue a challenge once a month, and I've been perusing the blog roll for a while now, and I finally gave in and joined. My first official challenge was the October challenge.

We made pizza! The challenge was to make pizza dough. I was super stoked about this because I've been making home made pizza for the past couple years, just not with making my own dough.

I started making the pizza on Monday night, the recipe said that the dough had to rest overnight in the refrigerator so for our Tuesday night debate and pizza party. I made pizza for 5 pizza, and we had about one 10 inch pizza left over. We were all beyond stuffed after eating, but it was truly spectacular, which I think is what lead us to eating more than we actually should have!

So on with the results!
These are my dough balls before putting them in the refrigerator to rest over night. They were very non-tacky and maintained their shape nicely.

My disks resting for 2 hours prior to being tossed and baked.

Tossing was more fun than I ever imagined it would be and it was much easier than I anticipated! I'm not sure if it is the recipe, ingredients, or simply method, but this dough was perfectly pliable without being mushy. It had great elasticity!

The plain pizza prior to making its trip to the oven...I made 6 pizzas. Four of them were plain, one was Gorgonzola and pear, and one was ranch flavored. The ranch one was scarfed down by my cousin and her boyfriend before I could even take a picture!

My very beautiful plain cheese pizza straight out of the oven. It was absolutely divine. Wonderfully crunchy crust, with just enough rise to make the crust itself a little chewy, and the perfect crunch through the rest of the pizza.

Gorgonzola, pear and caramelized onions, could it get much better? This pizza was by far the winner of the night. My cousin and her husband are still raving about it!

We obviously thought the recipe was a hit, and I absolutely LOVED being a part of my first daring bakers challenge. My cousin's boyfriend thinks that there should be a new challenge weekly!

So without further ado, the recipe:
  • 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 3/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Instant yeast
  • 1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil
  • 1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Monday, October 6, 2008

First attempt at babyfood!

Precious' son is 14 weeks old now and is just starting to eat solid foods. She wants to make his baby food in an attempt to expand his palette beyond pizza, chicken on a stick and cheese eggs. We gave it a try for the first time this weekend.
We started by making avocado, butternut squash and applesauce. All three were super simple to make. We simply put the avocado in the blender with a little bit of water. As for the butternut squash and the applesauce, those were baked prior to being put through my food mill. But still super simple! I can't wait to try different flavor combinations and stages of food for him.
Avocado in the blender:
Smushed butternut squash:
Avocado being put into the ice cube trays for freezing:

It was so much fun, and I really can't wait to try more!


End of summer means tomato season, and now that the grocery stores are full of plump, vine ripened, local tomatoes it is hard to not want to come up with methods of using them. Last week I oven roasted plum tomatoes and made tomato sauce from actual tomatoes for the first time. This weekend, Precious and I made and jarred salsa for the first time.
We started with just over 11lbs of plum tomatoes
3 Long hot peppers, 3 Cherry peppers, 3 jalepenos, 4 limes, 10 cloves of garlic
3 bell peppers and 2 sweet onions
The peeling and seeding of the tomatoes was a lot of work!
Then it simmered restlessly for 20 minutes on the stove
Once all done, it had to cool for a couple minutes
While waiting to be jarred...

It ended up being 11 jars of delicious salsa, and the 12th is apple sauce that we made for Precious' 14 week old son, Jackson.