Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pizza Recipe

For my bread I've been using Jim Lahey's no knead bread.  His no knead pizza dough is also great and what makes it so easy is that you put the ingredients together the night before and that's it.  And 18 hours later home after work you turn on the oven and you're making pizza! Yes, it's that simple.

Photo: Plain dough with Celtic Sea Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Fresh Black Pepper and Grana Padano

I've been working on a dough made with a starter, my uncles 35 year old starter.  Call it a Bigaa French Poolish, or a  Sourdough Starter they are all Pre-ferment also known as 'mother dough'. They're all slightly different and you can read more about them by clicking on the links, but they all require time to ferment, which can be 30 minutes to 3 days.  It's this fermenting process that gives the final product it's unique taste and flavor ~ it's all based on chemistry to activate and increase the enzymes.  It's all about the process of getting back to basics. The way all bread products used to be made before the development of "additives" which speed up the enzyme process enabling companies to make more in a shorter period of time. (Unfortunately most of the additives are harmful to humans in some way) Which is why we're getting back to basics and doing things the "old fashioned" way and still saving you time and money!!!  Hahahaha I sound like an advertisement.  Well maybe this should be the ad for my "Uncles Starter"  You too can own a piece of my sourdough!  Please contact me for shipping details....

Photo: Buffalo mozzarella, fennel sausage, Swiss chard, extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper.

I've spent a lot of time researching and experimenting with different proportions for my pizza dough.  And I'll tell you it doesn't always come out right.  That's why when O & I make pizza for 4 or 5 I make enough dough for 10.  Luckily you can buy 5 pounds of flour anywhere from $1.39 to $4.99 making it between $0.29 and $1.00 a pound.

Keep in mind the past 2 years have taught me a lot.  The most important thing I've learned is that the dough is always different and it's alive.  I find it very easy to make dough in the summer but my apartment is very cold in the winter and it can take up to 8 hours for my dough to come to room temperature.  Sometimes it's very disappointing.  So it's important that you know and love your dough, have patience with it keep it cool or warm as needed and don't forget about the humidity.

Lets start with my goal.  To make a dough equal to or better than that now being made by Anthony Mangieri of Una Pizza Napoletana fame, now on 11th Street and Howard in San Francisco. Actually I'd really love to meet Anthony and make my pizza for him in his oven.

Photo:  Caramelized onions, green olives, sweet fennel sausage and no cheese!!

New York has so many pizza places claiming to be the best.  Everyone from Patsy's & Lombardi's to Keste & Motorino. including the top 10 Pizzas from 2009 so I don't leave anyone out.  I've had pizza at Keste, Motorino, Patsy's and at Una Pizza (before they moved to San Francisco). I'm now at the point that unless I'm with a group eating pizza I don't need to go out for pizza anymore.  I make the best pizza I've ever eaten, and I'm making it at home!  Of course it helps to buy great ingredients like mozzarella, grana, and ricotta from Dipaolo's at 200 Grand Street and the best sweet fennel sausage from Faiccos Pork Products  next to Murray's on Bleecker street. though the sweet sausage at Eataly on 23rd & Fifth is quite good and I recommend a trip there.

So to get started first you must have some sourdough starter. Then you must feed it by following the directions and letting it sit until the foamy bubbles come to the top.  This can take anywhere from a few hours in the hot weather to over night in the cooler months.

Then you must have a recipe. The recipe I'm about to give you requires you to have a pizza peel and a pizza stone (and your ingredients of course).  Get the best stone you can and if you can't find one you like put some unglazed terracotta tiles in a sheet pan). Place the stone on the floor of your oven (hopefully the heat is coming from the bottom and it's not electric).  Don't be discouraged if you have an electric oven. I have made this dough in several different locations, different ovens, different seasons and with children who didn't follow the instructions to the letter. Every time it is different but it's also been great fun and better than 99% of the pizza out there. (I'm not modest when it comes to my pizza!)

I am using the following recipe with some variations depending on the ambient temperature. I take out my scale (Oh Yes, You Must Have a Scale one that registers both grams as well as ounces), and put the mixing bowl on it then tare it out. (that is to zero it). I prefer a digital scale but use what you have. 

I want to post this now so keep in mind I may be making some adjustments to the procedure.  Sometimes reading what you've written several times isn't enough and over time you find things that need correcting.  So if you notice anything or have any questions, please, email me or call!

Combine the ingredients in a stand mixer bowl and mix until the flour is all wet. Let the dough sit for 20 minutes. and then in the mixer mix "knead" the dough for 6-8 minutes.  At this point you may notice your dough is a little too wet or too dry.  Too dry is obvious the dough will not pick up all the flour and you might need to add a little water an extra tablespoon at a time.  Too wet it doesn't hold together so add some extra flour. You will have to make the decision as to how much and experiment as to the right consistency. (If you don't have a stand mixer then choose a different recipe, one that contains yeast)

The Basic Recipe
250 ml cool to room temperature water
14 grams of sourdough starter (it's easier to use grams when using small amounts)
400 grams of all purpose or bread flour
2 teaspoons sea salt.

Once the dough has been kneaded cover it with plastic and put it in the refrigerator for 3 days.  Yes you heard me right 3 days.  On the morning of the third day, this would also be the day you're going to make pizza for dinner. Take the dough out and divide it into 3 pieces shaping each one into a nice ball. You can use some flour if you need.  Then sprinkle some flour down place the dough on the flour and cover with plastic or place in a covered plastic container.

If it's summer and very warm out put the dough back into the fridge and remove it about 4 hours before you're going to cook it.  If its winter and very cold in your apartment you can take the dough out as late as noon.  This is all assuming you're going to be making the first pizza around 7pm.

Heat your oven to 550 degrees or the highest temperature it will go up to for 1 hour before your dough is ready.  Have all your ingredients near by and cheese cut to size.

Using your hands just like you've seen the pizza guys start to stretch your dough.You can use extra flour but try only to add what you need.  Be gentle with your dough it might be very soft and tear when you stretch it or it might toughen and spring back.  If it's tough just let it rest for a moment until it's pliable again.

Sprinkle some flour on your pizza peel (so you can slide it into your oven onto your pizza stone). Leave it alone for about 2 minutes then check it.  Turn it if you can and let it cook until the toppings bubble and the sides and top start to brown.  This might take anywhere from 3-5 minutes, just don't let it burn.

You may notice the top of the dough doesn't get much color.  This is related to the temperature and a home oven.  I have on occasion gotten more color on top and you can experiment by moving the pizza off the stone etc.  But the only way to truly get color on the top is to have a pizza oven that can get up to over 800 degrees F and that's not happening in your GE home oven.  Don't let that bother you, the pizza will taste amazing just the same.

Yes you too can make the best pizza you ever had at home!

Have Fun & Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Truffles Truffles ~ The Chocolate Ones

 Truffles are so much fun to make and I always make a mess. Chocolate ends up all over my face and arms. It gets all over the stove and floor and I'll be cleaning it up for days; not to mention the stains I'll never get out of my kitchen towels!  But oh that creamy silky delicious sensation ~ a party in your mouth ~is so worth it.

The recipe I used here is based on a recipe by Pierre Herme but I prefer a touch less butter than he uses.  I love the creamy smooth texture but I also love the flavor of Mast Brothers Chocolate and I find the full amount of butter diminishes the flavor of the chocolate.  So the next time I make this recipe I will reduce the amount of butter by half an ounce. I know that doesn't seem like a lot but I will test it until I find the right amount to reduce. But don't get me wrong, this recipe is the ultimate to get that silky smooth texture you want in a truffle filling.  The key to flavor is using the chocolate you like best.

Mast Brothers makes different chocolate based on the region the chocolate beans come from.  The one I love the most is made from cocoa beans grown in the Dominican Republic, hence it is called Dominican Republic. As far as I'm concerned this is my favorite, the best bar of pure chocolate I've ever eaten. The tangy citrusy floral notes are so intense and the finish so long it's a burst of happiness in your mouth. I love eating this, chewing some or just letting it melt in my mouth! Mast Brothers also lists the flavor of tobacco in the Dominican.  I think the taste is more of terroir meaning the flavor of the soil it's grown in.

They also make their signature Brooklyn Blend which is a combination of the Dominican Republic and Madagascar.  This combination is unique in that it brings the best of each creating a complex flavor of tangy floral fruit, citrus, terroir and of course chocolate notes. I love this chocolate.  I think it's a great combination which makes it very usable in all applications.  For me I like the combination of using both the Dominican and the Madagascar; one for the truffle filling and the other for the outer coating.  The Brooklyn Blend is also great for making Hot Chocolate.

Before I found Mast Brothers I was using Amano Madagascar for my hot chocolate, the flavor was outstanding.  I've never tasted a Madagascar since  that has that amazing tang until the Dominican Republic from Mast Brothers.

The Amano is roasted and made in Utah (that's great for the locals there).  The Mast Brothers is made right here in Brooklyn, New York,  my favorite food town on the East Coast! I'm so proud the Mast Brothers are making their chocolate here!

Please don't look so closely at my photos! The chocolates definitely need some work.  If you look you'll notice the little air holes which shouldn't be there. All the same they taste amazing and yours will too! Just use your favorite chocolate and you'll be very happy with the taste.

The Recipe, adapted from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

In a metal or glass bowl that can withstand heat place:
9 ounces of chopped I prefer Mast Brothers Chocolate

Set aside:
1 1/4 ounces of unsalted room temperature butter cut into 4 pieces (the butter must be at room temperature or it will not mix in properly) also the original recipe called for 1 3/4 ounces or 3 1/2 tablespoons.

Bring to a boil:
1 cup of heavy cream (you cannot substitute milk and get the same results)

Pour the hot cream onto the chopped chocolate and let it sit for about 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula gently stir the cream into the chocolate until the ganache is smooth and homogeneous. Let rest for 1 more minute and then add the butter 2 pieces at a time. Mix gently until the butter is completely blended into the chocolate.

If you are going to scoop hand rolled truffles put the mixture into the refrigerator for at least 3 hours. Or if you are using a mold you can pour the mixture into the chocolate coated mold.

For chocolate molds gently melt enough chocolate to coat the insides until the chocolate is just body temperature and can easily be poured  into the molds.  Rotate the mold making sure to coat all the nooks and crannies.  Then turn the mold upside down over a rack on parchment so any excess drips out.  Then put the mold in the refrigerator to set the chocolate. When set remove from the refrigerator and pour the ganache in, then scrape any excess off with an offset spatula. Return to the refrigerator until firm. 

Melt some additional chocolate to seal the truffles again scraping any excess off the mold with an offset spatula.  Any extra chocolate can be reused for a filling, a cake or hot chocolate! When the chocolates are firm turn the mold upside down and gently tap the truffles out of the mold. (in some cases you may have to bang the mold but they will all eventually pop out).

If you're making hand rolled truffles you want the ganache to be firm enough to scoop but not so soft that it's mushy. So, you've got two choices. The first is to use a teaspoon or melon baller.  The second is to invest in a small stainless steel scoop also sold on Amazon. I have several scoops in different sizes. That's how all your cookies and chocolate truffles can all be the same size.

Scoop some ganache into the scoop and then using your finger or the back of a knife or a small offset spatula scrape off the excess so the back is flat. Squeezing the handles together will release the truffle from the scoop. You will be left with a dome that has a flat edge.  You can leave this shape or roll each one into a ball. Have a space in your refrigerator if they get too soft and you need to firm up the ganache again.  Once you have scooped all your truffles (optional to roll them into balls using your palms) toss them into some cocoa powder. I prefer the Valrhona Cocoa Powder it's got a great taste, it's easy to get and the color is magnificent.   Michel Cluizel is another, though on the expensive side. Try what you have and see if you like it.

If you keep them for several days before serving them you may want to toss them in cocoa again.  They should be stored in the refrigerator. To serve remove them from the refrigerator 2 hours before eating.

Have fun and enjoy.