December 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“Down for Maintenance.”
I’m not referring to the Dainty Dot blog. I’m referring to Dainty herself. Not one single post in the month of November. Call it my month of maintenance. Am I good with that? Yeah, I’m good with that. And now that December is here, I’m good with that, too. Get back in the saddle, as they say.
So, what have I been doing, maintenance-wise … Let’s see:
1. Exercise stuff. I had big plans to lose 6 lbs by the end of the month. A continuing bum knee (yes, ma’am, I did finally go to the doctor) kept me from running, but I learned to love the elliptical. But the 6 lbs? No way, but close.
2. I discovered I love yoga. Like, really LOVE it, with all caps. It’s kinda like how I really get excited about a batch of soft and growing bread dough. Or when the row of spinach seeds come up. But instead of bread forming or food growing, it’s me doing something really cool. I like it. I want it. I’m gonna keep doing it.
3. Shhh … Don’t tell my boss … I’ve learned how to streamline my work to get it all done in about … Well, in less time. At least for now – until travel season starts in a matter of a month or so. But, it’s afforded me some time to do #1 and #2.
4. I did go on one biz trip and extended it into a long weekend in Chicago with Jennifer. Here’s my thought on Chicago: It’s s nice town, and too bad it’s in the middle of the country. Because as you may or may not know, I’m a time zone snob. I just can’t do the middle. No offense, Middle America. You’re just not for me.
5. #3 also afforded me time to do some soul searching about what I wanna be when I grow up. And I realized, wait, I’m already all grown up. As Bette Midler says in my most favorite song she sings, “Is that all there is?” The answer? The answer … If I had the answer, man …
6. Speaking of looking for answers, So I picked up a thin book that’s been on my shelf for about a dozen years. It’s called Buddhism Without Beliefs. It’s not religiony in any way – hence the “without beliefs” reference – and it’s been a good way to get my head decluttered. I recommend it.
7. Pie was made. And if there’s anything Dainty does, it’s pies. It was just one pie, but it was a mighty fine pie. Dutch apple. Sorry I didn’t share. I’ll make another. I promise.
8. Dainty has plans in the works for 2012. Big plans. Now with the paying work streamlined into lean-flow efficiency, I have some time to do Dainty the way it deserves. Details to be revealed over the next month or so.
9. So, here’s a question for you: what do YOU want to see Dainty do next year? More travel stuff? More baking? Bread or sweets? Wanna know more about my mad skills in the garden? Oh man, I mean I’ve got mad skills. You want to see something, you let me on know. ‘K?
August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment
Summertime … and the grilling is easy. Cheese is melting, and the pizza is fine.
Okay, I’m no George Gershwin, but what I’m trying to say is this: Pizza on the grill is not only easy, it’s one of the quickest summertime grilled meals possible. What do I like about it most? The fact that I don’t have to deal with my smoke alarms going off. Yeah, that happens whenever we cook pizza inside. The super-heated oven ends up burning the corn meal that remains on our pizza stone. Pizza in January usually means both our front and back doors are open to prevent smoke buildup. No. Kidding.
So, when we can slap that pizza dough on a hot grill, we go there.
And you can go there, too.
I’m not going to tell you what kind of pizza to make. Your toppings are your toppings. You want pepperoni? Have pepperoni. You want smoked salmon? Go for it. Sauce? Yes, please—but don’t go overboard. A little dab will do ya (I’m showing my age with that quote).
Plus, I’m not the pizza maker. Jennifer is the star when it comes to assemblage. I make the dough, I’ll make sauce. I’ll sous, but she chefs when it comes to pizza time. We’re practiced at this, but the following are our tips, not our must dos. Also, p.s., our grilling is done on a gas grill. Charcoal? A slightly different animal, so adjust as you see fit.
Grilled Pizza Tips
A hot hot grill is good. 500F is good. Clean it really well, not leftover burnt chicken skin, please.
Prep your toppings. I can’t emphasize that enough. Slice, dice, chop, stir. Get ‘em ready. AND, pour a small bowl – maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 cup? – of olive oil to have on hand. Put ‘em all on a big cutting board or tray to carry out to the grill.
Roll out a nice flat but not too thin dough. Round, square, oblong, whatever.
Here’s a great trick: Lightly oil a section of aluminum foil. Take that dough you just rolled out and put it down on the foil. Now, lightly swab the top of the dough with oil.
Grill’s good and hot. Your toppings are ready to go. Your dough is ready to go. So, go out to the grill and … Quickly flip that dough, oiled top side down, on top searing-hot grill, and peel back the foil. There’ll be some “yikes!” and “oh, sh*t” moments, I’m not gonna lie to you. Pull the dough one way or the other, make your tweaks QUICKLY, and then close that grill cover. And fast. The sooner heat completely surrounds the dough, the quicker that dough is going to turn into a pizza crust. Right? Right.
Two-three minutes. Peek once or twice to make sure the underside is not burning. Oh, it’ll burn. Believe you me.
NOTE: The first dough got kinda … well … crispy. I started another. Much, much better.
Get your mise en place in place, ready to go. Open the grill, flip that crust over.
Not using a sauce? Then give a quick brush all over the top with evoo. Using a sauce? Spread it thinly and quickly. Layer everything else on as you see fit. And be quick about it!
Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the bottom, making sure it’s not burning. When the cheese (if you’re using) and the sauce look melty and hot, it’s time to take it off the heat.
Let sit for three minutes to let the sauce and toppings set. And then cut yourself a slice.
Worth it all, huh?
July 29, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Remember that haul of produce I brought home from my city community garden plot? All of it—the lettuce, the chard, the beets, the tomatoes and whatever else I gathered—is washed/bagged/roasted/drying/sitting in a hydrator.
Are you interested in how I saved the lettuce/chard/etc? There’s a way to do it. I can tell you about that later if you want …
-Lettuce from the garden.
-A half of a beet from the garden, roasted.
-Cherry tomatoes from the garden.
-A half of a zucchini from the garden, roasted.
-Greek Salad Dressing, made with oregano from the garden.
-Boiled eggs, from our backyard hens (Oh, please. Who do I think I am? Jayme Jenkins?).
-Pickled red onions, pickled myself!
-Green lentils and bulgur – okay, I didn’t grow them but at least I boiled them myself.
-A slice of bread I made using my wild yeast sourdough starter.
I’m full. I need a nap.
June 1, 2011 § 5 Comments
Pizza is one of our fallback meals in the Dainty domicile. And it’s not delivery; not even DiGiorno. It’s made with good ol’ homemade, hand-thrown dough. With a special addition. Let’s call it Dainty Dough.
There are two things that make the Dainty Dough a bit different. First, it’s made with biga, one of many types of dough starters. It’s a yeast-based starter, not a natural sourdough starter—meaning it contains commercial yeast and not yeast found naturally in the environment (have I lost you yet? Hang on for a minute.). The biga ferments—i.e. sits on your counter bubbling away—for 8 to 24 hours or so, all the while developing a richer, chewier flavor. Pizza crust with flavor, not just used as a platform for toppings, imagine that.
The second thing I do is add a dollop or two of my Sourdough Starter, aka Milo the Baby Dough, during the dough-making process. A few months back you may recall I was experimenting with natural yeast and tried creating a real sourdough. Well, after a month or so, Milo is alive and well. I feel like I created a golem, it’s so incredibly cool. It’s totally not necessary to add this sourdough starter, but I’ll explain in a minute why I do it.
Dainty Dough: Step 1
Biga Recipe (from my Basic Baking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts)
- 1/4 oz. yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water (warm=dip in a finger and it should feel the same temp as your body)
- pinch of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 3 3/4 cups flour (I suggest all-purpose flour here. If you want wheat dough you can add wheat flour later)
-Add yeast and 1/4 cup warm water with sugar in a bowl and stir together. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Add remaining water and the flour and mix thoroughly. You’ll end up with a creamy mixture. Cover and either let sit on the counter 8 hours or place in the fridge for 24 hours. It will become creamy and bubbly. The biga will remain
-At this point you can proceed with the next step and make the pizza dough. Or, I suggest weighing out your biga into 4 oz. pieces, reserving one piece for your current pizza and placing the remaining into individual freezer baggies and popping them in the freezer. Label and date your baggies! Otherwise a year from now you’ll excavate your freezer and wonder what the heck that thing is. From this one batch of biga you will get up to 8 4 oz. pieces. And each 4 oz. biga gives you four pizza stone-sized pizzas. Do the math—that’s a lot of pizza!
Dainty Dough: Step 2
Pizza Dough Recipe
- 4 oz. biga
- 1/4 tsp. salt (kosher preferred)
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- A dollop or two of Milo the Baby Dough sourdough starter (optional)
- 4 1/2 cup flour (for wheat dough use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
- 1 1/2 cup water
-Add biga, salt, oil, sourdough starter and flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn on slow speed, let it mix together for up to a minute then add water slowly. Because I’ve added a bit of the sourdough starter, there is more moisture in the dough and depending on your weather conditions, you may not need all of that water. Yes, baking depends on weather conditions, believe it or not.
-If you’ve added all the water and the dough seems wet and watery, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and let it mix in. Keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer wet but not bone dry! You’ll likely need no more than four or five tablespoons of flour.
-Keep mixing on medium speed for about five minutes. The dough has a tendency to ride up the dough hook. Stop the mixer when the dough makes it above the hook’s collar and push the dough back down into the bowl. Keep mixing until the dough feels smooth and it’s started to relax a bit; i.e., it shouldn’t feel like a hard tight wad of flour.
-Oil a medium bowl. Roll the dough around in the oil so it’s slightly oily all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour. The dough won’t have risen all that much—it’s not rising like bread, we just want it to become elastic.
-Cut the dough into four equally sized pieces—they’ll likely have a triangular shape. Want an oddly shaped pizza? Then place these dough pieces as they are on a baking sheet or on the counter and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Want a perfectly round pizza? Then do this: Holding the dough piece in your hands, pull all the dough from around the piece into a central point. Go around the outside a couple times pulling it all into the center. Now, do your best to pinch that central point closed, then place the dough with that point facing downward. What you will have is a little ball with a perfectly round top, no seams showing anywhere except on the bottom. Cover these with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes.
So, about adding that dollop or two of sourdough starter to the dough … here’s why I did it. I did, in fact, excavate my freezer recently and found two baggies of 13 month-old biga. Doing a little research I found that the recommended time for biga in the freezer is a max of four months. Oops. I added the sourdough starter as a way to give the dough a kick of fresh yeast. I think it worked. Plus, I noticed the crust did have telltale sourdough bread-like air bubbles. Tasty!
Hmm … turns out I have absolutely no photos of any of this. Bummer. Guess I’ll have to make some biga and dough later today.
By the way, biga can be used for more than just pizza dough. So instead of making 4 oz. balls of biga for the freezer, you can use what you have left for bread baking.
Wait, what? Am I leaving you without actually making a pizza? You bet. That’s for another day, when Jennifer can chime in on her favorite toppings. I make the dough, but she’s the pizza master.
April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment
I was making my Half-Whole Wheat Bread this morning, and since I had the Kitchen-Aid mixer out I thought, why not make some protein bars? We’re exercising a bit more and have cut down on our meat eating, so it’s a good idea to have additional sources of protein for those oh-my-god-I-wanna-eat-a-horse moments.
Yeah, I like those packaged protein bars – especially those Odwalla bars (mmmm….LOVE the carrot cake ones!). But a) they get kinda expensive and b) they aren’t as healthy as you think. full of sugar and all that.
So, when I saw Alton Brown make protein bars on Good Eats, I was all over it. Here’s the recipe with my minor alterations:
4 oz soy protein powder – about a cup
2.25 oz oat bran – about 1/2 cup
2.75 oz whole wheat flour – about 1/2 cup
0.75 oz wheat germ – about 1/4 cup
1/2 tsp kosher salt
dried fruit – his recipe calls for 1/2 cup each of raisins, cherries, blueberries, apricots. I just use 2 cups of any dried fruit.
1 package silken tofu
1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice (do your best to find something along these lines)
4 oz brown sugar, about 1/2 cup packed
2 large whole eggs
2/3 cup natural peanut butter
-Line bottom of 13 b 9 inch glass baking dish with parchment paper. Or, just spray with Pam-like substance.
-Heat to 350F. I turn mine up to 375F.
-In large mixing bowl, combine protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ and salt. Set aside.
-In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer, whisk the tofu with the whisk attachment. Add apple juice, brown sugar, eggs and peanut butter, each one separately. Make sure everything’s incorporated. Change to the paddle attachment and add in the flour.
-Take bowl off mixer. Add dried fruit and mix in with a wooden spoon. Pour into glass dish. Spread around evenly.
-Bake about 35 minutes, until internal temp is 205F. Remove and let cool. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container. Best to keep in fridge because these can get a bit moldy otherwise.
-Chop up your dried fruit so it’s all about the size of raisins. Set aside.