April 25, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I had a horrible experience, an embarrassing experience, a humility-inducing experience with homemade bread about 20 years ago. It was a “loaf” of rye bread that more accurately could be called an anvil. It defied some law of physics in how something so small could become so dense.
I swore off baking yeast breads for … oh, I’d say 15 years. And then, I let the embarrassment go. I’m a different person, I said. I can make different bread. I can make bread and be successful at it.
I’ve made a bunch of different bread overs the last five years or so. Various takes on wheat, white, whole grain, pizza, focaccia, sourdough—made with my very own sourdough starter! And it’s all turned out pretty tasty, too. I admit I need to work on my loaf shaping, but that will come with practice.
There’s one recipe for which I don’t need to shape up my boule-making skills, and that’s for pita bread. It’s flat and round, slightly puffy in the middle. I thought I could handle that pretty well. And it turns out it’s as easy as it seems. Why everyone everywhere isn’t making pita bread everyday, I have no idea. Get after it, people.
Pita Bread, adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook
1 cup wrist-temp water (about 95-100F)
1.5 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tbs. sugar or honey (I used raw sugar)
1 tsp. salt
3 to 3.5 cups flour (1 cup can be whole wheat)
a bit of oil
1. Combine yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let it get foamy over the next 5 minutes.
2. Add sugar/honey and salt and stir until dissolved.
3. Put bowl onto mixer with a dough hook attachment, add one cup of flour and start to combine on low speed. Slowly add in two more cups of flour and continue to let the dough need in the bowl over the next 3-5 minutes. If it seems wettish, add in a sprinkling of flour as it mixes. You’re looking for a smooth dough.
4. Put dough in an oiled bowl and roll it around in there until the dough surface is oiled, too. Cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap, set in a warmish place (75F is good) for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in bulk. It could take up to 1.5 hrs.
5. Punch down dough and set it onto a clean and floured surface. Kneed it by hand for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into equal-sized pieces, anywhere from 6 to 12 segments. I made 8 because it was simple, and the pitas turned out just the size I wanted. . Knead each little dough ball for a minute or so (I turned each 30 times and figured that was about right). With a rolling pin, roll out each dough piece into a VERY THIN circle (or near circle, it doesn’t matter exactly). You WILL need to throw down extra flour. DO make sure the dough is no more than 1/8 inch thick—otherwise you end up with a pizza crust, no kidding. Let the dough circles rest for 30 minutes. After I rolled out each circle I placed it on a half sheet-sized piece of parchment, four per sheet overlapping slightly. It’s ok, don’t worry.
NOTE: This circle-making process takes some time. By the time you are done rolling out the whole batch, the first circles have already been resting about 15 minutes. So at this point set the timer for 15 minutes, get your oven ready and start moving toward the next step.
6. Preheat oven to 500F. OR, if you have a silly oven like mine that will not go above 450F (Ggrrrrr…), set it to 450F and work with it. Place a sheet pan in the oven to warm up a bit then brush it with oil or cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking. OR, place the dough circles on parchment and slide them onto the baking sheet, fitting as many dough circles in the oven as you can without them touching. Due to the craziness of my oven I am able to fit just two dough circles, which were placed on the parchment.
7. Let the circles bake for 6-8 minutes or until the circles puff up and are lightly browned and, more importantly, look like pita! At 450F, 8 minutes was the perfect amount of time. As soon as one batch is done, remove from the oven and wrap the pitas in a clean but damp tea towel and place them in a brown paper bag. Close the bag for 15 minutes. This keeps them soft(ish) for a day or so. After a day I would transfer them to a plastic bag.
As an experiment, roll out one dough circle a little thicker than 1/8 inch and bake. Whereas the thinner circles puff up like you’ve filled them with helium, you’ll notice the thicker circle doesn’t puff up much at all—if at all. It’s ends up more like a pizza crust. Which tells me why not have this same recipe handy for when you want to make pizza?
Give pita a try and let me know what you think!
November 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
Indecision can be crippling. Seriously crippling. Should I wear the green coat or the black leather? Should I dodge this person on the left or right? Should I sit here or there? Soon enough you find yourself standing in the produce aisle for 15 minutes, not sure which head of broccoli is the one destined for your dinner table.
Don’t think it hasn’t happened to me. It has.
Today I avoided a near calamity in the kitchen—the calamity of not knowing for sure what to have for lunch. At breakfast time (and by breakfast I mean my two helpings of coffee), I was thinking I’d have a salad for lunch. And yes, I do consider lunch that early in the morning.
Then at 10am, I spied that last ball of pizza dough in the fridge. Pizza for lunch. My fave. But … there’s the salad. And gosh darn it, that pizza dough is sitting there, asking me to redeem myself for a not-so-great pizza making session last night.
Salad … on a pizza? Salad pizza! Why not, right? Why not, indeed.
I’ve had arugula pizzas at fun, fancy pizza joints before. So I felt comfortable enough throwing something together despite my lack of arugula. Here’s what I eventually made, using 1/2 of one ball of pizza dough.
Since my new convection oven tops off at just 450F (a minimum of 480F is what I prefer for pizza), I baked the dough naked for 8 minutes, knowing I’d want my salad topping in the oven for just a minute. After 8 minutes, I took out the base and applied:
-baby spinach/young greens with thinly sliced red onion and red pepper, lightly dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette
-leftover sauteed shrimp (pre-heated while the naked dough cooked)
Sneak it back into the oven for just a minute more. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper.
Delicious. It was so good, it’s gone.
I’m always looking for not-your-typical pizza topping suggestions. What are some of yours? Leave a comment and let me know.
May 7, 2012 § 1 Comment
The following is a paraphrased and nearly completely inaccurate account of a recent text conversation.
Text from Nan: J’s sick, can’t use tix to tonight’s show at Club Passim. Can you use them?
Text from Dainty: Uh … wha? Tonite? Sure! Who’s playing, where’s it?
Nan: Meg Hutchison. She’s great. H Sq.
Dainty: We’re in! Coming after Baptiste yoga, could eat a cow. Do they have food?
Nan: Veggie Planet serves their food. Order Henry’s Dinner. On a pizza. Trust me.
Jennifer and I do indeed trust Nan—she’s a lawyer, after all, and we love her. We go to Club Passim, ravenous, and after a cursory glance at the menu, immediately ordered the Henry’s Dinner, pizza version. Something about sweet potato, goat cheese, asiago, rosemary and sage—oh, don’t forget the caramelized onions—all atop a whole wheat pizza.
First thought: Um … yeah. It’s really good. Things that should come together as a side dish at Turkey Time turns out to be a great topping for a pizza.
Second thought: I could totally make that.
And I did Here’s my version.
- 2 pizza doughs from the Biga-Based Pizza Dough recipe (which makes a total of four)
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 sweet onion
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- fresh rosemary and sage, ground in a spice mill together, about 2 tbs each
- a log of goat cheese
- asiago cheese (we used parmesan)
- salt and pepper go without saying …
-We had a gigantic sweet potato, so we spiked it with a few holes and popped it into a 425F oven for nearly an hour. After 45 min you want to keep poking a fork in it to see if it’s done all the way through. When done, let it cool enough to handle. The skin will just peel right off with your hands. Slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch think rounds.
-While the potato is cooking, slice up that sweet onion. Add about 2 tbs olive oil to your trusty large skillet, set on medium high, and toss the onion in there. Add maybe 2 tbs balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Toss often. After a bit you’ll want to turn the heat down low and let it saute low and slow. Half hour, maybe. Give the onions a taste halfway through – you might want to add more balsamic to your liking. When they’re done, let them cool, too.
-Heat the oven to 480F. Got a pizza stone? You need one, seriously.
-When you’re ready, flour your counter and roll out that pizza dough – thin but not super super thin. Sprinkle a pizza peel with fine corn meal and lay that dough on there.
-Next, brush the dough surface with some olive oil. Now you can arrange your ingredients however you want. I put the caramelized onions on the bottom. Next I layer with sweet potato – I broke my potato slices into chunks and spread them out a bit. Same with the goat cheese – I just broke chunks off the log and applied liberally. Next, a generous dusting of the rosemary-sage mixture, followed by Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper on top.
-Slide the pizza onto the stone. 6-7 minutes is all you need. You should have enough ingredients for two pizzas, so while the first one is cooking, get the second one all set to go.
-Wait 3 minutes before cutting into it. You gotta let that thing set up.
Jennifer just took the leftovers for lunch and popped it into the break room toaster oven. A colleague asked, “Hey, is that the Henry’s Dinner pizza from Veggie Planet?” Looks like I got it right.