Monday, July 30, 2007

Farmer's Market Pizza

Sunday, July 29, 2007
Even though I have made both pizza crust recipes in TBB several times, to excellent results, I tried something new this weekend: the Neopolitan pizza dough recipe from
The Bread Baker's Apprentice. As an apprentice, I did not do so well.
The good news is that the recipe makes enough for six pizzas, so I have five in the freezer. The bad news may be that there are still five in the freezer. I'll see after next time.
Peter Reinhart gives instructions for stretching the pizza dough by tossing it in the air. Like anybody could do it. So I tossed it for a while, but after a few tosses, I started getting big holes in the middle of the dough. I'd shape it back into a nice patty, and start tossing it again. Again, I got big holes in the middle. Finally, I resorted to a rolling pin, which worked fine, although it didn't have that same air of savoir faire.
Then he suggested putting the stretched-thin pizza dough on a wooden paddle and sliding it onto a pizza stone. I figured that the sliding was going to go about as well as the tossing did, with far more disastrous possibilities, so I put the dough on a pizza pan.
Reinhart says you should bake it at as high a temperature as your oven can go--800 degrees if possible. I set my oven at 800, being very impressed that it would go that high. But instead of turning on, the oven flashed the number "800" and bleated pathetically. I finally understood it was telling me that it did not understand this number. It didn't understand 700 or 600 either, but settled down at 550.
For the topping, I sauteed summer squash, fennel and onion in olive oil. Then I added some sliced cherry tomatoes and a sliced Italian pepper. I topped it with fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, and grated parmesan, and stuck it in the hot oven (burning my arm in the process, which made me think they knew what they were doing when they decided not to allow their ovens to go up to 800 degrees).
Within six minutes, the outer crust was browned nicely, and the cheese were melted, and I strewed on some fresh basil. Things were looking up. Unfortunately, when I cut into the pizza, I realized that the bottom crust was not cooked through, so we had some really excellent pizza until you got into the middle. Then we had something soft and soggy, topped with a lot of vegetables.
I think that things might improve if I put the oven rack at the very bottom next time, so that it will cook through. I think maybe I shouldn't put so many vegetables on, especially rather wet vegetables like summer squash. It would also probably be a good idea not to bump my arm into the preheated pizza stone.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Half Wheat Bread

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pondering what bread to bake next, I looked in the cupboards with my bread-making equipment and noticed bread pans. Hmm, I said to myself, I haven't made a plain loaf of bread for many months. I also said to myself, I haven't used this whole wheat flour for a while. (In fact, when I looked at the flour, I saw that it's "best if used before" date was sometime last year. I know how Rose feels about old flour, but I decided to use it one more time before I threw it away).
I looked at a bunch of recipes, but nothing quite struck my fancy. The whole wheat breads all looked too dense and hearty, and I was in the mood for something lighter. I finally decided to use Rose's basic white bread recipe and just substitute half whole wheat flour; hence the half wheat. Or it could be half white, I guess. (No, not half wit).

This bread came out very well, especially for being rushed into shape. We had to leave at 5:00, so I wanted the bread to be ready by 3:00. I started mixing the sponge around 9:30, but when I read the recipe carefully, I realized that if I used all the maximum rising times, the bread would not come out of the oven until 6:00. So I used the minimum rising times, and shaved some more time off. It didn't seem to matter one bit. I probably wouldn't have needed to throw the elderly flour away after all.
But the real star of this bread was the butter. You may have seen the article in the NYTimes about making your own butter. I cut it out, but didn't really intend to try it. I mean, how Little House on the Prairie is making your own butter? If you start that, soon you'll be weaving your own yarn, or putting a henhouse in your garage. But the lure of home-churned butter is too great to resist.
Well, off course, it's not home-churned. It's home KitchenAided with the whisk attachment. I have always loved to whip cream. It was my job as a child whenever we had dessert with whipped cream, which was never often enough. But my mother always cautioned me not to beat it for too long "or it will turn into butter." So I grew up with this idea that one millisecond too long, and your nice whipped cream would turn into a big chunk of butter. If my mother were still alive, I'd tell her not to worry: there is a long, long period of time before the whipped cream becomes butter. But that's all there is to it. Whip it long enough (like ten minutes) and suddenly, immediately after attaining a curdish consistency, it starts sploshing liquid onto the plastic wrap that the directions have helpfully told you to cover the bowl with, it does what it's supposed to do. The thick stuff is butter. The milky stuff is--you'll never guess--buttermilk.
I like my butter unsalted, but Jim doesn't, so, like the good wife that I am, I sprinkled a little sea salt into most of the butter.

If I had had more time, I might have shaped the butter into something cute. As it was, we barely had time to cut into the still warm bread, slather it with incredibly fresh and delicious butter, and eat three pieces each.
Then we had to leave to go to a party. It's a hard life, but someone has to do it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I've Been Tagged

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Melinda, baker par excellence, blogster, and faithful reader, tagged me to list seven things you might not know about me. Honestly, there are many things that people might not know about me, but they are all supremely uninteresting. Melinda said she hoped that I would have some secret like maybe teaching belly dancing while I was in law school. Afraid not. My list would be more interesting if Melinda had just made up seven things about me.

1. I had a pet lamb when I was a little girl. The lamb recognized me by sniffing knees. When she came to my knees, she got very excited, and bounded around. No one else has ever been excited by my knees.

2. When I was in high school, I won the “best actress” award, for playing Miss Pidgie McDougall, an old maid (back in the day when no one objected to the term “old maid”), in a very bad play called “Off the Tracks.” Guaranteed laugh line: “My name is Pidgie McDougall. I’m in men’s underwear.”

3. I love grilled bologna sandwiches. These sandwiches have absolutely no culinary redemptive value, and I should be ashamed of myself for eating them, much less admitting to it.

4. I won the patriotic essay contest sponsored by the American Legion two years in a row, in 7th and 8th grade. My masterwork was entitled “What America Means to Me.”

5. Bats terrify me. I wish they didn’t exist. On several occasions, bats have gotten in our house, and awakened me by swooping around our bedroom in the middle of the night. This is the drill: I scream and cover my face with the sheets. Jim wakes up and realizes there’s a bat in the room (because I’m screaming, “There’s a bat!”). He gets up and chases after the bat. He finally catches it and releases it outside. We argue about whether he should have killed the awful thing. He goes back to sleep. I don’t.

6. I have always wanted to sing torch songs in a piano bar.

7. When my office had a case that went to the United States Supreme Court, I worked on the brief and sat at counsel table. I was given a souvenir quill pen, which I have never used. I learned that Justice Scalia likes to tell jokes during oral argument and seems miffed if no one laughs. I also learned that no one on the Court thinks it’s amusing if one of the lawyers tells a joke.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Green Olive Bread - Two Ways

Sunday, July 15, 2007
I've had a hankering for green olive bread ever since I saw it at a bakery in Vancouver. I've intended to bake it for the last few weeks, but each weekend has been miserable--the kind of weather that makes you understand that "warm" is much too soft and cozy a word to describe global warming; that it means the weather could be godawful: hot, humid, and tropical. And this is Minnesota.
But this weekend the weather was wonderful, and it didn't feel sinful to turn on my oven, so I did. I used Rose's olive bread recipe, except that I substituted green olives (a combination of Sicilian, Picholine, and Cerignola) instead of black olives. Also, as I've been doing since I got my starter started, I add a glop or two of starter to the dough. I don't know how much difference it makes, but it doesn't do any harm.
On Saturday, I shaped a boule in my new banetton and baked it in the SteamMaker. A boule is supposed to have less of a blast of steam than a baguette, and more time under the metal cover than a baguette. This supposedly makes a crust that is crisp, yet chewy, rather than the baguette's shatteringly crisp crust. I didn't get my blast of steam immediately because Jim, who is in charge of the steam, wasn't ready when the bread was. I still have no complaints about the bread. We went to our friends the Millers' house for dinner, and brought a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. The bread was more popular than the wine.

Today we needed a celebratory loaf of bread to go with the lovely French champagne we got to celebrate Sarah's graduation from college. As we like to say, she took the scenic route toward graduation, and, even though it took slightly longer than the traditional four years, she did it her own way, and cheers to her, I say. I decided to make a torpedo-shaped loaf in my new La Cloche Italian-bread baker. The olive bread does very well in this shape as well, and it popped right out of the floured La Cloche.

The bread baked in La Cloche may not get quite as golden brown as the one baked without it, but the texture may be slightly better, although it may also just be that this size is easier to slice than a round loaf. To go with the champagne, we got a few of Sarah's favorite snacks--Cambozola cheese and mascarpone with smoked salmon. James, Sarah's boyfriend, also dropped by and helped us celebrate. Sarah and I are very taken with our new game: if you had to change your name to anything other than what it is now, what name would you choose? Sarah and I keep changing our minds, as we think of new considerations. For some reason, Jim and James both think it's silly, and respond by saying, "But I like my own name and I don't want to change it." But by the time we'd downed the champagne and eaten the last crumb of bread, even they were feeling expansive enough to get in the spirit of the game.