Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sullivan Street Potato Pizza

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I've been itching to bake this pizza for a few weeks. The color photograph in the book looks wonderful. But it's pizza dough, lots of potatoes, onion, rosemary, and olive oil. No cheese, no tomatoes. Just potatoes and bread. The kind of thing that would make your mother say, disapprovingly, "You don't need two starches." Or maybe you'd say that to yourself, especially if you just got off a low-carb diet. But the picture looks so good. I figured it would either be spectacularly good or dull. It was actually both.
The bites at the edge of the pizza, where the crust was golden brown, and the potatoes were soft yet crisp, and there were little bits of onion and salt--those bites were fabulous. The middle of the pizza, which stuck to the pan, and where the potatoes were neither soft nor crisp, were mediocre.
When I looked at the picture in Artisan Baking again, I saw that the pizza was on a pizza stone. Well, no wonder. My problems with pizza in the past have always been because I was too cowardly to bake the pizza dough directly on a hot stone. After getting encouraging comments from readers, I finally dared to do it, and it did make an amazing difference. If only I had remembered this learning experience, I might have used it.
I made only half the recipe, and it was more than enough for two people. If you make the full recipe, you'll have a lot of pizza.
The dough is one of those miracle doughs, like the focaccia recipe in The Bread Bible. It's very, very wet, and it doesn't look like it's ever going to do anything. Then, after a good 20 minutes, it starts to come together, and suddenly it's a real dough.

This is a great pizza to make on a weekend because you can mix it up in the late morning, and have the afternoon free before you have to come back and start working on it again.
After the dough has risen and rested, it's pretty easy to stretch out onto a pizza pan (although I've just told you that I shouldn't have used the pan). It does need to rest for about 10 minutes (or longer) or it will pretend that it's moving toward the edge of the pan and then it will just slither back into place.

I squeezed the potatoes, and put them in a colander, and dried them with towels. They still didn't get as dry as I would have liked, but the dough was ready and I was hungry, so I just plunked them on top of the dough, and brushed them with more olive oil. (I didn't use all the potatoes, by the way, and I don't think you need 4 pounds--I would use only about half the recommended amount. I'd also use more than the recommended amount of rosemary).

The pizza bakes for nearly 40 minutes, which is really quite pleasant because it smells amazingly good when it's cooking. When I took it out of the oven, I thought that I had achieved pizza nirvana. It was the best looking crust I've ever achieved.

The picture in the cookbook is of a large rectangular pizza baked in a half-sheet pan. Because I cut the recipe in half, I used a round pizza pan.
I think the deck is stacked against a pizza maker using a home kitchen. You just can't get a hot enough oven. If I were to do this again, I think what I'd do is oil a big piece of parchment paper and shape the pizza on parchment. Then I'd transfer the parchment to a pizza peel and slide it right onto a preheated baking stone. I think then you'd get all the delicious flavor and crunchiness without the sticking-to-the-pan problem.
If anyone has made this pizza, I'd love to hear how it went for you.

Sullivan Street Potato Pizza
--from Artisan Baking, by Maggie Glezer

For two 13 x 9-inch pans, or one half-sheet pan

3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (130 grams) unbleached bread flour
3/4 cup plus 2 T. (130 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 cups (285 grams) lukewarm water
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Extra-virgin olive oil.

Mix the flours and yeast in a mixing bowl. Using the paddle attachment, add water on low speed until the batter comes together. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 20-25 minutes until it cleans the bowl and comes together. (If it hasn't started to come together in 20 minutes, add a few pinches more flour). The dough should still be quite weg. Add sugar and salt and mix for another 2-3 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise about 4 hours.

Coat the baking pan or pans with olive oil. Pour the dough directly into the pan. With hands coated with olive oil, press the dough into a thin layer. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes, and then finish pressing it into the whole pan. It will be quite thin. Cover and let rise for another hour.

Meanwhile, slice 7 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (about 4 pounds) into thin slices. Toss them with salt and let them exude moisture for about 15 minutes. Squeeze them dry in a colander to release more of their liquid. Toss them with a thinly sliced onion and about 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary.

About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 C) and put one rack on the oven's top shelf. If using two pans, put another rack on the lower third.

After the dough is proofed, spread on the potato topping. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with more salt. Bake until the potatoes are brown at the edges and easily pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40 minutes.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pane al Latte (Italian Milk Bread)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

From Carol Field's The Italian Baker, this is a delicious, slightly sweet, slightly eggy, slightly rummy bread. It's too sweet for sandwiches, except maybe for peanut butter and jelly, for which it would be fantastic. If I had to fit it into a bread niche, I'd say it was made for some good fruit preserves and a cup of strong tea. Don't skimp--it should also have a layer of butter before you slather on the jam. If you wanted it with coffee instead of tea, that would not be amiss.
Butter, eggs, milk ... and rum. Just a smidgen, only a tablespoon; you can't taste it if you eat the bread in the recommended way (with butter and jam), but there's a faint hint if you try the bread plain. If you doubled the amount of rum, it would probably be too much. This is just enough to give it character, although rum is not really known for adding to character, is it?

Like other doughs made with butter and eggs, this is a joy to touch. It's so soft, silky, and kneadable, it's really a pleasure to work with. And quite easy. It goes through one fast rise, and then it's ready to be divided into 15 pieces to make 3 small loaves. Each 50-gram piece is rolled out into a cigar-shaped form, fat in the middle and tapered on the ends.

You line up the five cigars so they're touching each other, and pull them together, making the outer ones slightly longer so that you can pinch them firmly together.

After it's shaped, it rises again. Just before putting it in the oven, you brush it liberally with an egg glaze, which makes it beautifully shiny and adds to the egginess of the bread.

After I made two small loaves of bread with 50-gram "cigars," I looked at the dough that was left. Instead of having 250 grams like I was supposed to, I had well over 400, so something went wrong somewhere, but I don't care because it didn't matter. The small loaves were fine and so was the larger one.

Luckily, because the loaves were tiny, I didn't have to wait a full hour before slicing into it.

It was a delight to get back to baking bread. I've been having a great time with the cakes, but there is nothing more satisfying than a slice of freshly baked bread. I also have not imposed the "one piece" rule on myself with bread as I have with cake, so I had three (well, maybe four, but who's counting) pieces of bread.

Pane al Latte (Milk Bread)
From The Italian Baker by Carol Field

1 3/4 tsp. dry yeast
1 T. sugar
1/4 cup warm milk
1 cup less 1 T unbleached all-purpose flour (130 grams)

Stir the yeast and sugar into the milk in the mixer bowl; let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and and whisk vigorously to make a thick batter. (You may have to add a little milk to make a stirrable batter). Cover and let stand until doubled, less than one hour.

1 egg
1 T. rum
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1/2 stick (55 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 3/4 cups (375 grams) unbleached A-P flour
1 tsp. (5 grams) salt
Add the egg, the rum, milk, and butter to the sponge, and mix with paddle attachment for about a minute. Add flour and salt, and mix on low speed. Change to dough hook, and knead until soft and elastic, 3 to 4 minutes. Finish kneading briefly by hand.

Place the dough in a tightly covered, oiled bowl, and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
After the first rising, cut the dough into 15 pieces of dough (if you decide to weigh the pieces, weigh the batter first and divide by 15 to see how much each ball should weigh). For each loaf, roll five of the balls into 6-inch-long cigars, plumper in the center and tapered at the ends. Place the five cigars next to each other on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Brush with an egg wash made with one beaten egg, making sure it gets into the cracks between the "cigars." Bake 25 minutes, or until shiny golden-brown. Cool on racks.

Note: You can also make this bread by hand or in a food processor. If you use the food processor, the milk and butter should be cold, not room temp.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Heavenly Cake Place

Dear readers,
If you've been wondering where I've been lately, check out my second blog at
I'm going to try to bake all the cakes in Rose Levy Beranbaum's soon-to-be-released cookbook called Heavenly Cakes.
I definitely haven't given up on bread, and I hope to keep trying out new ones. But if you don't see a new bread, there may be a new cake.