Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza Dough

It's Daring Baker time again! This month's challenge was one I looked forward to all month - Pizza Dough. I love delicious, thin crust, stone baked pizza, so I was excited to try this recipe. I waited until my husband returned to make it, and I made 3 of the 6 pizzas. (I froze 3 dough balls for later use.)
I made a basic marinara sauce by sauteeing onion in olive oil, then adding crushed garlic, then crushed tomatoes, red wine, fresh basil, salt and pepper, then simmered for about an hour.
Then I sauteed some baby bella mushrooms with green peppers in olive oil and a splash of red wine for one of the toppings. I used some leftover sausage and chicken for some toppings, as well as some sun dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, and banana peppers.
Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled -
FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting
Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.Or2.
FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.
3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.
NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.
8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
Or8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.
9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
Or 10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.
11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
Or11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
Or 12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.
13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.
Or13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.
NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
Here is my first attempt at tossing. It didn't toss too well, and I ended up with a twisted dough that I still topped with sauce and fresh mozzerella slices. It was ugly, but delicious!
This was our 1/3 plain cheese, 2/3 sausage, chicken, sundried tomato, banana peppers, artichoke hearts, pepperoni pizza.
This was our half veggie and half meat pizza, with fresh mozzerella added to the top.
And here are my happy co-chefs who enjoyed the final products!
Please go to the Daring Baker Blogroll to check out the creations from all the other creative bakers. They inspire me everytime I browse through their blogs!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More pictures

Here are some more pictures from the past month!
Some from Abby at her preschool's trip to West Produce's Pumpkin Patch.

A picture of my absentee ballot that I sent in a few days ago. This was my first time voting! (I was naturalized after the last election!)

Pics of Abby enjoying the Jalepeno Cilantro Hummus I whipped up the day Scott came home. She refuses to eat any fruit or vegetables, but she loves green hummus!

And pics of us from dinner at the Mash House last night. Emma was super hyper - very excited about going to her favorite restaurant! Abby was a little grouchy, and didn't appreciate my attempts to cuddle with her until after she devoured a plate of Macaroni and Cheese. (She was pushing me away in the picture!).

And me and my hubby - together again!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

He's home!

Hooray! Scott returned home yesterday!!! We are so happy to have him back!

(These are the only pics I have so far, but we'll be going out to eat tomorrow night, so I'll get some more then!)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

1 hr 53 minutes

That's how long it took me to complete the Army 10 Miler this past weekend! I was very happy with my time - I'm a pretty slow runner, so I didn't have a particular pace in mind, but I had been running an 11 min mile during my training runs. The race was more fun than I thought it would be, and I'm so happy it's over!
We spent the whole weekend in the DC area before the race. My parents were very kind and flew to NC last week, then drove with me and the girls up to DC on Thursday. We spent Friday morning in the Capital, viewing the monuments and trying to view the White House (we were deterred by the large men in SWAT uniforms blocking the pathway).

We spent that evening in the Old Town area of Alexandria with my good friends the Roseann and Drew and their kids. We ate at Union Street Public House , where we had a nice dinner catching up with our friends.

I had a fabulous dinner there - I think it was the first time I've ever been offered a vegetarian chef's special!! It was too good to pass up - roasted acorn squash, roasted asparagus, eggplant, portabello, and corn, and rice pilaf. The acorn squash was excellent - the waiter told me it was roasted with orange juice, brown sugar, and butter. I'll definitely be trying it at home soon. We walked around the area a little after dinner, on our way to get some ice cream.

We happened to run into another good friend there - our friend we knew from my grandparent's town of Pune, India! We knew she lived in the area, but didn't think we'd be able to see her this weekend. What a small world that we ended up on the same busy street in Alexandria as Gia and her husband Tarak!!

The next day we had a later start, but I managed to maneuver around the Metro with my two girls to get to the Race Expo at the Crystal Gateway Marriott. I picked up my race packet there, got a new running shirt with a built in zippered pocket, some power gel to store in said pocket, and then made it back to our hotel in the Roslyn area of Arlington. I tried 3 different local delis to get lunch, but they were all closed. So I ended up at Ruby Tuesday, where Abby pulled the fire alarm on our way out the door! Emma was really distraught by the sound of the alarm, and was really worried about getting out the doors, even though she saw Abby pull the alarm! The hostess at the restaurant was very kind and understanding, and even hugged Emma to make her feel better. Naughty Abby!

(My parents were exploring the Smithsonian Museums while we had our adventures, so they missed the excitement. )
We headed to Fairfax that afternoon to visit some more friends. My parents and I had a great time catching up with our friends Lauren and Jenny, who we met when I was in kindergarten, and Lauren's husband Merrith. They fed us a delicious pasta with roasted red pepper sauce, grilled zucchini and squash, and my favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip! It was the perfect pre-race dinner. And my girls had a really fun night playing with Lauren's kids. It was a strange feeling, to know our kids are now the same age we were when we first became friends, and we are now the age our parents were at the time.

I woke up the morning of the race feeling pretty nervous, but once I got on the Metro with about a thousand other runners, I felt better. There were over 26,000 runners at the Army 10-Miler that morning - I didn't cross the start line until about 8:20! As I said before, the course was amazing. We started at the Pentagon, ran through the Lady Bird Johnson Park, crossed the Arlington Memorial Bridge, ran past the Lincoln Memorial, past the Watergate Hotel, (past the gas station where we asked a cab driver for directions when we were lost on Thursday night,) past the Washington Monument, past the Smithsonian castle and museums, around the Capital building, past the museums again (fyi - it is mentally painful to double back!), back again over the Potomac River, ran on a really long and boring overpass, and then FINALLY ran back to the Pentagon to cross the finish line.
The first 7 miles were fine, but the last 3 were tough. I was thrilled to finally finish! And I was relieved to find my family after the race - with so many runners, I was worried I wouldn't find them for hours! They said they saw me cross the finish line - I'm sure it wasn't a pretty sight.
My friend Roseann also came out with her kids to cheer me on. Maybe she'll run it with me next year!
My husband was kind enough to run his own Army 10 Miler in Iraq that day. He woke up in time to run it at the exact same time as me, and called me after I was done with my race! So sweet! I knew he was going to be running when I was, and that thought helped me get through the last few miles, when I was not having as much fun anymore!

After the race we headed back to our hotel on the Metro, then drove to Roseann's house in Alexandria. She treated us to a delicious lunch and let me shower and relax at their house for a few hours before we headed back down I-95 to North Carolina again. The drive home was pretty painful. Sitting in a car for 6 hours after a race is not good for recovery!
I'm proud of myself for finishing the race, and I'm glad I had this to look forward to and to train for while Scott is away. I'm not sure where we'll be next year, but if we're around here, I'll definitely try to run this race again. (Hopefully with some friends running with me! Heather? Roseann? Lauren?)