Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pizza dough tutorial

We make pizza every Friday, sometimes more often during the summer when I don't feel like slaving over a hot oven. By my estimates, I've made more than 175 pizza crusts in the past three years. Some have been great, others needed help. But I think the following recipe is the best of the ones I've tried. It uses common ingredients and is pretty foolproof. Perfect.

What you'll need:
a large bowl
strong spatula or wooden spoon
2 tsp sugar or 3 tsp honey
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup wheat bran or 1/4 cup oatmeal
3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp oil
plastic wrap
pizza stone or baking sheet

Pour the water into your large bowl.

Heat in the microwave to about 120 degrees, or until hot to the touch, but you can stand to keep your pinkie finger in it.

Dissolve the sugar/honey in the hot water.

Pour in the yeast.

Let stand 5 minutes or until 'fireworks' bubble to the top of the water.

Wait until the entire surface is covered with foam. Stir well to dissolve any remaining yeast granules on the bottom of your bowl.

Add wheat bran or oatmeal, stirring until mixed.

Add half of the flour, stirring until blended. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to get it all mixed in. Your dough should have a batter-like consistency.

Add another cup of flour and stir until mixed in completely. Let dough sit 15 minutes. This allows the gluten to develop, but what you really need to know if that it makes kneading the dough go faster and be less messy.

Sprinkle salt on the dough. Using the spatula, lift the dough up from the bottom and fold it over the top to trap the salt within the dough.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.

Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes). Add 1 Tbsp of flour at a time as needed to keep it from sticking. When you can knead it ten times without sticking to your hands, it's probably ready.

Shape it into a ball.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with oil, turning to coat top.

Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (85°), 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Gently press two fingers into dough. If the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.

Sprinkle the top with a few pinches of flour. Turn the bowl sideways and pull it down from the edge so that it rolls out flour-side down on your baking sheet or pizza stone. Sprinkle with a few more pinches of flour to keep from sticking to your hands. Roll dough out all the way to the edges. Take your time so that the dough stays evenly thick. If it's too stiff or bounces back, wait about five minutes then try again.

Let sit 15 minutes while the oven heats to 400 degrees. Before baking, top with marinara sauce, cheese, and toppings.

Bake for 25 minutes or until crust is brown.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Garlic Brussels sprouts with parmesan

20 Brussels sprouts
1 tsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Wash the brussels sprouts. Trim the stem ends and remove any damaged outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top and place gently in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tsp olive oil and toss brussels sprouts gently to cover.

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet to medium heat - not too hot. Place the brussels sprouts in the skillet flat side down. Sprinkle with garlic and salt. Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes. The bottoms will brown and the green leaves will darken just a bit. You want to cook them until just tender, but still firm.

Next, uncover and turn up the heat to high. Cook until the flat sides are dark brown. Carefully flip them to let the green outer leaves brown slightly. Serve immediately with grated parmesan.