Happy Pi Day: Pizza Pie Recipe

Last Monday, I coached Thing One into creating a pizza from scratch.  She enjoyed the lesson so much, that she promptly went over to the calendar and wrote Pizza Night on all the Mondays.

In honor of her exuberance, and the fact that this Pizza Monday is also Pi day, I’ll share with you our pizza pie recipe.  Thing One is not into a lot of junk on her pizza, so these are old school, Neapolitan-style margarita pizzas.

I believe I got the original outlines for the dough and sauce recipes from this this crazy pizza genius.  This is a guy who had moved to Atlanta, but whose very bones ached for a slice of Patsy’s NYC pizza.  His only choice in this pizza desert was to spend 6 years (!) perfecting a recipe that could duplicate this Neapolitan style pizza in his home kitchen.  Of course, he had to clip the door lock off his oven so he could cook his pizzas in 2-3 minutes at a temperature known as the “self-cleaning cycle”, but he reached his pizza Nirvana.  I am not as passionate about my pizza, so I cook it on a stone at 550 degrees for about 7 minutes.

The simple recipe is at the end.

Dough:

First, combine 740 gm of flour with 624 gm water.  Mix this together until the flour is as evenly wetted as possible, and then let it sit for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 9 gm active dry yeast and 21 gm salt to 220 gm flour, and mix to combine.  After the 20 minutes has passed, add the remaining flour mixture to the dough by a combination of mixing and kneading.

Stand on a chair, and knead for about 5 minutes until a smooth ball is formed.

Let the dough rest for 15-20 minutes.  Divide the dough into 4 x 400 gm balls.

You can now refrigerate these dough balls for 1-6 days in the refrigerator.  Place the dough in individual small plastic containers, lightly oiled and with a lid.  When you are ready to use them, remove them from the fridge, and let them sit at room temperature for about 1.5 hours, until they have risen about 50%.

If you want to use the dough immediately, let the dough balls sit, covered with a lightly damp cloth, until risen about 50% (about 30-45 minutes).  During this rise, preheat your oven with a pizza stone in it to 550 degrees (or as high as it will go).

Sauce:

Open a 28oz can of San Marzano plum tomatoes.

Pour the contents of the can through a strainer into a bowl.  Take each tomato, open it and with your fingers remove most of the seeds and discard.  Place the tomato flesh in the bowl with the juice.  Once the tomatoes are mostly de-seeded, rub any remaining pulp through the strainer into the bowl and crush the tomatoes in their juice by hand.

Add about 1-2T olive oil to a saucepan and when hot, add 2 cloves of garlic and a very small pinch of red pepper flakes.

Heat until you can smell the garlic and then add the de-seeded tomatoes and juice to the saucepan.  Add a leaf or two of torn basil.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Taste and add a small pinch of sugar if it tastes bitter.   Remove from heat.

Assembly:

Take a ball of dough and pat it into a circle.  Pick up the circle, and holding it by the edge, gently stretch and pinch the dough making the circle larger and the dough thinner.  Then, draping the dough on the back of my hands, I stretch it further.  My assistant demonstrates.

I quickly move my hands around the edge of the circle and the weight of the dough hanging down helps to stretch it.   Again, to my able assistant.

This method also leaves the edge of the dough a little thicker for a nice crust.  I don’t make the dough much larger than 13″ in diameter because it will be too thin, and it also won’t fit on my pizza stone!

If the dough really resists the shaping, and seems to spring back, let it rest on the counter for 5 minutes or so and it will relax a bit and then continuing with the stretching.

Prepare a pizza peel (or rimless cookie sheet) by sprinkling cornmeal on it.  The cornmeal will act like little ball bearings and allow the pizza to easily slip onto the stone for baking.  Place the dough on the peel and top it evenly with a bit of sauce.  Don’t use too much, or the pizza will be soggy in the middle.  I then top it with a sprinkling of fresh chopped basil, followed by shredded mozzarella cheese (part skim, shredded at home) and grated Parmesan cheese.  I put the basil under the cheese so it won’t burn in the oven.  I think I will be out of a job soon…

Ready for the oven!

Slide the pizza from the peel onto the stone with a quick jerk (be brave and assertive, and it will slide right off). Cook for about 5-7 minutes, watching carefully those last couple of minutes.

(Capture  blurry picture of pizza in 550 degree oven.  Remember to draw in eyebrows tomorrow.  Ouch.)

I like the cheese lightly browned, and the crust with a light char on the underside.  This is a teensy pale.

While the first pizza is cooking, I prep the second one.  I take the first pizza out of the oven and place it on a cooling rack for a minute or two before cutting.  I think this helps keep the bottom crust crisp.  I using a cookie sheet as a peel (or big spatula) to get the pizza out of the oven, since the peel now has the next uncooked pizza on it.  Slide the next pizza in the oven, and continue until you are out of ingredients.  The cook eats her pizza while standing in the kitchen assembling pizzas and watching them cook.

Recipe:

960 gm flour

624 gm water, warmed

21 gm kosher salt

9 gm active dry yeast

1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, seeded, and crushed by hand

1T olive oil

2 cloves garlic

small pinch of red pepper flakes

pinch of sugar (optional)

1/2 pound half skim mozzarella cheese (shredded at home)

1/4 – 1/3  c Parmesan cheese, grated

Basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Few tablespoons of cornmeal

Combine 740gm flour with all the warm water, mix and set aside for 20 minutes.  Combine remaining flour, salt and yeast.  Mix into dough, and knead for 5 minutes.  Divide into 4 equal sized dough balls, and place in lightly oiled container.  Keep in refrigerator for 1-6 days.  Remove from refrigerator and keep at room temperature about 1.5 hours to warm up and rise about 50%. If you decide to use the dough immediately (ie no refrigeration), let the dough rise, covered with a damp towel for 30-45 minutes, until increased about 50%.  Shape dough into 13″ diameter circles.  If dough resists shaping, let it rest on the counter for 5-10 minutes to relax, and then continue shaping.  Place dough on a peel (or rimless cookie sheet) prepared with a sprinkling of cornmeal.  Top dough with sauce (see below) and other toppings.  Slide onto pizza stone, and bake at 550 degrees for 5-7 minutes, watching carefully for the last couple of minutes.

Sauce:

Seed canned plum tomatoes and crush by hand.  Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes and heat until you can smell the garlic.  Add the tomatoes, pulp and juice to saucepan, and a few torn basil leaves and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add a pinch of sugar if necessary.

Springtime Arrives!

Finally, after a winter where the depth of snowstorms was sometimes measured in cats…

and the weather conditions made even the most usual chores a challenge.

Where the decision to run out for a quart of milk sometimes required a little extra effort…

We are beginning to see signs of spring!

Despite our inattention, the rhubarb abides.

The daffodils remind us of the work we did in the fall…

while the side garden sits fallow, a reminder of work to come.

But for now, the work will wait.  These early spring afternoons are meant for sunning at the beach…

and treasure hunting on the rocks.

We are enjoying our time to free-range

after a winter of being cooped-up.

Spring has finally arrived at Casa de Pollo Loco.

Thermapen Conundrum

My beloved thermapen thermometer broke, but after some overwrought prose and a helpful comment from Tim at Thermoworks, I shipped off my thermometer to see about a repair.  Amanda at Thermoworks gave me the shipping information, and added the hopeful comment that most repairs are in the $15-20 range.

There she is, all snug in an old check box, ready for her trip to Utah.

I got an email from Amanda a few days later saying that she had arrived safely, and that I would be contacted soon with a repair estimate.

I got the call with the estimate yesterday.  $40.  Bummer.

I asked how that broke down and was told that it was $5 to replace the red plastic housing that had melted, plus $35 for a new probe.  The probe needed to be replaced because the plastic around the probe was cracked and although the probe worked, it was only a matter of time before it failed.

I hemmed.  I hawed.  For $40, I would end up with a like-new, old model thermapen.  I knew that a  new model thermapen (with the fancy splash-proof design…they don’t even carry my old school ones anymore) would run me $89.

I said that was a little more than I was expecting to spend on my 7-year-old thermapen.  The person I spoke with offered that they would sell me the new model thermapen at a discounted price of $79.

I hemmed.  I hawed.  Then the person gave me another alternative.  I could get a refurbished probe to replace my old cracked one for $10, bringing the total repair to $15.  That was more in line with what I was hoping for based on our original email conversations.

But now I had a decision to make.  Do I pay $40 and get basically a new, old model thermapen or do I pay $15 and get a probably basically-new, old model thermapen.  Or do I just bite the bullet and pay the $79 and get the new splash-proof model.  That splash-proof thing is attractive to me, because hey, the kitchen is a wet place sometimes!

I have decided to leave the choice up to you, oh faithful readers reader.  Please complete my poll, and I’ll do what you deem is best.  The poll will close Friday night at 8pm EST.  Thank you, my wise counselors

 

POLL CLOSED!  THANK YOU SPENDTHRIFT READERS!!

Separated At Birth

Uncle Albert and Thing 2.

Recipe: Authentic Scottish Scones

My grandparents on my father’s side were Scottish.  I never knew my Grandfather, he was one of the few Vermont fatalities of the Hurricane of ’38,  but that is a story for another time.

My Gram died when I was just 8.  I have very few long memories of her, but I do have a few short, specific memories.  The skin on her upper arm was very soft and cool, and I liked to pat it and feel it jiggle.  Her eyes were sparkly and crinkly and kind.  If I try really hard, I can almost remember her laugh.  It was just a little chuckle.  But I can never really recall it; it remains just out of reach, like a word stuck on the tip of my tongue.  She always wore a dress and she drove a Volkswagen Beetle.  She had strong-smelling green pine soap in her bathroom and face cream in a little pink  container shaped like a rosebud and it smelled like roses.  She had a gigantic glass candy dish, and no matter how carefully you tried to sneak candy, the lid always clanked and she would say from the other room, “Take some candy if you would like.”

Once, I slept over and we played bingo.  When I would win, I would always get a prize.  The prizes were always Native American in theme; like a plastic Indian-head key chain, or a small beaded change purse.  I found out later that these were things that she had gotten in return for donations she had given to a Native American charity.

When I was sick with a cold, she would always make me a fruit basket and bring it to me.  It had an orange, an apple and a banana, but the best part was there were always a couple of comic books tucked inside.

Re-reading this, I see I have used the word “always” an awful lot.  I was going to edit them out, but I think that is the essence of what I remember about her, she was always…always kind, always soft, always loving, always predictable, always dependable, until the day she just wasn’t there anymore.  To me, it was shocking and unbelievable. It was as if, without warning, the sun just didn’t rise one morning.

My Gram had a few things she was known for baking.  Fudge, doughnuts, oatcakes and scones.  I don’t have her scone recipe, this is actually from my childhood neighbor, Mrs. Troup.  They must have been close to what my Gram made, because I remember my Dad saying, “I don’t know how an Italian woman can make such good Scottish scones.”

I make my scones two ways:  plain and with ginger and lemon.  The plain is traditional and what my Gram would have made.  The ginger-lemon variation is just me being uppity.

And a word on pronunciation.  In our family, we always pronounced them to rhyme with “gone”… skawn.  Everyone else pronounces them to rhyme with “bone”.  I was heartened to hear on a trip to Scotland that they too pronounced it “skawn”.  It was just another bit of evidence that those things they sell in Starbucks might not be recognized in the Highlands.  Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Here’s how I make authentic Scottish scones, and a modern variation.   The recipe follows at the end.

For the ginger-lemon scones, I dice about 1/2c of crystalline ginger into a small dice, and grate the zest from one lemon.

I add the ginger and lemon zest to the dry ingredients.  The diced ginger is sticky, so I rub it into the dry ingredients to break up the pieces and coat them with flour to keep it from clumping.

Then I cut up the cold butter into small cubes.  The original recipe, typical of Scottish and depression-era frugality I think, called for “oleo”.

I then cut the butter into the dry ingredients until I get a mixture that looks like a combination of cornmeal and small peas.  Sometimes, I use my fingers a bit to incorporate the butter, but I am careful not to melt it.

Then I add buttermilk, and stir it until just combined.  The dough will be shaggy and a little sticky.

I turn it out onto the counter and knead it only once or twice to gather it together.

Then I lightly pat it into a circle about 8″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick.  I prick the dough with a fork, and cut the circle into wedges using my bench knife.

I place the scones on an ungreased cookie sheet.

They should look a little bumpy and craggy.  That way, when they bake, they have lots of crisp edges.  If they look too smooth at this point, I worry that I overworked the dough and they may be tough.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes until they are nice and brown on the top.

The plain ones are quite plain, and good with a little jam.  The ginger lemon scones are also good with jam or on their own.

Authentic Scottish Scones

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2c flour

2 rounded T sugar

2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

Combine these ingredients.

1/3 c butter, cut into small cubes

Cut this into the dry ingredients.

3/4c buttermilk

Add the buttermilk and stir until just combined.  Turn out onto a counter and knead once or twice to bring dough together.  Quickly and gently pat into an 8-9″ circle about 1/2″ thick.  Prick with fork and cut into 8ths.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes.

Ginger-Lemon Variation

1/2 c crystallized ginger, cut into small dice

zest of 1 lemon

Add these ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Rub the ginger pieces in the flour to coat them with flour and keep them from clumping.  Proceed with the recipe as written.

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here It Comes!

Here comes the sun, and I say, it’s all right.

It is 4 in the afternoon, and the sky is still lit up like it is midday.  I am so glad to be out of the dreary November-December-January late afternoon gloom.  I don’t have anything close to seasonal affective disorder, but I certainly notice the lack of light.

Given the trips to the ER (yes, plural, but Thing One is ok after a nasty playground fall that affected her vision temporarily), the long car rides to visit family, the insomnia that seems to grab hold of whoever is youngest on these trips, and the broken chest freezer we found upon our return, I am glad that the sun is doing its best to improve my mood.

How’s that for a self-centered worldview?  It used to be that everyone thought the sun revolved around the earth, apparently I take it one giant step further and actually think the sun moves in response to me personally!

I think the chickens are noticing the increased light and milder weather too.  We have moved from a low of 1-2 eggs per day, back up to about 3 eggs per day over the last 4 days.  I am not sure if it due to the increased light (we are now almost back to 12 hours of daylight) or the strangely mild weather we had toward the end of last week, but I think it means that we will have quiche for dinner.

Thank you hens, thank you sun.

Before and After: First Haircut

Thing Two Before:

 

Thing Two After:

She is unsure.  It doesn’t really look like the picture she brought in.

My Take: Sirloin Saloon Bread

When I went to school in Burlington, there was a restaurant down the road in Shelburne called the Sirloin Saloon*.  It was a steakhouse, and had a salad bar and good steak tips, but to me, the outstanding thing was their bread.  It was dark and sweet and hearty.  They served it warm, and it was so good that they offered it sold as loaves to take home.  Seen whole, the loaves were big and round and rustic looking.  I think this was unusual for the mid-eighties.

I was remembering that bread a few years ago and wanted to make my own, but couldn’t find any recipe leads on-line.  I called the restaurant and spoke with someone in the kitchen.  This is how I remember the conversation going:

Me:  Hi.  I had your bread a number of years ago and really loved it.  I’ve since moved away and was wondering if you give out the recipe?

Him:  No.

Me:  Oh.  Well, if you don’t give the recipe, do you give hints?

Him:  Maybe.  Ask me.

Me.  Ok.  I remember it being dark and sweet.  Do you use molasses for the sweetener?

Him:  Yeah.  We use one to one to a half…dark molasses, light molasses and honey.

Me: (frantically scribbling):  I think it’s whole grain.  Do you use any rye flour?

Him:  No.  We use high gluten white and rye flakes.

Me:  Rye flakes?  What are rye flakes?

Him:  Like oatmeal.  Only rye.

Me:  Huh.  Rye flakes.  Is there any caraway or anise in it?

Him:  No.  It’s a pretty standard loaf.  Listen, I gotta go.

Me:  Ok, thanks a lot…love your (click) bread.

From these hints pulled from a laconic chef, I was able to reproduce, at least to my taste buds and memory, the Sirloin Saloon bread. Here’s how I did it (the full recipe is at the end of this post).

1. He said it was a “pretty standard loaf”.

I know from baker’s percentages that a standard dough is about 55-70% hydration, 2% salt, 1% yeast, and 8-16% sweetener.  For a Swedish limpa, the sweetener is 20% and for a Portuguese loaf is 22%.  I didn’t remember the bread being as sweet as Portuguese bread, so I decided to try 20%.  This information gave me a good start on the broad strokes of the recipe.

2.  The mysterious rye flakes

I had never heard of rye flakes, so I did an on-line search and found that they can be bought at beer brewing supply stores.  I went to my local brew store and got a two-pound bag.  The look a lot like old-fashioned oats, except they are firmer and darker.  In other recipes using oats in bread, you are told to soak them in hot water before combining them with the other ingredients so I decided to do the same thing with the rye flakes.

3.  He uses high gluten flour.

I don’t use high gluten (or bread flour), but I know it is 13.7% protein.  My King Arthur all-purpose flour is 11.7% protein.  I happened to have on hand (who remembers why) some vital wheat gluten.  So after doing some math, I found that if I added 3 grams of vital wheat gluten to every 100 grams of all-purpose flour, I could bring up the protein to 13.7%.

In the interest of full disclosure, I forgot to add the wheat gluten to my flour when making the recipe for this post!  It came out just fine, so I guess you can also use plain, old, all-purpose flour.

4: A ratio of 1:1:0.5 dark molasses: molasses: honey

I had regular (unsulphered Grandmother’s) molasses but never heard of dark molasses.  I again went on-line, but the only other type of molasses I could find was blackstrap molasses.  I got this at the grocery store.  It has a very different taste than regular molasses, stronger and less sweet.  It reminds me of black licorice.  So equal amounts of dark and light molasses, and half the amount of honey.

The recipe:

I knew from my honey oat bread, that 710 gm flour plus 114 gm oats makes dough enough for 2 loaves, so that is where I started:

My Sirloin Saloon Bread Recipe

I made my own high protein bread flour by combining 800 gm all-purpose flour plus 25 gm vital wheat gluten.  Just buy bread flour, it’s easier. (I used all-purpose flour on this batch, and it was fine.)

Combine:

114 gm (1 c) rye flakes

236 gm (1 c) boiling water

Let this soak until softened and cooled to about 110 degrees.

Add to softened rye:

710 gm  (about 6.25 c) all-purpose flour

322 gm (1 1/3 c) milk, warmed to 110 degrees

The dough at this stage will look dry.

Combine and add to dough:

66 gm (3T) light molasses

66 gm (3T) blackstrap molasses

33 gm (1.5 T) honey

16 gm (5t) kosher salt

18 gm (1T) butter, melted

Finally add:

8 gm (1 pkg or 2 ¼ t) active dry yeast

Begin to mix the dough in earnest.  At this point it will be really sticky.

Knead dough in Kitchen Aid mixer until smooth (about 7-10 minutes).  I’ve never tried kneading this by hand, it starts out pretty sticky.

My advice would be if you want to knead it by hand, prepare to get messy and use a light hand when  flouring the counter.

Through the magic of kneading, it will turn into a smooth, slightly tacky dough.

Place the dough in a container, cover and let rise until double (about an hour).

Behold!  It has risen!

I ease it out of the dough bucket, knead it a couple of times and divide it in half.  I decide to make a loaf and a boule.  I spray the loaf pan with Pam, shape the loaf and place it in the pan.  For the boule, I round it into a ball shape, and using my hands and the counter, I tuck the sides of the boule under, stretching the surface of the dough tight.

I place the boule, seam side down on a floured cloth, and place it in a bowl to help it rise more up than out for this final rise.

I let the bread rise about 1.5 times (about an hour).

At the start of the final rise, I preheat the oven with a baking stone to 350 degrees.  It takes extra preheating time to get the stone nice and hot.  The only reason I’m using a stone is because I am baking a free-form loaf.  I slash the loaves…

and bake on the baking stone for 35-40 minutes.  In the above picture, I’ve put a little cornmeal on a baking sheet to serve as a peel to slide the boule onto the stone.  I don’t bake either of the loaves on a baking sheet.

The bread came out very good.  Hearty and sweet, with a little crunch on the crust.  The interior has a fairly tight, but soft crumb.

If I were going to tweak this recipe a bit more, I think I would try adding some whole wheat or rye flour to make it a little more hearty and not so soft.  Also, if I were baking only rustic loaves (ie. not in a pan) I would up the temperature to 400 degrees and maybe introduce a little steam at the start to make the crust darker and crustier.  All in all, I think this recipe is a very good approximation of the Sirloin Saloon bread I remember from the 1980’s..

My Take:  Sirloin Saloon Bread

114 gm (1 c) rye flakes

236 gm (1 c) boiling water

Combine and let this soak until softened and cooled to about 110 degrees.

Add to softened rye:

710 gm  (about 6.25 c) all-purpose flour (or bread flour)

322 gm (1 1/3 c) milk, warmed to 110 degrees

Combine and add to dough:

66 gm (3T) light molasses

66 gm (3T) blackstrap molasses

33 gm (1.5 T) honey

16 gm (5t) kosher salt

18 gm (1T) butter, melted

Finally sprinkle on top:

8 gm (1 pkg or 2 ¼ t) active dry yeast

Mix dough to combine, and then knead by machine until smooth, but still tacky (about 7-10 minutes).  Set dough aside to rise until doubled, about 40-60 minutes.  Knead dough a couple of times, divide in half and shape.  If making loaves, spray pan with cooking spray.  Set dough aside to rise about 1.5 times (about 45-60 minutes).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees during this final rise.  If making free-form loaves (not in a pan) bake on a baking stone, so make sure this is well pre-heated.  Bake bread for about 35-40 minutes.

*I just found that the Shelburne location has closed but it has locations in Rutland and Manchester

Sick Days

The worst thing about being a stay-at-home mom is the lack of sick days.  Both Thing One and Thing Two caught the same nasty virus about a week apart.  Barfing followed by fever followed by cold symptoms and finishing up with an ear infection for Thing One, while Thing Two finally finished her constantly dripping nose.  Thing One had one night of high fever where I stayed by her bed, talking to her, rubbing her chest and placing cool cloths on her forehead.  For Thing Two’s feverish night,  I slept with her on the floor in her room, both of us sharing a sleeping bag while she nursed and whimpered the whole night.

I made it through that nursing duty tired but unscathed.  Then, last week,  Bill got sick.  Luckily, it was just a cold.  Obviously, he doesn’t require the same care as the kids, but still I fuss over him a bit and try to make life easier.

Finally, we were all well and I thought I had escaped this month of misery.  Until yesterday.  I must have eaten something bad.  I think it was my salad at dinner.  Bread would never do such a thing to me.  I woke up feeling awful;  body aches, head ache and stomach ache.  Bill left for work and Thing One left for school but that pesky Thing Two was still under foot.

She is 15 months old and at that roaming toddler stage.  The first thing she does when she gets up in the morning is check the perimeter safety.  Is the stair gate latched?  Is the office door shut?  Is the cellar door shut?  Is the bathroom door shut?  If any one of these is left open, she gleefully runs in and starts doing whatever it is she shouldn’t be doing.  For example, in the bathroom her mission is to unspool the toilet paper and splash her hands in the toilet.  Ugh.  Thing One never did this!

So, when she is on the prowl, I have to be on my toes.  And yesterday, I really needed a sick day.  I was able to lay down for a bit while she was in the cage (her big playpen) but that never lasts.  So I reluctantly called Bill at work and asked if he could come home early, get Thing One off the bus and take her to piano lessons.  Lucky for me, he didn’t have any late afternoon meetings and was able to get home at 3.  By the time he got home, the stomach issues had stopped, but I was still achy and feverish.

He took Thing One to piano lessons and while Thing Two napped I had two hours to rest.  As I lay on the couch, shivering under a pile of blankets, Stella the cat came over and gave me the once over.  Then she hopped up on my chest and stretched out her whole length on me, acting like a furry hot water bottle.  She closed her eyes and began to purr and I felt like someone was watching over me during my feverish sleep, murmuring that I would feel better soon.

Separated At Birth

Dino and Thing 2.