Brining…the Secret to Better Flavor and Texture

Cambro 6 qt. Container Perfect for Brining

I always prefer to brine pork or poultry before cooking. The brining process not only breaks down proteins and tenderizes the meat, but also adds moisture (through osmosis), making the meat “juicier” and also less likely to dry out when cooking.

I brine the meat in a clear plastic Cambro container as soon as I get it home from the supermarket. After brining, I wrap the parts in plastic wrap and freeze what I’m not going to use immediately. When I’m ready to use it in a recipe,  I simply defrost it, and since it’s pre-brined, it’s ready to go. Follow the jump for exactly how to do it.

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Sourdough Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Suasage, Mushroom, Caramelized Onion Pizza ready for oven
Ready for the Oven

There’s nothing better then homemade pizza and this crust is simple and delicious. If you need sourdough starter, check out my bread post from last week, where you’ll find a link to get FREE sourdough starter. I prefer thin crust pizzas (being from the New York area…where we make REAL pizza), but if you prefer a thicker crust, it’s all here in the printable recipe. This is one of those recipes that appears to be a little vague at first, but once you try it and get the feel for how the dough should come together, it’s simple and quick to replicate whenever you get the urge…which for me, seems to happen about 3-4 times a week lately. And since the recipe makes 3 crusts which freeze incredibly well, you actually don’t have it make it that often. Just take one out of the freezer, and in about 3 hours, it’s ready to roll. The crust is also vary versatile and can be used in dozens of different ways. Just the other day, I topped one with just caramelized onions, crumbled goat cheese and drizzled some olive oil on it and it was amazing.

For the printable recipe, please click…

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Sausage, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza with a Sourdough Whole Wheat Crust

SMO PizzaJust wanted to post a shot of the pizza I made tonight…it tasted as good as it looks. This was, of course, made from scratch and here is the printable recipe for the crust.  One of the most important tricks to making a great pizza is using a pizza stone…you just can’t bake a great crust without it. A pizza stone has a greater thermal mass then either a glass or metal pan and therefore holds and distributes heat better. It’s also porous, so it absorbs moisture from the dough as it cooks, all of which contributes to an amazing, crisp, uniformly browned crust. Also, get yourself a pizza peel…they’re inexpensive and make putting the pizza in and, more importantly, taking the hot pizza out of the oven, a breeze.

Pizza stones are available just about everywhere, and come in a variety of sizes and shapes (and prices). They should be put in a cold oven, then preheated for at least 30 minutes before using. Because they are porous and absorb liquid, the stone should never be washed with soap…just a dry brush or some plain, warm water if needed. They are also ideal surfaces for baking bread and also for making crispy, homemade crackers.

t stone or piece of ceramic or earthenware used to evenly distribute oven heat to pizzas or other baked goods, more or less mimicking the effects of cooking a pizza in a masonry oven. Such bakeware has more thermal mass than metal or glass pans. The porous nature of the stone used also helps absorb moisture, resulting in a crisp crust.
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Sourdough Whole Wheat Pumpkin Seed No-Knead Bread

I have been experimenting lately with recipes for a simple no-knead whole wheat bread and I think I’ve come up with a one that seems to be pretty foolproof and gives consistently great results. Some sourdough purists might object to the use of instant rise yeast in addition to the sourdough starter, but I think for the novice sourdough baker, it insures that you’ll  get a good initial rise and excellent oven spring with an amazing sourdough taste. I’m currently using Carl Griffith’s sourdough starter, a strain of starter that is over 160 years old that can be obtained for a FREE at this address. This recipe is adapted from one on the amazingly informative Breadtopia website and solves the common problem of a too “wet” no-knead dough.  I recommend watching this excellent video at Breadtopia.com before making this bread…it  does a great job of demonstrating the techniques needed to make an incredible no-knead bread. Please click the links below for my recipe.

Click here for a printable text only version of the recipe.

Click here for the recipe with photos.

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Danish Dough Whisk…a very cool bread baking tool

This Danish Dough Whisk is an indispensable tool for mixing dough by hand prior to kneading. It’s long, thick wooden handle provides a great ergonomic grip, which gives you the leverage you knead for easily blending a stiff bread dough. Because of it’s funky shape, it’s much more practical and efficient then a wooden spoon for mixing heavy sticky doughs, and as an added benefit, it’s way easier to clean!

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OXO Good Grips Food Scale…a must have tool for the kitchen

OXO food scale This is one of the kitchen tools that I can’t live without…the OXO Good Grips Food Scale. It has large, backlit, easy to read numbers and, with one click,  switches from metric to U.S. (avoirdupois) weight. When you press the zero button (tare weight) to set the scale back to zero, you can continue to add ingredients and then zero it out again, so all your mixing and measuring can be done in one bowl. One of the best features is that the display can be separated from the base (it’s attached by a long wire) so even if you weighing a huge bowl or plate, you can still easily see the readout. If you bake, you know how important weights and proportions are to achieve a great result…this is the  real deal!

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