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.
Just 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.
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.
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!
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!
The bananas on the trees are ripening quickly and we are awash in a plethora of fruit, so we’re scrambling to come up with great banana recipes. Ripened bananas in their skin, wrapped in saran wrap, will keep in the freezer for up to six months for use in breads, cakes and smoothies, but it’s more fun to try and keep up with the rapidly ripening crop (it’s a race we can’t possibly win). Tonight, not only did we dehydrate them for banana chips, but also made this killer Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, a simple recipe that yields a moist, tasty, chocolatey loaf. You can also add a little cinnamon, rum or vanilla if you like, but there really isn’t any reason to since it is delicious (and addictive…we can’t stop eating it) as is.
Tonight we picked some fresh broccoli, scallions and an orange, added a few other ingredients (like pork, which was kind of essential for this recipe, since it’s actually in the name) and came up with this incredible Broccoli and Pork Stir-Fry. This is one of those great dishes that is not only easy to make, but also very adaptable to what you have on hand. If you don’t have water chestnuts, just leave them out…if you want a little more crunch, add some cashews or peanuts…extra mushrooms in the fridge, toss them in. The two most important things are to make sure the skillet is very hot (you should see the oil shimmering) when you add the pork so you get a good sear and to cook the pork in two batches; if you crowd the pan, it will steam and not brown properly. Other than that, it’s pretty tough to screw this up…and make sure you add the Sriracha at the end to give it that great spicy kick.
One thing about Swiss Chard…it has to be really fresh for it to be really good. We picked this chard just hours before we prepared it using this recipe we found on Simply Recipes and it was exceptional. We served it on a bed of quinoa(keen-wah). If you haven’t tried quinoa, you should give it shot. It is a pseudocereal and is actually related to Swiss Chard and spinach. Quinoa is extremely nutritious and has a very high protein content (12%–18%), making it a healthy choice for vegetarians, vegans and athletes. Unlike wheat or rice, which is low in lysine, quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source. We cook it like rice, using chicken or vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavor, and add sauteed diced onions and garlic to it before serving.
This might be the best smoothie ever made…it’s simple to make, it tastes great and has the consistency of creamy soft serve ice cream. I took fresh picked papayas and bananas, cut them into chunks and froze them overnight. To make the smoothie, put about a cup of frozen papaya chunks, a cup of frozen banana chunks, 6 oz. of your favorite blueberry yogurt ( I use Dannon) into a blender and add about 3/4 cup of V8 Splash (available everywhere…I use Tropical Blend, but any flavor will do). Pulse the blender for about 30 seconds, give it a quick stir (make sure the blades have stopped!), and repeat a few times. It should be very thick at this point, so to get the perfect consistency, take the top off the blender while it’s running (make sure all the fruit has been pureed before you do this or you may end up wearing some smoothie) and slowly pour in a little more Splash until you see a vortex form in the center-you’ll know what I mean when you see it happen-and the Smoothie will be perfect. If you love peanut butter like I do, you can add a heaping tablespoon (I prefer chunky) and blend for a couple of seconds more…it’s incredible!
Cookhacker is fortunate enough to be spending the next few weeks in one of the most beautiful places on earth…the island of Kauai in Hawaii (if you’ve seen Lost, Tropic Thunder or Jurassic Park, you know what the island looks like). We’ll be living off the land as much as possible…pictured is a portion of the first morning’s bounty. We gathered about 10 oranges, 8 avocados, 3 papayas, 2 grapefruits, 1 key lime (not pictured…3 fresh eggs, bananas, broccoli, mustard greens, beets, Swiss chard and assorted lettuces)…and that was all in the first day!
As the days go on, I’ll be posting our attempts to use all of these amazingly fresh ingredients to prepare our meals (I did go shopping and bought flour, spices, olive oil and other cooking essentials…things are really expensive here). Tomorrow morning’s breakfast…Fresh Papaya, Banana and Blueberry Yogurt Smoothies…can’t wait!