Got a few pizza questions recently, so I just wanted to re-post a pizza story I did a while back. This was, of course, made from scratch (here’s the recipe) and it really tasted just as good as it looks. One of the most important tricks to making a great pizza is using a pizza stone (or even better, a pizza baking steel, which is what I use exclusively now)…it’s hard to bake a great crust without it. Both the stone and the steel have a greater thermal mass then either a glass or metal pan and therefore hold and distribute heat much more efficiently. The stone is also porous, so it absorbs moisture from the dough as it cooks, all of which contributes to an amazing crisp, uniformly browned crust. Also, definitely get yourself a pizza peel…they’re inexpensive and make putting the pizza in and taking the pizza out of the oven a breeze.
Pizza stones and steels 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 after the desired oven temperature (I recommend 500°) is reached before using. Because the stones are porous and absorb liquid, the stone should never be washed with soap…just a dry brush or some plain, warm water if needed. Both the stone and the baking steel are ideal for baking bread.
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.
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. 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. It also makes a great calzone!
On a cold winter morning, there is no better breakfast than a bowl of hot, chewy steel cut oatmeal. The problem with steel cut oats is that it can take awhile to cook. The solution is quick and easy…use the overnight method. Heat 1 tsp. of butter in a 2 qt. saucepan, add 1 cup of steel cut oats and fry while stirring for 3 minutes until they smell “toasty”. Add 3 cups of water and a pinch or two of salt, stir and bring to a rolling boil. Then turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit covered overnight on the stovetop. When you wake up in the morning, just reheat a portion on the stove or in the microwave and its ready to go. After reheating, you can also add dried cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, brown sugar or whatever you like for an amazing breakfast. And if you like, you can double the recipe and save the leftover cooked oats in a container in the fridge; they will keep for 4-5 days and all you have to do is reheat in the microwave for a quick healthy, wholesome, delicious breakfast in just a couple of minutes.
Today’s tip is simple…just put Sriracha sauce on everything you eat to make it better. Of course, you have to like heat, but this condiment is so hot right now (see what I did there?) because it puts a kick (and a ton of flavor) into anything you use it on. It’s available just about everywhere and you can even make it yourself…here is a great recipe from Food52. And, if you need some ideas, here are 100 Sriracha recipes from the folks at EndlessSimmer, 25 more from BonAppetit and one for delicious Sriracha Cilantro Scallion Deviled Eggs from The Garden of Eating…that should keep you busy for awhile!
If you chill cheese before grating or shredding, you’ll get much better results. Place hard cheeses in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes and soft cheeses for 20-30 minutes before grating. You should also use a great grater, like the OXO Good Grip, and make sure you always give it a quick spritz with cooking spray (like Pam) so the cheese glides easily and doesn’t stick. This chilling technique also really works well when slicing chicken or any kind of meat for a stir-fry.
The best way to keep bread is at room temperature. After 2-3 days, you should wrap the bread well, put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. Never store any bread in the refrigerator, because the cold temperature (38º-40º) accelerates the crystallization of the starches, causing the bread to stale much faster. When I bake a bread, as soon as it cools completely, I cut it, freeze half immediately and keep the other half cut-side down on a cutting board covered with a clean cloth. When that’s consumed, I take out the frozen half, defrost it at room temperature or wrap it in foil and bake in a 450º oven for 10 minutes and it tastes just as good as the day it was baked.
Awhile back I wrote about how important it is to have a great scale, like the OXO Good Grips Scale, and to weigh ingredients for consistent results. As you’ve probably experienced, Americans seldom give weights in recipes, but in the UK, they almost always do. Well, over at Lifehacker, someone named Jesseg came up with an amazingly simple, yet inciteful, idea…when looking for recipes, search using google.co.uk, rather than google.com and the recipes you find will almost always have weights…just make sure you remember to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, or your stuff may never get done!
Everyone loves french fries, but deep frying at home is messy and the clean up sucks. These oven baked fries are just as tasty, a little bit healthier and way easier to make and clean up after than the deep-fried variety. The secret is the pre-soak that removes some of the starch and helps the fries to crisp up on the outside while staying tender and moist on the inside. Pair these with my Oven Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings and you have a great finger-licking good, faux deep-fried, quasi-healthy meal that everyone will love. If you prefer thinner, crispier garlicky oven baked fries, please click here.
I use tomato paste quite often in recipes to thicken up and give great flavor to pasta sauces, chili and soups, but seldom (and by seldom, I mean never) need an entire can at once. Simple solution…take an approx. 8″ square piece of plastic wrap, drop a 1 tablespoon dollop in the center and fold up the sides and twist closed. Stick these in a freezer bag and place in the toaster (just kidding…in the freezer), and, in the future, when a recipe calls for tomato paste, unwrap what you need (each one weighs about 1/2 oz.) and drop them in…it works great and there’s no waste. And, since they look like little hearts, they also make a somewhat disgusting Valentine’s Day gift.