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.
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.
Please click here for the printable recipe.
When you need to juice a lemon or lime, place it on a hard surface and roll it back and forth under your palm, applying pressure, for about a minute before juicing. The helps break down the cells and will result in more juice with less effort.
When a recipe calls for a cup of flour, most people just scoop out a “cup” and then level it off with a knife…easy and fast but, unfortunately, not very accurate or consistent. A little too much flour here or sugar there, and instead of a delicious chewy cookie you could end up with rockhard paperweight better suited for self-defense then dessert. That’s why weighing ingredients, especially when baking, is essential. A great scale, like the OXO Good Grips Scale, is an important tool for success in the kitchen. I try to give ingredients in my recipes by both weight and volume, but if you encounter a recipe that doesn’t, King Arthur Flour has a really helpful Master weight chart for just about every commonly used ingredient in baking. If you need to convert to metric or vice-versa, just click here for some charts to help with converting metric equivalents or try this interactive Online Cooking Converter that converts cooking units instantly…it’s amazing! Once you start weighing ingredients, you’ll see an incredible improvement in outcomes and consistency.
Thanks to Good Housekeeping for the photo.
Everyone loves these cookies…that’s because they can be made to everyone’s taste. The basic recipe is really simple, but the beauty of it is that you can add any filling you like, so everyone gets what they want. From raspberry jam to cinnamon and sugar to chocolatey goodness, no one goes away disappointed…and they not only taste great, but they look incredible. The secret to slicing them into neat, perfectly round cookies before baking is to use dental floss (unwaxed and unflavored…although I guess you could go for a minty floss to accent the chocolate cookies…or not!). Just wrap it around the cookie logs and tighten it as if tying a knot to make a perfect, round cookie.
Please click here for the printable recipe.
This is one of the kitchen tools that I really 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 adding each ingredient to a recipe, just press the zero button (tare weight) to set the scale back to zero, add your next each ingredient, repeat for each additional ingredient, and all your mixing and measuring is done in one bowl, making for much easier cleanup. One of the best features is that the display can be separated from the base (it’s attached by a long, sturdy wire) so even if you’re weighing your ingredients in huge bowl that would normally hide the readout on a lesser scale, on this one, just slide it out and you can easily see the weight. If you bake, you know how important weights and proportions are to achieve a great result. I never bake without it, and I guarantee once you try it, you won’t either…this is the real deal!
It’s always a good idea to have some dried starter on hand as backup if, for some reason, your “live” starter suffers an untimely death…it’s sad, but it happens. It’s also a great way to share your starter with someone. The drying process is very simple. Thinly spread some of your live starter on a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap…a pastry brush or spatula works well here…then just let it dry. When completely dry (it can take from a few hours to a full day, depending on temperature), just peel it off the paper and crush it up…a coffee or spice grinder works well or you can just put it in a zip lock bag and whack it a few times with a rolling pin (that’s the post-whacked state in the picture on the left). Store it in an air-tight zip lock bag at room temperature or in the refrigerator or freezer…it’s all good.
Now, if your ready to get started, you’re going to need some dried starter to start your starter, so check out my Sourdough Whole Wheat Pumpkin Seed No Knead Bread post where you’ll find the link to send for some Carl Griffith’s Sourdough Starter…it’s been around since 1847! I’ve been using it for years, it’s excellent and you can’t beat the price…literally…’cause it FREE!
Reviving your dried starter is a relatively simple process also. This great video clip is from Breadtopia, one of my favorite sites, and it shows you exactly how to do it. If you’re into bread and baking, you should definitely check out Breadtopia for amazing recipes and videos.