Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers October Challenge - Pizza

This month's challenge was pizza, which was fun. This crust is very simple to make and I think the fact that it slowly rises in the refrigerator makes it very flavorful. Next time, I'll try to season the crust with some garlic and basil, because it still seemed a touch bland to me.

I topped one pizza with a cheese blend of mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano, the other with the same cheese mixture, assorted peppers, and San Marzano tomatoes. The sauce was a blend of San Marzano tomatoes, basil, garlic, and ricotta. It was my favorite part of the pizza.

Here's the recipe as it was posted by Rosa: ("GF" indicates the directions for gluten-free bakers)

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


2.  FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


8.  FOR GF:  On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator.  Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). 

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


10.  FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. 
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11.  FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12.  FOR GF:  Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13.  FOR GF:  Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving. 

Give it a try!

Guten Appetit!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pretzel Dogs and Mall Pretzels

These pretzels are absolutely amazing. I've spent a lot of time trying recipes that are similar to the pretzels you can find in the stands at the mall. These are it! They're very soft and chewy and just about anything can be done to the dough. It's perfect whether you want your pretzel sweet or savory.

We treated them with just the standard butter/salt topping, but we also made some pretzel dogs!

The recipe comes from AllRecipes, and it's no wonder it has so many wonderful ratings. The recipe is perfect!

  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons coarse kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour, and knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour.

Combine 2 cups warm water and baking soda in an 8 inch square pan.

After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner. Twist into a pretzel shape, and dip into the baking soda solution. Place on parchment covered cookie sheets, and let rise 15 to 20 minutes.

Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter, and sprinkle with coarse salt, garlic salt or cinnamon sugar.

Notes for Pretzel Dogs: One 3-foot rope worked for two pretzel dogs, and then the recipe was followed as normal. We didn't cook the hot dogs before then, and they required the same baking time as the regular pretzels.

Guten Appetit!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


A Flammkuchen is Germany's answer to a pizza. It's a traditional dish in southwest Germany. The traditional toppings are just the cheese dairy mixture (below), onions, and bacon. However, feel free to be creative on this dish. There are restaurants in Germany that focus solely on the Flammkuchen and its varieties. 

Differing from a traditional pizza, the Flammkuchen's crust is extremely thin and crisp when it is finished.
2 1/4 cups (or more) all purpose flour
1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/3 cup large-curd cottage cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
2 small white onions, very thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
12 ounces 1/4-inch-thick bacon slices 

Combine the flour, water, yeast, and sea salt into a bowl. Mix well and let it rise until doubled in size. (This normally takes 1-1.5 hours, but I put mine into an oven preheated at 200 degrees, which I turn off as soon as I put the dough inside.)

Combine the creme fraiche, cottage cheese, and sour cream in a bowl and mix well. When the dough is ready and spread out, apply a thick coating of the mixture. Top with the bacon and onions, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 550 degrees F.

Guten Appetit!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm always excited about the fall because it means that apple cider will be showing up at every grocery store, and it also means that pumpkin-related snacks will be showing up at stores. Pumpkin pies, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies... I love them all. But I love THESE cookies especially.

These cookies are absolutely AMAZING. They're soft and bordering cake-like, but still very much a cookie. I stumbled upon this recipe by chance while scanning the FoodNetwork site for fall-themed baked goods. 

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin puree *
3 cups all-purpose flour **
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups milk chocolate chips ***

Some changes I made:
* I used canned pumpkin pie mix, since it already contains a lot of spices that I like. So... the cookies turned out more like pumpkin PIE cookies, which I like.
** I usually always use bread flour in cookies to make them a little fluffier
*** I always use dark chocolate when possible, so I did.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. BEat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk togeter the floer, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping teablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies of with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Guten Appetit!