Saturday, January 16, 2010

Last Night's Feed

I've still been practicing the Napoletan style pizza doughs, and last night we had some more.  There were a mixture of straight all-purpose doughs, and doughs with a splash of stone ground rye flour. The early pizzas were made with a Marinara style sauce, with a crushed Tomato Sauce base.  The extra elements to the sauce are garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, Red Wine Vinegar and salt. No surprises there.  We like using Fire Roasted crushed tomatoes. I needed to make more sauce to have enough for the night and the weekend, so I whipped up another batch.  This time I included a small amount of toasted fennel seeds.  Once toasted, I busted them up a bit in my blade coffee grinder before mixing them into the sauce.  I'm a fennel-loving freak, so I wouldn't always do this, but I did love the subtle licorice-like flavor result blending with the prominent garlic-basil.  It would be especially great, I think, with a more substantial Pizza Americana dough with more substantial toppings.

Here are a few shots of the a few results:

Paula's Pesto sauce with sliced potato:

Margherita Pizza (Vegan) - used Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet Mozzarella "cheese".  Viva Italia!

I've had a really great time making Napoletana-style pizzas.  These pizzas will always have a special place in my heart, and will likely be a household staple.  I only wish I had a wood-fired oven.  That said, I think I'm going to move foreward with some new styles of dough.  Not sure what I'll play with next: Romano, Foccacia, Neo-Neopolitan, New York Style, Americana, Deep Dish, Grilled.  I have my favorites in this list, but we'll see where my interest and spontaneity take me next.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wild Rice and Onion Loaves

I was on a roll yesterday.  Getting the pizza dough started made me want to keep going and have some tasty bread on hand.  This bread includes onions (I had plenty on hand) and the real treat is the wild rice: hand-harvested MN wild rice. 

The bread turned out very nice.  Quite fluffy and the onion is very aromatic.  I love my onion bagels in the morning, so this will be a nice change with hummus, veggie spread, or nayonaisse.  The bread gets nice and cripsy in the toaster for a morning treat!  I know I'll be through this bread long before I'm ready for it to disappear.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010: Year of the Pizza

In the "Peter Zodimack" calendar, the fermentation animal of 2010 will be the pizza.  I was fortunate enough to receive Peter Reinhart's book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza, for Christmas from my girlfriend.  She knows me too well.  I tore through the journalistic "The Hunt" section recounting his search for the world's best pizza. Within the reading, I was particularly drawn to the idea of a pizzaiolo, the craft brewer of the pizza world, especially in the case of the most basic/treasured Napoletana-style pizza doughs with simple but rich and complementary toppings. A dedicated overseer and creator of these pizzas from conception to consumption serves the final products well, ensuring a consistent, high quality, and hand-crafted pizza. These kinds of basic pizzas (in a kind of Reinheitsgobot purity law of pizza, Napoletana pizza dough consists of only water, flour, yeast, salt - no enrichments) seem to be most tied to much earlier humans cooking their flatbreads from grown and harvested grains (wheat flour derived over 1,000s of years from basic prairie grasses) over a great technology of the time - fire.  The book includes lots of great dough recipes covering a wide variety of styles, with suggested variations.  I'm also very excited by the various, unique sauces and toppings. 

Starting right off in January, I'll be immersing myself in making pizzas, taking time with several styles of dough.  I want to get good and familiar with each dough, and will see the changes that various variables like flours, yeast doses, time and temperature make on the doughs.  I hope to come out the other side with some winners.  I'll also be getting creative with sauces and toppings, as my pizzas will not contain dairy or meat.  I believe this will make the journey all the more interesting, as many people simply default to cheese on pizza.  I aim to explore an alternative. Great pizza with creative, unique, complementary, balanced toppings.  I am sure it will take, thought, and much practice and experimentation.

The journey starts today.

Here's my basic Napoletana Dough before heading to the fridge for overnight, slow fermentation.

Here's dough #2 for the day, again the Napoletana dough with 1 TBSP stone-ground rye flour addition per cup total flour used:

Now, to pick out a topping to try....

A Pizza alla Marinara con Mozzarella (homemade)


Pizza alla Marinara with sliced Garlic and vegan Parmesan
(before the oven)

After the oven:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

A goal I'm setting in my life is to have more everyday homemade breads available for enjoying around the house and for lunches at work. I get a lot of enjoyment out of making all sorts of things from scratch, as I get to see and be in charge of the ingredients and process that go into the end product (no hidden secrets going into my body like preservatives and unnecessary additives). There's a special sense of pride and self-worth that comes out of a fresh baked loaf that looks good and tastes good. Sure, it's more work to keep the bread box filled, but as I enjoy making bread, I can chalk up the invested time to entertainment. Not only that, I list filling the house with the aroma of fresh baked bread as well as the extra heat in winter as added benefits. All that's left for costs are the costs of the ingredients, which absolutely beats the cost of buying bread that's not even fresh at the grocery store.

The only trick in my past bread making attempts is that it doesn't last long! Fortunately it's never due to mold - simply that it gets eaten so fast. I rarely make it beyond midweek (my normal bread making day is Sunday).

Today, I'm kicking this adventure off with some Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. It will be great for morning toast as well as work lunches this week. It's nothing too fancy or rustic, but flexible and functional. Normally, I'd go with one of Peter Reinhart's recipes, since he is a master of bringing the most flavor out of the ingredients. Those recipes usually require 2 days, and since I didn't prepare anything earlier this weekend, I'm looking for a 1 day recipe. I opted to base a bread on the recipe from the back of my King Arthur's Whole Wheat Bread Flour bag. I have a slightly larger bread loaf pan than is on the recipe, so I increased the ingredients listed by 25% to match the volume capacity of my pan.

Classic 100% (well close) Whole Wheat Bread from King Arthur flour bag recipe:

2 1/3 tsp Instant Yeast
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey, molasses, or maple syrup
3 1/2 cup KA Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup dried milk
1 1/4 tsp salt

Out of the recipe on the bag, I only had 1 cup left of the King Aurthur's Whole Wheat Flour. I used 1/2 cup of K.A. Unbleached Bread Flour (to use up what I had), and the rest of the roughly 4 1/8 cups total flour was Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour from the bulk section of a coop. Other modifications I made were using Pomegranate Molasses, but only 1/8 rather than 1/4 cup - it's all I had, and too much of the stuff comes on a little strong in the flavor department for sandwich bread anyway. I also used 1/4 cup of plain Silk soy milk within the volume of water used and in place of the 1/4 dried milk. It would be interesting to use a greater percentage of soy milk in place of water in a future batch.

After Kneading:

After ferment and shaping:
Fresh out of the oven:

Tasting Notes:

The Instructions called for about 40 minutes at 350°F, tenting the loaf with aluminum foil 20 minutes into it. I  opted to bake with a fairly standard homemade rustic baking method of a pan of hot water under the loaf.  I also created a steam effect for the first minute and 30 seconds by spraying the walls of the hot oven with a spray bottle of water.  I wound up extending the bake, because my first temperature test didn't register up to 190°F, and the outside didn't look properly caramelized. To get things rolling, I increased the temp to 400°F. 

Quite moist interior, but not ungelatinized.  Pieces pull from each other without any serious doughiness. I was lightly concerned that it was underdone, but I tested and confirmed the center at 190+°F with a thermometer before I finished baking.  The crust was almost flakey, not the soft kind of crust like a "store bought" loaf would be.  Tasted fine, with a burst of caramelized and toasted wheat (think "communion wafer") flavor, but I would back off on the temperature increase next time.  I'm sure that a soaker would have increased the bread flavor, but the aroma and flavor of the bread did provide plenty of nutty breadiness.  It will make a fine loaf for the week, I only wish there were two. Although the pomegranate molasses addition was only 1/8 cup, it still made an appearance with a very subtle fruity cherry aroma and flavor.