Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I got a rock...

Ok, so that was Charlie Brown's Halloween. Well, this Christmas has been a budget Christmas, so HP got me a rock.
"What would motivate such a gift," asked The Girl when told of this.
"Well," I said, "I hate to break this to you, but your father had a very selfish motivation. He wanted more baked goods."
And so I got a rock.

At least it is a pretty one!
Granite counter tops were not part of our great kitchen makeover, but I could at least pretend in one little section. I have wanted a granite section ever since I started making my pizzas & kringla, it is wonderful to have a good surface for rolling out doughs! Our idea in finding the right rock proved to be the best. We called up a guy who does granite counter tops & made a deal on a scrap. (Our "scrap" was almost 2' x 3' that is a decent sized scrap!) In order to break in the new rock, I happily made two loaves of bread and a big batch of pizza dough. For my bread choice, I decided on an easy Oatmeal Bread, almost exactly as written on the back of the flour bag. A scant teaspoon of cinnamon gives this the added depth you love in a home made bread.

The pizza dough is something that I have been working on & tweaking since I discovered my love for grilled pizza. I always make a large batch so I can stock some in the freezer for those pizza cravings. And what does the recipe look like these days? Well, I'll tell ya.

The very best way to do this is to plan in advance (yes, every once-in-a-while I do that) if you can do this the "cold way" the dough is generally a little better & easier to work with, and the method is more relaxed. Also since the yeast is sleeping, it is more relaxed as well and really lets the flavors come through. I'll show ya what I mean.

Pizza Dough, the cold-way:
2 cups water, cold. Really cold, put it in the freezer for a little while.
to that add
1 Tablespoon honey

In a separate bowl, gently mix:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast. (skip the envelopes, buy a jar. It is more cost effective even if you only occasionally bake with yeast. I promise.)
3 Tablespoons Corn Meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour (plus more as needed) Can be All-Purpose, or if you prefer Bread Flour. Bread Flour will give you a slightly lighter, airier dough. If you have room in the freezer, you can chill your flour for a little while before mixing, it helps prevent shock to the yeast as you mix it all together.

Slowly mix in the water and stir until you get a wet dough. I don't have a kitchenaid, so I do this by hand. It isn't difficult, I swear. If it is more wet than dough, add a little more flour (no more than 1/2 cup), but really it is ok for it to be wet ( The more flour, the thicker the crust, so if you like it thick you can add about 1/4 cup early on). Now, put that in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of wine or clear up a good spot on the counter for kneading. Make-out with your husband. or wife. or significant other. Whatever, after about 10 minutes go back to your dough and take it out of the fridge. While the dough is still in the bowl, add
2 Tablespoons olive oil (plus more as needed) and
2 teaspoons sea salt
Mix that into the dough and then turn out on to a well-floured rock. (Or other workable surface) Oil your hands well (yes, oil them not flour them) and begin kneading. If you really think your dough is soggy & sticky after a little kneading, then add just a little more flour. Once you have kneaded this into a good dough, put the whole thing into a clean, oiled bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. It will rise, I promise you.
The next day,
turn dough out onto floured rock. Oil your hands again (really, it is great moisturizer, I promise) Divide dough in half, or thirds or whatever you feel like working with. squish it into a disc, then shape out from there. I have no patience for shaping dough, so mine are rarely circles unless I am willing to make an additional effort. If the dough is rebelling and trying to shrink back, give it a few minutes. Wash the bowl, chop some toppings, whatever. At this point, I will roll it out with a rolling pin if I feel like it. This is great for making a thinner crust. If you like your crust thicker, don't roll it out so much or just stretch to shape.
At this point, I will sometimes freeze the rolled out dough. I put it between layers of parchment paper and stick it in. If I am doing pizza on the grill, it is sometimes easier to deal with the colder dough. I will also only partially freeze, then roll the dough up around the parchment paper and put into a zip-loc bag to freeze for later use. (The above method is adapted from KitchenMage's pizza dough on A Year In Bread. The recipe is my own, after adapting several to suit my tastes)

Now if HP reads this, he'll laugh, because I rarely plan this far in advance for dinner, so I'll give you a quick run-down.

All the ingredients & amounts are the same, the changes are in the method:
  • The water should be warm. (Not hot, but about what you would feed a baby)
  • Add the yeast to the warm water
  • After mixing, don't rest, add the oil & salt
  • After kneading, put the dough in an oiled bowl in warm (about 70-75) place with slightly damp towel over it. Let rise for about 1 1/2 hours.
  • Roll out as above.
This method is not quite as relaxing, but gets the job done when you want your pizza for dinner that night!

As for cooking on the grill, this is the way to do it. (And yes, we had a warm day this week, so my pizza was cooked on the grill!)
Preheat grill to very hot, then turn down to low.
Scrape & oil grate as needed
Put the naked dough on the grill, cover and let sit for a couple minutes until bottom is lightly toasted.
Flip dough, put toppings on, cover and cook for about 10 minutes (or less depending on your grill)
If your dough is not frozen and is well formed, you can also create your pizza with your toppings and put it on the hot grill. (I still recommend chilling the dough so it doesn't stick) If you do that, be sure to spread cornmeal on your pizza peel (or cookie sheet if you don't have a peel) and put onto the grill with a quick jerking motion.

With all the the pizzas, don't go too heavy with the sauce. Just trust me on that. Besides, with crust this good, who needs to?

Our favorite toppings:
Goat Cheese & Parmesan Alfredo with shrimp and caramelized onions (we've also been known to add roasted red peppers to this)
Fresh Mozzarella with garden tomatoes and olive oil (no sauce). Add fresh basil just prior to serving (so it doesn't over cook) it may work better if blanched, but I'm not organized enough to think about that until its too late
Mixed "Mexican cheese" with leftover beer-can chicken, red onions & a swirl or two of Sweet Baby Ray's.

So what will you put on your pizza?

4 garnishes:

kitchenmage December 31, 2008 at 3:08 PM  

Those look great! I am always happy to be even a small part of anything that looks that tasty.

Sarah Louise December 31, 2008 at 4:00 PM  

ooh. Fun stuff. I'm still at the frozen from Trader Joe's stage of pizza, but maybe 2009 will be the year SL branches out.


KitchenKiki December 31, 2008 at 4:52 PM  

To KitchenMage-thanks for the inspiration, this is one of the things that got me back into baking. (At least a little bit)

To SL, well, now you know the way here, so come on over. I'll make pizza for ya anytime. You can even choose the toppings!

noble pig December 31, 2008 at 9:46 PM  

That sounds like a deal to me! I love your rock!

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