A mission statement

Hello, and welcome to My Kitchen and I. Every year I choose a cuisine to explore. This year, it's the year of the Snake! And I'll be continuing to cook mostly Asian foods, particularly Chinese dishes. Have I finally found the best cuisine in the world? Come explore and cook with me and let's find out. Please feel free to share your stories and comment on anything you see here, and thanks so much for visiting. Hope you enjoy the Year of the Snake in food!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Persistence Pizza

The pizza I made at the Kitchen Conservatory.
It was indeed as delicious as it looks!

In my family, dad's stubbornness is legend.

Grandma often told us the story of how the willful toddler hadn't gotten his way and held his breath until he passed out!

Yes, my dad is that stubborn.

And I have inherited this persistence.

Which I refuse to call stubborn, actually. That word has a negative connotation, and I believe this is a powerful gift. No, we don't give up when others would. Is that truly bad? Society needs a few people like that don't they?

I have actually been trying to bake bread since my 20s. Back then, I baked a lot of bricks instead. So many that the ex purchased a bread machine for me, presented with the words, "You'll never be able to bake a decent loaf of bread on your own. So I got you this for Christmas. Just use it instead."

But of course I don't give up that easily ...

Over the years, I've tried out many recipes and theories. Things improved, but never quite arrived. But by my mid-30s, I could make a convincing coffee can bread and reasonable pizza crust. Nothing exceptional though.

My lovely daughter, Shelby.
Recently, my daughter's taken an interest in cooking. And since she's going to have her own kitchen now, a cooking class seemed in order, to start things off right. Pizza being a favorite, that led us to a cooking class with Chef Sam, the evil genius behind Mad Tomato's tasty pizza.

The first thing I noticed about Chef Sam's dough was that it was pillow soft.

Mine's usually mattress firm.

His dough bounced back but not really all that much.

Mine's usually like a rubber band.

His dough was actually a little bit sticky.

Mine's always decidedly non-stick.

Back home I decided to start my latest effort with his recipe as a base. I would say it's my best effort yet. Close enough, I think, that no one these days would suggest I give up and buy a bread machine.

I can't really thank Chef Sam enough for his pointers. Nor can I thank my dad enough for the most important ingredient of all.

Persistance Pizza 
1 lb 4 oz high gluten bread flour
5 g dry instant yeast
4 g sugar
8 g sea salt
1 T olive oil
3 c water
minced garlic

Mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of warmed water between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a half tablespoon or so of the flour and a little pinch of the sugar. Let the yeast proof five to 10 minutes to verify it is alive and active.

Put two cups or so of the remaining flour into a bowl and stir in the rest of the water. Add in as much flour as you can easily stir around. Let that sit while the yeast is proofing. I based this on a two-step method developed by Raymond Calvel. According to him, salt interferes with the absorption of water, and doing it this way will produce a more manageable dough with less exposure to oxygen and thus more flavor. I found his process mentioned in the bread section of Harold McGee's fine book, "On Food and Cooking, the Science and Lore of the Kitchen," which is an absolutely great book for any cook to have.

I add the rest of the sugar and salt to the rest of the flour. After about 15 to 30 minutes, I stir the oil, yeast water, minced garlic and the rest of the flour into the flour and water mixture.

This dough initially feels quite sticky but becomes less so as you knead it. The dough initially looks a bit ragged, but gradually begins to smooth and come together. It should still be quite soft, like a pillow, and smooth when you are done kneading it, but still a little sticky. It will have a little spring to it, but not too much. You don't want your dough to snap back like a rubber band.

Now put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight in the cold. A slow rise gives the best flavor. Take the dough out the next day and divide it into four pieces. Let the one you're using rest about 10 minutes, then shape it into a pan such as an iron skillet and let it rise for 30 minutes. Press the Focaccia ingredients into the bread and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done.

The other three can be refrigerated and used over the next three days, or you can freeze them. They will become a little more stretchy rubber bandery if you freeze the. You can parbake them for pizza shells if you prefer and the quality is almost as good.

Cooking notes: Chef Sam uses 5 oz of olive oil in his recipe, but I didn't want that much fat in my pizza crust. The texture of my bread did not seem to suffer for the reduction in oil. He also uses cold water, but I like to proof my yeast to be sure it's active so I used some warm water.

Chef Sam also demonstrates a great technique for stretching and pulling out a pizza dough. It's a little hard to describe in text, but I highly recommend his class at the Kitchen Conservatory in St. Louis, www.kitchenconservatory.com.

A truly ideal bread for focaccia, and outstanding
pizza crust as well. This had sauteed mushrooms, onions,
basil, almonds, feta and cheddar cheeses and some
soy sauce steak strips. It was a great dinner!

For more great dad-inspired recipes, check out these other great posts from the #letslunch bunch.

Aleana‘s Homemade Scottish Oatcakes at Eat My Blog
Charissa‘s Grilled Rib-Eye Steaks & Uncle Andy’s Chimichurri Sauce at Zest Bakery
Eleanor‘s Salmon Bok Choy Soup at Wok Star
Emma‘s Ham and Rice at Dreaming of Pots & Pans
Jill‘s Root Beer-Glazed Onion Dip at Eating My Words
Grace‘s Taste of Diversity at HapaMama
Karen‘s Klondike Bars at GeoFooding
Linda‘s Sesame-Ginger Chicken Wings at Spice Box Travels
Lisa‘s Hot Sugary Lip-Smacking Jam Donuts at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s Granddaddy’s Skillet Fried-Corn with Bacon at A Cook and Her Books
Patricia‘s Egg Candy at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Rashda‘s Beth Howard’s Apple Pie at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Rebecca‘s Harry Cohen’s Matzo Brei at Grongar Blog
Sonja‘s Spicy Smoked Paprika Lamb Shank Goulash at Foodnutzz

Cheryl’s Mee Pok Ta at Tiger in the Kitchen

1 comment:

  1. I love this focaccia..and I love that you got it from your Dad. There is nothing better than recipes handed down to use. I also love that you make it round and slice it like a pizza :) Thanks so much for your sweet comment! Love your blog!


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