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Archive for January, 2011

The mailman was just here


There’s nothing like a few new cookbooks to brighten an otherwise cloudy, ho-hum, Pacific Northwest Monday.

These are three hefty tomes. And this isn’t exactly helping with that little cookbook problem I have…

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Food Gawker is one of my new favorite food blogs. Sure, its array of amazing food photos is giving me a complex about my own culinary snapshots, but the site also inspires me to improve my photography skills. That’s an even trade, in my book.

More importantly, Food Gawker is prompting me to try new things. I’ve written about food and cooking for years, but my husband is the real cook in our family. I’m much more likely to read a cookbook like a travel guide, flipping through the pages, taking it all in slowly, dreaming of the possibilities (but knowing I will likely never actually set foot in Iceland).

The site is as simple as can be. The design is sparse, the content made up of food bloggers’ posts and photos from around the world. See a picture that piques your interest? Click on it and find the entire recipe (and maybe a new blog to add to your RSS feed).

I’ve lost so much time to Food Gawker in the past couple of weeks that I’m trying hard to ignore the fact that there’s also a Dwelling Gawker and Craft Gawker.

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Homemade pizza made simple

Simple, delicious, homemade cheese pizza is a staple at our house. I hit on the easiest, no-fail way to make and roll out (and transfer — always the trickiest part!) the dough several years ago, and I never looked back.

The first time I attempted homemade pizza…well, let’s just say it didn’t quite work out. And it was years before I tried again. After all, good pizza is just a phone call away, right? Unfortunately, unless you like chain pizza, it’s also at least $20 for great ‘za. Sure, middling pizza can be had for a better price, but making it yourself is both yummy and ultra-affordable.

For me, the essential tools for quick and easy homemade pizza include:

  • a breadmaker
  • a pizza stone
  • a pizza peel
  • and, most importantly, parchment paper

I could certainly make the dough by hand if I didn’t have a breadmaker, but I truly don’t think my sometimes clutzy tendencies would succeed in making palatable pizza without those final three tools.

Homemade cheese pizza

Dough ingredients:

3 cups flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water

Toppings:

Tomato sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil

Add all dough ingredients to breadmaker, select the “dough” setting, and then hit “start.” Done. (See? So simple!) Now, go do something fun for awhile.

Once the dough is done (my machine takes just under 90 minutes), preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone sitting directly on the oven’s bottom. My pizza stone lives in our oven, actually; I never bother to remove it no matter what I’m baking.

Tip the dough out of the breadmaker ban and, using a bench scraper, cut the it in half. Form each piece into a rough sphere, and place each on one of two 12-inch square pieces of parchment paper on your counter.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil atop each dough round, and using your fingers (poke the dough all over to get it going) and the flat of your palm, flatten the dough out into a 10- to 12-inch circle. Get it quite thin; you’ll quickly find the thickness you like best.

Next, sprinkle the dough with a bit more salt and pepper, then swirl your favorite canned tomato sauce evenly over the top. Cover with grated mozzarella and a bit of grated parmesan.

Also? Please, please don’t use the pre-grated stuff; it’s much more expensive and also uses an anticaking agent, usually cellulose, to reduce stickiness and mold growth. Sound yummy? No. Take the one extra minute to grate a block of cheese and enjoy a much fresher taste.

I like to trim off the parchment paper corners to avoid having them brown and flake off in the oven.

Using a pizza peel (which you can find cheaply at any home or kitchen supply store), slide the first pizza directly onto the pizza stone in your oven. This is where the parchment paper is key; no sticky pizza dough on to the counter, the peel or the pizza stone.

Set a timer for 8 minutes; the pizza is ready once the cheese starts bubble and turn slightly brown.

Let the first pizza cool while you slide the second one in the oven, and then cut fresh basil into ribbons to sprinkle over both finished pies.

Serve to oohs and ahs, but never let on just how easy it all was.

I also make a variation sans sauce with wild mushrooms, or sometimes add prosciutto under the cheese for a salty kicky.

And if you don’t want two pizzas, simply wrap half the dough in plastic and freeze. Pull it out of the freezer an hour or two before use, and it’s ready to go.

If you’ve ever felt too intimidated to make your own pizza from scratch — or failed at the endeavor altogether — grab the necessary tools and give it a(nother) try. You’ll find yourself reaching for pizza coupons and the telephone a lot less often.

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