My Pizza

DOUQBOOK (This is an expansion of pizza chapter in Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Lots of instruction and photos.) 

 

MY PIZZA

The easy no-knead way to make spectacular pizza at home

 

Jim Lahey

founder of the Sullivan Street Bakery and Co.

 

With Rick Flaste

 

the pizza dough foundation

pizza dough

whole-wheat pizza dough

RED SAUCE PIZZAS

basic tomato sauce

tomato pie

rosa pie

margherita pie

stracciatella pie

amalfi pie

spicy eggplant pie

fennel and sausage pie

giardiniera pie

radicchio pie

zucchini pie

veal meatball pie

amatriciana pie

boscaiola pie

pepperoni pie

WHITE SAUCE PIZZAS

béchamel sauce

starter white pie

flambé pie

ham and peas pie

leek and sausage pie

charcuterie pie

honshimeji and guanciale pie

cauliflower pie

three-mushroom pie

corn and tomato pie

onion pie

coppa and fennel pie

potato and leek pie

brussels sprouts and chestnut pie

broccoli rabe pie

NO SAUCE PIZZAS

bird’s nest pie

ham and cheese pie

popeye pie

shiitake with walnut puree pie

pumpkin seed pie

poached artichoke with walnut puree pie

pizza bianca

TOPPINGS

caramelized onions

lardons

merguez

pork sausage

veal meatballs

red pepper sauce

TOASTS, SOUPS, AND SALADS

homemade ricotta cheese

chicken liver toasts

cannellini bean toasts

japanese eggplant toasts

ripe tomato toasts

broccoli rabe and ricotta toasts

garlic scape and lovage

pesto toasts

gazpacho

pea soup

asparagus and avocado salad

escarole salad

radicchio salad

sucrine lettuce salad

baby octopus salad

melon salad

shiitake, celery, and parmesan salad

kale and brown rice vinegar salad

roasted squash and pumpkin seed salad

salt-crusted beet salad with lemon dressing

mozzarella and tomato salad

poached artichoke salad

pea shoot salad

anchovy dip for crudités

DESSERTS

vanilla gelato

summer berry sundae

milk chocolate sundae

my chocolate chip cookies

olive-olive oil cake

banoffee pie

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My Bread

DOUQBOOK (This is original Jim Lahey No-Knead bread book that started all this revolution. Lots of instruction and photos.) 


 

My Bread

THE REVOLUTIONARY NO-WORK, NO-KNEAD METHOD

 

Jim Lahey

Founder of the
Sullivan Street Bakery

 

With Rick Flaste

 

The Lahey Method for No-Knead Bread in a Pot

THE BASIC NO-KNEAD BREAD RECIPE

Specialties of the House

Pane Integrale • Whole Wheat Bread

Rye Bread

Pan co’ Santi • Walnut Bread

Pan all’Olive • Olive Bread

Pan con Formaggio • Cheese Bread

Pancetta Bread, variation: Rolls

Stecca Stick or Small Baguette

Stirato Italian Baguette

Ciabatta Slipper Loaf

Coconut-Chocolate Bread

Banana Leaf Rolls

Jones Beach Bread; variation: with Nori

BEYOND WATER (BEER, JUICES, AND MORE)

Jim’s Irish Brown Bread; variation: Irish Brown Bread with Currants

Carrot Bread

Apple Bread

Peanut Bread

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bread

Almond-Apricot Bread

Fresh Corn Bread

Fennel-Raisin Bread

Pizzas and Focaccias

Basic Pizza Dough

Pizza Pomodoro • Tomato Pizza; variationPizza Amatriciana (with Pancetta and Onions)

Pizza Funghi • Mushroom Pizza

Pizza Cavolfiore • Cauliflower Pizza

Pizza Patate • Potato Pizza; variationPizza Batata (Sweet Potato)

Pizza Zucchine • Zucchini Pizza

Pizza Radici di Sedano • Celery Root Pizza

Pizza Cipolla • Onion Pizza

Pizza Bianca; variation: Schicciate D’Uva (Sweet Raisin and Grape)

Pizza Finocchio • Fennel Pizza

Focaccia

Focaccia Dolce • Sweet Focaccia

The Art of the Sandwich

Rosemary Roast Beef

Citrus Roast Pork

Jim’s Aioli

Homemade Pickles

Homemade Spicy Mustard

Artichoke Confit

Marinated Eggplant

Marinated Beets

Marinated Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Roasted Red Peppers

Spicy Eggplant Spread

Lemon Dressing

Green Onion Bagna Cauda

Green Onion, Anchovy, and Garlic Sauce; variationRamp Bagna Cauda

Frittate Patate • Omelette Sandwich

Stale Bread

Panzanella Bread Salad

Pappa al Pomodoro • Tomato Bread Soup

Gazpacho

Ribollita Thick Tuscan Bean and Kale Soup

Tomato Bruschetta; variation: Neapolitan Tomato Bruschetta

Roasted Red Pepper Bruschetta

Budino• Bread Pudding Tart

Tortino di Cioccolato • Chocolate Torte

Homemade Bread Crumbs

Bread: Can I beat Jim Lahey?

I previously posted this question as to whether the America’s Test Kitchen variant of Jim Lahey’s famous No-Knead loaf is superior. That triggered my notion to start experimenting with my own variations and today I’ll report a somewhat strange result.

Jim Lahey’s method and book, My Bread, is what got me really going with baking bread. I heard about his method and then talked about it incessantly and one day his book showed up on a gift-giving occasion (to shut me up). So I meticulously followed his approach and was astonished. I’d made bread almost as good as the best I’d ever bought (while back in food paradise of Northern California, here even bakery bread is mush). I was so happy with the result I never questioned it. But America’s Test Kitchen did question it claiming the bread was too bland and so they did a few things to “improve” it.

Since then I’ve done my own experiments. The basic thing America’s Test Kitchen wanted to do was to get some sourdough “tang” into the bread. They use lager (has to be lager, not ale, as somehow bottom fermenting is critical) and they add a little vinegar. Their other innovation, of making on parchment paper in the dutch oven I immediately thought was better and so is now part of my routine.

But the lager and vinegar approach of ATK didn’t really do much to get sourdough flavors. Well, hey, I have my own culture constantly going (originally, but probably not any more, containing the subspecies of bacteria in San Francisco sourdough), so why not use that. Using it as the only yeast source didn’t work out too well, so now I use the cultured yeast as well (still the tiny amount (and long ferment) critical to Lahey method). I worried that the cultured yeast would out-compete the natural yeast in my culture (they probably do, short of having a biolab I can’t find out), but it’s actually the bacteria, not the yeast, that provide the flavor (although there is some notion that which bacteria are active in the dough is improved by low temperature ferments whereas Lahey method is room temp). Anyway, so what, it’s worth a try.

Despite in stupid advocacy by nutrition scolds of “whole” (good) vs “white” (evil) ingredients (look at a wheat berry some day and tell me exactly what portion of “whole” flour is exactly the same as “white” flour – clue, almost all, so “whole” just doesn’t throw away the filler, which real scientific studies have proven to be of no health benefit). Anyway, I care about taste and white flour is bland, even with a nice crust from the high baking temperature. So adding more grain elements is the way to boost flavor (and if it actually happens to be more nutritious, given the lack of evidence, that’s a bonus.)

So I keep trying to put more flavor in my bread. I guess it’s sorta like beer. You probably first drink mass-produced water masquerading as beer and at first it tastes OK. Then someday you get some good (still mass produced) lager and that tastes even better. Then you get some craft beer, and, wow, through the roof – good (and to think early in my life I fell into the Coors cult, undrinkable swill to me, today). Then you have some beer with some color and a new flavor door opens and you’ll never go back to blah beer.

So I’m looking for the IPA of bread, not stout (full whole grain approach from Peter Reinhart, good, but not my ideal) or porter (Reinhart’s “broom bread” or pumpernickel, again, good, but not my ideal). So I use some of my whole grain ingredients I accumulated for Reinhart recipes and toss them into the Lahey recipe.

So today I tried about 40g (10%) oat bran and 40g of whole wheat. That’s about 20% increase in dry ingredients so I needed to kick up my liquid, so that’s where I used my sourdough culture (20% of the water). Now the culture is about 50% so actually my product was a bit under-hydrated (I could tell that a bit since I know the correct feel of the Lahey dough) but I doubt that was the main cause of the difference (will have to try that some day as a different experiment because under-hydrating could cause the difference (less steam produced inside the dutch oven)).

When the bread was done baking it had risen much less than the normal formula. After the hour of resting time cutting into it the crumb was noticeably denser and moister (neither good in my book). Also the crust was very smooth (usually the Lahey bread has a nice cracked top); perhaps I should have slashed the dough (might have allowed more rise, plus nicer look). The taste was good, definitely a little tangier than normal, plus there was a bit of heartiness and flavor that the whole grain ingredients can provide.

So, in short, probably a fail (in hindsight I can think of a couple of things to try to improve it). So I’m still searching for my improvement which I know I’ll find someday.

Now of the various ideas that might explain the failure, one is intriguing. Various sources suggest that one problem with whole grains is that at a micro scale the particles have sharp edges and thus “cut” the gluten strands. Now gluten formation is low in Lahey method anyway (no kneeding, even though I do one sequence of stretch-and-fold). So potentially, even though mixing would be a challenge, perhaps the Reinhart soaker (oh, maybe even mash) approach for the whole grain component would help.

So just writing this up I now have at least five different ideas to try. That’s what I love about bread baking, so simple, yet so subtle and hard to get really good results. I wish I had both the time and budget so to try five different variations at the exactly same time and then just keep incrementally refining into I finally did get a better result. Of course countless generations of bakers have done just that (although many just mindlessly repeat what they were taught and don’t experiment). But even if I can’t treat baking as multiple lab experiments it’s still fun to try.

And, I’ve generally found, that even my “fails” are better than what I can buy in stores, so the “fails” do get eaten (as a big problem for my other obsession in life, weight loss).

Whole-wheat focaccia from Carol Field

I made the FOCACCIA INTEGRALE recipe from Carol Field’s cookbook (whose index I just posted) and it was good, but a little too plain (as the various “basic” recipes tend to be). It needs to be kicked up a bit with either some herbal addition in the bread and/or some additional toppings for interest. The usual topping of rosemary for white flour focaccia probably isn’t ideal, this version needs a bit more bounce than that. Some red pepper would work but I might actually get daring and try some pickled onion or even more kicked up some jalapeno. A bit more whole wheat than recipe calls for, plus some coarsely-ground cornmeal, might be interesting too.

So many possibilities, too little time.

Do people really buy focaccia mixes?

I was trying search against my recent post of a new cookbook index and one of the results was a page at Amazon of various focaccia mixes. What? Focaccia is bread making on training wheels. The ingredients are simple and the mixing is simple. Why buy a mix when it’s so easy to make everything from scratch? When you use a recipe and your own ingredients you both know what you’re getting and once you taste the product you can make sensible decisions about how to alter the recipe for perhaps even better results.

Bread baking is not about getting the final product, it’s about the journey.

Make it yourself and you’ll enjoy the process and the result – you’ll be glad you did.

Focaccia

DOUQBOOK (This is a small attractive cookbook with good recipes and much instructional material. Most of these are fairly easy to get right so this is a good place to start for home-made bread that will be remarkably tasty yet fairly quick and easy.)

 

CAROL FIELD

Focaccia

Simple breads from the italian oven

 

Four Basic Focaccia Doughs and One Starter

Basic Focaccia

Focaccia

Whole-Wheat Focaccia

Focaccia Integrale

Focaccia from Genoa

Focaccia al’olio

Schiacciata with Starter

Schiacciata con biga

Savory Focaccia

Basil-topped Focaccia

Focaccia al basilico

Focaccia with Rosemary Oil and Salt

Focaccia al rosmarino

Focaccia with Olive Paste

Focaccia al purè di olive nere

Provençale Focaccia

Pissaladière

Focaccia Andrea Dori

Focaccia Andrea Doria

Whole-Wheat Focaccia with Olive Paste

Focaccia integrale al purè di olive

Focaccia with a Mosaic of Olives

Focaccia alle olive

Focaccia with Fresh Sage

Focaccia alla salvia

Whole-Wheat Schiacciata

Schiacciata integrale

Focaccia with Garlic and Tomatoes

Focaccia al’aglio e pomodori

Focaccia with Garlic and Herbs

Focaccia al’aglio, rosmarino, e salvia

Focaccia from Pistoia

Cofaccia

Focaccia from Puglia

Focaccia pugliese

Schiacciata Covered with Caramelized Onions

Schiacciata alle cipolle

Focaccia with Slices of Tomatoes and Shredded Basil

Focaccia ai pomodori e basilico

Cornmeal Schiacciata with Walnuts

Schiacciata rustica con noci

Schiacciata with Ribbons of Sweet Peppers

Schiacciata ai peperoni

Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes

Focaccia ai pomodori secchi

Schiacciata Studded with Pancetta

Schiacciata con Pencetta

Gorgonzola, Red Onion, and Walnut Focaccia

Focaccia al Gorgonzola

Focaccia with Olive Oil and White Wine

Focaccia impastata al’olio

Schiacciata with Slivers of Potatoes and Rosemary

Schiacciata alle patate e rosmarino

Sweet Pepper Focaccia from Majorca

Coca de Prebes Torrats

Focaccia with White Whole-Wheat Flour

Focaccia di farina di grano bianco

Focaccia Covered with Leeks

Focaccia ai porri

Spelt Flour Focaccia

Focaccia di spelta

Spelt and Durum Flour Focaccia of Maddellena Carella Sada

Focaccia di farro o spelta e grano duro

Filled and Double-Layered Focaccia

Filled Focaccia

Focaccia ripiena

Sicilian Focaccia

Focaccia siciliana

Basil-filled Spiral Focaccia

Focaccia Sfoglierata

Cheese Focaccia from Varese Ligure

Focaccia al formaggio

Focaccia with Mussels

Focaccia alle cozze

Fillings for Focaccia and Focaccine

Mushroom Filling

Condimento ai funghi

Onion Filling

Condimento di cipolle

Creamy Cheese Filling

Crema di formaggio

Artichoke Filling

Condimento di carciofi

Clam Filling

Condimento di vongole

Sweet Pepper Filling

Condimento ai peperoni

Sweet Focaccia

Sweet Focaccia Dough

Focaccia dolce

Sweet Focaccia with Oranges, Raisins, and Nuts

Focaccia dolce alla frutta

Sweet Focaccia with Fruit

Focaccia dolce alla frutta fresca

Cornmeal Focaccia with Figs

Focaccia ai fichi

Orange-scented Focaccia from Florence

Schiacciata alla fiorentina

Elderflower Schiacciata

Stiacciata al sambuco

Schiacciata Bursting with Grapes

Schiacciata all’uva

Raisin-studded Cornmeal Focaccia

Marokka dolce

Experiment: A Simply, Yet Challenging Item

How many centuries have cocinera made tortillas? What could be simpler? Why bother assuming you live in a location with sufficient demand that fresh tortillas are available every day? Experiments with risen bread is one thing, but flatbread made of corn – simple, right?

I’ve never made tortillas despite having gotten a press long ago. It’s too easy just to buy them, relatively fresh. But with my interest in bread plus reading Planet Taco I had to give them a try. Now unlike Alton Brown I wasn’t going to start with raw corn and make nixtamal, but somehow doing something more than just using masa harina seemed appropriate.

So I found a recipe that claimed to be the best homemade tortillas – simple, use a mixture of hominy and masa harina. But hominy, at least that which you buy canned in stores is not the same. For one thing it’s probably white corn. For another the germ is probably missing, off being grits you know.

So I searched a bit and discovered yellow hominy is available locally so I got a few cans, rather than buy some dried yellow hominy over the net, my other choice.

So the recipe is simple: equal parts (by volume) of hominy and masa harina, about 1/4 tsp of salt (for each 3 cups of dough) and 1 cup hot water. The recipe wanted 1 1/2 cups and  implied > 1 can of hominy would be required, but after draining the hominy I had 3 cups (IOW, one can would have been sufficient). So I figured, just double the recipe. Instead of using water I mostly used the liquid drained off the hominy (possibly a mistake, perhaps pure water would have reduced the stickiness I got later).

After quite a bit of time in food processor (perhaps too much) the hominy was about as close to puree as I was going to get. So in went the masa harina (specifically for tortillas, not tamal) and the salt already dissolved in the water. This slightly overloaded my food processor and I got soup, a dough about the consistency of a poolish. Having seen various people make tortillas obviously my dough was too wet. So I probably increased masa harina by about 1/3, IOW, so now more like a 4:3 ratio. Then I had sticky glue.

I figured I still needed to firm this up a bit plus cool it down. So I added probably about 1/8th as much rough cornmeal (I wanted the added texture) as masa harina and hand stirred the whole gooey mess (definitely past the food processor’s capacity) and into the fridge for an hour. After chilling some the dough was just barely workable, definitely sticky, but with a little masa harina on my board and hands, now the dough made 40 balls of roughly the recipe’s required “golf ball” sizes.

Now onto cooking and the pressing. A great suggestion I found at another site was to use a freezer bag, cut in half. The heavier plastic of the bag was excellent, although I needed to trim it more to avoid it folding back into the press. But pure bag didn’t cut it for releasing the completed tortilla (in fact I had to scrape it off the bag). So next I tried pan spray, worked just fine, but I really didn’t want the oil so my wife suggested just dusting with flour. Didn’t work, in fact, it even glued the tortilla even more to the bag. So spray it was which probably slightly changed the cooking.

Now the next challenge – recipe called for medium high heat on my comal (just a cast iron griddle on gas cooktop) which was too much. So like crepes, a couple of botched ones and finally I’ve got the heat about right. And so my last issue, that the press produced seriously uneven thickness was partially solved by pressing a bit, rotating 180 degrees, and doing the full pressing.

The next challenge was getting the tortilla freed from the second layer of plastic and onto the griddle without being distorted. The grab-it-in-one-hand-and-whap-it-down (the technique my wife learned in Mexico in a cooking class) just didn’t worked for me so after various tries I finally could get most tortillas down smoothly on the griddle.

Sure enough they set up fast and you should flip them several times. Due to the uneven thickness I used my spatula to try to press down the thick side.

Now all this probably sounds silly, but remember this is my very first time doing this. Millions (maybe even billions) of tortillas are made ever day, not exactly hard by those with any practice. But these days most are done by machine and purely with prepared flour. Even the hand-made ones mostly use the bagged mix. I suppose somewhere there is someone still spending hours grinding the nixtamal by hand, but the mixture of hominy and prepared masa harina seems like a good compromise.

So after all this, how were they? Well, even though I’ve eaten in restaurants, esp. in California, where they make tortillas fresh in front of you, the taste was the best I’ve ever had. Loaded with corn (but not quite corn) flavor. The freshness was really in the taste too, plus the lack of all the machine-made extras. I actually doubt I’ve had a better tasting tortilla.

But the shape, texture, and especially thickness left something to be desired. My pressing and transferring to griddle was too erratic and so I didn’t get the nice uniform shape I should have, or, for that matter enough size for making anything but tacos or eating tortillas on the side (worked good enough, but these wouldn’t have done well for enchiladas). And they were definitely too thick, but simultaneously the edges (the thinnest part) a bit too crispy. The thickest part was bordering on other types of flatbreads in texture – while not as thick as pitas or naan, definitely that same texture.

So, simple conclusion – even with very simple ingredients this is a lot tougher than it looks. But I figure the pros have been doing it for years (sorta like competing with your southern grandmother making biscuits) so to have a reasonable product on the first try isn’t too bad. And the hominy approach seems to me to definitely be worth it over just using the masa harina mix, even with better technique.