Sunday, June 6, 2010
The lost week
Meet the Sour Patch Kids. Hands down my favorite non-chocolate candy since I was a kid and could walk to the corner store for penny candy. You've never seen a kid weed and water flower gardens so fast and thorough for a dollar. Even recently, I've been known to ruin a whole day of eating by devouring several packs in one sitting. I can't keep them in the house, that's how much power they have over me. So what does my sister do a week ago, but bring me a 5 pound bag of them. Well, not exactly 5 pounds. More like a pound and a half, but that's still around 500 sour patch kids! I was simultaneously ecstatic and furious. Simultaneously hugged her and screamed, "I swear to god you want me fat!!!" These little guys are to blame for my recent lack of posting. It's because of them I've had to eat plates of meat and protein to counter near sugar and carb induced comas and shaking sketchiness. Last Sunday's dinner consisted of two and half chicken breasts. Tuesday I sat down to a one pound bowl of sauteed shrimp with nothing else. I don't have anything against meat, but this is a little much, even for me. Over the week, after more stomach aches than I care to confess, I've slowly phased out of the meat-fests and reintroduced myself to a more balanced diet.
First meal "back?" Pizza. My pizza crust has been something I've been pretty proud of for the past few years. I finally had a recipe (thanks to Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) that was easy and consistent and tasted good. I'd baked it and grilled it both with very good results, so I'm not sure what possessed me to try a different one, but I'm very glad I did. I still use the Kingsolver recipe whenever pizza is a last-minute idea because it only takes an hour from starting the dough to pulling the pizza out of the oven, but for those occasions when you have a little more time, and want a more sophisticated, complex crust, I would highly recommend a recipe from Jim Lahey's cookbook, My Bread: The Revolutionary, No-Work, No-Knead Method. My only complaints with this recipe are that it's somewhat fickle and takes about 3 hours from start to finish. Though it's always turned out delicious, it's always been a little touch-and-go as well. The consistency is never quite the same and stretching it to fit the pan is not always easy. But if you have the patience and time, it's completely worth it. It's a moderately chewy, buttery flavored crust, with a wonderfully crunchy exterior and a lovely humble, artisan look. It may be my favorite crust of all time, and I don't say that lightly.
Basic Pizza Dough a la Jim Lahey
(just a warning...though the work is minimal, it takes about 2 1/2 hours until you're even ready to put dough in the oven)
3 3/4 c. bread flour (I've used all-purpose and it's been fine)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. sugar
1 1/3 c. water at room temperature (I almost always end up using about a 1/4 to a 1/3 c. more water than is called for)
olive oil for the pans
1. Stir together flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add the water and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, 30 seconds. Dough will be wet and slightly sticky. Cover and let sit at room temperature until doubled, 2 hours. (This is the beauty of this recipe: no kneading, no nothing. Stir for 30 seconds and let it sit!)
2. Remove from bowl onto floured surface. Gently form into a round ball. Divide dough into two halves, spacing them 4" apart and cover with a moistened towel for 30 minutes.
3. When you're ready to make your dough, pick up the dough and invert and stretch the length of the pan. Floured side should be facing up. Gently pull to fit entire pan. No need to make a "crust" or a "lip." Objective is to have an even layer of dough. If the dough sticks to your fingers (which it will!) lightly dust with flour or coat your hands with olive oil. Pinch any holes together. Repeat with second piece. Bake 500 degrees for 25 minutes. (I lower mine to 450, and it rarely takes that long.)
My recent favorite topping? Drizzle the dough with olive oil. Top with spinach, pine nuts, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and another drizzle of olive oil. Delicious!!!!
If you only have an hour to put dinner on the table, try Barbara Kingsolver's recipe for pizza dough.