Off to Hong Kong for a week to work at the Hong Kong Art Fair.
I won’t have many free days to explore and take pictures, but hopefully I’ll get a few good snaps in. And of course, a few good eats.
Yes, these were homemade, just…not in my home!
Today on RecipeRelay, Megan (who I’ve gotten to e-friend through working with RecipeRelay), got down and floury with some homemade baguettes. I didn’t think anything could get more exciting than the homemade tofu experience recounted by Sarah last week, but I was wrong! This is a recipe I will SURELY be using here in Guangzhou, where fresh baked, artisan bread is a rarity.
Good ingredients always yield a good product. So I’m excited to share that to top off Megan’s post, the ladies at RecipeRelay and the folks at King Arthur Flour have organized a giveaway! Just head on over to the blog post before 10pm EST tomorrow (May 19th), and share your favorite bread recipe in the comments (winner will be announced next Tuesday). One lucky reader will receeive a 5lb. bag of King Arthur AP Flour, a 5lb. bag of Bread Flour, a 1lb. bag of instant yeast, and a handy dough whisk (it’s okay, I didn’t know what a dough whisk was before today, either). Anyway, everyone will be a winner, because you’ll automatically get Megan’s awesome recipe for her pea shoot and ricotta canape.
And finally, don’t forget to check out Megan’s blog, Delicious Dishings. She made some Bruins-inspired cupcakes the to kick off Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinals. I think I’ll need to ask her to whip up some for the Sharks. Anything to sweeten up their recent Game 2 loss
For some people, a simple dinner means boiling a pot of water and pouring it over Cup-O-Noodles. Voila!, dinner in five minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against that. In fact, I remember the occasional busy Sunday afternoon growing up, we’d do the same thing. Right before or after basketball practice/girl scouts meetings/Costco trips/piano recitals, my parents, rushing from one child’s needs to the next, would “make lunch” by pouring boiling water out of an old tea kettle into four Cups-O-Noodles, setting the chopsticks over the rim of the styrofoam to keep the lid closed. After five minutes worth of cleaning up, cleaning off, and cleaning out the car, lunch wasn’t something on the to-do list anymore.
But a “simple” dinner to me doesn’t mean something I can heat up in five minutes (although, that would be nice, and in case you didn’t know already I obviously don’t have kids yet). A simple dinner is something that I can prepare with minimal attention, I get with easy prep work, and can use up whatever I have lying in the fridge. Oh, it also helps if it pairs well with the last bottle of Shiraz in the cabinet.
Homemade pizza is on the top of this simple dinner list. To be more specific, this homemade pizza is on the top of my simple dinner list, because it really is so. easy. to. prepare…especially when I have leftover tomato sauce in my fridge from the night before. I first read about it on The Wednesday Chef blog earlier this year, and couldn’t believe when all I had to do was let a basic, lightly kneaded dough sit for about an hour, flatten it out, top it, and bake it for 10 minutes. Sometimes, I use the hour the dough needs to sit to paint my toenails or write a blog post. Other times, I use this hour to clean up around the house. The other day, I used this hour (plus some) to go play a round of badminton with B and then shower up.
What’s better, since we both love thin crust, the quantity of dough the recipe makes is best split into two, and the other half saved in the fridge to be rolled out for a second night’s dinner. So, this is a recipe where I don’t have to go to the store for any ingredients, I get to play in the kitchen, yank and knead and punch dough around like it’s play-dough, then play a round of badminton, “cook” dinner, and also have some left for another night’s dinner, all in one easy recipe? You can see why it’s one of my favorite ‘simple’ meals.
I mentioned that I don’t have to go to the store for this recipe. On a hot, tiring day, this is the best news ever. We’ve gotten into the habit of having mozzarella in the fridge, because we can get a good deal on decent mozzarella near our house (a huge block, imported, far from the real good stuff and anything local, but it’s cheese!). And on top of that, whatever I have around in the kitchen then gets scattered over the top. Often times it’ll be anchovies from the pantry or roasted garlic, and if there’s no tomato sauce leftover in the freezer then simply canned whole tomatoes (like Luisa does in her original adaptation of the recipe). I’ve added spring onions, mushrooms, caramelized onions- all leftover groceries that haven’t been used up in other dishes, all from the wet market. For my most recent pizza, I splurged on imported pepperoni at the store, and I happily doused the pizza with a layer of the meat, thinly sliced green onions, sliced shallots, and minced hot chinese red peppers.
I’ve gotta warn you- if you try the recipe, even if you take it word for word, you probably won’t get it quite right the first time. Nor even the second. Every time it will taste really really good, but it won’t be near perfect until your fourth or fifth time around, because the dough takes some getting used to working with. The thickness is hard to gauge until you’ve baked it, and there’s absolutely no way of knowing how each oven cooks the dough. I, personally, am happy to say I’m near perfect in the making of this pizza…which I guess tells you how many times I’ve made this since I saw the recipe in February, right?
the Perfect Pizza Dough
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 packet (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast (like Fleischman’s)
- 1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp. good olive oil
- 1 1/4 cups spring water
- Pour flour and salt into a large bowl. In a measuring cup, heat the water for about 20-30 seconds. Mix the yeast, sugar, and olive oil with the warm water, stirring until yeast and sugar is dissolved and let this sit for a few minutes. Create a well in the bowl of flour and slowly pour in the liquid, using a fork to stir the flour in. Keep pouring/stirring until everything is incorporated. At this point, the dough will be loose and shaggy. There will be a little excess flour at the bottom of the bowl, but that’s fine.
- Dump the mixture onto a clean surface and start to knead, drawing in the loose flour. Knead for a few minutes, or until fully incorporated and dough is smooth and springy.
- Lightly coat a clean, dry bowl (I just wash and dry the original flour bowl) with olive oil, and place the ball of dough into the bowl, turning over once or twice to coat with olive oil. Cover this with a damp tea towel and set aside. Now, you can grate your cheese and prepare whatever other toppings you plan to top the pizza with, or go check your Facebook for a bit.
- After one hour, the dough should be roughly doubled in size, and lightly dotted with bubbles. Turn the dough over on a lightly-floured surface (there will be enough oil to keep in from really sticking), and punch the dough down- literally, give in a few good whacks with your fist. Split into two even parts, wrap one with saran wrap and store in the fridge or freezer for another use. Or prepare to make two pizzas.
- At this point, preheat the oven to the highest temperature- my oven goes to 550F.
- Knead the dough in front of you once or twice over itself, and roll into a ball. Start to flatten out the dough- I like to use my fingertips first and then use a roller to get it nice and thin, but even pulling and pinching can do the trick if you like a thicker crust. I try to get the dough as thin as possible without tearing, because both B and I like a thin crust.
- Spread a generous bit of olive oil onto a large baking sheet, and transfer the rolled-out pizza dough on the sheet. Now you’re ready to assemble the pizza, using whatever combinations of tomatoes/cheese/miscellaneous toppings you desire.
- Place the pan on the top rack of the oven- I’ve found that this will prevent the bottom from burning too quickly in my regular baking pan (if you have a pizza stone, you’re awesome and don’t have to heed this cooking advice). After about 15-20 minutes, turn the oven to broil, and let the toppings sizzle, watching carefully. Take the pizza out of the oven after another minute or two, and let it rest for five minutes for the flavors and cheese to set.
- ENJOY it with a good glass of wine or beer.