Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Cherries are back! Which, always makes me think of the song, "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," written by DeSylva & Brown in 1931. The lyrics go like this:

"Life is just a bowl of cherries.
Don't be so serious;
Life's too mysterious.
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go.
So keep repeating it's the berries,
The strongest oak must fall,
The sweet things in life,
To you were just loaned,
So how can you lose what you've never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all."

Maybe we should all spend more time not taking life so serious, and doing things like this:

In addition, with cherries at their peak, why not make the classic French dessert, "Cherry Clafoutis," named from the lingering regional dialect of Provence, Northern Spain, and Northern Italy, known as "Occitan." It's the same as the natural beauty line of products by "L'Occitane en Provence," meaning "the woman from Occitania." Also note, that a "clafoutis" (kla-foo-tee) is only made with cherries. If other kinds of fruit are used, the dish is properly called a "flaugnarde."

This enhanced recipe from Martha Stewart Living caught my eye, because of the addition of kirsh (cherry brandy) and the seeds of a vanilla bean (as opposed to vanilla extract). The recipe turned out perfectly; although, my family thought it should be a little sweeter. So, maybe next time I'll add another 1/4 cup of sugar. In addition to a dusting of powdered sugar, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream, makes a nice addition.

Cherry Clafoutis

Serves 8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds cherries, stemmed and pitted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 tablespoons kirsch
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10" porcelain tart dish (I used a 11" deep dish pie pan), and fill with cherries. Set aside.

Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl. Add sugar. Gradually whisk in whole eggs, egg yolks, milk, and cream. Add vanilla-bean scrapings and kirsch; whisk to combine.

Using a sieve, strain the batter over the cherries.

Bake until puffed and browned, about 45 minutes.

Let cool until warm; it will sink slightly. Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The New Yorker

Now that I've shared Ken Forkish's recipe for Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough from Flour Water Salt Yeast, it's time to make his version of a classic New York pizza, which he calls "The New Yorker"! This fabulous pizza is topped with red sauce (I use my easy Homemade Marinara), grated fresh mozzarella and provolone cheese (which I request an un-sliced chunk of from my local deli), pepperoni, and finished with fresh basil and chile flakes. Delicious! As Ken notes in his book, because this is baked in a home kitchen, the pizza will only be about 12 inches diameter. He suggests compensating for the lack of size by cutting the pizza into no more than four pieces. This allows you to fold it, if you want to be authentic!

While Ken's adapted recipe for Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough makes enough dough for two pizzas, I use one to make a Margherita Pizza (which my kid's love) or a White Pie (which I find most women love and often call a "girl pizza"), and the other dough for my new favorite, The New Yorker. Although this may seem like a lot of effort for making homemade pizza, I promise you won't be disappointed! *Note: Check my Gadgets to find out my replacement for inferior pizza stones! Brilliant!

Look at that crust! Yummy!

The New Yorker

Makes one 12" pizza

1 dough ball from Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough
White flour for dusting
3 ounces Smooth Red Sauce (I use my easy Homemade Marinara)
3 ounces fresh whole-milk mozzarella cheese, grated
2 ounces provolone cheese, grated
4-6 whole basil leaves (optional)
12-15 slices of pepperoni (optional)
Chile flakes (optional)

Preheat the Pizza Stone (or tiles!)
Put your pizza stone on a rack in the upper portion of your oven so the surface is about 8 inches below the broiler. Preheat the oven to 600 degrees if your lucky enough to have an oven that goes that high: otherwise, simply preheat to the highest possible setting. (My oven's highest setting is 550 degrees.) Once the oven is preheated, continue heating the pizza stone for another 30 minutes, for a total time of about 45 minutes.

Set up your Pizza Assembly Station
Give yourself about 2 feet of width on the counter top. Generously flour the work surface. Position your peel next to the floured area and dust it with flour. (If you don't have a pizza peel, a flat metal baking sheet also works well.) Have the sauce, cheese, basil, and pepperoni prepared and at hand, with a ladle or large spoon in the sauce.

Shape the Pizza
Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator, put it on the floured work surface, and gently pat it down a bit to coat the bottom with flour. Turn it over and repeat on the other side. Leaving about 1 inch of the outer rim undeflated, punch down the middle, then flip the dough over and repeat.

Using both hands, grab the rim and lift so the dough hangs down vertically. Let gravity pull the rest of the dough down and stretch it. Run the rim between your hand, working all the way around the circumference of the dough several times.

Next, make two fists and position them just inside the rim, with the dough still handing vertically. Gently stretch and turn the dough repeatedly, still letting the bottom of the dough pull down, expanding the surface. You want it thin, but you don't want it to tear or develop holes. If you end up with a small tear, don't panic-it's okay to patch it.

Spread the dough on the floured peel and run your hands around the perimeter to shape it into a round and work out the kinks.

Superheat the Pizza Stone
About 30 minutes after the oven has reached its set temperature, switch to the broil setting for about 5 minutes to saturate the pizza stone with heat.

Top the Pizza
Spread the tomato sauce over the dough to within an inch of the edge, smoothing and spreading it with the back of the ladle. Sprinkle the cheeses evenly over the pie and distribute the basil leaves and pepperoni evenly over the top.

Turn the oven setting back to bake. Gently slide the pizza onto the pizza stone.

Bake for 5 minutes, then switch to the broil setting and broil for 2 minutes, keeping a close eye on the pizza. Bake until the cheese is completely melted and bubbling, with a few spots of brown and a few small charred spots. If the oil separates out of the cheese, it's overbaked. Use tongs of a fork to slide the pizza from the pizza stone onto a large plate. (I just slide it onto a nice cutting board to serve.)

Slice and Serve
Transfer to a large wooden cutting board. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil lightly over the top if you like. Slice and serve immediately, passing the chile flakes at the table.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What Calvel, Forkish, and Degas can teach You about Pizza Dough!

Raymond Calvel was born in 1913 in the Tarn region in south-west France. In the 1930s, he apprenticed as a baker in Toulouse, then studied at the Ecole des Grands Moulins de Paris. In 1935, he accepted an offer to become professor of baking at the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Meunerie et des Industries Cerealieres (ENSMIC) in Paris. In addition to authoring many books on bread baking, he also taught Julia Child and Simone Beck for their chapter on bread in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Calvel has been credited with creating a revival in French-style breadmaking, researching and improving technique, and the development of the "autolyse." Autolysing is a process where flour and water are mixed together, then allowed to rest, which hydrates the flour to relax gluten, making the dough easier to knead and easier to stretch, perfect for making pizza dough!

Ken Forkish is a Silicon Valley software engineer turned bread baker in Portland, Oregon. He runs three of Portland's most acclaimed eateries: Ken's Artisan Bakery, Ken's Artisan Pizza, and his newish tavern and bakery called Trifecta. Ken is the author of  the James Beard Foundation Award Winning and International Association of Culinary Professional Cookbook Award Winning Flour Water Salt Yeast. After picking up his cookbook from my local library, I was inspired to make his recipe for "Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough." Although, My Basic Pizza Dough recipe is excellent when you're rushed for time and are craving pizza right away, I still wanted to find a recipe that recreated the exceptional crust that I fell in love with in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York. This recipe fits the bill! It's crisp yet soft and chewy inside, filled with air bubbles and perfect to satisfy my urge for really good pizza dough!

I learned a lot about bread making from Flour Water Salt Yeast, like the process of autolysing and the process of squeezing the dough between your thumb and pointer finger all along the dough to fully incorporate the yeast and salt mixture, which Ken calls the "pincer method." Unfortunately, the recipe in his book makes enough dough for five pizzas, too much for my needs. So, after careful experimentation, I was able to break down the ingredient amounts to successfully recreate enough dough for two pizzas, just the right amount for my family! Finally, after feeling quite pleased with myself, it was time to shape the dough into balls when I stumbled across his instructions "not to 'degas' the dough." Hmmm? Sounds like some fancy French baking term? After searching and consulting all my bread books, I realized this term has nothing to do with French baking terminology or the master painter Degas, it simply means not to break the air bubbles in the dough....don't "de-gas" the dough! I'm an idiot... 

*Try Ken's fabulous recipe, and one of my new favorite pizzas, The New Yorker!

Same-Day Straight Pizza Dough

Makes enough for two 12" pizzas. 

**Note: You need to start this recipe first thing in the morning and allow at least 8 hours before baking! Don't worry, it's well worth your time!

1/4 teaspoon instant dried yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Olive oil, as needed

Hydrate the Yeast
Mix the 1/4 teaspoon yeast with 1 1/2 tablespoons warm (90-95 degrees) water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Autolyse the Flour
Combine the 3 1/2 cups flour with 1 1/2 warm (90-95 degrees) water in a large bowl. Mix by hand just until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Mix Yeast/Flour Together and Salt
Sprinkle the salt over the autolysed dough. Stir the yeast mixture with your finger, then pour it over the dough. Use a small piece of dough to wipe the remaining yeast goop from its container, then throw it back in the dough.

Mix by hand, wetting your working hand before mixing so the dough doesn't stick to you. (It's fine to rewet your hand three or four times while you mix.

Reach under the dough and grab about one-quarter of it. Gently stretch this section of dough and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.

The Pincer Method!

Use the pincer method (see above) alternating with folding the dough to fully integrate the ingredients. Cut and fold, cut and fold. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm location. (My oven has a "proof" setting that is designed to proof dough.)

Fold the Dough
This dough needs one fold. It's best to apply the fold 30-60 minutes after mixing. (I wait 60 minutes.) After folding, lightly coat the dough and the bottom of the tub with olive oil to help prevent sticking.

When the dough is about double it's original volume, about 6 hours after mixing, it's ready to be divided.

Divide the Dough
Moderately flour a work surface. With floured hands, gently ease the dough out of the tub. With your hands still floured, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust the entire top of the dough with flour, then cut it into 2 equal-size pieces with a dough knife or plastic dough scraper.

Shape the Dough Balls
Shape each piece of dough into a medium-tight round, tucking seams down on the bottom of each ball, working gently and being careful not to degas the dough.

Put the dough balls on a lightly flour baking sheet, leaving space between them to allow for expansion. Lightly oil or flour the tops, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to make the dough easier to shape. The dough is now ready to be used. Stored in the refrigerator and tightly covered, any leftover dough will keep for up to 2 days.

Recipe adapted from Flour Water Salt Yeast, by Ken Forkish.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Feeling Ugly? Eat This!

We all know that we should incorporate more fruit in our diets. Not only is it good for your overall health, it's also good for your skin! Fruit contains high water content, which is good for hydration, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals needed to make you feel healthy and energized. And because fruit contains high levels of vitamin C, it will help boost collagen production, repair tissue damage, and protect your skin against free radicals! Now that's super food!

Honey has been used to enhance beauty since the dawn of time. Although the beauty benefits of honey are usually topical, incorporated into face masks, hair masks, and baths, etc., ingesting it will help you from the inside out. After all, you are what you eat! Right? The ancient Romans gave honey to their Olympic athletes to boost performance and endurance. Honey also has antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, which helps boost your immune system and prevent disease. In addition, honey is good for hangovers, sore throats, and a teaspoon before bed helps you sleep! No wonder Aristotle called it the nectar of the gods!

Now that we understand that fruit and honey is good for the skin, so is mint! Mint is a popular herb used in shampoos, lip balms, and mouth rinses. But it is also found in many beauty products to sooth itching and infections, look for "menthe" on the labels. Mint has a high salicylic acid content, which is good for loosening dead skin cells, resulting in clearer skin. Mint can also help with digestion problems, such as bloating, and is also good for headaches, nausea, colds, and even the flu!

Want to feel better and look better, too? Try this "Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime and Mint!" This is the perfect refreshing summer salad! In fact, it's the only way I can get my fruit-phobic husband to eat his fruit! I recently served this along side chiles rellenos, instead of the typical beans and rice. It was delicious and kept the meal from being heavy or unctuous. Feel free to use any fruit you prefer or have on hand, e.g., berries, kiwi, honeydew, etc. Add this simple recipe to your repertoire and you will have no problem eating your way to healthier skin!

Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime, and Mint

Serves 4-6

5-6 cups fruit, cut into bite-size pieces (I use 1 whole cantaloupe and 1 pint strawberries)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Place all the fruit in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving.

In a small bowl, mix the honey, lime juice, lime zest, and chopped mint together. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the fruit and gently toss to combine.

Recipe slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie!

Rhubarb is one of the first fresh garden products of the season in cold climates. The stalks of these perennials are most often used in pies, which is why rhubarb is sometimes referred to as "pie plant." Although rhubarb is considered a vegetable, in 1947, a New York court decided that because rhubarb was used as a fruit in the United States, it was to be considered fruit, thus reducing tariffs on imported rhubarb. If you've never cooked with rhubarb before, I have a fabulous old-fashion recipe for you!

I feel it's important to preserve recipes from the past. Those personal recipes of honest home cooking are our history, it's what makes us American, it's what makes us family. This recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is from the wonderful Ruth Zylich of Barton, New York. This slightly sweet and slightly tart pie is a favorite of my husband and all of his family. Sometimes it's nice to take a deep breath and revisit the classics from our past.

Ruth's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 cups cubed rhubarb
1 cup cubed strawberries
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cinnamon, sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter, to finish the top crust
1 double-crust 9" pie dough (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the rhubarb and strawberries in a 9" unbaked pie shell.

Mix the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt together and pour over the top of the rhubarb and strawberries.

Place the second pie crust over the top, trim and crimp the edges to seal. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Cut 4 slits on the top and dot with the butter.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 45 minutes, or until the rhubarb is done.

Double-Crust 9" Pie Dough

Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Process the flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if the dough will not come together. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4" disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.