Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Recipe Notes: One Hour Pizza

1 June 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018.

Who doesn't like pizza? (I didn't until I was in my late 20's, but that's not a story for this post.) I have made it a few times from scratch and enjoyed it. So I was interested when a recent edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine featured a recipe that was advertised to take just one hour. To develop flavor the dough usually rests overnight after it is made. While I didn't believe I would finish in an hour, especially the first time, I wanted to give this recipe a try.

The recipe makes two 11-inch pizzas. Since this would be way more than we would need to have as dinner for two, I made just one pizza at a time. The recipe requires just one unusual ingredient, semolina flour, but it was easily obtained in the bulk section of the supermarket. To make the dough, bread flour, semolina, yeast, and sugar were combined in a food processor. Then the liquids were added with the processor running: water, lager, vinegar, and oil. Finally, after a 10-minute rest, salt was added and processed. The dough was then kneaded briefly by hand to form a ball. The ball was divided into two and one was put into the refrigerator for another day. The remaining dough was rolled into an 11-inch circle and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes. 

The sauce was very simple: canned whole tomatoes, olive oil, anchovy (I substituted ½ tablespoon anchovy paste for three fillets), salt, dried oregano, sugar, and black pepper were combined in the food processor. I omitted the red pepper flakes.

After the dough had risen ½-cup of the sauce was added. This was followed with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella. The pizza was baked in a pre-heated 500° oven on a backing stone that was covered with parchment (added just before the pizza) for about 10 minutes. Total time for one-hour pizza: 1½-hours.

The reserved dough was used a few days later. It was removed from the refrigerator and let to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, while the oven was heated. Then, as on the first day, it was rolled out, set aside to rise, covered with sauce and cheeses, then baked.

The resulting pizza was very good! It had good flavor and texture. The crust was not thin and crispy like a cracker and not thick and doughy, it was just about the right thickness. It was a nice simple pizza that I would make again. The second pizza was just as good as the first one. An inverted rimmed baking sheet was used in lieu of a pizza peel to put the pizza into the oven. This would not work to remove it so I put on oven mitts and took out the pizza and the stone and just slid the pizza off onto a cooling rack. We got two meals from each pizza and the leftovers were good, too. One change I would make would be to make the sauce before making the dough. It would be easier to clean out of the food processor than the dough was. 

Now, what about toppings?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Recipe Notes: Three Cup Chicken

28 May 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018.

While I enjoy many Chinese dishes, Diane is not found of Chinese food in general. Nonetheless this chicken dish from a recent edition of Cook's Illustrated seemed to be worth trying. It didn't include many unusual ingredients, those that we might purchase but never use again, I do tend to stay away from recipes that do. We do like to try new things, within reason, and this looked like a possible winner.

To start, a marinade was made with soy sauce, dry sherry, and sugar. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs that had been trimmed and cut into 2" pieces were added. (Oddly, for a Test Kitchen recipe, no time was specified in the recipe for how long the chicken should be in the marinade.) Setting the chicken aside, sliced ginger and garlic plus red pepper flakes were cooked in a skillet over low heat in sesame oil.  When they were golden, the chicken and marinade were added and simmered for about 10 minutes. Slices of scallion whites were added and the mixture cooked until the chicken reached 200°. A cornstarch slurry was used to thicken the sauce. Finally, Thai basil, toasted sesame oil, and sliced scallion greens were added. Including prep it took 100 minutes to fix this dish.

We were disappointed with the result. The heat from the red pepper flakes and ginger slices was too strong, overpowering the other flavors in the dish. Thus we were not really able to appreciate the Thai basil, which smelled wonderful before being added to the dish, and other ingredients. We had used only half of the amount of red pepper flakes specified in the recipe, but the dish was still too spicy with much of the heat coming from the sliced ginger. On the plus side, the chicken itself was well cooked, juicy and tender. The recipe in the magazine included two sidebars: a really good technique for peeling ginger using a simple teaspoon—worked like a charm—and a nice recipe for "Chinese restaurant-style rice". We will not be making Three Cup Chicken again, which is okay, it is good to try new things from time to time as sometimes you make a wonderful discovery, just not this time.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Recipe Notes: Best Lemon Bars

21 May 2018

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated, March 2018.

As I recall, I had never eaten lemon bars until I had moved to California and gotten married. I have made them a few times myself but I haven't had any in quite a while. A new recipe in a recent issue of Cook's Illustrated was all the reason I needed to make them again. It promises maximum lemon flavor created from a combination of lemon juice, lemon zest, and cream of tarter.

This was an easy dessert to make. For the crust AP flour, sugar, and salt were mixed with melted  butter to make a dough. This was patted into an 8-inch square baking pan (mine is Corning ware) that had been lined with aluminum foil to make a sling and baked at 350°. The filling was made by whisking together sugar, AP flour, cream of tarter and salt. Eggs and egg yolks were whisked into the dry ingredients then lemon juice and lemon zest were mixed in. (A total of four lemons were used.) This mixture was cooked on the stove until the temperature was 160°. The cooked filling was strained and poured onto the hot crust. This was baked until the filling was set, the bars were cooled, and cut into bars. The total time from start to taking the completed bars out of the oven was 80 minutes.

The finished lemon bars were good. They fulfilled their promise of being very tart, very lemony. The crust is rich and crisp. The filling was perhaps a bit soft and the crust could have been a little crisper, they were a little messy to eat when fresh. I stored the bars in the refrigerator and the following days the bars were a little less tart and a little easier to eat. Somewhat surprisingly, the crust was still crispy. If you like lemons and you like tart, these easy-to-make bars might be for you.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Recipe Notes: Thin and Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies

23 May 2018

Recipe from The Perfect Cookie, America's Test Kitchen, 2017, p. 29; recipe also available online.

Chocolate Chip cookies have always been a favorite. I have tried many different recipes over the years and I have a few favorites. In my new-ish cookbook, The Perfect Cookie, I found a recipe I hadn't tried that aims for a thin, crispy cookie. I like the standard size and texture just fine, but I have also had thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies that I enjoyed. It would be great if I had a good recipe that I could use to make them at home.

This is one of the easier cookies to make. The ingredient list is relatively short and the technique is simple. Flour, baking soda, and salt were whisked together in a bowl then set aside. In a stand mixer, melted butter was mixed with sugar, brown sugar, and corn syrup. To this mixture an egg yolk, some milk, and vanilla extract were incorporated. The dry ingredients were then blended with the wet and finally the chocolate chips were added. I used a #60 portioning scoop (about 1 tablespoon) to drop the dough onto baking sheets before baking them at 375°. After just an hour in the kitchen I had three dozen cookies.

I made this recipe twice because the first time I over baked them. The recipe suggests 12 minutes but while thin and crispy these cookies were too dark. The same was true for a batch I baked for 10 minutes. The second time I made these (after eating my way through the first batch, couldn't let them go to waste) I reduced the baking time to 9 minutes. This solved the over baking problem but now the cookies were not crispy. The flavor was not as good as other recipes I have come to rely on, the texture wasn't special, and they seemed a little short on chocolate chips. Several people, commenting on the online recipe, reported having similar problems. If you haven't guessed already, these were disappointing so I doubt I'll be making them again.