Mar. 7th, 2014

kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
Yesterday was payday, and to celebrate not being flat broke, I bought a kitchen scale. I've been wanting one for ages. Now I can cook/bake from recipes that specify weights (as most non-US recipes do) rather than volume, without having to do ridiculous things like try and convert grams to cups. (I have done that once, successfully, to make a fruitcake, but it's full of potential problems and makes for nervous baking.) Having a scale also means I can bake bread properly by weighing my ingredients. Yay!

Something I cooked recently: Last night I finally baked the Lemon Polenta Cake I've been talking about for weeks. It was extremely easy--I put the whole thing together in the food processor, on the grounds that a cake with no wheat flour in it can't be over-mixed--and produced a delicious cake. The almond meal and polenta give the cake enough presence to stand up to the intense lemon syrup, unlike the lemon loaf cake I tried a couple of weeks back where the cake itself was sort of insipid. The finished lemon polenta cake is extremely moist (almost falling apart), extremely flavorful, and extremely extremely rich. Possibly a little too rich for my taste; I think I'll cut down the butter next time. Something about the moist richness and the dense crumbly texture reminds me of baklava, which is a good thing as I love baklava but I hate using phyllo pastry, because no matter what I do it immediately becomes dry and shatters. Anyway, another thing I'm loving about the cake is that it promises a lot of variability, since both the syrup and the batter could be spiced or flavored in many ways: lime or orange zest and syrup, grated ginger and a ginger-infused simple syrup, a lemon-basil or lemon-rosemary syrup, cardamom and saffron syrup, etc.

Something I have concrete plans to cook in the near future: Pizza! Using this recipe, except that I'm going to using uncased sausage, browned and drained, rather than sliced sausage links. The dough is rising now; I'm going to use half the dough, freezing the other half for later, and bake it in a 10 inch springform pan. This because not only don't I own a 14 inch pizza pan, but one probably wouldn't fit in my oven. And yes, I've done the math; a 10 inch pan is almost exactly half the area of a 14 inch pan. I'm excited about this project because I've never made my own pizza dough before, and also because this recipe allows me to have lots of toppings and cheesy goodness, whereas most homemade pizza recipes strive for an authentically Italian-style pizza with a thin crust and a distinctly ascetic touch with the toppings. These pizzas are no doubt excellent, but I grew up with American pizza and I want my cheese.

I'm not baking yeast bread this week, because bread and pizza dough was more than I wanted to tackle. Later on today I'll throw together a loaf of soda bread, which is easy and fast, so that I'll have something for breakfast and lunches.

Something I'm idly thinking about cooking someday: While grocery shopping yesterday I bought some split peas, so I'll be making split pea soup with those and the remaining ham hock in my fridge. That's probably the last of the really wintery things I'll be cooking for a while, because the weather here is definitely turning springlike. Speaking of which, asparagus continues to be on sale for 98 cents a pound, so I've got more of that to use in a pasta dish or a stir-fry or something. I need to try to reset my mind to spring and summer cooking.

ETA: I may possibly have made myself a Bloody Mary using the juice drained off of the tomatoes for the pizza. Vodka before noon: why not?
kindkit: Two cups of green tea. (Fandomless: Green tea)
I thought I'd post the results of Project Pizza right away rather than waiting for the next Recipe Friday, partly because I want to note all this while it's fresh in my mind and partly because I thought you might be curious.

My overall reaction is: yum. This makes good pizza, with all the ingredients very flavorful and distinct. I wasn't even using top-of-the-line ingredients, just supermarket-brand canned tomatoes, supermarket-made bulk Italian sausage, and whole milk mozzarella from Trader Joe's. It makes me wonder how poor-quality the ingredients in typical commercial pizza must be.

Anyway, now for my notes.

1) I added two cloves of finely-chopped garlic to the tomatoes (note that I was halving the recipe), which makes for a very garlicky result. Fine with me, as I like garlic.

2) The browned, crumbled, drained bulk sausage worked fine.

3) Drain the tomatoes well. Really really well. I had a bit of a problem, once the pizza was sliced, with tomato juice soaking into the crust.

4) When I was shaping the crust, the dough tended to spring back and it was hard to form the little walls at the edge, even after 2+ rests. This created a further problem, in that while the dough was resting, it was also rising. So when I put it the crust into the oven to blind bake it for 10 minutes, I got OMG oven spring and had to poke the crust lots and lots with a fork to get the inside to lie flat so I could put the toppings on. Next time less yeast (I did use less than the recipe calls for, because of the altitude, but I'll cut it down further next time) and I might try [personal profile] executrix's suggestion of putting some semolina in the dough to make it more cooperative.

5) The crust didn't come out quite as crisp and brown as it should have, even though I ended up baking it for considerably longer than the 25 minutes the recipe suggests. I should have baked it at 450 F (partly because of the altitude, again, and partly because of my oven). Also, next time I'll blind bake the crust in the lower third of the oven as I did today, but then raise the rack to the center for baking the topped pizza so that the top browns better.

6) No doubt I'd get better results with a real pizza pan instead of a springform, because the springform is very thin, which isn't conducive to browning and crispness. Most things you bake in a springform pan, you don't want to brown or develop a crisp crust. On the other hand, using the springform does make it simple to transfer the pizza from the pan to the rack. I'm glad I didn't try to make the pizza in a 9x13 baking pan, which was my original plan before I thought of the springform. I'd never have gotten it out in one piece to cool.

7) I should also mention that I used Asiago-style cheese (from Trader Joe's and quite inexpensive) rather than Parmigiano for the cheese topping. In my case it was a matter of my budget not stretching to Parmigiano right now, but actually I think the Asiago may be a better choice. Parmigiano has subtle, rounded, nuanced flavors that would get lost in a pizza, whereas the Asiago is brasher and more pizza-y. Using Parmigiano-Reggiano here would be a waste of money, I think.


kindkit: A late-Victorian futuristic zeppelin. (Default)

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