The constant quest for perfect: pizza

Basic recipe for pizza dough, we’re using weight based measurements so get a scale.

100% flour (bread flour or AP)

60-67% water

couple of pinches of salt

yeast

That’s it. The experimentation comes with your water percentage. 67% water is awesome but it’s a little hard to deal with. 60% much easier but will result in a much firmer bread. Average weight of pizza dough balls for a medium size pie is 300-350g so plan accordingly. 1000g of flour will make about 6 pizzas.

Tips:

  1. Use something to help you get the pizza from peel to the oven. This has long been the most frustrating part of making pizzas and you can easily lose them here. Grill mats work well, you can cut them if you like. Parchment paper and silpats for oven baking work really well, too.
  2. Age your dough for at least 24 hours, the longer you let it sit in the refrigerator, the better it will taste. You can make it same day, but it won’t be quite as good. Plan.
  3. Always make more dough than you need. Give yourself margin for error. Flour is cheap.
  4. Knead your dough 10 minutes in a stand mixer, do most of it with only half the flour in there.
  5. Your hydration level will affect how the dough behaves in the stand mixer. If it’s <65% it may not stick at all to the bowl. If it’s 67% it will stick a little bit. Experience will teach you.
  6. The higher the heat, the better. 850F in a brick oven is ideal for Naples style pizza, but it’s hard to achieve. 550 convection works great too.
  7. Less is more when it comes to toppings.

Instant bliss

It really is kind of hard for me to believe that we are eight years removed from where this thing last fizzled out. Technology has definitely changed for the better. While we were using pressure cookers, the induction burner technology took off. The problem with the old pressure cookers is that they were loud and required you to do your own research on timing. Enter the Instant Pot.

Now I know a lot of previously illicit substances have been legalized over the last few years, so my apologies if you were looking for a different type of post. We’ve been using the instant pot since Christmas, it’s really interesting how it combines induction burner technology with a filtered steam generation system that is virtually silent. Add a bunch of presets and other functionality like steaming, slow cooker, sous vide even, and you get a versatile tool that comes in different sizes.

Instant Pot white rice cooled on sheet pan

I am still tinkering with the cooking times for certain grains. As long as you get your water to grain ratios correct, it’s hard to get it too wrong.

One success is throwing an entire flat of chicken breasts with some salsa or hot sauce and in 25-30 minutes you have shredded chicken for tacos.  Presear if you want but you don’t have to.

Any success stories or recipes to share out there?

The Phoenix

Like the wondrous creature of mythology, rising from ashes, so shall it be with this website/blog. What’s ironic is that it took a national quarantine to get us to slow down enough to start cooking again. Home improvement project injuries notwithstanding, and the current rash of burn injuries that we’re seeing just remind us that we still have to be careful.

Obviously our dress code at the grocery store has changed just a little bit. What probably would’ve gotten me arrested two weeks ago is currently not looked on with any level incredulity.

Maybe it’s funny because the Amish are probably the least affected by this thing than anyone. We’re all having to learn how to do things all over again like sewing, improvising all manner of personal protective equipment, cutting hair, reading books, binging on series, teaching our kids at home.

Please share any experiences you have in the comments, we’re all hunkering this thing down, just like the Big Dawg always does.

Worn

Here’s an old post about this grill back when it was purchased almost 12 years ago.

https://bigdawgeats.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/i-finally-did-it-the-wait-is-over/

We have learned quite a bit over the years, it sure isn’t the prettiest thing ever saw but it still gets the job done. It’s my Frankengrill: I’ve replaced the firebox three or four times, the thermometer broke and died and I replaced it with a green egg version, I’ve had to learn how to adjust the set screws in the back which is a real pain, it’s cracked but still cooking. I went from no gaskets to gaskets, back to no gaskets. Doesn’t really make that big of a difference after all. Turns out that fire is fire after all.

Cold Smoke

Anyone have any ideas on how to turn the kamado into a cold smoker? There a bunch of potential applications, particularly cheese, peppers, ketchup, salt, not to mention tons of other things.
There are a couple of principles to keep in mind.

1. Wood typically contains a bunch of water. Until you exceed that boiling temp, the wood isn’t going to ignite. 212F/100C in case you forgot.
2. Wood ignites at the 500F range. This is obviously much higher than the optimal smoking temperature, but consider that you’re only following the dome temperature, not the fire temperature. It’s a gradient, and we typically just follow the dome temp at the top of the cooker.
3. I’ve heard of using a coffee can (who has those anyway? hipster coffee comes in bags, man…) to keep the fire small, thus the temp down.
4. Would a small crockpot hit the temperatures necessary to fire the wood? Sounds like an experiment that needs to happen.
5. The temperature at the cooking grid level has to be <100F.

Let's hear your ideas.

bde portland, ’14 edition

Things were definitely consumed.

This is more of a travel log and commentary, I don’t really have a lot of visuals. Click on the links to the websites to check out what’s going on.

Lovejoy bakers
Lamb meatloaf sandwich with harissa
Beef goulash with herb dumplings
Roast beef sandwich
Chickpea sandwich
Grilled organic (aka grilled cheese)

Apizza Scholls
Veggie plate: artichokes, marinated olives, red peppers, pappdew peppers, sundried tomatoes, bread, mozz
Margherita pizza
Margherita with shaved prosciutto
Pig and pineapple: pork shoulder with pineapple
Sausage with Lil Mama’s sausage

Slappy cakes
Make your own whole grain, sweet potato, and regular pancakes
Scramble with goat cheese, greens, lardons, eggs, onion
Toad in a hole

Mio sushi
Harmony roll
Coco roll
Ocean’s spring roll
Rainbow roll
Portland roll
Assorted nigiri including scallop, salmon, hamachi, uni, and mackerel

The Hazel Room
Breakfast burger
Smoked salmon crostini
Fresh grapefruit juice
Secret aardvark habanero sauce

Bread and Ink
Greek salad with chicken
Mac and cheese

Salt and Straw
Caramel and salt ice cream
Olive oil ice cream
Pear and blue cheese ice cream

Andina
Esparagus peruanos
Empanadas de carne
Anticucho de pollo
Morada
Conchas a la parrilla

University seafood
Halibut
Dungeness crab
Yearling oysters
Smoked salmon

Sous vide for the home consumer

Once a tool only for the pros, supply has driven the price of immersion circulators down pretty significantly. While you can spend in the thousands, there’s no reason to do so. The one I have been using is a little pricey, but $200 will get you in the door these days.

No piece of gear will make you a good cook. Sounds obvious, but we forget that in the dazzling world of advertisement and mass media. Myron Mixon tells you he can outcook anyone with a trash can, and he’s probably right. So, let’s just rid ourselves of that fallacy and move on. Consider this scenario, though: steaks at my grocery store went on sale for half off. I bought a dozen, seasoned, vacuum sealed, and froze them. When we wanted steak dinner, I reheated them in the water bath at 125F for about 90 minutes while I made everything else, and then seared them as hot and fast as I could. The result was one of the most perfectly cooked medium rare steaks I’ve ever cooked or tasted.

Why you need one
1. Thawing. Nothing is as fast or effective, but it depends on a barrier between the food and the water.
2. Eggs. If you want fancy, soft boiled eggs, you can sit there with your egg timer, or you can do it this way. One is time and attention intensive, the other is fire and forget.
3. Flavor concentration. When it doesn’t diffuse either into water or oil, the flavors only intensify under pressure. It makes stuff taste more like what it is.
4. Timing. When you’re busy and you want your food cooked properly, you may not have time to sit there and babysit it. Considering you can’t physically make food go beyond the temperature set point, overcooking is (almost) impossible.
5. You don’t know what you don’t know. It opens up a completely new set of possibilities, most of which you haven’t even considered.

Why you don’t
1. Cost, but that’s inevitably going to come down. Like VCRs. Now no one has one.
2. Precision with regard to cooking times. Sometimes it can be hard to tell when something’s done, and you have to rely on web-published charts or experience. And we all know that although good judgment comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgment.
3. Food safety. There’s a potential for decreased food safety with this technique, just be careful.
4. If you’re anti-plastic and don’t want it touching your food, this is not for you.
5. It won’t make you a better cook. Only time, repetition, and experience will.

new and improved “red sauce”

here’s the new red sauce we’ve been using a bunch over the fall and winter so far. The key is good canned tomatoes. The ones I’ve bought from Costco were OK, but the color wasn’t so great. I bought a case of San Marzano’s from Amazon and they were great until the price went up to make them prohibitively expensive.

1 small onion diced
1 whole head of garlic cloves
1 big pinch of dried thyme

Sautee this stuff in a pan, and add in 2 cans of uncooked best quality whole tomatoes.
Blend on low to preserve the color of the tomatoes.
Salt to taste, add in a small handful of finely chopped fresh flat parsley.

Key points
1. It’s not necessary to stew the tomatoes for a long time. If they’re good, they’ll taste great just like that. This is maybe more of a pizza sauce recipe, but we’ve really enjoyed it.
2. Keep the blender on low, cut your veg small so you don’t have to fire it up to high.
3. Don’t brown the onion/garlic, and damn sure don’t burn it. If anything, add a little water to the pan to steam and soften rather than fry.
4. I can almost guarantee you that you can make this sauce in the same time or less than it takes to go to the grocery store and buy something that doesn’t taste this good.

**FOLLOW UP:

Not sure who put that picture in, it wasn’t me. The can pictured was a well-known trick of marketing. Those tomatoes are San Marzano BRAND from California. These are not necessarily San Marzano tomatoes, and they’re not Italian, to be sure.

MAB: Guilty!  I was dressing it up with an image, and neglected to look closely at the image.  I did get it from Amazon tho.