Sunday, June 01, 2008

Make your own Italian herbed crusty bread in 25 easy steps

This is a recipe to make a crusty on the outside, light and airy on the inside bread. You will rightly think "pizza crust taste" when you begin to smell it. That is because this is a pizza crust recipe. Maybe it's the beer lover in me, but I love the taste of yeasty bread. As a kid, I would eat the crust side first of the pizza. Anyways, one of the few things in a kitchen I have not had much experience in, is baking bread, or really any type of baking. Many people are turned off by the "rules" and complex "procedures" of bread making, so they avoid it.

A few weeks ago, Karen and I had talked about how bad we wanted pizza. (we are both on diets and have lost a lot of weight in the past few months, so obviously, nearly half of our conversations revolve around food). I decided then and there to finally overcome the last cuisine obstacle that truly sets apart the masters from the apprentices. I consider myself an excellent judge of good pizza, so there it was. A challenge. A quick run to the store, and I got the one part missing in my kitchen since forever. Yeast. And not just any yeast mind you, but a giant, one year supply of it for $3. I then got home, and began the work, and made insanely good pizza. I came to the conclusion that if I can make pizza crust, I can make really big pizza crust that is something like bread. This is a recipe for approximately a dozen large, yeasty, crusty, herbed rolls.

I first assembled the ingredients and various instruments. I get a nice big heavy pot, and put about 1.5 cups of water in it. Then I put the pot on the stove, and heat it until it is just slightly warm to the touch.

I put the pot on the counter, mix in one TBSP of sugar, and then pour in about 2 TBSP of yeast and mix it up for about 10 seconds with a whisk. Notice I am not measuring anything at this point, just eyeballing it.
After about 5 minutes, the yeast/water should be quite foamy and thick.

Next, I start dumping in the dry ingredients. First the flour, about 2 cups (I use 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and a cup of plain white), 2 TSP of "Italian seasoning", 1 tsp coarse black pepper, 1 tsp of onion powder (I like a real herby type bread, so you can just adjust for your taste and what you intend to use the bread for) , 1 tsp of salt and a TBSP of oil.

At this point, I just dive right in. Start mixing.

As you get it smooth, you should likely start adding flour in a little at a time. I like to do it this way because it is easier to adjust from a start of too wet, to hit the perfect mark, then to go from too dry to to perfect... I hope that made sense. ;) I got Karen to sprinkle it for me,because my hands at this point are insanely sticky.

As you progress, you should at some point be comfortable with your ball of dough. It should start picking up all the loose flour in the pot. Add you flour very slowly being careful not to go too dry.

At this point, you can take it out. If it is a little bit too wet, that is OK, because we are going to fix that momentarily. Sprinkle some flour onto your counter top. And plop your dough down. Now the kneading. This is where you need to get your wet/dry ratio just right. begin kneading and sprinkle with flour every so often. This should take about 5 minutes. Its a pretty good workout. At the end, you should have a nice, smooth"ish" dough ball.

Get it all smooth, and lightly coat it with some olive oil, then place inside a large bowl and put a towel over it. The yeast will begin to consume the starches in the flour and poop out C02. The C02 is what makes your dough rise to the occasion!

after about 20 minutes....

After about 40 minutes or so, take it out, and punch it once or twice! It should deflate like a balloon. Form it into a ball, and place it back inside for another 30 minutes.

OK, so you have your dough all ready. Get whatever you call an oven (I have a counter top convection) up, hot and ready.

Next, take a knife, and cut yourself off pieces of dough. I just cut around it, creating crescent shaped pieces. Be careful not to flatten your dough at this point. you want to keep it as fluffy as possible.

OK, so you have your pieces.

Next, grease your pan. I use a foil covered paper plate.

Put your pieces gently on the pan, and brush very lightly with olive oil.

Set everything aside for 5-10 minutes, hopefully they will rise a bit more.

I love garlic. So I take a few cloves............

And grate them onto the tops.

I then sprinkle yet more Italian seasoning.

At this point, you oven should be rippin' hot. Pop them in. In about ten minutes.....

After about 20 minutes (you might have to turn down the oven a bit).......

Another 5 minutes or so and here they are. I recommend you put on a wire rack for about 5 minutes so they cool properly. The steam will make the bottoms mushy is you don't. These are great with salad, soups, as sandwich rolls, with pasta, with eggs for brunch, etc...etc.

the pizza is the same, except you roll it out as thin as you can, drop it onto a foil covered paper plate (or toss if you want to have fun), make your edge, brush very lightly with olive oil, put a very thin layer of sauce, (recipe below) then cheese and bake for about 20 minutes on highest heat until cheese browns slightly. To emulate the "pizza stone effect" I just drop my near finished pizza onto a hot, dry skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, this will crisp up the bottom perfectly. Always let your pizza settle for about 5-10 minutes. I learn this rule every time I go for my second piece, because I rarely wait for the first one. It is MUCH better!! Always have a glass of red wine with this.

Sauce for Pizza
I make a simple sauce using a half a yellow onion, a small handful of celery tops and a few cloves of garlic, minced, sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and some capers. When the veggies are about to turn brown, I add a good scoop of tomato paste, and about 2 cups of water. I simmer this down until it is nice and thick. You could blend it at this point to get a nice consistency for your pizza, but you could also leave it "chunky". A few basil leaves are not unwelcome either.

Bon appetito!!

1 comment:

Jesse and Yavon said...

excellent work... I like the whole picture with instructions.