Thursday, January 14, 2010

Small Town

Cooking class number two was all about the students. Technically it was dry cooking techniques like roasting, but this week we really started chatting. I sat in a different seat this week because I didn't want to fall into the trap of sitting forever in the seat I randomly chose the first day. Of the 3 other women at my table, one is my very near neighbor (about 2 buildings over), and one is the older sister of the woman who brought the bluegrass band to my cookie party. Who knew?

The food this week was delicious. I was skeptical of the pizza dough as many people claim great pizza dough and have mediocre crusts. I do well enough with a tortilla for an individual sized pizza. But this dough would be worth the effort of making it. It was delicious. They had whomever wanted to come up and stretch a small pizza's worth of dough and top it do just that. Being an opinionated extrovert, I did one. They cut the biggest piece of mine for me, but all the pizzas were cut into small slices to offer around meaning we each could have 3-6 pieces plus the one bbq chicken one from the instructor. And we weren't turning them down.

We also did a pesto stuffed roasted tomato, a spinach stuffed chicken, and roasted small potatoes. They were almost superfluous by the time we got to eat them, but we all ate them as they were quite good (although I think I could improve the tomato thing). And to top it off, we had an orange chocolate creme brulee! I let other people play with torching the turbinado sugar topping as I have plenty of experience with the torch from glassblowing.

The pizza dough:
    1T yeast
    2T sugar
    2c warm water (aprox 105F)
    1c semolina flour
    4-5c all purpose flour
    1T salt
    1/4c olive oil

Mix yeast and sugar into the warm water and let stand until foamy.
In bowl or food processor, mix 4c flour, salt, semolina flour. Keep processing or stirring as oil is poured in. (The oil aids in it being stretchy, but if you really want to toss it, you need to age the dough to allow the gluten to crosslink.) Add foaming yeast mixture, stir until kneadable. Add up to 5 c flour so it's not sticking to hands, but is still moist and kneed until smooth. Rise in oiled bowl 60-90min, then divide into desired sizes. Roll into smooth ball, let sit 5 minutes, then stretch into pizza shape.
Top with desired toppings and cook at hottest temperature your preheated oven will reach for 3-6 minutes on pizza stone or dark pan.


S said...

That's pretty cool to be meeting new people who are already somewhat "connected" to you. And I'm glad the pizza dough worked out so well.

Does the class also touch on topics like, "Now that you've mixed up your batch of dough, you could refrigerate most of it at this stage if you only want to cook a small portion tonight"? In other words, helpful hints so you can have the efficiency of batch processing, but not have to invite a crowd over to help you eat it, or have leftovers go bad?

CrankyOtter said...

Yeah, I was pretty amused by the small town aspect.

We do cover some of what you're asking. For the dough, you can make it one night, refrigerate it overnight, punch it down in the morning, and take it out of the fridge just before dinner. Or you can freeze it just after punching down, then let it thaw in the fridge from morning until dinner.

For the stuffed chicken, they said not to stuff it in advance except if both the bird and stuffing are refrigerated and prepared, you can stuff it in the morning and keep it cold. But mostly you don't want to pre-stuff fowl.

Also, their advice on desserts is to start those first as they can usually be made, in whole or part, a day or more in advance. Last week's poached pears can sit in the fridge for 3-4 days covered in the cooking liquid. For creme brulee (this week) one can make it in advance, refrigerate it covered closely with saran wrap, then do the brule (by adding turbinado sugar and torching) just before serving. Extra easy for catering. I have a torch, maybe I should brulee things tonight...

With the poached chicken breasts, I'll only ever use that if I find myself with free chicken or a need to avoid all salt. It's easier and cheaper just to buy pre-cooked dark meat than to buy the meat, prep the meat, poach the meat, chunk the meat, and freeze the meat to get the same result.

And while I made the dough, I didn't use olive oil, but a non-tasting oil and it didn't come out quite the same. Don't know if it was the different yeast or the different oil or different flour, or different timing but it wasn't as awesome. And tortillas are easier. (But I still have two pizzas of frozen dough left.)