Saturday, May 2, 2009

Tasty white pizza + Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Everyone and their moms in the food world have been spewing about a recent book by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Their premise sounded intriguing enough to me: you make a dough that's wetter than your usual kneaded bread, you let it rise on it's own at room temperature, then you just store it in the back of your fridge, snipping some off when you want to bake. You can take as much or as little as you want at a time, and the dough is good for almost two weeks.

Well, I finally broke down and bought the book. I cracked the spine and started scanning, and half an hour later I had read it cover to cover. I promptly marched into the kitchen and made my first "loaf," and I am now a total convert. If you like the smell, taste, or even just the idea of freshly baked bread, buy this book. If you don't trust yourself with yeast breads, buy this book. If you want to make all kinds of crusty-edged, multi-flavored, savory-and-sweet breads with seriously minimal effort, BUY THIS BOOK. Just buy it.

Now, to dinner. I used the book's European Peasant Loaf recipe for pizza dough. The recipes are written in sizable quantities, because you can mix up a bunch and bake it off for two weeks. I halved the amounts given, and it made the perfect amount for one large pizza (serves 4), or two small (serves 2). I cut off half and made just enough for me and the man.

White Pizza
(total prep/rise/cook time, about 3 hours; if you have the dough premade, only about 40 min)

Dough (European Peasant Loaf)
(adapted from
Artisan Bread, total prep/rise/cook time 4 hours)
3/4 cup lukewarm water, from the tap
3/4 Tbsp yeast (active and instant are both fine)
3/4 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup rye flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

In a large bowl or food-safe container, stir together water, yeast, and salt. Add flours and stir to make a shaggy dough (you may need to wet your hands and get in there to incorporate all flour). Cover lightly and let rest at room temperature 2 hours. Seriously, that is IT. It will rise and flatten out on its own.

After 2 hours, you can either move it to the fridge and use it over the next 12 days, or cut off what you need and use it immediately.

Toppings for the pizza
This is a white pizza, which = no tomato sauce. Just plenty of olive oil and cheese.

Caramelized onions (see below)
1 head roasted garlic (see below)
5 thin spears of asparagus
1 baby yukon or fingerling potato, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated manchego, parmesan, asiago, monterey jack or some combination of the above cheeses
1 Tbsp fresh thyme

To caramelize onions (the cheater way), take 4 medium red onions and slice thin. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a microwave safe plate. Cook on full power 15 minutes, stirring halfway through. Heat a small skillet with about 1 Tbsp of oil and add partially cooked onions plus a healthy pinch of salt. Stir to coat. Then add 2 Tbsp each of: white wine, water, white vinegar, and brown sugar. Sprinkle in some thyme if you have it. Stir until most of moisture has evaporated. Set aside.

To roast garlic, take 1 head of garlic and slice the whole thing in half. Slather in olive oil, then wrap in foil. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400º. If not cooked, return to oven or squeeze the cloves out into a skillet and finish there. [This can be done in large quantities and/or ahead of time. Store roasted garlic, wrapped, in the fridge.] In a small bowl, squeeze out the roasted cloves and add a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt. Using a fork, mash it into a paste.

To cook:
20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven with your pizza stone** to 500º. Flour the surface of the stored dough, snip off about half, and place it on a well floured counter top. Form into a ball, then either roll or stretch into a 10-inch circle. Allow to rest until oven is ready.

When your oven and stone are heated, carefully pull out the pizza stone and awkwardly move the dough onto the stone (it will start to cook immediately, don't be frazzled). Working quickly, smear the garlic paste all over the dough. Then layer caramelized onions, half the cheese, the asparagus and potatoes [toss them in oil first!], and the other half of cheese. Drizzle olive oil over the whole thing. Return to the oven until cooked through, about 15 minutes.

When it's done, sprinkle with fresh thyme, slice, and eat up.

***If you think you're going to be a regular pizza eater, or if you want to make super crusty bakery-style bread, get a pizza stone. You heat it up with the oven, so when the dough hits the hot stone it immediately begins to form a crust. This is the easiest (only?) way to get that crust in a home kitchen. You can get a nice one online or, I've heard, you can just buy a quarry tile from your local hardware store for a lot cheaper.

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