Sometimes, it’s ok to call it quits

In a perfect world, I’d be experimenting with sourdough breads regularly.  I’d create boules of beauty, and share them with friends and family.

However, this isn’t a perfect world.  A handful of close friends are gluten free.  I rarely get to share the things I cook and bake because I’ve messed something up just enough that it doesn’t feel fit for sharing, or I’m just make enough food for myself for the week.  At the end of the day, I’m just feeding myself.

I do make bread on occasion.  I even had a rye sourdough starter going for over a year.  But those two statements?  Rarely done at the same time.  When I make bread, it’s usually with SAF instant.  When I was maintaining my sourdough starter, I was just finding ways to cook the discarded starter.  I was almost never making proper bread with my starter.  It even got to a point where I forgot I had a starter hanging out in my fridge.  I literally did not notice it in my fridge until about two months after its last feeding.

Even then (!!!), it took me a couple of weeks to finally toss it in the trash.  Some part of me hated feeling like I was giving up on a project.  But logically, it didn’t make sense to try again.  More so, because I have a place in a 10 minute walk away that does a wonderful sourdough.  I’ve started going there a bit more frequently because I absolutely love their sourdough pizzas, but you can pick up bread to take home.  I can spend 2-3 days making sourdough bread on my own, or I can spend $4 – $7 at my local restaurant.

It will do me more good than harm to recognize what I am willing and not willing to do.  If I didn’t live so close to awesome bread, I’d probably feel differently about this.  Or if I had a large family to feed, which I don’t.

But you know what they say: when one door closes, another opens.

fig pizza

It’s probably a good thing for this blog that I’m friends with Tammy. Since the original co-conspirators of this blog have moved onto different places and hobbies, I think it got a bit lonely around here without people to talk to about cooking. Plus, she takes lovely food photos.

Anyway, I was at Tammy’s house on Friday and I made three pizzas from scratch for us and some friends. They were roasted garlic pizza with garlic sauce, bell pepper/monterey jack cheese pizza with red sauce, and fig pizza with garlic sauce.

Tammy took a lovely photo of the fig pizza, so that’s the recipe that you’ll get today.

I always make my own pizza dough now. So far, my favorite pizza dough recipe comes from Sarah Moulton. For Friday, I had modified it to suit my mood, but it’s a pretty solid recipe regardless.

Quick Pizza Dough
-Sara Moulton (via FoodNetwork)

* 2 to 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (this time around I had used a quarter bread flour, a quarter white whole wheat, and half AP flour)
* 2 to 2 1/4 tsp of SAF instant yeast
* 1/2 teaspoon sugar
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl whisk together 3/4 cup of flour, yeast, sugar, and 2/3 cup hot water (this is about 130 degrees F according to Sarah – I just used hot water from the tap but I recommend taking the temperature of your hot water from the tap so that you can file it for future reference – you can go below 130F without any harm but don’t go over 130F or you risk killing your yeast). Stir in the oil, 1 1/4 cups of the remaining flour, and the salt and blend the mixture until it forms a dough. Knead the dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of the remaining 1/4 cup flour as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.

The dough may be used immediately, but for better flavor it is best to let it rise once. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn it to coat it with the oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until it is double in bulk, and punch it down. (I was letting my dough rise over night, so I cut down my yeast by half.)

For the white garlic sauce, I tried my hand at an Emeril Lagasse recipe.

  • 1 cup whole milk (I used 2% milk with no problems)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 to 2 heads of roasted garlic

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  Chop off the top of the garlic head to expose the top of the garlic cloves.  Rub with cut side with some oil, and put the garlic head on a pan with the cut side down.  Bake it in the oven for about an hour.  Then, take it out and let it cool enough for you to handle.  Remove the garlic cloves, and set aside.

Gently heat your milk until barely simmering, and set aside.  (Or if you’re me, stick a small sauce pan of milk in the oven after the garlic is done and let the remaining heat warm up the milk while you go about your business.)

In a separate saucepan, melt the butter. When foam subsides, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring. Do not allow flour to color. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking to combine. Add the salt and cayenne and increase the heat to medium. Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until the sauce comes to a boil and is thickened. Remove from heat and add your roasted garlic cloves.  Whip out your favorite immersion blender and go to town.  (For a garlic sauce, one head of roast garlic is enough.  But for this pizza, I kind of wish I had used two heads of garlic.)

Transfer to a small bowl and cool slightly, placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming.

Now, onto the pizza!  You will need slice figs (green or black), some gorgonzola cheese, some mozzarella cheese, and some white truffle oil (if you have it).  Heat your oven to 425F, or use 450F if you can.

Roll/stretch out you pizza dough, and over with a layer of garlic sauce.  Layer some gorgonzola down, as much or as little as you like (I am not a gorgonzola fan so I used as little as possible), put some mozzarella down, top with figs, and drizzle with a little bit of the truffle oil.

I don’t have a pizza stone.  I don’t think it’s necessary.  I like to either put down parchment paper on a cookie sheet, or use a well-oiled cookie sheet.  Feel free to put some cornmeal on the pan if you have it, to keep the dough from sticking.

Put the pan with the pizza on the bottom of your oven for 5 minutes to get a nice toasted bottom, and then move it to the middle of the oven to finish cooking.  If at 450F, it’ll probably only take another 5 minutes to cook.  If at 425F, I think it’s about an additional 10 minutes?  I don’t know.  Tammy and I just kept checking the pizza after what felt like an appropriate amount of time, instead of actually timing anything.  At home by myself, I’m better about putting a timer on but that’s because I usually wander off to check my email.

Overall result?  Quite yummy.  Having said that, I was a little disappointed.  I’m sure if Tammy hears me say that, she’ll think I’ve gone crazy.  To be honest, I was trying to re-create a pizza I had a couple of months ago at Za, a gourmet pizza and salad restaurant in East Arlington, MA.  I forgot to add caramelized onions and fresh parsley to my pizza on Friday; I accidentally mixed up the jack cheese with the mozzarella; and I think I could have gotten away with a second garlic head in the sauce.  But that’s just me nitpicking.  Everyone was quite happy with their pizza dinner.  ^_^

~ Mikan

Photo below from Tammy Raabe Rao.