Monday, February 08, 2016

RSBC Week 1: Pizza from Poolish

Considering the fact that I initially dragged my feet about RSBC 2016, this week was pretty positive.  It's always challenging but rewarding to step outside of my regular routines and mix things up a bit.

Run: Speaking of stepping outside, I ran 7.2 miles, five of which were outside in the snow.  Even when it's cold, the fresh air is good for my soul--just not as great on my lungs.

Swim:  Miracle of miracles, I forced myself into the pool today, and I didn't even drown.  In fact, if I'm completely honest with myself, it was pretty enjoyable.  I swam 23 laps (.64 miles), showered, changed, and blew my hair dry in about the same amount of time I usually spend in class.  I'm surprised they recognized me when I picked up Annika, because instead of arriving all sweaty and nasty, I was fresh, clean, and invigorated.

One more lesson learned: decent swim goggles and a swim cap make a world of difference.  Last time I swam with my long hair in a pony, I ended up choking on a mouthful of hair every time I came up for air.  I had to swallow a bit of pride as I donned my girls' hot pink swim cap that says "I Heart Swimming," but it was worth it.

Bike:  Still learning to appreciate biking--February in Nebraska just doesn't lend itself to biking outdoors unless you're a total nutter like my husband.  (He biked to work today in the teens.  Crazy man.  Good thing he's got lots of blubber to keep him warm.  Oh wait.)  Anyway, I logged 30.7 miles.  Spin class helped, knocking off a good chunk at one go.

Cook:  I made a poolish!  (Jason's reading over my shoulder and chuckling up a storm about the potty humor.  Can you tell we're in the throes of potty training?)  Back to the point, up until Christy's challenge, I had absolutely no idea that poolishes and bigas even existed.  Reading about them on Weekend Bakery, I felt pretty daunted.   In the end, it turned out to be no big deal.  Mix 100 grams of water with 100 grams of flour and a teensy bit of instant yeast (0.3 grams--that's like an 1/8 of a teaspoon folks), cover, and let it ferment on your counter all day.  (I stuck mine on top of the fridge.)

After 8 hours, this is what I had:

To make my dough, I followed Weekend Bakery's recipe, copied below.
Ingredients for the Pizza Dough
makes 4 pizza’s

the poolish from step one
250 g wheat flour / bread flour
8 g sea salt
5 g instant yeast
approx 120 ml water, lukewarm
flour for dusting the peel (semolina flour or cornmeal would be ideal)

Scoop the prepared poolish in the mixing bowl of your standing mixer. Add the flour, salt, and instant yeast. Now add water and knead with dough hook for 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky (by hand it will take a bit longer, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your technique). The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick just slightly to the bottom of the bowl. Transfer the dough to your worktop, very lightly dusted with flour. Prepare a sheet pan by misting it with spray oil . Using a dough scraper, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Then flour your hands very lightly. Lift each piece of dough and gently form it into a ball. Transfer the balls to the pan and cover with floured or greased plastic foil. Leave to rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the floor of your oven, or on a rack in the lower part of the oven.

Heat the oven as hot as possible, (most ovens won’t go higher than 300ºC / 570ºF). We use the Bestron Alfredo pizza maker, it has a stone and two heated spirals and can reach temperatures above 350ºC / 660ºF and works really well.

Place the dough balls on top of a floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Take a ball of dough and using your hands gently press it into a flat disk. Now you can try tossing the dough like a real Italian pro but this is a skill that requires some practice (I can’t do it). You can, like most people, resort to using a rolling pin and roll and stretch the dough into a round shape of about 25 cm /10 inches. Now lay the pizza on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough (semolina) flour to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and your other ingredients of choice (start with 3 or 4 ingredients, keep it simple to give the crust a good chance to bake).

Slide the pizza onto the hot stone and close the door. Keep an eye on it and see if after 2 minutes or so it needs to be rotated for even baking. The pizza should take about 5 to 6 minutes to bake.

Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait a minute before slicing and serving, to allow the ingredients to set.
I have to say, working with the dough was lovely.  Without a doubt, this was the easiest pizza dough I have ever handled: a perfect balance of soft and pliable.  Not that my pizzas were round as a result, but they probably could have been had I been willing to invest the effort.

When it came to actually baking the pizzas, I had to adapt because I have neither an Alfredo pizza maker nor a pizza stone.  Instead, we plopped them on cookie sheets and baked at 425F. Not as fancy, but it worked out fine.

For our toppings, we adapted a recipe from Our Best Bites 400 Calories or less cookbook.  For the base, we mixed equal parts pesto and ricotta and added a little bit of garlic and some lemon juice.  Then we pre-grilled zucchini and red onion on our George Foreman.  The grilled veggies got layered on the pizzas along with thinly sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella.  Once the pizzas came out of the oven we added fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic.  So yummy!

The only downside was that the whole process took a long time and it was quite late by the time I got dinner on the table.  By the time I finally plopped the pizzas on the table, my children were behaving like barbarians.  (Talia got quite the scolding for this antic.)

Everyone agreed: Poolish Pizza was worth the wait.

Thanks again to RSBC for encouraging me to try something new that I never would have dared before.  I have a feeling this recipe may become a new Wheeler staple.

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