Friday, February 25, 2011

February's Pizza del Mese: Mushroom Pizza

With three pizzas worth of Classic Pizza Sauce in the freezer from last month's Pizza Margherita, I figured I better follow up with a pizza that uses that sauce, but tries a whole different dough--Parmesan Pizza Dough.

I wasn't totally confident in my crust last time. I don't think I kneaded it long enough to develop the gluten. Sort of by accident I pulled a bit off and I think it tore a little too easily. What I should have done was subjected my dough to the Window Pane Test. This month, I did just that. It made a huge difference. For one, the dough spread out into the pan much more easily. Also, the voluminous edge was easy to achieve without increasing the recipe by 50%, as Mark Scarbrough suggested in a comment to last month's post. It almost formed itself. I really think my less than awesome crust last month is almost entirely due to under-kneading. Granted, this is an entirely different dough from last month's Classic Pizza Dough. This month I tried Parmesan Pizza Dough. I'll have to revisit the Classic Pizza Dough armed with the Window Pane Test.

Other variables include two recipe substitutions in the Parmesan Pizza Dough recipe. I substituted whey from making Fromage Blanc for the water. I also substituted baking flour for all-purpose flour, with the idea that bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose. The look was right. And the hint of cheese flavor was awesome. But something about the texture was off. My vocabulary for describing pizza dough is pretty limited, but the first words that popped into my mind were "Wonder Bread." Mind you, I've never actually eaten Wonder Bread, so it's more of an abstract association than a real comparison. Maybe it wasn't chewy enough? Is pizza crust supposed to be chewy? It was definitely a step in the right direction from last week.

The recipe for the dough and the pizza call for Parmigiano-Reggiano. I used an Italian sheep cheese called Canestrato di Filiano which was recommended by the geniuses at The Cheese Cave. It's got more of a cheese flavor than Parmigiano-Reggiano. Again, my vocabulary is failing me. Gastronomichael has a post with a lot of fun information about this delectable cheese. If you can find it, I highly recommend Canestrato di Filiano. I also had it shredded on some pesto pasta. Yum!

Between the improved crust and the awesome cheese, this was a pretty darned good pizza. Adding Worcestershire sauce to the mushrooms in the frying pan makes them so much more flavorful and really makes you feel like you're eating something meaty. This pizza would make a great Meatless Monday meal for a devout carnivore. Once I perfect my crust, I'm definitely revisiting this recipe.

In other pizza news, the New York Times did an article allegedly about pepperoni pizza, but really about artisanal meat curers, which might be called salumeria. For 2012 maybe I should do cured meat of the month. What do you think?

Mushroom Pizza adapted from Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough


  • Vegetable oil to apply to the cooking surface of Lodge Pro Logic Cast-Iron 14-Inch Pizza Pan
  • One recipe Parmesan Pizza Dough (see recipe below)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 C cleaned, thinly sliced mushrooms (I used white button, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms. I followed the note in the book which suggested only using the caps of shiitakes, not the fibrous stems.)
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 C Classic Pizza Sauce (see recipe in January's Pizza del Mese: Pizza Margherita)
  • 6 oz. mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

  • Position the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring often.
  • Add the mushrooms and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms have given off their liquid. Pour in the Worcestershire sauce, continue cooking, stirring frequently, until any liquid in the pan has been reduced to a glaze, about 5 minutes. Cool at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  • Apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the surface of the cast iron pizza pan. Lay the dough at its center and dimple the dough with your fingertips. Then pull and press the dough until it forms a 14-inch circle on the pizza pan. Leave bulk of dough around the edges to form an awesome crust.
  • Ladle the pizza sauce into the middle of the dough, then use the back of the ladle to spread the sauce evenly. Evenly cover the sauce with shredded mozzarella.
  • Spoon and spread the mushroom mixture evenly over the cheese, then top with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  • Place the pie on its pizza pan in the oven on the middle rack. Check it about every three minutes for the first nine minutes to pop any air bubbles that may blow up at its edge or across its surface. Bake until the cheese has melted and is bubbling and the crust's edge is golden brown, 14 to 18 minutes.
  • Transfer the pizza pan to a wire rack to cool for 3 minutes. Remove the pie from the pan, transferring it directly to the wire rack to cool completely. Transfer the pie to a cutting board to slice the pizza into wedges to serve.

Parmesan Pizza Dough adapted from Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough

  • 3/4 C plus 1 T lukewarm whey (between 105 F and 115 F)
  • 1 1/2 t active dry yeast
  • 1/4 t sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 C bread flour, plus additional as needed
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated
  • 1 T olive oil, plus additional for greasing the bowl

  • Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with warm tap water, drain it, and dry it thoroughly. Stir the water, yeast, sugar, and salt together in the bowl just until everything is dissolved. Set aside at room temperature for 5 minutes to make sure the mixture bubbles and foams. If it doesn't, either the yeast expired or the water was not the right temperature. Throw the mixture out and start again.
  • Add the flour, cheese, and olive oil to the yeast mixture, attach the dough hook, and stir at medium speed until a soft dough forms. Continue beating, adding more flour in 1 T increments should the dough turn sticky or climb up the hook, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Ignore the clock. Continue until the dough passes the Window Pane Test.
  • Wipe a clean, large bowl with a bit of olive oil on a paper towel. Place the dough in the prepared bowl, turning the dough so all sides are coated with oil, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Previous Pizza del Mese:
January's Pizza del Mese: Pizza Margherita

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fromage Blanc Take Two


Gaze upon my cheese.

I followed the same directions as Sarah except that I only used 1/2 a gallon of whole milk. I let my culture develop in the Yogotherm for about 26 hours (do to my work schedule, not based on the cheese.) Even with that amount of time, I didn't have very solid curds. It was more like yogurt consistency. I didn't want to leave it longer so I went ahead and spooned it into a butter muslin lined strainer and let it drain away. I ended up with about 5 cups of whey and one cup of cheese. I don't know what happened to the other 2 cups of liquid. I assume that it soaked into the muslin. I let it drain for about 6 hours. At one point, I got impatient and squeezed out the whey. That seemed to move things along, but I believe that it make the cheese much harder to get off the cloth. Any suggestions for that? Also, how do you clean it? I ended up rinsing it in water for a long time.

Any hoo. My cheese was pretty firm - like cream cheese. It's pretty tasty, although I only just tasted it, I haven't used it in anything. It tastes pretty similar to the yogurt cheese.


Cheese making debris.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

February's Au Lait du Mois: Fromage Blanc

Last month we kicked off our Au Lait du Mois with the oft made, oft consumed, oft written about yogurt. This month, its opposite: Fromage Blanc. I looked in all my usual culinary resources and there is NOTHING on fromage blanc. I could write a thesis on yogurt, but barely a haiku on fromage blanc.

Fromage blanc, soft cheese,
separate your curds and whey,
avoid orange bloom.

In my search for a little more information on Fromage Blanc I found this interview from The Splendid Table with Ricki Carrol about cheese making on a page with a slightly different recipe for Fromage Blanc. I think the difference is that in the radio program Ricki mentions that if you're working with unpasteurized milk, you need to heat it to 180 degrees to pasteurize it before continuing, whereas the booklet assumes you're working with pasteurized milk.

I thought I'd double check the instructions by going to Ricki Carroll's website. Glad I did. There are much more detailed instructions with pictures. So before
you make your Fromage Blanc be sure to check out Jim Wallace's instructions:

Another heads up, the directions in the booklet that comes with the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit say to use a gallon of milk and to then pour it into the Yogotherm. The Yogotherm does not hold a gallon of milk. According to the box, it's capacity is 2 L which is is a little more than half a gallon. I ended up putting the rest of my gallon in a bowl. I split the culture roughly between the two. Not very scientific. I don't know if the ratio of culture to milk was the determining factor or the cooler fermentation temperature, but the the milk that fermented in the bowl wrapped in a quilt fermented into much more firm curds with much clearer whey than the milk in the Yogotherm. As I describe in the instructions that follow, when I make Fromage Blanc again, I will follow the advice from the website and just leave the milk in the pot and wrap it up in a blanket.

I was initially somewhat dubious about my cheese. In both the Yogotherm and the bowl, I got an orange bloom as pictured above. Bridget reassures me that this is harmless native/heirloom/indigenous bacteria that is what makes home cheese making great. The cheese tastes good and it doesn't look orange. My taste tester and I haven't died from food poisoning due to the orange bloom of native/heirloom/indigenous bacteria. So it's all good.

It took two different strainers to drain because the volume was so large. I drained the curds for 8 hours, and got a kind of inconsistent texture. The edges were like super dry cream cheese while the middle was more watery than my yogurt. I separated out the watery middle from one strainer and tied it up to drain into the sink overnight. But then I just sorta gave up and mixed the watery middle from the second strainer into the cheese. The next day I mixed the now-drier cheese that had hung over the sink into the rest. It turned into a very smooth whipped cream cheese consistency. It yielded probably three cups of cheese, maybe more.

Fromage Blanc adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit and Fromage Blanc . . . the details! by Jim Wallace
  • 1 gal. raw milk
  • 1 packet Fromage Blanc Direct Set Culture

  • sieve
  • 1 gal. pot with lid
  • Dairy Thermometer
  • Slotted spoon
  • butter muslin

  • Strain milk through sieve into a 1 gal. pot and affix the thermometer in a readable position.
  • If you want to pasteurize your raw milk, put the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally until it reaches 162 degrees. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 86 degrees. If you're using pasteurized milk or you're looking forward to the exciting world of true raw milk fromage blanc, put the pot on medium heat and stir occasionally until it reaches 86 degrees.
  • Once milk reaches 86 degrees, sprinkle the Fromage Direct Set Culture on the surface of the milk. Wait one minute. Stir the culture into the milk for a couple of minutes.
  • Put the top on the pot and move the pot somewhere it can hang out undisturbed. Wrap the pot in a quilt or blanket to insulate it a tad. You'd like it to stay above 68 degrees.

  • After 12 to 24 hours (I waited 24 hours), you can start checking for doneness. The curd should have pulled away from the edge of the pot so you can see the clearer whey in which it is floating, as pictured above.

  • Line the sieve (or sieves) with butter muslin. Ladle the curd into the muslin-lined sieve and allow to drain for 4 to 12 hours depending on the desired consistency.
  • Store under refrigeration up to 10 days. This cheese may be frozen for several months (though I haven't tried it so who knows that the consistency would be like).

Like Jim Wallace discusses in Fromage Blanc . . . the details!, I was amazed at the versatility of fromage blanc. I made a quick apple galette one night, and when my taste tester lamented the lack of ice cream, I just mixed some sugar and vanilla into some fromage blanc and it worked as a very nice alternative. As suggested in the booklet accompanying the Gourmet Home Dairy Kit, I made an herb cheese spread with some of the fromage blanc. I just mixed in some Penzeys Parisien Bonnes Herbes an hour or so before serving.

It was AWESOME on Wheat Thins.

But here's the real reason why I chose Fromage Blanc for February's Au Lait du Mois: Coeur a la Creme.

Coeur a la Creme adapted from Ricki Carroll's Gourmet Home Dairy Kit
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 C Fromage Blanc
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T heavy cream

  • Beat two egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the rest of the ingredients until smooth.
  • Fold the egg whites into the mixture.
  • On a cookie sheet lined with a silicone baking mat, or other non-permeable, non-taste transferring medium, set your heart-shaped cookie cutters. Cover the cookie cutters with a layer of butter muslin. Fill each muslin-lined cookie cutter with the mixture. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least six hours (I waited about 25 hours).
  • Unmold your coeur a la creme and garnish as you please. Ricki suggests fresh fruit, syrup, or melted chocolate. I used strawberry preserves and heart-shaped biscuits.

Next Valentine's Day, I think I'll add a aplit vanilla bean to the milk at the beginning of the cheese making process and add an extra tablespoon of sugar to the Coeur a la Creme recipe.

Previous Au Lait du Mois:

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

CSA Basket 22

This week's (not very artfully styled) basket included Radishes, Iceberg and Red Leaf Lettuce, Fennel, Oranges, Cilantro, Parsley, Chard, Broccoli, Apples, Potatoes, Onion, Grapefruit, Carrots, Pears, Cabbage, Celery, Spinach, and Kohlrabi. I traded the fennel, kohlrabi, and pears for more spinach, more potatoes, and more oranges (we're all working through a cold right now and need lots of vitamin C).

Last week when I was grilling chicken for dinner I threw another breast on the grill, sliced it up, and froze it in anticipation of this week's basket. Instead of being so overwhelmed by the CSA basket that I didn't have time to make dinner, I thawed the chicken, whisked together some honey and mustard for a dressing, and had a grilled chicken salad ready for dinner.

With all the parsley and cilantro I'm contemplating Mark Bittman's Parsley-Herb Salad, which I came across while perusing his 25 favorites from The Minimalist, the last installment of which was published last week. I honestly don't know who is going to tell me what to eat from now on.

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