Monday, March 05, 2007

Cursed in the Kitchen?

YIKES--a whole week without a post! And I was going to have a good one for you, too. I had been looking forward to spending some quality time in the kitchen this weekend, and I had a couple of new recipes to try. But today's ingredients seemed mostly to include frustration and disappointment. First, I was absolutely thrilled to find a recipe for Jim Lahey's potato pizza that I am so obsessed with. It was on Martha's site, though I must have missed the episode where he was on to make it. (I surely would have remembered that.) Nonetheless, the thought of being able to make a reasonable semblance of that amazing pizza at home had me beside myself with joy. However, the end result was just okay, in my opinion.

First of all, I had trouble with the recipe. I have to take partial responsibility for not reading all the way through the recipe before starting it, but still, I just HATE poorly-written recipes. It lists 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in the ingredient list without telling you that that amount is to be divided. Seriously...doesn't that irk you? So I ended up having to fish out most of the salt along with a little sugar and some flour and remeasure and add those things back in. No biggie. But then there was also a problem with the amount of water added to make the dough. It calls for 1 3/4 cups, but that seems like way too much. I should have added, at most, 1 1/2 cups and then wait to see if I needed more. As it was, I had to add about an extra 1/4 cup of flour, and it still looked too wet. But Lahey seems to favor a wet dough (consider the infamous no-knead bread!), so I didn't push it. I thought something magical might happen as it fermented. But no, it was still too tacky to even work with when it was done rising. So I ended up having to turn the dough in some more flour and knead it a little bit before pressing it in the pizza pan.

Then there was a more minor issue with the potato topping. I believe it needed even more potatoes which should have been achieved by overlapping them slightly like they do at the Sullivan Street Bakery. As it was, I fully and evenly covered the crust with potato slices as directed, but as it baked, they shrunk a little and the dough rose and spread, of course, and there ended up being gaps. Still, I will definitely try this recipe again with some adjustments, because it was good--just not out of this world like what you get at the bakery. No doubt some of the quality is lost if you don't have a wood-fired oven, but that doesn't explain why I got small, even holes in the crumb, instead of big, bubbly, ciabatta-like ones that Lahey achieves.'s a puzzlement. Feel free to give it a try and report back on your experiences with the recipe. I would appreciate your input.

Jim's Potato Pizza

Yield: two 8-inch pizzas or one 14-inch pizza

3 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole-wheat white)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, DIVIDED
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cups cold water (start with 1 1/2 cups and then see if you need that last quarter cup)
vegetable oil, for bowl and pans
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
2 potatoes, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped onion
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, DIVIDED
*a sprinkling of rosemary would be great on this, too

Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add (up to) 1 3/4 cups cold water. Mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine. Increase speed to medium high, and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size.

While the dough rests, prepare the potato topping. Slice potatoes very thin using a knife or a mandoline. Then soak them in several changes of ice water to remove excess starch and prevent discoloration. Drain slices in a colander, toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set aside for 10 minutes. Drain any accumulated water. (At this point, I drained the slices on paper towels.) In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, chopped onions, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 440 F. Prepare two rimmed baking sheets (or one big one) with vegetable oil. Divide dough in half. Place each piece on its own baking sheet. Using the palms of your hands, flatten dough out to the edges of the pan. Evenly spread potatoes over the surface of the dough up to the very edge, or about 1 inch from the edge if you desire a crust on your pizza. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Bake potato pizza until it has shrunk away from the edges of a pan and the bottom is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly; slice into pieces, and serve. Potato pizza is also delicious served at room temperature.

And if the pizza difficulties weren't enough, OY, wait until you hear about dessert! Anna over at Cookie Madness blogged about an interesting recipe called Kit Kat Bar Cookies recently, and it sounded interesting. (Plus, it would continue my snack food-based dessert motif...tee hee.) It was supposed to taste like either Kit Kats or Twix bars, and although it was a strange, no-bake creation involving Ritz crackers, I felt confident trying it, as Anna has never steered me wrong before. But the process vexed me and darn near made me cry, and the result was very unappetizing. First of all, I guess I must have been rummy this morning when I was reading my recipes, because I somehow saw brown sugar listed but not white sugar. Once again, if the recipe had said to add the SUGARS instead of sugar, it would have been helpful! So I accidentally left out the granulated sugar then couldn't figure out why the mixture wouldn't boil. By the time I figured it out and added the other sugar, the mixture could not be revived. I'm not sure what it was supposed to look like, but I knew it wasn't this, a big, sticky glob that the butter had leeched out of and was definitely unspreadable:

So I threw that batch out and started again, but I really shouldn't have bothered. The resulting cookie was just dry and crumbly and all but inedible. In fact, when I went to cut the bars, a good many of them fell apart, and I was left with a pan of crackery shrapnel. UGH! I am not even going to bother and post the recipe, because I can't recommend it. However, here's the link if your curiosity gets the best of you. So this is my first post in over a week, and I have precious little to offer you, dear readers. Oh well. There can't be successes in the kitchen without some failures along the way, right? (Holla back if ya hear me on that one!)

*Follow-Up: I wandered into the kitchen last night, hours after I removed the hateful cookie bars from the fridge, and discovered something surprising--they aren't bad at room temperature. Not great. I wouldn't even say good. But not hideously dry and tooth-breaking either. So if you do make these--and I am not saying you should--make sure to serve them at room temp. Just FYI...


Randi said...

Well, the pizza looks good. I'm not a fan of ritz crackers so I probably wont be trying that dessert, but anna made something with fritos and pretzels and pb cups that I do want to try.

Joy Bugaloo said...

I made those last week--the Frito-based confection--and it is AMAZING! My friends have forbidden me to make it again because we'll all need a 12-step program to break the addiction to the trashy treat! I HIGHLY recommend that you try it. It's ridiculously delicious. Then again, I'm a sucker for that sweet/salty thang.


Anonymous said...

I never had much hope for a cracker-based dessert that is coated with a wet, sandy concoction, sealed with Nutella- tasting chocolate cement, then left to harden in the fridge.

Anonymous said...

I have been working on pizza dough for about 15 years, and have finally found a method I really like. I do the usual dough ingredients in the kitchen aid with the dough hook, but only mix it until it comes together 1-2 minutes tops, turn it out onto a floured board and turn it 5-6 times and put it in an oiled bowl, in a cool place for 24 hours. Remember you are making pizza not bread. I think that pizza dough that sits for 72 hours is even better. Divide them up into small pizzas, toss them instead of rolling, using a pizza docker/roller, go over it several times, brush it with oil to keep the ingredients from soaking into the dough, lightly top it with your ingredients and bake on a pizza stone at 515. I turn the oven on 30-45 minutes before baking. Drizzle with oil once out of the oven.
K and J