Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kimchi Pizza

Photo by shantilly picnic

One of the best parts of making pizza at home is you can LITERALLY (I love Chris Traeger) do anything you want with it. You have complete artist license. So I was trying to come up with something special for Steve-o's last pizza night before heading off to China for 20 days. I thought an asian themed pizza would be appropriate... but what? Crunchy asian noodles or maybe pickled veggies with sesame (inspired by one of our favorites, vegetable pancakes at M Noodle)? Then it hit me. How have we not even scratched the surface of fermented veggies on pizza?? Everyone in our apartment loves kimchi. Why not put it on a pizza?! Ok so that was the jump off point. Next we had to figure out what other toppings would compliment the kimchi. I was really excited at this point so first I went to Brooklyn Kitchen to get some ideas (picked up some Arirang Mahk Kimchi and some delicious farm fresh eggs) then I started a brainstorm skype session with Steve. After going back and forth for a solid 30 minutes we came up with this.

Kimchi - Seseame Oil - Pecorino - Egg - Parsley - Scallions - Sesame Seeds

Photo by shantilly picnic

It was definitely our most unique tasting pizza to date. Soon I hope to be making my own kimchi at home, but until then this Arirang Kimchi is pretty damn good. So, with all great pizza, let's start with the crust. This time I used the dough formula below. Your percentages are going to vary depending on what type of flour you're using, how wet your starter is, and how hot your oven gets. This works well for our conditions but I would encourage you to play around with it. You can find the complete dough methodology here along with oven instructions.

Makes five 13" pies

850 g ap flour (about 6 3/4 cups)
550 g spring water, room temp (about 2 1/3 cups)
30 g kosher salt (about 5 tsp)
100 g sourdough starter (about 1/4 cup)
8 g instant dry yeast (about 3 tsp)

Photo by shantilly picnic

Once the dough is stretched and transferred to the hot pan, brush it lightly with sesame oil (it goes a long way), cover the entire surface with kimchi, and shave some aged pecorino cheese on top. The sharp sheepy flavor of the pecorino stands up nicely to the kimchi and sesame. I baked it at 500 for a couple minutes just until I thought the crust had risen to its full potential, then I pulled it out and cracked a few eggs on top. Finish it in the broiler for a minute, just until the egg whites set and the crust gets slightly charred.

Toss some fresh picked cilantro with thinly slices scallions, toasted sesame seeds and a little evo and lemon juice. Scatter the cilantro-scallion herb mix on top of the pie and serve hot.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic

Guest Pizza!

Since we always have a revolving door of guests joining us at pizza night, we decided to start a new tradition. Each week we'll invite our guest to come up with one of the pizzas. It can be a classic, something they've seen on past pizza posts or something wild that they've always wanted to try. Last week, our friends Mitch and Elise concocted a delicious pie with the works! Tomatoes, garlic, mozz, mushrooms, olives, bell pepper, and fresh basil.

Photo by shantilly picnic

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pear Cardamom Upside Down [Birthday] Cake

Thanks for the great photo, Dlo!

Ok, so it's a pear marathon. Pearathon? I'm pretty sure I warned you how dorky I am. I'm also pretty sure I warned you about how excited I was to see PEARS at the market. I bought a ton. And right before they were about to spoil I put the final remaining pears (yes, I promise this will be the last post on pears for a while) to good use. You see, my friend Emma was coming into town from Ithaca and without skipping a beat I volunteered to cook a big belated birthday brunch (didn't matter one bit that it was just three days before I had to be moved out of my apartment- I love an excuse to get a good group of friends together and cook!). And there turned out to three other March babies so five birthdays to celebrate in total! No, I'm not math-illiterate. Emma is a twin so one always means two and two plus three is five! Phew, I'm glad we got that cleared up. So five birthdays to celebrate... I had big plans. Frittata, sour dough english muffins, banana bread, and a pear cardamom upside down BIRTHDAY cake. 

Happy Birthday, Dimity, Emma, Elspeth, Bobby, and Evan!

These five are definitely worth it and somehow I managed to wake up early enough on Sunday to pull it off.. Kind of. The only thing that suffered was my poor banana bread because I neglected to add sugar. Did I mention I was hung over? Of course I couldn't speak a word of my baking plans to Steve or else he would surely try to talk me out of making everything. So I dragged myself out of bed, popped a couple ibuprofen and made everything before he opened his eyes. Starting with the banana bread, hence the mishap. It wasn't a total loss. It's flavor was sweet enough because I let the bananas get ripe beyond belief. Their natural sugar was enough to sweeten the bread for sure, it was the texture that lacked. Sugar's role in baking is more complex than that of just adding sweet taste. Sugar attracts moisture in the batter which reduced the amount of gluten formed. Less gluten = more tender crumb + more rise in the oven. The result was a hearty (sugar-free!) loaf. I served it toasted with cultured butter and sea salt. 

Sea-salted banana bread catching some morning sunlight

It didn't ruin my day nor anyone else's I don't think. The frittata was an easy A. Farm fresh eggs, ricotta, leeks, onion, and potatoes, cooked in our good ol' cast iron pan. The sourdough english muffins were a nice surprise for everyone and always fun to make. 

Starting the frittata, english muffins rising in the background
Nooks, Cranny's, Butter

But the real excitement was around the birthday cake. I'm not going to name names but a few of us went in for a second slice. It really was something special. 

Makes one 9-inch cake. Serves 8-10

For the honey caramel: 

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

For the cake batter:
2 cups all-purpose 
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk (or plain yogurt)
5 cardamom pods (grind using mortar and pestle)
3 pears, thinly sliced

For the caramel:
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, place the honey, water and vanilla and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and let the syrup simmer down until thickened, should take 5-8 minutes. Remove from the heat. Pour the caramel into a buttered cake pan.

For the cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Arrange the pear slices on the bottom of cake pan (on top of Carmel sauce). Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt.
Cream butter and sugar in stand mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk (or yogurt) until just combined. Gradually add flour mixture until just incorporated. Don't over mix.
Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then carefully invert over a plate. Watch out for the oozing honey caramel.

I love the specks of cardamom!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pear Cardamom Tarte Tatin

Photo by shantilly picnic

This is not the first time I've posted about a baked treat made with the pears and cardamom, and I promise it won't be the last (in fact I have an epic pear cardamom upside down cake to share with you). I'm hooked on this flavor combo. I just love the way the sweet pears and fresh ground cardamom come together in the oven. Not only does cardamom add a wonderful aroma and flavor, in Ayurveda it is considered to be a very useful and effective medicine, detoxifying, improving digestion and blood circulation, treating allergies, sore throat, and weakness in general. 

Staying true to the 'obsessed' theme of this post, another recent obsession of mine is the Tarte Tatin (really, inverted baked goods in general). I've been flipping pears, apples, potatoes, and recently flipped a delicious caramelized onion tarte with star anise and thyme. It's a fun and forgiving process that anyone can master. I also have a soft spot for any recipe with such few ingredients. Many believe that the Tarte Tatin was the result of an accident in the Hotel Tatin kitchen in the late 1800's. The hotel was owned by sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin, although Stéphanie did most of the cooking. Legend has it that she left some apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long and tried to rescue the dish by putting a pastry round on top of the pan of apples, quickly finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. Other scholars say that upside-down tartes have long been a specialty of the Sologne region. Could be. The Tatin Sisters never did call their signature dish Tarte Tatin... That recognition was bestowed upon them by Curnonsky (Prince of Gastronomy) after their death. 

Pear Cardamom Tarte Tatin
Makes one 9-inch tarte

6 pears
5 cardamom pods, grind using mortar and pestle
Juice of half a lemon
6 Tbsp butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
Flaky tart dough, ideally made the day before and chilled in the refrigerator

Cut pear lengthwise into whatever shape you'd like them to appear once flipped. Toss pears with the lemon juice, fresh ground cardamom and 1/3 cup of the sugar. Set aside. Melt butter in a 9-inch heavy bottomed skillet (I prefer cast iron for the job) over medium heat and cover with the remaining 1 cup sugar. Whisk over heat until it starts to brown, remove from heat and layer the pears carefully into the pan. Return the pan to the stove and cook in carmel for another 20-25 minutes over medium-high heat. Use a spoon to gentle press down on the pears throughout this cooking time.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Preheat oven to 400. Roll out your flaky tart dough to a 9-inch circle and cut a few vents. Remove the pan from heat and place pastry round over the pears. Trim the dough around pan and tuck it in around the pears. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until lightly brown. Once done, cover the tarte with a serving dish (larger in diameter than the pan) and flip it upside down.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pear, Leek and Goat Cheese Pizza

Photo by shantilly picnic

Here's a pizza that I've been meaning to share for a while. I love apples and God bless them for being one of the only year round fruits over here in the Northeast, but when I saw a sudden abundance of pears at the green markets a couple weeks ago, I didn't think twice about straying from the u-sh. Trying to eat local foods as much as possible and support local farmers can get tough through the winter months but I've never felt so connected with the seasons than I do now. I suppose that also has to do with being born and raised in Southern California... I digress. Back to this delicious pizza. Pears! Leeks! and Goat Cheese! Oh my!! What a great flavor combo. Our group of pizza night regulars rated this one in their top two favorite pizza's to date.

Photos by shantilly picnic

Try it out for yourself. Pizza dough recipe can be found here. First get your oven going. Preheat to the max temp with your pizza stone or cast iron pan inside. You should heat the oven for at least 1 hour for stone and 30 min for cast iron. Sautee sliced leeks with a good amount of EVO, just until they begin to soften. They'll finish cooking in the oven with pizza. Once the oven is preheated and your dough stretched, transfer it to the hot pan CAREFULLY and top it with your leeks. Brush the excess EVO all over the crust and sprinkle with sea salt. Next start arranging the pears and goat cheese. After seeing how this pizza bakes I would recommend a scattering of goat cheese on top of the leeks, then a layer of pears, then another light scattering of goat cheese. Throw that baby in the oven and switch it to broil (if your broiler is in the top portion of your oven). Make sure the pie is positioned on a rack closest to the top. No patience needed with pizzas- your masterpiece should be ready in 3-5 minutes. Always check the bottom and if it's not crispy enough to your liking, you can always finish cooking it on the stove top (if you're working with a cast iron pan). If your oven has the broiler in a separate compartment below the oven (which is the case with my new apartment's oven), start the pie in the top at 500, then move it to the broiler to finish.

Photo by shantilly picnic
Photo by shantilly picnic

Enjoy! And look out for my next pizza post (no I don't eat pizza every night). We got bold last week and did a kimchi pizza. Mmmm... Fermented veggies on a chewy sourdough crust. 

Photo by shantilly picnic