Posts Tagged the bread bible

Beyond The Margarita – Pizza With Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Eggs

Spinach, Goat Cheese and Egg Pizza

A new classic: pizza with spinach, goat cheese, and eggs

Sometimes you happen upon a dish that is so perfect, so soul satisfying, that to change the recipe seems like a crime.

This is how I feel about cheese pizza – the classic mozzarella and tomato sauce combination is such a perfect marriage of flavors that I’ve rarely been tempted to stray from the classic. So while I’ve been making my own pizza for years (one of those things that is very impressive to say, but is actually very easy to do), they’ve all been of pizza margarita variety.

But ever since The New York Times did a series on healthier pizzas that featured toppings like potatoes, arugula, and walnuts, I’ve been wanting to branch out with my pizza toppings. I didn’t actually want to try their recipes – I don’t want whole wheat flour in my pizza dough, thank you very much – but I was inspired to experiment with flavor combinations of my own.

My chance came this weekend, when I had a couple of hours to kill and several unused food items sitting in my fridge. For the dough, I use Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from The Bread Bible. People area always incredibly impressed when I say I make my own pizza dough, but they really shouldn’t be. Beranbaum’s recipe should be renamed “pizza for the lazy;” it requires no kneading and rises in less than two hours. The dough bakes up slightly chewy, with a crisp crust that is a wonderful foil for any topping you could imagine.

This time around, I topped my pizza with items that were sitting in my fridge and needed to be used up: spinach, goat cheese, and eggs. I’ve been wanting to try eggs on pizza ever since I read about it on The Kitchen, and it is absolute genius. The slightly runny, savory eggs, the tart cheese, and bitter spinach, were a wonderful combination of flavors, and their soft textures were a lovely contrast to the crisp, chewy dough.

So the next time you have some random ingredients sitting in your fridge that need to be used, look no further than pizza. You may find a new pizza you like as much, or even more, than the classic cheese variety.

Spinach, Goat Cheese and Egg Pizza

Will this replace cheese pizza in my kitchen? Probably not. But it will be making another appearance before long, I'm sure.

Recipe: Spinach, Goat Cheese and Egg Pizza


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Mediterranean Matzoh

Matzoh 2

Matzoh, just in time for Passover.

I had never eaten matzoh before I made it last weekend. In fact, I probably still haven’t eaten what my Jewish friends consider “real” matzoh, since my free-form flatbreads looked very different from the perfectly square packaged crackers that line the shelves of my supermarket’s Passover display.

But as Passover begins at sundown Wednesday, I thought it was a propitious time to try to make my own matzoh. I was also not in the mood to try any of the Easter-themed recipes that were popping up on food blogs, and which were overly-cute and finicky. I didn’t much feel like making tiny rabbits out of marzipan or baking individual cakes in the shapes of Easter eggs.

Matzoh, in contrast, was simple and savory — with a rich religious and cultural heritage that didn’t involve me piping dozens of carrots in multi-colored frosting. It was exactly what I was looking for.

Matzoh 3

I loved the deep brown color of the matzoh.

This recipe is from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s book, The Bread Bible, but the recipe is originally from Noel Comess, founder of Tom Cat bakery in Queens, New York. The recipe takes liberties with the original recipe for Matzoh, which is traditionally made from plain flour and water. Beranbaum adds olive oil for crispness, and salt, wheat flour, and rosemary for flavor. According to Jewish law, the dough must be baked eighteen minutes after the dough is mixed, otherwise it is considered “leavened” and unsuitable for Passover. But Beranbaum’s dough rests for a full 30 minutes before shaping.

But while this matzoh is not strictly kosher for Passover, it is a recipe well worth adding to your year-round baking arsenal. The flavors are earthy and satisfying, with the rosemary and salt adding a savory punch to the simple dough. The matzoh make a loud and satisfying crackling sound when you tear off a piece, which adds to their appeal. These matzoh would be perfect alongside any meal, no matter what the occasion.

Maybe I’ll even make some for Easter dinner.

Matzoh 1

Matzoh, closeup.

Recipe for Mediterranean Matzoh

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January Popover Experiment, Take Three: Wondra Flour v. Bread Flour

Popovers - Recipe Mistake 2

Nothing about these giant popovers went as planned.

Shirley O’Corriher frightens me. Her book, Bakewise is filled with such abundant detail, such specific instruction, and such extensive scientific knowledge that it fills me with a mixture of excitement and terror. In her extensively researched recipes, each ingredient is absolutely essential, chosen because of its specific chemical makeup.

This means that small substitutions that I’d usually make without batting an eyelash, like substituting two percent milk for whole milk, are out of the question. Don’t have bleached all-purpose flour on hand? Looks like I’m not making her apple cake. Is the store out of full-fat buttermilk? Then the pound cake recipe is out.

But during the January Popover experiment I went against my own better judgement and made a big substitution in Bakewise’s popover recipe. I had started making Saturday night dinner too late, and didn’t have an hour to let the batter sit. But I remembered that The Bread Bible’s Popover recipe uses Wondra flour—a highly processed, quick-mixing flour that allows the batter to be baked immediately. What if I made a teensy, tiny substitution?

O’Corriher’s original popover recipe calls for bread flour, which is the complete opposite  of Wondra flour. Bread flour is a high-protein flour, which makes it especially good at creating sheets of gluten that hold in steam, giving the popovers  a tremendous rise. Bread flour also absorbs more liquid than lower-protein flour, which helps the popovers stay crisp and light. Wondra flour is on the other end of the spectrum – it has a low protein content, creates less gluten than other flours, and absorbs much less liquid.

To top it all off, I was so frazzled in the kitchen that after I put the popovers in the oven to bake, I accidentally turned off the oven! It took me ten minutes to figure out my mistake. Considering that O’Corriher is adamant that the baker shouldn’t even open the oven during the baking process lest the temperature fall, I was convinced that my popovers were toast.

But the result was much stranger than that. The resulting popovers were huge – they rose to magificent heights over the top of my muffin pan. My personal non-scientific and therefore very dubious theory is that, with no gluten to tame the rise, the popover  shot up like a rocket. The popovers also had more of the springy, soft centers than my first two attempts, and the crust was very light and insubstantial.

Popovers - Recipe Mistake 6

Popovers in the pan. They were huge! They expanded so much the tops touch each other.

Would I make this recipe again? Perhaps. But it’s best made by those who enjoy popover centers, more than the popover crust. Since I enjoy both, I’m still looking for my perfect popover recipe. Mostly, this should be inspiration for those cooks who are convinced that they’re not precise enough to bake. Even with my mistakes and risky substitutions, we still had a pretty great Saturday night dinner.

Popovers - Recipe Mistake 5

You can see how much they rose over the side of the pan, despite the fact that I mistakenly turned off the oven when I put them in.

Mistaken Popovers (for reading only!)
Adapted from Bakewise
Note, I’m only putting in this recipe to illustrate my mishaps! For those of you looking for a real recipe, check out The Bread Bible or Joy of Cooking popover entries.

5 large eggs, in the shell
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 3/4 cups Wondra flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Warm the eggs by placing them in a bowl of hot tap water. Drain and refill the bowl at least once with fresh hot water.

Heat milk in a saucepan or microwave until just warm to touch. Place flour in a large bowl and slowly add in milk, stirring with a fork or whisk and making sure there are no lumps.

Separate three of the eggs, keeping the whites and storing or discarding the yolks. Beat the eggs whites with the remaining two whole eggs. Beat in 1/2 cup of the flour mixture into the egg mixture to lighten. Then beat the egg mixture into the flour mixture.

Heat the cream in a saucepan (or microwave, but I find a saucepan leaves less of a chance of having the cream boil over) until almost boiling. Sprinkle salt over batter and whisk in hot cream.

While heating the cream, brush the popover or muffin pans with melted butter and heat in the oven until butter is hot and brown, but not burning, 3-5 minutes.

Remove the hot pan from oven. Pour batter into cups, until they are three quarters full. Place hot pan in the oven.

Mistakenly turn oven off for 10 minutes.

Discover this mistake. Scream and fuss a bunch. Then turn oven back on to 425 and bake for 12 minutes. Lower heat to 325 and bake for 25 minutes more.

Remove pan from oven. Be amazed when popovers are a little soft, but none the worse for wear. Accept Wonktheplank’s comforting that we learn the most from our mistakes, not our successes. Vow to properly make this recipe another time.

Popovers - Recipe Mistake 4

A front view of a mistaken popover.

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The January Popover Experiment, Take One

Popovers - Beranbaum

Popovers, take one.

One of the problems with being an amateur baker who, unfortunately, must work to make a living, is that it’s incredibly easy to fall into baking ruts. As much as I want to try new recipes, I never know if they’re going to work, and I hate wasting my precious time and energy on a failed project. This fear drives me back to the tried-and true crowd-pleasing recipes that I know will come out perfect every time, which is why I’ve made more batches of America’s Test Kitchen Molasses Spice cookies than I can count.

But in 2009, I want to stretch my baking chops. So I decided to do an experiment. Every month I want to choose a new baked good to focus on—pie, pound cake, devil’s food cake, etc.—and try a bunch of different recipes for that item. Hopefully, this project will hone my baking skills, force me to bake things I’d never bake on my own, and, of course, have something to chronicle for my domestically obsessed readership. Plus I now have several excellent cookbooks on hand, and this is a perfect excuse to try them out.

After a little culinary soul-searching, I decided that January was going to be popovers month. Why? Well, for one thing, they’re fast and easy to make. I can serve them with dinner for two nights in a row without inciting protest from WonkthePlank, who loves them. When done right, they taste delicious, with a salty, buttery and crisp brown crust, and soft, springy middle. And there’s a certain magic in a good popover—the liquid batter looks like it’s too soupy to bake into anything at all, but the mystical force of the oven transforms it into towering brown puffs of dough. That kind of magic is why I love baking.

My first popover attempt was based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from the The Bread Bible, which is hands-down my all-time favorite cookbook. In the book, Beranbaum explains that popovers are a type of batter bread, meaning that the dough contains a double amount of water than a basic bread dough recipe. Basic popover recipes call for mixture of flour, eggs, and milk, but Beranbaum adds melted butter, salt and sugar as well. Despite their towering height, popovers do not use yeast or any other leavener. Instead, when placed in a hot oven, the milk in the batter creates steam, creating that magnificent rise.

Beanbaum’s recipe also calls for Wondra flour, which is a low-protein, highly-processed, granular flour that dissolves instantly in liquid. General Mills calls it “quick mixing” flour that can be used for gravy or sauces, but many bakers have found that it works well in certain breads and cakes. Wondra flour is perfect for popovers because the flour absorbs the liquid instantly, so the batter can be baked immediately. Many traditional popover recipes call for the batter to sit for several hours before baking, during which the flour becomes fully hydrated.

In my admittedly small amount of research on popovers, I’ve found that there’s variation in the way that popovers are baked. Some recipes call for popover batter to be poured into a buttered muffin or popover tin and then placed in a hot oven. However, the Beranbaum recipe calls for the buttered tins to be heated for a couple of minutes in a hot oven before the batter is added. This is the traditional way that Yorkshire puddings are made—although, in that case, they are cooked in beef drippings, rather than hot butter.

The recipe below is an adaptation of Beranbaum’s Bread Bible recipe, which I made last Friday night. While the popovers did, indeed, rise to stupendous heights, I think they almost rose too much. One of my favorite parts of a popover is the spongy, soft middle that clings to the crisp, brown crust. When I made these, there was an abundance of brown crust and not enough spongy middle. Still, if you like a crusty, buttery popover, then this recipe is for you.

The Popover Recipe

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