Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bake for Family Fun Month

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By Chef Diane,

The world has gotten so high tech lately that families are spending more time apart than they are together.  Kids are playing their video games; mom is texting and dad in the recliner watching the game or a movie.  While these activities are fun and entertaining, spending time with your family is also just as entertaining, and important.  Did you know that February is Bake for Family Fun Month?  I have been doing some searching on this subject and found out that homebaking.org has some recommendation’s for this month.  The first week is to just get started baking, slowly introducing your family to the idea of baking.  Week 2 is baking for your valentine, the third week is for baking history and traditions and the final week is baking for others.
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When my son was growing up we would bake together often, he grew up loving to cook and it ended up being a beneficial activity since his wife is a stranger in the kitchen.  As I was thinking what would be a good idea for you to try with your family, I first thought of cookies, which is a simple and fun way to spend the evening, also tasty once you are done. But then I thought, why not make a real family night.  Friday nights at my house were always pizza and movie nights, so I found a great recipe to share with you for baking your own family pizza.  I would recommend making the dough the day before to let it set.
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Pizza Dough

  • 6 cups flour
  • 3 cups warm water (temp. about 115 degrees F) Add some olive oil or other vegetable oil to the water (2-3 Tablespoons). Standard vegetable oil is fine. Use Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a little more flavor. Optional: Replace a half-cup or so of the water with milk. It makes for a more tender crust without sacrificing texture
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt (coarse sea salt is good too. If you're using table salt, reduce by half (not positive, but it sounds about right).
  • 1 1/2 tbsp instant dry yeast (I buy yeast in a big bag, so I don't know how many of those packets this translates to)
  • In a large bowl, mix water, oil (optional: milk), yeast, and salt. Add flour and stir. You may find that mixing it with wet hands is easier than stirring. I don't recommend breaking out the mixer for this, as it doesn't have to be kneaded. You'll be making a mess for only a few minutes' work.
  • This is very wet dough, so it will not form into a ball. It should not be liquid, though. It should be sticky, but able to stand in lump without slumping into the sides of the bowl. If it's too dry (forms a tight ball), add a little water and massage it into the dough with wet hands until it loosens up. It is not necessary to knead the dough if you can leave it in the fridge overnight or for a few days.

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Cover lightly (not airtight: use plastic wrap). Stick it in the fridge for 2 hours before using. For best results, make this a day ahead and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Or let it sit in the fridge for a few days. It will keep for more than a week, and the longer it sits, the more flavor and chewiness (gluten) it develops. The slower rise in the fridge prevents the gluten from breaking down as the action of the yeast expands it. I have had very good success with this: it has a less "fluffy" texture than rising at room temp.

Pizza Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 6 fluid ounces water
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes


Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion until tender. Stir in tomato paste and water. Season with sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, marjoram, cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes.

Putting together the pizza:
Heat the oven to 500 degrees F (yes, very hot). If it's hotter, you may scorch the dough a little, but that's actually a good thing in my book. Most professional pizza ovens run at over 700 deg F and some of the wood-fired ovens hit 900 deg F!

  • Flour the work surface liberally. Scrape the dough out onto the work surface. Remember, this dough is very sticky, it will almost pour out of its bowl.
  • Divide the dough evenly. For 18" pizzas, I cut the dough into three lumps. They are about 1lb. each.
  • Flour the dough and your hands and form the dough into balls. Forming a ball is a challenge because the dough is so sticky and the lumps are usually misshapen. Put a little flour on your hands, take two opposite sides of a lump and stretch them out, then fold them back over the center of the lump and push them together with your fingers. Rotate the lump 90 degrees and repeat for the two sides perpendicular to the first stretch. You'll now have a vaguely square lump. Pick up the dough, flip it over, and and curl the edges underneath and into the center until it makes a fairly even ball. It will "tighten" a little. Flip the ball over and squeeze together the loose edges that you had tucked under. Flour the work surface and let the dough rest. Let it sit until the oven is preheated. It will do a little rising again. To keep the dough from getting a dry crust, you can rub a little oil on it, or let it rest under a damp towel.

After the rest time:
  • If you're using a pan, coat the bottom and sides with oil (olive oil will do, but it's cheaper to use veggie or canola or similar). If you're using a pizza peel and a stone, liberally cover the peel with corn meal or dried bread crumbs. This will allow the dough to come off the peel as if on "ball bearings."
  • Flour a dough ball and put it on a floured work surface with a little room to work with. Flatten the dough with your fingers, trying to leave a little bit at the edge for a crust. Try to push from the middle out to the edges, all around. Every so often, flour the top, scrape up the edge, flip it over, flour it some more, and keep stretching.
  • With your fingers together, carefully pat the dough, stretching it as you go. It may be necessary to flip it over now and then. It helps to have a dough scraper to help to keep it from getting stuck to the work surface (did I mention this dough is wet and sticky?). Use flour liberally. If the dough is cold, it will be easier to pick it up by the edges, stretching very gently.  When it's close to the size of your peel or pan, flour your hands and pick up the dough by working your hands underneath it (again, gently). Try to get the dough to drape over the back of your hand, so that your fingers don't poke through. Quickly lift the dough and place it on the peel/pan. You can finish some of the stretching here, if you need to. If rips develop, try stretching dough over from thicker parts toward the problem spot. Squeeze together the edges of the rips to mend them.
  • Top with whatever ingredients you like

  1. For a pan, just slide it into your oven.
  2. For peel and stone, pick it up and shake it a few times to try to loosen up the pie. If you were very liberal with the cornmeal, it should start moving around very easily. Put the end of the peel near the back end of the stone, tilted slightly downward. Very gently shake the pie off of the peel, moving the peel back as the pie slides off. If it comes off in a total mess, have pizza delivered and try a pan the next time.
  3. Check it after 6 minutes, but it can take 8-10 minutes for it to get nicely browned. You may want to rotate the pan halfway through.
  4. If using a peel, slide it under the pie and transfer to a cutting surface. If using a pan, take it out and use a spatula or something to slide the pie out of the pan onto the cutting surface. If it's stuck (to the pan or to the stone), work around the stuck area gently and get it loose. It may tear a bit, but it will still be edible.

After you finish your pizza...try topping it off with some homemade brownies and ice cream while you are playing monopoly or shoots and ladders.  Have fun with it and start a new family tradition.

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