Pritty picture. Pretty perfect pizza pairing. Oh Stella.
life as an aspiring amateur
Sometimes when I meet new people, I tell them I love pizza. I like to be as real as possible lest anyone should assume that I was someone who didn’t like pizza, and therefore, would never invite me to eat pizza with them, and therefore, my life would be awful forever.
Not quite sure about the punctuation in that run-on sentence, but whatever. I really like pizza. However, I have never attempted to make it myself until today. Or shall I say, until yesterday, because apparently, the secret to a really complex crust flavor is to let the dough rest from 10-48 hours before baking it. Who knew?
I consider this near-authentic pizza to be a sort of last hurrah for summer. It’s fresh and grilled and uses up all those tomatoes that are overrunning your garden right now. I didn’t even bother making a real sauce for this. Just chucked some tomatoes, garlic, spices and olive oil in the food processor and slopped it on raw. Excellent choice.
We topped the pizzas with everything from chicken andouille sausage to avocado, but you can really use anything you have on hand. There are some fab ideas for unusual pizza toppings over here, with step-by-step instructions on grilling up the pizzas. If you don’t feel like reading the instructions, I will give you a summary:
Oil the grill. Cook crusts for two minutes until bubbly and beginning to brown. Loosen the crusts with a metal spatula and cook for an additional minute.
Flip crusts and cook for two more minutes. Pile on your toppings of choice. This time, return to the grill with the pizzas on a metal cookie sheet or pizza stone. Close the grill and heat until cheese is melted and toppings are warm.
And then gaze at your colorfully delightful creation. And then devour. And then wonder why you don’t just move to Italy. Wouldn’t life be happy?
Second best thing,
Best-Ever Pizza Dough
Adapted from Rachael Ray
makes enough dough for four 9-inch pizzas or sixteen 3-to-4 inch pizzas
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp. honey
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
3 cups (or more) all-purpose or bread flour
1 3/4 tsp. coarse salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
Mix 1 cup warm water and 1 tsp. honey in a liquid measuring cup until the honey dissolves. Sprinkle with 2 1/4 tsp. of active dry yeast and let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (This is proofing. Remember proofing?) Meanwhile, using a food processor, pulse 3 cups flour and 1 3/4 tsp. salt to mix.
Pour the yeast mixture and 2 tbsp. olive oil over the flour mixture. Process until the dough comes together in a sticky ball, about 20 to 30 seconds.
Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead, using the heel of your hand, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl; add the dough, turning to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch the dough down, then turn out onto a cutting board. Using a knife, quarter the dough.
Shape 1 dough wedge roughly into a ball. Place the dough ball on the work surface and cup your hand lightly over it. Rotate your hand counterclockwise, letting the dough roll on the work surface. Continue until the surface of the dough is smooth. Repeat with the remaining dough wedges.
Place each dough ball in a large resealable plastic bag or plastic container with a lid. Refrigerate for 10 to 48 hours (the dough will continue to rise). Let the dough sit at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping, or freeze for up to 2 weeks. Let the frozen dough sit at room temperature for 2 hours before shaping.
Turn out 1 ball of dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Press it out on the work surface into a 9-inch round, a long rectangle or an oval. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. To make 3- to 4-inch mini pizzas, cut each dough ball into 4 pieces, then press or stretch into shape.
I ran into some mental and emotional issues this year. Several times, I tried to make a recipe that included yeast. Each time I tried to make a “sponge,” the yeast wouldn’t proof. Even though I was using fresh yeast!
Proofing your yeast is a way to make sure that your yeast still lives and that it will work in whatever recipe you are using. A good sponge is, indeed, the proof of this.
Now, I could have been failing for a number of reasons. Mostly to do with the temperature of the water being perfectly correct. But! I recently read an article that talked about how in order for yeast to properly form a sponge, it needs to have sugars to feed on. The sugars make it grow–just another way yeast and I are so similar.
I feel like milk should have enough sugar in it to help the yeast proof? But don’t quote me on that, because I’ve tried it a few times. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. But water definitely does not have sugar in it, so if that is the base of your proof, then you’ll need to add sugar.
This is what proofing yeast looks like.
Step One: Heat water until it is lukewarm. It should not be cold, but not hot. ‘Warm’ is maybe a better word thank ‘lukewarm’ to describe the correct temperature, but I don’t want you to get ideas and go on thinking you can use really warm water. It should be just warm.
Step Two: Stir in your sugar of choice according to the recipe until dissolved.
Step Three: Sprinkle yeast over the surface of the water. Some recipes call for it to be stirred in. Try and be as even as possible with your sprinkling.
Step Four: Wait 5-10 minutes until the sponge is foamy. Now you’re good to go!
You can succeed! The benefits far outweigh the three minutes of mental anguish you may have to endure as you wait for your yeast to proof. CINNAMON ROLLS.
These were an inspired idea. The execution was not as inspired as the thought itself, but isn’t that just how things go sometimes? Yes. Even the ISFJ’s among us can wreck a perfectly good plan now and again.
The original recipe that caught my attention was this one, a lemonade layer cake that added lemonade mix to the dry ingredients. Genius, right? Especially during summer, when my body craves lemonade daily (and also cake, but that is a different tale). Given my extreme fear of producing a cake that is dry and (heaven forbid) angel food cake-like, I decided to take this strawberry cupcake recipe that you’ve seen before and just add a packet of lemonade mix to it.
Great, except it didn’t taste that great, and wonder of wonders, my buttercream split in the 95 degree heat. I had to add loads of powdered sugar to make it even set up a little. I won’t even tell you about the time I spent pressing hot washcloths to the side of the bowl in a
lazy efficient attempt to de-frag it.
Sorry this recipe was a bit of a fail. Next time, I’m just going to add fresh lemon zest and call it a day. In other news, aren’t the cupcake liners cute? They were a gift from a friend, which makes them all the specialer.
Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
Follow this recipe, but add one packet of Crystal Light Lemonade mix. The big one, that makes 4 quarts. It really wasn’t an awful cupcake, so if it sounds good, try it, but I was nonplussed. Don’t overbeat the frosting, for real.
Well, this was clearly one of the best evenings of my life. Never mind that I was with two of my best friends listening to an outdoor orchestra–this lake was legit, mayn. Look at how rich the colors are!
There were even duckies in attendance. Cute ones, rather tame from the multitude of fries that have been flicked at them from the lakeside concession stand. Incidentally, the concession food is all locally sourced and zero-waste (wait, what?), which is probably why all the duckies look so healthy.
This beautiful old tram line was just 50 yards from the lake. It felt like something out of a mid-century film, and I couldn’t resist editing it as such. Pipe dream fulfilled. I was totally bipolar in the way I edited these shots. Same evening, same lighting, totally different feelings evoked. And we know that a shot without any evocation (is that a word?) is void, yeah? Yeah.
It apparently produced a shift in the way things should be colored, however. Both sets have depth to them, with or without color, I think. Cool.
This is what happens with leftover wedding cakes. Cake of any sort makes for happy co-workers. Using up leftover fillings makes for happy Lauren. One of my biggest issues with these cakes was figuring out how much filling to use. When it was all said and done, there was much to use up. Heaven knows I could not eat all of it by myself, especially since my family was like, “Lauren, what do you expect us to do? Funnel it into our mouths like water?” Why yes, family, yes I do.
You can find the scaled-down recipes below. The whipped chocolate ganache was especially amazing.
Whipped Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from The Kitchn
This is useful for filling, piping or spooning. For additional tips, read my how-to post.
1 pound bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped roughly
3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (I used maybe two cups)
1 tablespoon brandy, rum, vanilla, or another flavoring (optional)
Put the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl — ideally the bowl of a stand mixer. Heat the cream to boiling and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for about ten minutes, then add the salt and flavoring, if desired, and blend with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or just stir by hand with a spatula.
Refrigerate for about two hours, or until firm all the way through. Whip with a stand mixer or beaters until soft, whipped, and slightly lightened in color.
Raspberry Pastry Cream
2 cups milk
1/4 cup white sugar2 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I omitted this and stuck with 1/4 cup of raspberry puree, or a little more)
In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Stir together the remaining sugar and cornstarch; then stir them into the egg until smooth.
When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the bowl in a thin stream while mixing so that you do not cook the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don’t curdle or scorch on the bottom. When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Stir in 1/4 cup of strained raspberry puree, or to taste.
Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled before using.