Garlic Scapes GO OUT for Pizza!

It seems ubiquitous that when one has copious quantities of garlic scapes – or even ten – that they be turned into pesto! I’m just never sure what to do with so much of the stuff, but today, pizza seemed to be a great idea. It’s the Fourth of July Weekend, not too hot and the perfect time to practice my pizza making skills! The great thing about making pizza is to leave the toppings out and have everybody make their own. This allows for a long relaxing meal on the deck because we can only do one pizza at a time. They each take about 8 minutes in a 500 degree oven, so just enough time for salad and conversations with guests as some are in the kitchen and others on the deck. It’s my secret weapon for really making entertaining relaxed!

Some of you are probably wondering why I am doing the pizzas in the oven. Well, we sold our property where we built our last pizza oven and have yet to make our wood-burner at the farm. That project is in queue!

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Last year I left a few onion sets in the ground over winter to go to seed this year. We have these very architectural beauties decorating the garden beds, and the seed heads, like garlic scapes, carry the flavor of their parent plant. Onion flowers have a mild onion flavor that is great on salads, pizza or enchiladas. Here you can see the little white flowers along with a few of the green onions chopped up and tossed on top of the pie.

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This is the same crust recipe that I have used in the past, however I was out of the sprouted wheat, so used only white flour. This crust was good, but didn’t have the chewy texture I get with the sprouted variety. I am no expert, but flour really makes a difference to a good pizza dough. In five years of making dough, I don’t think the dough was ever the same twice. There is something about humidity and water flour ratio that can really have an impact. The most important thing to remember with this cold fermentation dough is to leave it just a tad bit stickier than bread dough. Here’s the recipe with the sprouted wheat.

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As for the pesto, garlic scapes make it simple. No peeling garlic needed. You just toss a bunch of the scapes in a food processor with all of your other pesto ingredients and voila! This spread can not only add flavor to pizza, but is a great sandwich spread or veggie dip. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 garlic scapes
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup almonds, walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil to bring together
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
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Sprouted Wheat Pizza Dough

Winter came to Minnesota yesterday and as the seasons have changed, so has my pizza dough recipe. Some of the renovations included a gradual increase in the ratio of whole wheat to white flour, I moved to warm water and regular yeast and now only let the dough rise once. You can check out my first recipe here, but I may never change again! I hope this doesn’t mean winter will never go away because I’d like to sit out on the patio again one day.

THE BEST PIZZA DOUGH EVER – All in the name of JUICING!

In the interest of increasing enzymes in my diet, I’ve turned to sprouted grains. Since changing my eating habits last summer to a more raw foods diet, I have a hard time eating heavy breads and grains, and this includes the pizza that had been coming out of our backyard behemoth! The last couple months, our baking parties have become sparse, but that won’t be true anymore. Last week I ordered some sprouted wheat flour, milled to order, from To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co., and experienced complete bliss. This flour made the most amazing pizza dough!

The first thing I noticed about the dough was that it was incredibly easy to stretch and shape. Other doughs have always been stretchy and easy to shape, but this was amazing. We were actually able to stretch it so thin that we made some fourteen-inch pizzas out of the same size dough ball normally used to use for a ten-inch. Other doughs have sometimes tended to tear when they start to get thin, but not this one. The gluten held together like a rubber band! It came out of the oven thin, crisp and chewy perfection. I suspect this was due to the fact that the flour is fresh, milled to order and has a nice moisture balance because of that.

The flavor was spot on and the dough seems to leave me feeling a little less full.

This recipe is really easy to make in a stand mixer. Once the dough is mixed, all you need to do is form twelve balls, set them on a proofing pan or cookie sheet and leave them covered in the refrigerator until about two hours before baking. Two hours before baking, set the dough out to rise. Remember, pizza dough is a tiny bit sticky so you’ll need a little flour to form it on a peel.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp. regular yeast
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 7 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
  • 3 cups white flour

Directions: Using the mixer paddle, mix yeast, water, oil, honey and salt together until dissolved. Next mix in three cups of the whole wheat flour. (If using a stand mixer, switch to the hook at this point.) Add the rest of the flour one cup at a time and let the mixer run for seven or eight minutes. If you are hand mixing be careful not to add too much flour. The trick with the stand mixer is to watch to see that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl yet sticks to the bottom. If the dough is too sticky, add a small spoon of flour one at a time until it is the right consistency. If it is too dry, add a few dribbles of water.

Once the dough becomes smooth and the gluten has lined up, remove it from the bowl and form into a large ball. With a pastry blade, cut the dough into twelve equal pieces. I form the dough into a round flat disk, cut it into fourths, and then each fourth into thirds. I can see where a scale might be nice if you want your pizzas uniform.

Roll or knead each piece into a ball, coat it lightly with flour and place it on a cookie sheet. Once you have all twelve pizza doughs prepped, cover the tray with plastic wrap and return to the fridge until two or three hours before baking. Set the dough out on the counter at room temperature to rise. The balls will soften and become very easy to work.

While the dough rises, preheat your oven stone and prep your toppings. Enjoy!

Green Pizza Toppings

Not your average pizza topping is it? But, it’s become my signature. Every week our pizzas sport a concoction of caramelized onion, olive oil, greens and garlic. I figure, there’s just not enough green in the world, so any chance to pair it in an uncommon way, and I will. We also serve a simple field green salad to top every pizza! This slightly sweet vinaigrette pairs wonderfully with the rich savory flavors of cheese, crust and sauce.

The pizza below is host to many local Minnesota veggies straight from the CSA box: turnips and their greens, broccoli, red onion, garlic, and brussel sprouts.

Caramelized Onion and Greens

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch of greens (here are some ideas: swiss chard, kale, turnip, mustard…)
  • brussel sprouts and broccoli (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Directions: To caramelize onions I place them in a saute pan on high heat until they begin to brown. Then I turn the heat down and allow them to slowly cook for about twenty minutes stirring every now and then. Add salt and pepper and garlic until fragrant, then add the greens. Saute until the greens are tender and bright green. Careful not to overcook as they will cook more on the pizza.

If you choose to add the brussel sprouts, cut them in half and cook them with the onions so they get nice and browned. Other greens can be added at the end of the cooking time. Of course, Kale needs a few minutes more than tender greens.

That fire swooping up over the top just amazes me!

A New Cook

I’m out on a limb here. I’ve moved into unfamiliar territory and I feel like a novice. With a pizza oven in the backyard, I think I should be some pro, or something, but I have a lot to learn. Fortunately I found a great pizza crust recipe to work with, but I didn’t know different flours and yeasts behave differently. I’ve become a pizza crust chemist  running weekly experiments out of the kitchen. One day I try the yeast cold, another day I work with 105 degrees, and I’ve got gluten to think about. Am I using all-purpose for this batch or a bread flour? I never realized the tremendous amount of work that goes into bread diagnostics! However, once you get it figured out, pizza dough is pretty easy.

Easy if you don’t deviate from the rules: Rule number one: Cold Fermentation, Rule Number Two: Make your dough sticky, Rule Number Three, bread flour. If you like to improvise with recipes like I do, DON’T! It just won’t work. Did you know that if you use a warm fermentation you actually will use more flour to create the same dough consistency, and I have no idea why? With a warm bath for your yeast you’ll end up with a thick crust that is hard to stretch out. Instant yeast and a cold, delayed fermentation overnight in the fridge uses less flour, and gives you a lovely Nepoletana crust with a nice chew. I get similar results with a normal active yeast dissolved in cold water.

Pizza dough is sticky. By that I mean you need to flour the outside of each dough ball and your fingers to work it, but when it’s sticky, it can be easily stretched. I found out that if I make the dough dryer, it get’s springy and hard to stretch out. I also played around with adding more gluten to the recipe, but ended up with a tough dough. One time I left out the extra gluten when using a bread flour, and the gluten levels were perfect. Now I stick with King Arthur bread flour. Adding gluten helped all-purpose flour have a nice chew, but not as good as the King. A sticky pizza dough is so easy to stretch with a little flour on your fingers even a novice can attempt a pizza throw or two. We had a few hit the ceiling last weekend!

The other thing I’ve experimented with is proofing the dough, or giving it a second rise. Peter Reinhart’s recipe only calls for a single fermentation rise, but one lazy evening, I decided to put the dough straight into the fridge to shape the next morning, and it was great! With the first method, once the dough is finished it gets cut into pieces, rolled into balls, covered with a little olive oil and set in the fridge overnight. About two or three hours before baking, they get pulled out to rise and soften. This method makes an amazing crust, but something happened to the flavor when it needed an additional quick knead on the morning of baking day before shaping it into the balls. Is that possible? We now had an amazing crust in texture, but the flavor was nutty, yeasty, and lush. Before it was good, but a little bland. Now what I do is make the dough, place it in a covered bowl to slow-ferment in the fridge overnight. The next day I quickly knead the dough and then form it into individual pizza sized balls. Then it goes back into the fridge to remove two or three hours before baking. I’m not positive that this extra knead causes the dough to change, but my impression is: better!

In the midst of all this experimenting, I have been thinking about how wonderful the pizza stone is. Not everybody can have a pizza oven in the backyard, but most of us can have a stone or two, and they work great. Throw them in at 450 degrees an hour before you want to bake, make sure you have a pizza peel and know how to slide the pizza off using cornmeal or flour. With these little tidbits and the right dough recipe, pizza is really pretty quick and easy to make.

Dough Riff for Twelve

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 7 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tsp. (or 1 package) instant yeast
  • 2 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 3/4 cups cold water

Directions: Mix the yeast, water, oil and salt together until dissolved. Next mix in the whole wheat flour. (If using a stand mixer, switch to the hook at this point.) Add the white flour and knead for seven or eight minutes. If you are hand mixing be careful not to add too much flour. I have been using a stand mixer for this dough which makes for easy mixing. The trick with the stand mixer is to watch to see that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl yet sticks to the bottom. If the dough is too sticky, add a small spoon of flour one at a time until it is the right consistency. If it is too dry, add a few dribbles of water.

Once the dough becomes smooth and the gluten has lined up, rub the dough with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge over night.

In the morning gently punch down the dough and give it a quick knead. With a pastry blade, cut the dough into twelve equal pieces. I form the dough into a round flat disk, cut it into fourths, and then each fourth into thirds. I can see where a scale might be nice if you want your pizzas uniform.

Roll or knead each piece into a ball, coat it lightly with olive oil and place it on a cookie sheet. Once you have all twelve pizza doughs prepped, cover the tray and return it to the fridge until two or three hours before baking. To give the dough its final rise, set it out on the counter at room temperature. The balls will soften and become very easy to work.

Alligator Pie

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These are the eggs…and this is…the mama! Alligator disguised as a spinach, caramelized onion and goat cheese calzone!

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A few years ago I started a new holiday tradition that, to the great sadness of my brother, Theo, only went into practice once. That tradition was making alligator pie for Christmas dinner. I remember my original alligator turned out a bit more detailed and not quite as puffy. I guess I am out of practice.

Today’s alligator crust was inspired by Cafe Amy’s Calzone dough. I used this recipe as the backbone, tripled it, added whole wheat flour and opted for honey instead of cane sugar. Here’s how my recipe ended up:

Alligator Pie Dough

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbs. active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 3 Tbs. honey
  • 6 cups white flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

Dissolve the yeast in the water then add salt, honey and oil. Mix the liquid so all solids are dissolved. Begin to add the flour one cup at a time and mix until you have included all nine cups. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. In a lightly oiled bowl, let the dough rise covered for at least an hour.

Alligator Fillings:

  • 1 Vidalia onion sliced into rings
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 handful fresh basil, chopped
  • Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup hard goat milk cheese, grated
  • Fresh spinach
  • Red pepper, diced

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Caramelize the onions in the oil on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. The garlic can be added the last five minutes of the process to mellow the flavor.

Prepare all the fillings and organize an assembly station area.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it briefly into another ball or log. Cut it into 24 chunks for individual Calzones. Let the dough sit for another few minutes to soften and rise a bit.

To make the Calzones, roll the dough out on an unfloured surface. You want the dough to stick to the counter so that it is easy to fill. I use a rolling-pin, but also help the dough along by stretching it and sticking it to the counter.

Once the circle is about seven or eight inches across, fill it with the toppings. Keep the toppings in the middle so you can fold the Calzone in half. Press the two sides together so the dough will stick. Once it is pressed together you can crimp it, pleat it or press it with a fork.

Place the Calzones on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and brush the tops with olive oil. Bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until browned on the top. Remove from oven and brush again with olive oil.

Note: This photo was sent in a few days after I posted the Alligator Pie recipe by Karen Heimdahl. She tried the recipe, added pepperoni for her husband, and a few spicy peppers gave it a little kick. It looks great!

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Pizza on the Grill

Grilled Pizza

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The last CSA went to the cabin with us, but out of routine, not many photo worthy meals were produced. These pizzas weren’t part of the plan, so we had an unexpected and delightful surprise. Max wanted pizza, but none of the adults wanted to trudge into town. Pita pizzas on the grill ended up a very satisfying alternative. We had a jar of Del Grosso organic pasta sauce, mini pitas, garlic scapes from the CSA, red onion, artichoke hearts, feta and parmesan cheese. Everybody was able to make their own while the grill heated, and we enjoyed an amazingly easy and delicious summer-time meal.

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