Pizza Thoughts

Lazy Sundays, cozy sunny afternoons and a mind blowing hunger with way too many leftovers going on from the past week.

So I decided to be the extra lazy cook today, and holiday season a part, bring on the calories, the carbs, the cheesy fat of this thing I cooked, plus all the vegetables to feel just a tad less guilty.

One of the leftovers I most adore to play with? Bread. After a day or two, fresh bread takes a hike and turns into a semi dry clump of dough with not much to do about it (except make croutons or something boringly simple). The leftover bread I used was a Chouriço bread, cut in half where each was topped with tomato sauce, cheese and veg (no meat needed, chouriço already present). Portuguese love bread, you can find the chouriço one available at many fairs, events, specially a winter thing as freshly baked warms any soul (and fills any belly). If you want to give it a try, make your fave bread dough recipe, thinly spread it and lay (loads) of slices of chouriço, roll up and bake till crispy. Brioche goes very well with the salty goodness of the cured meat.

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Any leftovers for next day’s lunch is a piece of cake (or pizza in this case) – just slightly heat and eat.

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This post was inspired by a recipe my friend Daiane Lopes and I made a few months back, homemade roast tomato sauce pizza with veggies and fresh basil. If you are a dough making type of person – this is the starting-from-scratch recipe you should try.

Check out her blog for some delightful recipes and this pizza post that was published in Umbigo Magazine.

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Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 200 grams all purpose flour
  •  7 grams dry yeast
  • 110 grams warm water
  • 30g olive oil
  • Salt

Sauce:

1 kg ripe tomatoes
150 grams green pepper
220 grams onions
4 cloves of garlic
5 grams sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt
Black pepper

Fresh rosemary
Fresh basil

Topping the pizza:

  • 200 grams mozzarella (feel free to mix with other cheeses, like stilton/roquefort/gorgonzola, parmesan or pecorino)
  • Cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Thinly sliced eggplant
  • Fresh basil
  • Oregano

Prepping the dough:

Mix the ingredients with the dough paddle of a stand mixer for 5-7 minutes. Make a ball, set in a bowl greased with olive oil and let rise for 1 1/2 hour, covered, in a warm place.

Prepping the sauce:

Half the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper, oilve oil and rosemary. Roast for 50 minutes at 160ºC.

Slightly fry the onions, garlic and green peppers, add the roasted tomatoes and add a pinch of sugar if the acidity of the tomatoes is too high (and tart)..

Make sure to make an extra smooth sauce with a food processor.

Any leftover sauce can be frozen into ice cube trays and later on used for flavoring several dishes.

Prepping the pizza: 

Pre-heat your oven on max temperature (usually >250ºC). This is highly important for a crispy crust. Most issues with making home made pizza is really the temperature at which it is cooked in the first place – even at 200ºC, the dough can become soggy and bready.

The second step into getting a perfect dough is blind baking it for 5 minutes, before adding the sauce, cheese and diverse toppings.

Note: for extra extra crispiness, making the dough the previous night and letting it cool in the fridge after rising, will relax the gluten and harden the structure once it is cooked.

 

Profiteroles

Today is the day that my dear friend Daiane Lopes and I publish our first recipe together, in a portuguese online magazine called Umbigo. I’m very excited about this, because our first recipe is a mix between both of our cultures. Being brazillian, Daiane makes her famous “brigadeiro” (mixed condensed milk, butter and chocolate) and my american vein is bond to add a bit of peanut butter to it. So that is how our first profiterole topping/filling came about.

Even if you do not understand portuguese, please do take a look at our publication through the following link – http://umbigomagazine.com/um/2014-09-29/profiteroles.html – and appreciate one of the best PT magazines, with so much information on art, cultural events, and many outstanding writers and editors. It recently won a bronze award at Festival do Clube de Criativos de Portugal.

This is where some of our recipes will be posted through the following months, and we have enjoyed very much trying out some new recipes, just like this one.

So, first of all, the 101 Profiterole lesson. This is another recipe adapted from Sebastian Rouxel and Thomas Keller’s book (Bouchon Bakery) and it is a very easy, accessible thing to bake. A few tricks and details however, but surely no rocket science on how you come about to cooking a golf ball sized puff of 85% air and 15% delicate ready-to-fill pastry. The filling is really up to your personal taste, and you can use various types of cream, glazes, anything worth setting inside a little golden puff of hollowness, ready to ooze out after the first bite.

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Ingredients:

  • 250 grams water
  • 125 grams salted butter
  • 138 grams flour
  • 250 grams eggs, beaten

Preparation:

Start by combining the water and the butter in a pan, over a medium heat until the butter is completely melted and the water starts to simmer. Do not let it boil, as it will reduce necessary moisture. Mix in the flour, with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes. By this time, the dough will become a paste and will start to unglue from the sides of the pan.

Transfer the dough into a bowl and with a mixer, beat for about 30 seconds to release some of the leftover moisture. Add in the eggs, in 5 stages of 50 grams each. Make sure that each previous addition is well incorporated before adding the next. At one point, you might freak out because the dough will look grainy and uncontrollably destroyed – don’t panic, this will soon disappear with the constant egg addition, which is responsible for the gooey elastic texture and appearance.

Let the dough cool down a bit, for about 15 minutes, before gathering it in a pastry bag (choose whichever tip of your preference, just make sure it has a big opening). Slightly dab the corners of a cookie sheet with any remaining dough and lay a piece of parchment paper over the top (this will keep the paper stuck to the tray while in the oven, and not fly off and wreck the profiteroles). Start forming the pâte à choux disks, about 2/3 cm diameter, by pressing and slightly elevating the pastry bag to give it some volume. Stop pressing when you mean to start another one, otherwise the dough will just keep on going while you stretch the bag up and mess up the pretended format. Keep about 2 cm of distance between each disk.

Dab a finger in cold water and smooth out any tips that remained from your marvelous piping techniques (it happens to me, to you, everyone, and you just can’t prevent that tiny little bump from forming). Lay the tray(s) in the freezer until the disks are removable. This is another great freezing technique combined with patisserie excellence, first of all because profiteroles should be eaten fresh, within an hour after baking; second because by gathering the already frozen disks in a bag, you have some ready to pop in the oven whenever your sweet tooth desires (without having to defrost them); third because it stabilizes texture by preventing them from melting before “popping”.

frozen profiteroles

This is what the frozen profiteroles look like. They will last up to a month in the freezer, inside a zippy bag.

To bake: preheat the oven to 190ºC, the best setting is the convection one, but if that is not a possibility for you, then try the one you are most comfortable with. Spritz the profiteroles with water, into the oven and reduce the temperature to 170ºC. Cook for 25 minutes, reduce the temperature to 160ºC and bake an extra 10 minutes. Makes 45-50 profiteroles.

The fillings and/or toppings:

Peanut butter “brigadeiro”:

Ingredients:

  • 395 grams condensed milk (1 can)
  • 300 grams smooth peanut butter
  • 300 grams dark unsweetened chocolate
  • 30 grams salted butter
  • 150 grams whole cream
  • 60 grams caster sugar

Preparation:

Combine the peanut butter and the condensed milk in a pan, on the stove, and bring up to a simmer. In another pan, melt the chocolate with the butter, the cream and the sugar (just until the chocolate is completely melted). Mix both concoctions and set aside.

brigadeiro

Whipped cream: do I really have to give you a recipe for this? I didn’t think so, but just in case, whip 250 ml of whole cream, two tablespoons of sugar and a few drops of lemon juice. Or just use whichever recipe you are used to.

profiterol recheio nata I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream in desserts, but when in the right amount and with a good contrast (like this sweet and smooth peanut butter chocolate Snickers tasting goodness), it tastes rather nice. 

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You can always invert the topping/filling idea. Top with crunchy salted peanut for texture and flavor contrast.

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Lime merengue: So this was another idea I had for filling the profiteroles, as I have so many of them in the freezer just waiting to be pimped with awesome flavors. And so the pieterole was born! I am feeling quite eager into trying new pie transformations into this tiny format. Just you wait!

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How the profiterole was invented: a patisserie professional, a french one (of course), one day forgot to add sugar into his pastry cream. He therefore hid it in the oven, and only later on he remembered that the oven was actually hot. And puff, that is how pâte à choux was born.

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Lime curd

Ingredients:

  • 325 ml water
  • 30 grams cornstarch
  • 30 grams flour
  • 360 grams caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 75 grams lime juice (lemon if lime isn’t your thing)
  • Lime zest

Preparation:

Stir and cook the water, cornstarch, flour and sugar. As soon as it starts to bubble, cook for two minutes, always stirring. Gently poor this into the egg yolks, and stir fast so it doesn’t curdle. Cook for a further minute before adding the lime juice and zest. Once this starts to bubble, cook a further 3 minutes. Take off the stove and gently incorporate the butter.

If you think it is lumpy, by all means, pass it through a strainer.

Cover the curd with plastic wrap, contacting directly with the surface, so it doesn’t form an outer layer of unwanted skin.

Merengue

Weigh the leftover egg whites from the previous recipe, and measure double the amount of sugar. This is a recipe for an italian merengue, I find it quite stable as it lasts two days in the fridge without separating, and if you have any leftover just pipe the remaining on a tray and bake in the oven, like mini pavlovas.

Ingredients:

  • x grams egg whites (I used 70 grams)
  • 2x grams caster sugar (so 140 grams as in double the egg whites)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 5 drops lemon juice/lime juice/vinegar (this prevents the merengue from crystalizing while in the fridge)

Preparation:

Heat sugar, water and acid option on the stove, till 121ºC. A bit before reaching this temperature, make sure you start to beat the egg whites. As soon as they are formed, start poring the sugar syrup, and beat until cooled down (about 5 minutes, if you have a stand mixer, even better, just let it beat a bit more).

This is a very very sweet merengue. If you want to make something lighter, just do it the traditional way (no sugar syrup, but a few spoons of sugar while beating), but remember that that sort of merengue won’t last long, if not cooked. This can be good if you are willing to scarf all of the profiteroles down in one day, the fresher the better. If you have to make this the day before serving, I advise this technique as it holds pretty well overnight in the fridge. It is a truly reliable recipe as the high temperature reached by the sugar syrup allows the egg whites to actually cook into the merengue form. Obviously after a few days it is not at its best, after two it already lacks a bit of substance, but guess what – you can beat it again, and again, and again! Because merengue never over beats. This is true. Google it if you must.

I am in the process of trying out low calorie versions of merengue whilst using gelatin powder, so it is stable without the excess sweetness, but the results so far have not been satisfactory. I have also used, in the past, alternative sugars like isomalt, but it just doesn’t taste that good, and it is not very hygroscopic (keen to holding on to moisture/water) so it acts very differently and ends up separating faster than the caster sugar version. It is beneficial for weight watchers and diabetics, because as an alcoholic sugar, it is only partly absorbed into the body. The negative side: it isn’t as sweet.

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bitten profiterole

To fill the profiteroles: make a little hole on the bottom side with a knife, anywhere the dough is most fragile so it is easy to poke without destroying much of the puff. Use a thin tip and a piping bag to help, and don’t overdo it with the filling – otherwise it will get too rich. I usually weigh them after filling, and between 10-15 grams of filling is perfect.

If you prefer, you can open them, fill them, and shut them again. Whatever is easiest for you, but keep in mind that maintaining the filling a secret is the best part of eating a profiterole in the first place!

For the merengue, the funnest part of all, use a torch to slightly brown the topping, it will taste like a roasted marshmallow.