One Crust and Three Pizzas

October Daring Bakers’ challenge was pizza, to be precise – Peter Reinhart’s wonderful pizza crust. To make it challenging enough, we were supposed to master the tossing technique. Although, it is definitely fun and adrenalin-releasing experience I prefer to stretch my dough on the fists letting the gravity to do its work. This way, the desirable thicker edges and very thin center are easily achieved.

We were required to take a picture of the flying dough in the air. Unfortunately, this historical (I mistyped “hysterical”, first :) moment couldn’t be captured – there was no qualified adult around to take such shot. You will have to believe my words that the dough was not just tossed in the air but even successfully caught. And I lie very seldom.

I have a tendency to overdo the fillings and toppings. And there’s an explanation for this. I still remember my nana teaching me how to make a cabbage pie and whispering: ”If you don’t put enough filling, dear, people will think you are cheap. Without the filling, the pie is just a bread crust. And you don’t invite guests over for a slice of a regular bread.” Who ever questions nana’s opinion? So, if you have the same issues with the fillings/toppings as I do, we (Peter Reinhart and I :) must warn you. Do not overtop your pizza! Be moderate with your toppings no matter how good they are.

My big thank you to Rosa, this month DB’ host! We all enjoyed it a lot!

Sautéed Apple and Crispy Cinnamon Streusel Pizza

Sautéed Apple and Crispy Cinnamon Streusel Pizza

In this one, I topped the unbaked crust with thinly sliced and sautéed in butter and brown sugar apples, with an addition of cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon/orange zest. The streusel, on contrary, wasn’t baked with the pizza. I made the crumbs ahead of time and sprinkled over the pizza top as soon as it came out of the oven. Someone might think it’s a cheating; I believe it’s a practical solution ensuring the perfectly crisp and nicely brown streusel crumbs (that’s how I always top my fruit crisps, by the way). I served the hot pizza with sour cream.

Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza with Roasted Onions, Red Peppers and Feta

Roasted Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Pizza with Roasted Onions, Red Peppers and Feta

This is a savory one. Instead of a tomato sauce, I pureed the sundried tomatoes and roasted garlic with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil, and spread it over the crust. The next went grated mozzarella, followed by the thickly sliced and previously roasted red onions, grilled sweet red peppers, and crumbled feta. The whole thing was topped with fresh basil and parsley.

Hazelnut and Honey-Thyme Roasted Pear Pizza

Hazelnut and Honey Thyme Roasted Pear Pizza

I baked the third pizza the following day when my dear and so very much nut allergic son was at school. First, I generously sprinkled the crust with toasted, coarsely ground hazelnuts. The second deck was peeled and thinly sliced Bartlett pears. I brushed the crust and pears with melted butter, drizzled the honey over the pears. Then I topped the pears with thyme sprigs. The time spent in the oven was sufficient enough to flavor but not to overpower the pears with thyme. As soon as the pizza was done, I brushed the pears with a little bit more warmed honey and sprinkled with some fresh thyme. It was delicious. Well, without excessive modesty, the all three pizzas tasted pretty much fantastic :)

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Twisted Cookies from the Val d’Aosta (Torcettini di Saint Vincent)

Twisted Cookies from the Val d’Aosta (Torcettini di Saint Vincent)

These yeast-risen cookies are a cross between a bread stick and a caramelized puff pastry palmier. The cookies are crunchy – you can easily tell this by their look. But they are not that hard so deciduous wiggly teeth of your precious little ones (and mine too :) couldn’t manage. These torcettini are not tiny, each about 3 inches long; but how naïve I was assuming that two cookies per kid would be enough (we were taking them to a play date into a large group of youngsters). The cookies were in such demand, every kid wanted the third, and fourth… so there was not enough to satisfy everyone’s appetite.

The recipe is from Nick Malgieri’s “A Baker’s Tour”. And if the kids opinion doesn’t always count (let’s be honest :), the one of the Queen of Italy, I believe, does. Queen Margherita liked the cookies in one pastry shop so much that she knighted the owner on the spot. A certificate attesting to this still hangs in the pastry shop in Saint Vincent.

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Schiacciata all’Uva (Sweet Grape Focaccia)

Schiacciata all’ Uva (Sweet Grape Focaccia)

I didn’t follow any particular recipe here, just a general concept of traditional Italian, Tuscany originated dessert. Since the end product turned out mighty tasty, below is the recipe. Maybe someone would give it a try. And this is worth trying – fragrant and juicy with all these succulent grapes, and buttery pine nuts – there’s something to remember.

Schiacciata all’ Uva (Sweet Grape Focaccia) slice

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Chocolate and Curd Cheese Cherry Almond Danish Braid

Chocolate and Curd Cheese Cherry Almond Danish Braid

Long title? It is, indeed. The hardest part of the new challenge was to choose just one or two fillings for the Sherry Yard’s Danish dough. As soon as the new challenge was announced, my mind got overwhelmed with the filling ideas, not to mention – pastry forming ideas, as well. The first braid was the attempt to combine a lot of my favorite things inside one Danish crust. It was natural to me – I like my Danish filled well: it’s not all about the crust, I believe. It seemed logical to go with fresh seasonal fruits, so I chose Bing cherries as one of the filling components. I marinated them in Kirsch which enhanced their flavor (oh, well… I just like booze in my desserts, I guess…). The cherries was placed on the chocolate (brownie-like, almond flavored) and the home-made curd cheese (with addition of sour-cream and lemon zest) fillings that I formed into the logs and placed side-by-side in the center of the rolled dough. As I mentioned, the cherries was a second deck. And toasted coarsely chopped whole almonds went on top of the cherries. After the braid was baked and cooled, I drizzled an icing sugar glaze (diluted with Kirsch again) over the top and sprinkled some toasted sliced almonds over the glaze. I really liked the outcome. All flavors complemented each other nicely without overwhelming or competing. As you can imagine, one moderate slice was quite satisfying with all this filling inside.

Cherry Kirsch Diptych

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Cinnamon Cream and Apple Twirls

Cinnamon Cream and Apple Twirls

Here is the thinly rolled Danish dough (the half of the recipe given above) spread with cinnamon cream, folded in half, then cut into stripes and twisted-coiled. The centers are generously filled with apples sautéed in butter with an addition of brown sugar, lemon and orange zest, and spices. Then the streusel topping is sprinkled on the top of the Danishes. After the Danishes have been baked orange flavored sugar glaze drizzled over completes the picture.

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Roasted Strawberry and Creamy Ricotta Danishes

Roasted Strawberries and Creamy Ricotta Danishes

Another filling is ricotta and cream cheese combined in equal proportions and run in a food processor with orange zest and just a touch of sugar. This method produces very smooth filling. The roasted strawberries went on top of the cheese mixture. The roasting makes even not-so-perfect strawberries taste great. And these particular ones were good from the start. After an hour spent in the oven, the berries had become even tastier, dark-red in color and extremely fragrant. To the still hot berries, I added some orange zest and a splash of Grand Marnier.

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