Posts Tagged ‘Dough Recipes’

Amish Asparagus and Serrano Ham Pizza

The green rockets of spring are taking to the air. Finally, we can get our noses out of the misted produce isles and the never-ending harvest of mediocre corporate veggies. Here in southeast Ohio, asparagus is the first hint of what is to come: morel mushrooms, ramps, strawberries, rhubarb, blueberries, kholrabi, garlic tops, arugula, mustard greens and kale, until the baby zucchini blossoms herald the full frontal assault of summer.

When I visited the Ervin Hershberger farm in Chesterhill Ohio, Ervin’s wife Rachael shoved a one-year old in my arms and we stumbled out back to the asparagus field. “I don’t know if there’s…oh my, we DO have alot of asparagus,” she said as I looked at the  green stalks peeking their delicious heads up from the field. Short and fat ones grew alongside long skinny ones just waiting for me to grab and twist before dropping them into the aspargus bucket. As my delight in the first bounty of spring heightened, I kept reminding myself, “Don’t drop baby John…don’t drop baby John…don’t…”

The best hint on buying asparagus is to never buy asparagus that has been cut with a knife. Asparagus has a fabulous way of telling you when you’ve reached the spot where the stalk turns to wood. Grab the stalk and twist – it breaks right at that inedible point.

While waiting tables in Chicago years ago, my friend Chrisensio told me that, while new to this country, he tried every job as a migrant worker. “The two jobs I would rather die than go back to are cutting asparagus and planting pine trees in a clear-cut forest.”  The field managers walked among the pickers, telling them to cut under the earth to get as much poundage as possible. Sounds like a real back-breaking job. It also gave me a hint of how are foodstuffs are managed by the large companies.

I decided to make a pizza with asparagus using Serrano ham from Spain. I will pair this magnificent combination with Manchego cheese (Spanish cheddar from the La Mancia region of Spain), sweet San Marzano tomatoes,and  fresh mozzarella.

Jamon Serrano means “Mountain ham” and can best be described as having a taste like Italian prosciutto crudo or the French Jambon Bayonne. This ham is dry cured with salt and is only made from the “Landrace” breed of pig from the Sierra mountains in Spain. The taste, compared to the  Prosciutto crudo, is more of an upfront salty-pork flavor and noticably lacking in the last Parmesan-umami taste at the back of the throat that prosciutto exhibits. I like this ham on pizza because of the amount of fat in each slice. I tear the fatty pieces  to cook in the oven (which creates some bodacious cracklings), while saving the crudo for topping the warm pizza.

I love fresh raw asparagus on pizza as much as the next guy but with this recipe, I take off the outer skin and “shock” the asparagus. This par-cooks the aspargus for 30 seconds and then fast-cools it, setting the chlorophyl or green color.

Asparagus and Serrano Ham Pizza

1 Easy Dough recipe

4 to 7 fat stalks of fresh, local aparagus

6 to 7 slices of Serrano ham

3 whole canned San Marzano tomatoes

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons shredded imported Manchego cheese

5 to 6 small balls of Boccocini (fresh mozzarella balls)

Make two 7 ounce dough balls. Freeze one for later or double this recipe for 2 pies.

Preheat an upturned cookie sheet on the middle rack of your oven set at 475 degrees.

Put a 3-quart pan filled halfway with water on a high burner to boil. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water.

Using a peeler, lay the asparagus down on cutting board and run the peeler down along the stalk, taking as little of the skin of as possible. Roll the stalk and peel the skin around the whole stalk. Do not run the peeler twice in the same spot or you will take the meat off and end up with nothing.

Fill a large bowl with water and add 4 to 6 ice cubes.

Place asparagus in the boiling water and count to 30 seconds. Do not walk away. Grab the asparagus with tongs and transfer to the ice bath.

Take the asparagus out of the water and cut each stalk in half lengthwise.

Cut the fatty portion off each slice of Serrano ham.  Wrap the non fatty portion around each half-stalk of asparagus.

Open the can of tomatoes and place in a colander to drain. Tear the best 3 tomatoes into filets. Place on a plate. (For true San Marzano tomatoes, note the D.O.P. or Denominazione D’Origine Protetta on the side of the can, the 3 seals on the left side of the can).

To Assemble the Pizza:

Form the pizza dough according to the easy pizza dough recipe. Place the dough on a piece of parchment paper.

1. 2. 3. 4.

1. Pour the extra virgin olive oil onto the dough.

2., 3. Scatter the Manchego on the dough, followed by the fatty ham and the tomato filets.

4. Place the fresh mozzarella balls on top.

Place the pizza with the parchment on the preheated cookie sheet and close the oven. This pizza should cook in 10 to 12 minutes. Check for even cooking after 5 minutes and turn accordingly. The final pizza should be golden brown and more brown on the bottom.

Pull from oven and place aspargus on the pizza in spokes. You may have to trim the asparagus. Place one half mozarrella ball in the middle of the spoke. Serve immediately. Don’t cut this baby until you get a ‘wow factor’ response from your family or hungry guests.

Wheatless, Eggless, Gluten-Free Crusts

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A tremendous amount of people have varying degrees of wheat and gluten allergies now. Some folks whisper that the genetic make-up of modern grains is the culprit and, for the most part, they are right. Some, like myself, just want to accomodate people and their aversion to wheat and gluten because they will become my customers for life so I can buy new cars, politicians, pectorial implants and a “posse” to follow me around saying, “John, you are absolutely right on all counts!” (can you tell I’m married?).

At my little place called Avalanche Pizza Bakers, I’ve used a partially-cooked non-gluten, non-wheat pizza crust from Still Riding Pizza because I have too much wheat flour flying around my shop. Still Riding is run by Elizabeth Silverman, who supplies pizza goons like me with excellent non-gluten crust made (with egg) in a dedicated non-gluten facility. It comes in a sealed bag, ready for careful topping by us. We put alot of disclaimers on our packaging because we bake it in a pizza oven with other wheat things. People with wheat or gluten discomfort have given the crust rave reviews because finally, they can have pizza with the rest of their family.

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Now, however, I’m ready to delve deeper into the wheat/gluten arena and come up with my own crust for pizza and focaccia. In the 30 years I’ve been  in the food business, I’ve learned that people must know their enemy, just like Al Pacino in Scarface, who learned never to go into a bathroom with a guy who has a chainsaw. I refer to the basic makeup of wheat and the gluten produced when wheat flour is mixed with water. So here’s a little story about  the elements that make lots of folks sick:

Once upon a time, two partial proteins named Glutenin and Gliadin fell in love. Both were brought up in a small town called Endosperm in the great State of Wheat Kernel.

Even though they were closely related (let’s just say 2nd cousins for the censors), their love for each other was intense, so they decided to bond in a holy matrimony. The wedding was a beautiful one, overseen by Reverend Water. All was going great at the reception until a cretin named Mr. Yeast crashed the party. Mr. Yeast has stomach problems, and when he dipped into the hydration punchbowl and danced around, he released lots of  gas (real bad). Luckily the new couple, now calling themselves the Glutens, created a net to stop the gas from embarrassing the whole party. Mr. Salt and Mrs. Oil were also invaluble in strengthing the net holding that ungodly gas at bay.

As the party progressed, the heat rose and the gasses grew and grew and grew, until the whole reception decided to go into a warm (a very warm) room. There, even though things got a little crusty, they worked everything out, to a crunchy end.

Okay already, I know it’s a goofy story, but as I push my hand into the finest corn flour I’ve ever seen, I realize I need to replicate the gluten net holding any gasses that yeast will release. This will be the only way for me to get some sort of rise out of my non-gluten experiment. I have promised many customers who are gluten or wheat intolerant that I will come up with something soon.

This is a daunting experiment, and I have not even cracked “book one” on the subject. I have competed in the non-gluten challenge at the World Pizza Championships, however, and know that Europeans have an affinity for certain flours such as chickpea and rice. I’m using some local corn flour and am excited because I saw this corn grown on the stalk last summer, harvested this fall, stripped off the cobs this winter and milled just recently by my friends Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaegar.

Luckily my first experiment turned out pretty good. Here goes, a pizza that is very good and a foccocia that has a  great mouth feel, taste and texture rivaling flour. This recipe makes 13 balls of dough.

Dough for pizza or focaccia:

4 cups finely ground corn flour

1 cup oat flour

1 cup quinoa flour

1 cup brown rice flour

1 cup millet flour

2 cups chickpea flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup potato starch

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 cups warm water

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Grains on top row, left to right: millet, brown rice, quinoa, oat and corn. Bottom row: salt, yeast, baking powder, potato flour, tapioca flour, chickpea flour.

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Place all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and stir only until the flours are incorporated. Add the warm water and mix gently with your hands. Do not overmix. Form a large ball.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest after setting the bowl in a warm place at 70-75 degrees for 30 minutes.

Now you are ready to divide this dough into 6 ounce dough balls (makes 13.) Use what you need and freeze the rest or make some foccacia. (BEFORE WE GO, REMEMBER THERE IS NO GLUTEN IN THIS DOUGH AND IT WILL NOT STRETCH, PULL OR RISE WITH ANY SIGNIFICANCE. KEEP IT ON THE PARCHMENT PAPER OR IN THE PAN.)

For the pizza topping:

Extra virgin olive oil as needed

One can of whole peeled tomatoes

3 fresh basil leaves

Pinch dried oregano

Pinch sea salt

2 ounces cheese, preferably whole milk mozzarella, grated (about 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 460 degrees and place an upturned cookie sheet on the middle rack to get hot.

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Take a small amount and form a ball (aproximately 6 ounces). You will be making a 10 inch pizza so if you do not have a scale, imagine the size being just smaller than the size of a tennis ball.

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Place a piece of parchment on the table. It must be at least 11 inches square. Oil it lightly with extra virgin olive oil.Place the ball in the middle and press down in the middle. Keep pressing gently with your fingertips until you have pressed the dough out. (TAKE YOUR TIME!) The outside edges will start to crack so you must push them back together again. Remember, the same quality (no gluten) that makes it hard to form can also be on your side when repairing holes and cracks. Once you’ve got the round to a disc shape, brush the top with olive oil. This will help for the next step, pressing it further into shape.

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Being patient, keep pressing now with more of the flat of your fingers until the dough is 10 inches in diameter. Using your fingertips on both hands, form the outside edge. Use the brush to finish the edging.

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Drain the can of whole tomatoes in a colander. Tear the tomatoes into little pieces with your hands, and let drain for 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a bowl. Tear the  basil leaves and add them, along with the oregano and sea salt. Stir.

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Top the crust with the grated cheese, followed by the tomatoes. (Are you wondering why the tomatoes are on top? I want the fullest cook possible on this dough and the possibility of a liquid coming in contact with these flours would exacerbate the already inherent flimsiness of the finished crust.)

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Place the parchment on the heated upturned cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the crust starts to turn brown in spots. Check the bottom of the crust for golden browning. Pull from oven when the crust is starting to turn golden brown. (Note: some of the flours burn faster than others so look at the overall pizza before taking from the oven.)

Serve immediately.

Foccacia topping:

1 large or 2 small red onions

Pinch dried thyme

2 fresh rosemary sprigs

Extra virgin olive oil as needed.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

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Cut 2 small or 1 large red onion in half lengthwise, then half again, then half again to make slivered petals. Dust with dried thyme and toss with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Roast in an oven at 450 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions are just barely limp when tossed.

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Oil a square or rectangular non-stick sheet pan or cookie sheet with extra virgin olive oil. Place 36 ounces of the non-gluten dough in the center and press gently into the pan to form a cohesive mass approximately 1/4 to 1/2  an inch thick.

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Place the onions on the dough and press down into the dough. Place petals from 2 rosemary sprigs into the dough and around the onions.

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Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until you can place a spatula under the crust and see the browning in the bottom-middle of the pan.

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This recipe should produce a nice firm and flavorful bread free of gluten, wheat and egg. Please enjoy.