hump day first week at culinary school

Ok, I admit it. Standing through an entire 3 hour class without leaning, slouching, no hands in pockets and ( WARNING TMI ALERT) oozing buckets of menstrual blood is not my idea of fun. Top it off I had a migraine most of the day; but I still loved my classes and the experience… but  I was very happy to head home on my scooter ( in the rain) by 4 o’clock… but “I digress” 

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First up was my baking class. I did not get to make cookies, or pie or anything. Instead we were tortured by the 2nd year students baking next door. The smells were amazing. I did however get to follow along with everyone as we were warned of the perils of the giant mixers, procedures, store rooms, honour codes, and keeping your sh*thole clean…according to my old German Chef instructor. He was amazing. My first 15 minutes of fame resulted from either being old, or smart…but I was the  only student in class who understood how to measure on a counterbalanced scale, meaning I got to tutor one half of the class while Chef helped the rest. I know it really does not sound like a blast, but it was! really …i swear it was.

The second class of the day was Intro to Fine Dining ( Service etc) and Wine ( last 7 weeks). I think I will stick with the under 19 set and smell intently and record other student’s impressions of the wine. Some of you may not know that one of my few claims to fame is that I have never had a drink in my life. It seems pointless to break a streak at this point. There will still be plenty to learn about grapes and regions and blah blah blah…and I am happy to soak it all in. I do have a bloodhound type nose so I should do just fine.

When I walked in the door I flaked out for an hour and still woke up with a headache. I resorted to my old favorite drug of choice, Imitrex and all is well.

topped with balsamic glaze
topped with balsamic glaze

Pizza tonight , using my NEW PIZZA PEEL. When I purchased school supplies yesterday I decided to splurge on the wood pizza peel . I needed to explore the bottom of the oven technique that Jules from Stone Soup recommended. It worked perfectly this time with NO BURNS. For $15 it was money well spent!

  • I made the dough up in the food processor first ( SEE TERRONI PIZZA POST or the STONE SOUP LINK above )
  • Turned oven on to preheat–tried 400 degrees this time
  •  fried up some onions in one pan and mushrooms in another on high heat.
  • Removed the HOT PIZZA STONE ( 400 Degree preheating) from the oven and placed the rolled out pizza dough on it.
  • Top bottom dough with a bit of EVOO.
  • Spread small amount of grated old white cheddar ( or whatever you have on hand) on the dough,
  • top with onions and mushrooms
  • sprinkle feta cheese on top. Season with pepper and salt if feta is not too salty.
  • Pop pizza in oven for approx 12 min. ( check )
  • If using the BOTTOM of the OVEN TECHNIQUE, remove pizza from the stone using the wooden peel
  • –or just remove from the rack
  • squeeze balsamic glaze over the top if desired.
  • MUSHROOMS are amazing when paired with a blue cheese or brie type as well. Just add on when you remove from the heat. The delicate cheese will melt and not burn off this way.

EAT

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me and Mark Bittman are peeps

I would like to think so but I flatter myself. He has inspired me for years now. I was delighted to see that my pizza post was right in sync with his NYTimes piece this week.

Check out his TED TALK too while you are at it.

HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING

For Chefs at Home, a Pie Above the Rest

Potato Pizza: Mark Bittman makes a simple pizza with potato and rosemary.

By 
Published: April 17, 2012

I’M here — back in the Dining section with a new column — to insist once again that not only can you cook it at home, but you can likely cook it better.

Talk Pizza With Bittman

Mark Bittman will host an hourlong chat this Wednesday at 3 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on The Times’s Facebook page, answering your questions on the ins and outs of making pizza.

Multimedia

Recipe

How to Cook Everything

Mark Bittman’s new column, How to Cook Everything, will appear every other week in the Dining section. He will continue to write for Opinion and the Sunday Magazine.

“It,” in this case, is pizza, and the impetus for today’s installment was a visit to a highly acclaimed pizza joint in Manhattan, where I was served (for $15, or about four times the cost of the ingredients in a supermarket) a perfectly ordinary, overly poofy, drearily sauced pizza. Granted, the mozzarella was first rate. Big deal.

This followed by a couple of days what has become a not-atypical dinner at my house, where I served a pizza bianca, lightly sprinkled with olive oil, salt and rosemary, and threw together a pie with a tomato sauce based on a slew of onions and a bit of guanciale (only because I happened to have some), along with a sufficient amount of grated Parmesan to make its presence known.

I won’t even get into the money-saving part; people who cook at home for economic reasons already know about that. I will say that my crust tasted better, and my pizza was more properly cooked (yes, that’s a matter of taste, but do you really want to eat a bialy with tomato and cheese, as seems to have become de rigueur?) and better sauced than the one I ate a few days later in Midtown.

Yours can be, too, and I know that because I’m not really that good at making pizza. In fact, two or three of my close friends do it better, and I know of others.

It’s about three things: some confidence, practice and a food processor. This piece is my attempt to instill you with the first, encourage you to get the second and implore you to use the third, though even that’s not necessary, since there is an alternative: the no-knead method popularized by Jim Lahey. I’ve gone back and forth between the two, but for ease, lack of mess and more-flexible timing, I’ve come to prefer the food processor. Still, make the dough however you like, because you won’t go wrong.

From the beginning, the food processor was justifiably promoted as a tool for making dough. (My longstanding guide for this, by the way, is “The Best Bread Ever,” by my friend Charles Van Over.)

I love it for pizza because you can make the dough in five minutes. (A video of this is here.) Although rushing isn’t ideal, you can start pressing or rolling out the pizza 20 minutes later. (Use the larger amount of yeast if you’re doing this.) Which means, in a pinch, start to finish in an hour.

What is ideal is letting the dough rest for a while in the refrigerator or even freezer, though for best quality not for more than a few days. The advantages of this technique, besides the obvious convenience (make the dough in the morning or up to a few days before, and just let it come to room temperature before proceeding), is that the dough matures, marginally improving its flavor and making it considerably easier to handle.

There are, of course, some fine points, but even here there’s flexibility. Should you roll the dough or pat it out? That’s your call. (If you pat it out, you can leave it thick and dimpled — use your fingertips — and call it focaccia.) Should you use a pizza peel and a stone? Well, yes, and if you preheat the stone for a good half-hour, the crust will crackle even more, but it isn’t essential. I didn’t have a peel for a couple of years (no room) and used a piece of plywood or a flexible cutting board. And if you don’t have a stone, a baking or cookie sheet will do fine; just use a little olive oil to keep the dough from sticking. This will give you a crisper crust, one sort of halfway to the fried dough Pete Wells writes about this week.

A whole-wheat crust? Sure, 50 percent; it won’t be as crisp or have the same “pull,” but it will have a deeper flavor and give you a warm, fuzzy feeling. (You can also integrate herbs, garlic, dried chiles, loads of black pepper, cornmeal, whatever, into the crust; the food processor makes this incredibly easy.) Extra-crisp crust with extra-moist topping? Prebake the crust about halfway, with just a bit of olive oil on top, then add everything else and return to the oven.

Mix the dough by hand? Yes, but you’re increasing your workload or, if you go for the no-knead method, your time. If your food processor isn’t big or powerful enough for the recipe here, halve the recipe or get a new food processor. Other uses for the dough? Fried pizza or calzone, both discussed elsewhere in this section; rolls or bread or even those silly garlic knots. But pizza is the highest and best use.

The options don’t stop, and we haven’t even started on toppings. When it comes to these, I’m pretty conservative, favoring the kind of treatments I mentioned earlier, or pizza with potatoes (a legitimate Roman favorite, obviously for carb lovers), eggplant or zucchini.

Others include the obvious, like tomato sauce of almost any type, with or without mozzarella and/or Parmesan; fresh tomatoes; pepperoni; anchovies; sausage (cooked or crumbled); chorizo or other cured meat; olives; onion cooked to any degree or not at all, with olive oil; pesto (or fresh basil); eggplant or zucchini, sautéed or grilled first, with or without cheese and/or tomatoes; seafood (raw clams, oysters, shrimp, scallops, lightly steamed mussels, lobster, whatever), preferably with garlic, oregano and oil.

I don’t wander far from those, which doesn’t mean you can’t. It’s all optional, and all good. Better, in fact.

A version of this article appeared in print on April 18, 2012, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: For Chefs at Home, A Pie Above the Rest.

Terroni Pizza knock-off faster than you can order take-out!

I fell in love with Terroni’s years before I moved to Toronto.

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The Queen West location was chosen by a beloved couple’s wedding rehearsal family dinner and it was love at first bite! Seriously–If you come to Toronto, you must GO TO TERRONI’S !

http://terroni.com/Gallery

Our personal favorite:                 C’t Mang                                           16.95

white pizza with mozzarella, gorgonzola, fresh pears, walnuts, speck (smoked prosciutto), honey

Since then I have been on a quest to recreate the perfect thin crust pizza at home.

SO LET’S GET STARTED!

Making your own dough is sooo easy–but sometimes I just grab a bag of dough from the grocery store and shove it in the fridge so it is even easier to make pizza in the blink of an eye. (you MUST MUST MUST warm to room temp before working the dough)

HOMEMADE DOUGH: I love my food processor for this- insert the plastic blade (or use your mixer , by hand or plan ahead and use that old bread maker in the back of your cupboard)

RECIPE— 2 tsp yeast mixed in * 1 c of warm water with * 1 T of sugar

Throw in 2 c of flour | mix MIX mix|  Remove lid & add in 1 tsp of SALT*

**DO NOT FORGET THE SALT!!! I have done this and believe me, it is tasteless without it. (think tender cardboard)

Not needed, but I add olive oil–a splash or more  | and add up to
*1 more cup of flour and run processor again. Dough is very hardy. Balance out wet and dry if texture is too wet or too crumbly

The dough should be elastic and formed into a ball.  Take out and knead a couple of times to smooth out. Sprinkle counter with a little flour before kneading. Let rest for several hours or even just a few minutes.  Divide into 3 balls if using right away. You do not have to let it rise at all if you are in a hurry. Letting it rise will produce a bit chewier tender crust.

ASSEMBLE YOUR TOPPINGS and HEAT the OVEN to 500 Degrees F. * If you are using a PIZZA STONE throw this in to heat up as well.

Grate Mozza- plan on a light hand with the cheese.  I use less that 1 c per pizza*

BE PREPARED TO IMPROVISE

No Pears?- Use Apples

No Speck?- Go meatless or use what you have on hand–I used sliced corned beef

No Gorgonzola I often use Feta or whatever I have on hand–but I try to keep a bit of blue cheese around. ( Fragile soft cheeses go on after you take out of oven )

OF COURSE–you can add any combo of ingredients you want–Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Unripened cheese | Sausage, Mushroom garlic | Caramelized Onions, and anything!

For soft cheeses, just add after you have removed pizza from the oven. Otherwise it will melt and drip away into oblivion.

I also throw some more EVOO on the surface. Sometimes I squirt a little honey or balsamic glaze. Yummy to bite into an unexpected flavour pop of sweetness. 

VERY IMPORTANT—Veggies need to be pre cooked to produce a good outcome unless they are sliced paper thin.  For Red Pizzas use sauces sparingly. A light hand with toppings make the best thin crust pizzas.

Pay attention to your favourite flavours when you eat out and recreate them at home.

ASSEMBLE

My favourite platform to cook the pizza is the stone. I bought this for $10 . You DO NOT need an expensive stone. I also have a pizza pan with holes in the bottom and plain old cookie sheets. A crisp thin crust is possible on all of them and I have the pictures to prove it.

I spray with Pam or use a swipe of olive oil cause it SUCKS when it sticks!

ROLL YOUR DOUGH- Ssstttrrreettcchh YOUR DOUGH and make it as thin as you can. I use a rolling pin but if the dough is super soft, you might be able to use  just plain hands. If your dough has been chilled you MUST WAIT UNTIL IT IS ROOM TEMP for this process. This is one time I do not ignore the rules. It will not WORK COLD!!

NEXT–Place your dough on the stone or pans. If you have a heated stone your crust will start cooking immediately!

DRIZZLE with a little OLIVE OIL and salt and pepper

Add CHEESE next

Place toppings on next and you can sprinkle with some Romano or Parmesan or Feta or ?  if desired.

Place as low on the oven rack as possible but you can rotate around if you are doing more that one pizza. I often put the stone in and start it baking and assemble the next one while it’s bubbling away.

You can even place the stone right on the OVEN FLOOR if you have a gas or hidden burner. This is amazing but can be awkward to remove without a pizza peel .

Your pizza will be done in approx 10 to 15 min. Keep checking to make sure it is crisp on the bottom. Nothing screams crappy pizza more than a moist, wet bottomed  crust …almost impossible if you also used fat uncooked veggie chunks and a bunch of red sauce.

For a great pizza tutorial check out this Stone soup video. Jules does a great job showcasing her own process. of turning your home oven into a PIZZA OVEN.