Battle Pizza Crust: No Knead Bread Dough

I usually have a bucket of the basic no-knead recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day in my fridge. It is super easy to mix up, lasts a long time, and is my back up bread dough for those days when the fancy bread is stale and I need to make sandwiches for school lunches. Its a good, solid bread dough and really helped launch me into a love of bread baking.

  
Could it be a decent pizza crust?

I have tried this a few times now and come to the conclusion that its “pretty ok” It is better than a frozen pizza or most chain pizza delivery places. I’d put it solidly above the dominoes/papa johns type delivery but below a really great local pizza place. What it lacks in amazingness, it sure does make up for in speed. I had a pizza assembled and ready to cook before my oven was even preheated!

This isn’t my favorite pizza dough by any means but, if you already have some in the fridge, it makes a great speedy dinner option. Its a little bland and could probably greatly benefit by either brushing some melted butter on the edge or sprinkling some Parmesan cheese on it before baking. It was a little hard to get it stretched into a thin enough crust so mine was extra thick. This dough doesn’t have the same elasticity as a good pizza crust has so you have to kind of mush it and stretch it into shape rather than stretch it in the air. This inconsistency in thickness also meant there were some bulges and bubbles in the crust as it baked, so my toppings slid around a little.

  
Overall, I’d give it a B-. Its ok for a quick meal during a football game but its not a crust I’d break out if I had company over.

No Knead Bread Dough

24 ounces lukewarm water
2 pounds AP Flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in a large (very large) bowl. I use a 6 quart dough bucket. Mix until the flour is all incorporated, then allow to rise for 2 hours. Either bake from it then, or refrigerate until ready to use.

To use, lightly flour the surface of the dough. Grab a large handful (about a grapefruit size makes a nice loaf) and lop off or tear it. Gently shape into a loaf and allow to rise on the counter for 40 minutes. About halfway through the rise time, heat the oven to 450. Slash the top of the loaf and put it in the oven on a baking stone, if you have one. Bake until golden brown (time will depend on size of loaf).

To use as pizza crust: lop off a similar amount and shape into a circle on a piece of parchment paper. Gently stretch and work the dough into a vaguely pizza like shape, trying to maintain an even thickness. Top and bake immediately for a thinner crust or allow to rise for 40 minutes before topping for a thicker crust.

Battle Pizza Crust: Beer Crust Part 2

Straight from the freezer–to my piehole!

When I originally made the Beer Crust Pizza, I froze half of the dough since one pizza is really plenty for us.

After a week or so of waiting in there, I pulled it out in the morning and let it thaw in the fridge for dinner that day. It thawed easily and was, as most pizza crusts are after being frozen and thawed, a little wetter/stickier than it was when it was fresh. It was a little more difficult to shape given the stickiness. I ended up stretching it on the sheet pan rather than my usual in the air using my knuckles method.

You’d never know there was any difference in the feel of the dough after it baked up–crispy on the bottom and super flavorful with the beer and Parmesan cheese in the dough. It is the kind of crust that has enough going on that I–a naked crust hater–ate them up!

Next time I make a batch of this, I may try a double batch so I have three portions in the freezer. It seriously is faster than making a frozen pizza and much more delicious!

Mr. Piehole’s Manchos

Below is a guest post by my husband, Mr. Piehole. While he has many, many fine qualities, his cooking skills are a little below average. I don’t really mind this since it means that he is fairly amazed at even the simplest things I do in the kitchen. He also goes and gets all the takeout, so I consider it a fair split.

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My wife can cook and I can not cook. This is not to reinforce gender stereotypes to say that women can cook and men can not. Nor is it to say that all valid couples are male/female or that one is only valid within a couple or anything like that. One must always provide provisos like this on the Internet; never has our ability to comment gone from zero to Hitler so quickly.

Of course, we have on in the background an episode of MasterChef where they are assigning sweet versus savory baskets right now and the sweet baskets are pink with a bow. Really.

Anywho, you may know someone who can cook. In this post, that person will be my wife. You may know someone who can’t. That’s me.

If you are in the Ms. Piehole category, the first thing that you should know is that when a person says they can not cook, they do not mean this literally. They are certainly capable of holding something over a fire and applying heat to it. Then pulling it out and putting it on a stick, probably, because that fire is hot.

What they mean is that all of the shortcuts you have built up over time, they don’t have. They don’t even know the long way, or they would take it. This includes:
–Where stuff is. Saying the parchment paper is next to the muffin containers is like saying that Henry IV was king during the rule of the House of Lancaster. It’s true, but the novice wants to know whether he fought with swords, guns, or biplanes; your answer makes them wonder if they heard wrong and he has a brother named Tyrion.
–What stuff is. I once was sent to the store for dried beef. I like my beef moist, so this was an odd request. The me in your story doesn’t know where to even to start looking for this. There’s a good chance that your local supermarket stocker doesn’t either. I know — I was one once. I remember searching a produce department for jicama, which was pronounced gee-comma for me. Eventually, I had to leave that poor man, who is probably still wandering through a Pick n’ Save, surviving on foods we learned in our alphabet books like apples, carrots, and zebra meat.
–What stuff goes with other stuff. Before Ms. Piehole was Ms. Piehole, she caught Mr. Piehole eating rice, barbeque sauce, and corn. They happened to be the three things left in the apartment at the time. Today, this meal would be much better, but only because there’s more stuff in the house.
–Ratios. Not math ratios. Mr. Piehole calculates ROI, CPM, and CTR PDQ. But how much of one food would one logically want with other food? This mystifies.

So if you live with such a person, please treat them, in this area, as you would a novice. Don’t assume. Use good reference points like “it’s in the cabinet you always leave open.” There is a world of difference between “next to the oven” and “next to the mandolin.” You do not want your loved one wandering like Jicama Man.

If you are such a person, this “recipe” is for you. It can make you successful enough to feed yourself and your loved ones when you need or want to (and you should want to every so often). It is a basic food delivery system.

Other examples of systems I have worked to perfect…

hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Sorry. Thought I could get through that with a straight face.

Other examples of systems I have worked on are 1) boxed couscous, 2) minute rice, 3) egg scrambles/omelettes, and 4) smoothies. These are all things that have other things in them and can be adapted to your taste. If you like it, you may like it over rice or in an omelette or in a smoothie. If you don’t, but it’s good for you, you can shove it in there and probably not notice. Ratios don’t matter as much and can be refined over time.

So nachos were the next mountain to climb. Uh, molehill to scale. I have written this recipe for people like me. Be gentle.

nachos

Mr. Piehole’s Nachos

Chips, preferably tortilla. Would it work with Doritos or something? Try it and let us know (on the worst episode of America’s Test Kitchen ever!)

Cheese. Preferably shredded. Classical cheeses are usually yellow/orangeish. But if you want white, we will not judge you a cheese racist. If you are shopping for this dish specifically, go for Mexican mix. Let someone else sort out which cheese.

Other stuff you like to eat. I’d recommend a protein that someone with skillz already cooked (I used leftover ground beef (It was leftover taco meat I made with chili powder, paprika, cumin, chipotle, and cayenne–Meg)) and a tasty vegetable or three (I used green peppers).

Salsa. From a can or jar.

1. Get a cookie sheet. I puzzled on which one. I went with one that had raised sides. Any chance of less mess, take it.

2. Put parchment paper down on the cookie sheet. If your house is like mine, it’s next to the muffin containers. If not, can’t help ya. Basically, you want to cover the cookie sheet to minimize drippage and have an easy transfer to your eventual serving vessel.

3. Put down a layer of nachos. As many as you and your clan will probably want to eat.

4. Put down a big old layer of cheese. More than you would think. Finely shredded, especially, will melt down small.

5. Put down a layer of stuff. Actually, if, like me, you have a green pepper, you should cut it first.

5. (revised) Cut up your green pepper by cutting off the top (with the stem) and bottom. Slice it once and unroll it so the inside is up. Cut off the fibery parts. (This is the level you are dealing with, quality cookers. At least with me). Make them pretty small, about the size of the base of a Monopoly house.

6. Now put down your layer of stuff.

7. Put it in the oven.

8. Actually, you should have probably turned on the oven.
Revised step 5: Turn on oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be fairly precise. You want at least 50 degrees between you and the temperature at which books burn.

I’m just kidding. Nothing in this recipe is precise.

9. Put it in the oven. Wait about 8-10 minutes.

10. Take it out with hotpads if it looks like it would be tasty to eat. You are probably looking for the cheese to have turned into a flat surface rather than disconnected parts of cheese.

11. Transfer your parchment paper to a serving vehicle. Ms. Piehole suggested a white platter on top of the china cabinet. This was clearly overkill for a recipe including the ingredient “stuff”, but hey.

12. Put salsa on top to taste. Jalapenos too, if you dare. I dare to put them on for Ms. Piehole, but not myself.

13. Eat when they don’t burn your mouth.

grabbyhands

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy. In future episodes, maybe I’ll teach another platform. Or have burned down the house. Good luck!

PS. Step 14: Turn off oven.

Spicy Meatballs

Meatballs.

Meatballs

MEATBALLS.

Meatballs are something I only really came around to later in life when I married Mr. Piehole. I was a seriously picky eater and since I didn’t really know what was in them, I just opted out. Plain spaghetti with red sauce for me.

Meatballs are now often one of the first things I can make from ingredients from the garden. Before any of the other vegetables are ready, I can steal enough herbs from the small plants to make up a batch.

Herbs

I don’t always use the same herbs since it depends on how my plants are doing. Its always some kind of basil, lots of oregano (I used two kinds here–greek and italian), thyme, and a new “globe basil” I am trying for the first time this year.

I follow a pretty classic meatball method: breadcrumbs, egg, seasonings, and a little milk.

bowl

Mix all of this up first so you don’t have to overwork the meat. I use a 90% or so beef for mine. Sometimes I use ground pork or veal mixed in. I had ground beef to use up, so today it was 100% beef.

Raw Balls

Shape them into balls–either small or large–your preference. These are about golf ball sized.

Browning

Brown ’em up! Nothing beats cast iron here. NOTHING. You just can’t convince me that your oven browned meatballs are better. Brown them in a skillet. It’s worth the time and extra dirty pan. Singing “On Top of Spaghetti” is optional but encouraged.

If I make small meatballs, I usually don’t put them in the oven since the browning stage cooks them through but the big guys go in the oven for a few minutes until they reach about 155 degrees.

In sauce

Time for a swim! I nestle mine in the sauce while my pasta is cooking.

finished

Dive in! I’m not a purist when it comes to pasta shape, clearly. If you must have spaghetti, then go for it. I usually opt for ziti or penne.

Spicy Meatballs
Makes about 18-20 large meatballs

2 pounds of ground meat. All beef or a mix of your choice.
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
A mix of herbs. I end up with maybe 1/3-1/2 of a cup chopped
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
salt and pepper
(coconut oil for the pan)

Preheat oven to 350-400.

Mix everything except the meat together in a large bowl. Add the meat and combine, taking care to not overwork the meatballs.

Shape into golfball sized meatballs and brown over medium-high heat. I like to use coconut oil here since it has a high smoke point but vegetable oil or bacon fat would also work. You’ll need to do a few batches to give the meatballs room in the pan. Don’t futz with the meatballs at this point or they will stick a little. Once they brown, they will release from the pan. Do your best to brown on as many sides as possible.

Stick them on a sheet pan (if you line it with parchment, it will be super easy to clean up!) and put them in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 155-160. They will still be slightly pink in the middle.

Either add them to the sauce or put them directly onto the pasta and top with sauce.