Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pizza and Ice Cream

So I hit my two target goals this weekend:
  1. I did some home-made grill-fired pizza
  2. I did home-made ice-cream for the first time
Yeah! I bet you wish you were there, don't ya!?!? It's just as well that you weren't. I am going to need a little time to debug my shtick. It almost worked perfectly, but not quite.

The Pizza

So the pizza dough was courtesy of Alton Brown, but slightly modified. It consisted of the following:
  1. 16 ounces Tipo "00" pizza flour, which is at least 14.5% gluten protein by weight.
  2. 10 ounces warm water
  3. 1 teaspoon rapid rise (instant) bread machine yeast
  4. A big glob of honey.
  5. A tablespoon of sea salt
I also allowed this dough 12 hours of rise time, and about 2 hours for a second rise. I did not refrigerate during the rise. Alton used All-Purpose flower, instant yeast, barley malt, and kosher salt. The dough was delicious, but it was not a flat cracker crust by any stretch of the imagination. I was aiming for cracker-crust. This was a bread dough, and there was no mistaking that fact. More about this later.

The ingredients were pretty simple. Nearly the same thing I would do for a soffritto. It's funny how many rudimentary building blocks keep resurfacing again and again in every recipe... The ingredients were mushroom, onion, tomato, celery, carrot, panchetta, and prosciutto.

The cheeses were many and various. I grabbed some pre-shredded Mexican four-cheese, Pecorino, Romano, 5 year old Gouda, Gruyere, Fontina. I shredded some of each, and made a super-pile out of it.

I should have made my own sauce. I did not. I cheated, and opened a jar. It's just as well. You do not want to waste labor power or the good stuff.

I have to say that the mission was a failure the first time around. It failed for the following reasons:
  1. The dough was far too sticky and wet. The extra protein found in the Balta "00" resulted in massive glutenization. You would be hard pressed to knead the dough better than I did. The automatic mixer was rolling for more than 25 minutes with an S-hook. The dough looked solid when it finished. I think the correct solution is to reduce the water in the recipe. I am surprised at the massive difference between AP and "00" flour. I guess you get what you pay for, and you had better make adjustments accordingly.
  2. It was incredibly difficult to roll this dough out flat. Press down hard with the rolling pin, and it would tear. Press down lightly with the rolling pin, and the dough would automatically contract back down to it's preferred size. Less H2O next time. Also, I intend to activate the pasta rolling machine. I am going to crush that dough next time.
  3. The dough rose ferociously. I felt like was eating a partially risen bread loaf rather than a flat pizza dough. This was essentially the best deep-dish dough I had ever eaten. The only trouble is that I am not a fan of that much bread in my pizza. The bread is only a platform for the content. I don't want it to be the main content.
  4. I removed the grills from my Weber Genesis and placed the 16 inch lid of my Lodge 12 quart Dutch oven on the flavorizor bars, upside down. The upside-down lid was my pizza stone. I reckoned that the iron of the lid would make the perfect platform, and much better than stone. Not so. This was a bad idea on two counts.
  5. You need a very flat 180 degree angle of approach when you drop a pizza from your Peel onto the grid. A downward angle, even a gentile 30 degree slope will cause the loose toppings of your pizza to slide off and hit the stone. Flat, flat, flat runway approach. No angle. Next time, the grills will be on the Genesis
  6. The iron heated by the flavorizor bars created such a ferocious Maillard reaction that the bottom 1/16 of the dough burned black as coal. Remember, just on the other side of Maillard brown goodness you will find blackened burned badness. The master pizza makers chose ceramics and stone for a reason. They probably thought of using iron also. Don't bother... unless you are making Chicago deep dish. This is an entirely different sport, though.
  7. I am going to get some of those unglazed ceramic quarry tiles. Next time they are going top of the grills. Flat-angle and the tiles also.
The results of the first, highly flawed, attempt were still edible and even delicious in a certain way. I ate the product, and even enjoyed it up to a point, but it was certainly not what I had hoped for. However, with lessons learned, there is every reason to expect edition 2.0 to be a hell of a lot better.

The Ice Cream

The ice cream was a slam-dunk, and why not? This is about the easiest thing I ever did. There is a reason why adults used to make the kids do the ice cream. They knew it was deadly simple, and they knew the kids would be motivated to crank that handle. Now we don't even have to crank the handle.

For my first go at ice cream I used the following ingredients:
  1. 2 cups of half & half.
  2. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  3. 6 ounces of sugar
  4. 2 ounces of strawberry preserves
  5. 1 whole, fresh Madagascar vanilla bean.
  6. 1 teaspoon of sea salt.
  7. A single grind of white pepper
I went off the Brown reservation in several ways here.

Alton recommended staying away from heavy whipping cream because "you'll make butter, not ice cream." Sorry, that's all I had. I didn't make butter either. The ice cream was pretty sensational.

I substituted strawberry preserves for peach. I couldn't find peach, and I like strawberry better anyhow. I wanted to get the Mexican vanilla bean, but nobody seemed to have any notion of what I was talking about. Doesn't vanilla come in a bottle? I found Madagascar beans at Williams-Sonoma, and that was all they had. Doesn't all vanilla come from Madagascar?

This state of affairs just ain't right folks! This is Los Angeles. Everything from Mexico is supposed to be found here. I am astounded nobody in my hood could supply me with a Mexican Vanilla bean. I am horrified they didn't seem to know what I was talking about. I'm pissed. I have now ordered some Mexican beans from Amazon. They should be here tomorrow.

In any case, I split the bean with my Wusthof Santoku, and discovered why I need to buy a utility knife. I have a nice nick on my left index finger right now. Not very deep, but a nuisance. A 4.5 inch utility petty knife, like the Henckels Twin Cermax would be ideal for this application. I have a 150mm Misono UX-10 coming in the mail, but this may be too big for vanilla bean splitting. Don't use a 300mm Wa-Gyuto.

In any case, all that goodness went into a 4.5 quart Le Creuset French Oven pot. I raised the temp of the cream to 175 degrees, dissolved all the other goodness in there, dropped it into a sealed container, and let it chill overnight. In the morning, I dropped the mixture into my new Cuisinart 2 quart ice cream maker, and turned it for about 31 minutes. I tossed those results into a Rubber Made container, and left them in the freezer for about 8 hours.

The results were excellent. The vanilla was very potent, but not quite what I usually expect from vanilla. I think I am used to the Mexican beans, not the Madagascar beans. It was still good. The ice cream tasted more strawberry than vanilla due to the 2 ounces of strawberry preserves. That is not a bad thing, though. Strawberry-vanilla is pretty fucking good ice cream. I would not be ashamed to serve this to E. Stanley Kroenke. I think it would blow your brains out. I am already competing with artisan brands.

Next on the docket was Williams-Sonoma chocolate pre-mixture. I believe they call it "Ice Cream Starter Mix". Whilst it is very fast, just mix and churn, I would not recommend it. The ice cream was delicious in its own way, but it is extremely expensive, and I don't think I achieved anything more than a decent chocolate ice cream on the shelf might give you. I know I can top this with a little artisan chocolate.

Next time I am going to get jiggy with a little Ecuadorian chocolate, some coffee, some English custard, and the normal ingredients. Now that will be an artisan ice cream!