Category Archives: easy

Ozark Pudding, aka Huguenot Torte: Dessert in a Flash (albeit an unnecessarily belabored flash)

Not really what I think of when I think of a pie or a torte. Maybe it needs a new name? Mystery meringue? Apple-pecan pouf?

This is a rough transcript of the internal monologue that followed a semi-last-minute decision to take dessert to a friend’s house for dinner yesterday (scroll down to “results” if you just want to know what the heck Ozark pie/Huguenot Torte is and aren’t interested in the documentation of my neuroses):

The Process

“I should just buy something. I don’t have time to bake. But how do you even do that? I can’t just buy a bag of Oreos or something, can I? A grocery store bakery pie? I don’t even want to eat that. Is there anywhere else I can buy a pie? Why are there a half a dozen stores that sell cupcakes and nowhere I can buy a goatforsaken pie…

Goat in a hat from Off Base Percentage My goat, my goat, why have you forsaken me pie?

“Is it okay to show up at someone’s house with a pint of ice cream? What if they don’t have any freezer space? Is that offensive—like a suggestion that they are incapable of purchasing ice cream or perhaps that if they did have ice cream on hand it wouldn’t be as good as whatever you brought? Oh, this is so stupid. [Generous host] specifically said there was no need for me to bring anything. What is wrong with me that I don’t know how to be a dinner guest without bringing something I made “from scratch”? This is why I am not done with my dissertation and will obviously fail at everything forever. Thanks, superego, helpful as always. sigh Surely there is something I can make that won’t take very long and will make me happier than showing up empty-handed or with a bag of Oreos…

filters Delicious tags by “recipe” and “dessert” and opens these four links

“What was Huguenot Torte again? Oh, right, some kind of sunken apple-pecan meringue thing. Huh. Maria del Mar Sacasa of Serious Eats says it’s simple, ugly, and delicious, which sounds about perfect. Maria del Mar Sacasa's cherry-hazelnut Huguenot Torte--I think hers is darker because she included some of the liquid from the jarred cherries, reducedBut she also gave it a “makeover” with sour cherries and hazelnuts in place of the apples and pecans. I was not impressed with the canned sour cherries I got for NYE. Maybe I should just make the original…

opens these three links

“Egad, that sounds awfully sweet. And Amanda Hesser of the NYTimes says she likes it warm and that when it’s cold ‘you have to do battle to cut it.’ That does not sound like the best thing to make in advance and take somewhere. I wonder if I could make individual portions? Hey, the 2009 Recipe Redux by Sarah Magid is for ‘boozy apple-thyme meringue cookies’—maybe that would work?

“Curses! This recipe is so much fussier. You have to caramelize the apples separately and then use a piping bag to make individual meringues and it calls for both superfine and confectioner’s sugar…guh. The whole point of this recipe was that it was going to be simple. Hm. I wonder what the internet thinks about ‘individual Huguenot tortes’…

googles “individual Huguenot tortes,” and opens these four links

Balls. None of these are actually for individual-sized portions, although Up Chef Creek came to the same conclusion because the caramelized crust, which is the best part, sticks to the pan & becomes impossible to serve after it’s cooled. So it would probably be better to bake it in individual ramekins. But who knows how that would affect the baking time? Or how full I should fill the cups? And do I really want to cart a bunch of individual cups of ugly apple-pecan meringue business to someone’s house? That seems stupid. I should just make the original. ‘Golden oldie’ Maria del Mar Sacasa, said. ‘I cooked it fairly often,’ she said. That is not something you do with a recipe that sucks…

“Wait, didn’t Amanda Hesser say this wasn’t actually related to the Huguenots at all and actually descended from something called Ozark Pudding? I wonder what the internet thinks about Ozark Pudding…

googles “Ozark Pudding,” and opens these three links

Nostalgia Snark fom the Economical Epicurean, who got it from Amazon.com“Amen, Economical Epicurean, that Recipe Redux is the perfect example of taking something that sounds simple, easy, & relatively cheap and making it into a huge, fussy production. Although sometimes huge, fussy productions are worth it, and I certainly wouldn’t go so far as to say that cookies and cupcakes are ‘tearing at the fabric of society.’ I guess you did admit this was a melodramatic rant.

“Oh, Marion Cunningham, it’s actually unclear whether or not fewer Americans are sitting down to a ‘traditional home-cooked dinner these days’ or how many of them ever did and I never did get around to writing the follow-up to that post about the studies about families who eat dinner together and how the television being on doesn’t actually matter. Of course, the researchers just shrugged and decided that there must be another causal mechanism, not that the relationship isn’t causal or that the arrow might go in the opposite direction (happy, healthy families –> more likely to eat dinner together).

“However, this recipe attributed to Bess Truman does sound easy and is scaled to fit in a pie pan and I have almost everything I need to make it already. I guess it’s worth a try.”

The Results

Totally easy—prep time was 15 minutes, start to finish even though I added a few extra steps. And pretty darn delicious—kind of like a cross between pavlova and pecan pie. The top was crunchy and the middle was kind of gooey and the bottom was chewy and sort of caramelized. I would totally make this again.

Brown sugar cognac cream makes the world seem lovely in spite of imminent defense datesMy modifications:

1) Instead of just greasing the pan, I greased it, dusted it with flour, and then sprayed it with cooking spray. It still stuck a little bit, but overall was pretty easy to get out of the pan, even though it sat for at least two hours before we served it.

2) I whipped the cream with some brown sugar and cognac. I would have used bourbon if I’d had any on hand because that would have been a natural pairing for the apples and pecans, but there was an unfortunate incident earlier this week involving a bottle of Bulleit and a flimsy plastic bag (yet another reason to take your own bags to the grocery store).

3) I tossed the apple pieces in a lemon-water bath to prevent oxidation while I was making the batter because I just do that automatically whenever I’m baking with apples.

This might be part of the reason my dissertation isn’t finished in a more general sense—the above doesn’t even begin to compare to the consternation and fussing about cooking I usually do when I’m not panicking about an imminent defense date—but it’s certainly not this particular recipe’s fault. I’d rank Ozark Pie near the top of my list of high reward/effort recipes. Right up there with no-knead bread and popcorn chickpeas and butternut squash soup.

The base recipe is also kind of a blank slate, so you could probably substitute just about any kind of fruit and nuts you had around…or chopped up chocolate or butterscotch or toffee bits or whatever else you thought might taste good in a meringue-type base as long as it isn’t super watery. Berries and chopped white chocolate might be good, or pear and almonds. If you wanted to fancy it up a bit, you could try any of the following: baking it in 1/2 cup ramekins filled slightly less than halfway, adding an herb or spice, or making a sabayon instead of just whipping some cream (bourbon-spiked would probably be great with the original apple-pecan).

Recipe: Ozark Pudding, aka Huguenot Torte (from Marion Cunningham’s Lost Recipes, via NPR)
serves 5-6 as written, or double and make in an 8×12 or 9×13 pan

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • I threw the apple pieces in some water with the juice of half a lemon while I prepared the other ingredients. probably not necessary, but so easy why not? 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup apple pieces, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 of a large Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 Tablespoons brown sugar (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon, rum, or cognac (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease, flour, and spray a 10” pie pan (or just grease it, but don’t be surprised if it sticks).

2. Beat the egg and sugar together until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix well until combined. Fold in the apple pieces, nuts, and vanilla.

3. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. It will poof up, and then will fall when you remove it from the oven.

4. Whip the cream to soft peaks, adding the brown sugar and alcohol if desired.

It makes less than 2 cups of batter, don't be alarmed if it's just barely enough to cover the bottom of the panPouf! It isn't the prettiest thing I've ever made, but I think the Serious Eats writer was a little harsh. Even after it fell a little more, it wasn't "ugly"

Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce: Good, cheap, and fast (yes you can have all three)

if you have bigger ramekins, you can bake 2 or even 4 per dish, though you may have to increase the cooking time  

Just another variation on baked eggs, which turns basic pantry staples into a main dish that works well for brunch and also makes for an easy weeknight meal. Perfect for the kind of day when you’re just too busy to make anything very elaborate (or write much of anything on your blog—although if you really want to read more about eggs, I got your eggs right here).

they were soft but not quite runny. also: no flash and forgot to correct for tungsten light.The key to getting the whites to set softly while the yolks stay runny is to let the eggs come to room temperature before baking them and then take them out of the oven a minute or two before they look “done” because they will continue to cook for a couple of minutes from the residual heat.

Of course, if you’re completely preoccupied or in a rush and forget to take the eggs out of the refrigerator before you make the tomato sauce and then forget to set an oven timer, both of which I did, the worst that can happen is you end up with cooked yolks. They’re still tasty, and the tomato sauce is almost as good for sopping up with bread alone as it would be muddled with warm, runny yolks.

Like most egg-based dishes, the possibilities are basically endless—you can certainly bake eggs without tomato sauce, which is often called “coddled” or “shirred” eggs, usually dotted with butter or cream and sprinkled with herbs before they go in the oven. I added some leftover spinach-artichoke dip to the tomato sauce, and that could have been a base for the eggs on its own if I’d had more of it. You can add some chopped up cooked meat (especially bacon or prosciutto), a smear of soft cheese, some cooked greens or pesto, or any kind of herbs you think sound tasty. I suspect that tarragon and gruyere would be a nice combination.

Toasted bread is almost compulsory, especially if you get the yolks right. If you have the time and ingredients, a green salad would be a nice accompaniment. But perhaps the best thing about baked eggs is that they basically feel like a complete meal all on their own. roughly 20 minutes after starting, all prepped and ready to go in the oven

Recipe: Baked Eggs in Tomato Sauce (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 T. oil or butter (plus a little more or some cream for dotting eggs before baking, if desired)
  • 15 oz. can diced or crushed tomato
  • 1 t. fresh thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley, and/or oregano
  • 4 eggs
  • a few pinches of salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 3-4 T. grated hard cheese like parmeggiano reggiano, romano or asiago
  • 1 shallot or ~1 T. minced onion (optional)
  • 1/4 cup leftover spinach artichoke dip or cooked greens or 1 T. tapenade or pesto (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2. Mince the garlic and shallot or onion, if using, and cook in the oil or butter until golden.   

3. Add the canned tomato and cook about 10 minutes until the liquid has reduced, breaking up the tomatoes a bit. Add the herbs and cooked greens and any other additions, if using.

just tomatoes and garlicplus the spinach artichoke dip and some herbs

4. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and divide the tomato sauce between them. For four 4-oz dishes: break one egg into each dish. 8-12 oz. dishes can hold 2 eggs each. Top with a sprinkle of salt, a little black pepper, more chopped herbs, and some grated cheese. Add a few dots of butter or dribble of cream, if desired.

a bed of savory, richly umami sauce and of course, while they're in the oven, you can tend to all the other things in your life that need tending

5. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until whites are just set. If doing 2 eggs/dish, they may take a few minutes longer.

almost like little individual savory custards, but without fussing with tempering or water baths or anything of that

Popcorn Chickpeas: Random Cool and Delicious Stuff You Can Do With Pantry Staples

the blurry flying chickpeas are easy to miss, so I circled them in red they're tricky buggers to photograph.

and i wasn't using a fast enough lens to capture them in focus so i'm hoping the preponderance of visual evidence will be convincing: these are not smudges on the lens, these are chick peas in flight.

The first time I encountered “popcorn chickpeas” was on a menu. It was offered as a $5 or $6 appetizer a wine bar/restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. When I ordered it, I wasn’t sure whether to expect the chickpeas to be mixed with popcorn or coated in popcorn or if maybe the chick peas themselves would be puffed like corn pops. And I was initially a little disappointed when I got what looked like just a bowl full of regular old chickpeas. They had clearly been cooked—they were golden brown and mixed with browned bits of garlic. And that’s all there was—no greens, no sauce, not even a garnish; it was almost audaciously simple.

But they turned out to be delicious: a little crisp on the outside, creamy in the middle, garlicky and salty. Addictive. I imagine they’re a little like the fried black eyed peas that Alton Brown chose when he was featured on The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

I inquired about the name, and the server said it was because they “pop” when you cook them in hot oil. So the first time I made them, it was just for the novelty. I had to find out what this popping business was all about.

the size of the explosion seems to depend on how dry they are and how hot the pan is; drier & hotter = more spectacular explosions and a messier kitchenObviously, chick peas don’t have a hard shell the way dried corn does, so the explosion isn’t quite as spectacular and doesn’t produce a starchy poof, but as far as I can tell, the reason for the popping is basically the same—the outside of the chickpea is slightly drier and harder than the inside, so moisture inside the peas turns into steam and starts to build up pressure (again, way less pressure than inside a popcorn hull, but basically the same idea). When it reaches the breaking point, it ruptures, which makes a popping sound, and the release of pressure sends it flying.

Aside from being kind of fun to make, they’re such a vast improvement over plain chickpeas that this has become my favorite way to add them to salads or pasta/grain dishes. So I guess this is more of a concept than a recipe—the version below is as adaptable as chick peas themselves. The only constants are cooked chickpeas, enough oil to coat a pan, a clove or two of garlic, and plenty of salt. Serious Eats posted a version from the cookbook The Herbal Kitchen that calls for rosemary. You could dress them up even more with a blend of spices like chili powder, cumin, and ground ginger. Or you could use them to showcase a fancy or flavored salt.

 in a green salad, with roasted cauliflower and cucumbers over a brown rice pilaf with diced tomatoes, topped with grated parmeggiano cheese

Recipe: Popcorn Chickpeas

  • 15 oz can chickpeas or ~2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1-2 T. olive or peanut oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 3-4 grinds of black pepper
  • a sprinkle of fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • other herbs and spices, like rosemary, parsley, chili powder, and/or cumin (optional)

1. Drain the chickpeas well.

2. Mince the garlic and chop/grind any herbs or spices, if using.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add the garlic and toss or stir to coat lightly in the oil.

4. Add the drained chickpeas and cook for 5-10 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally. They should start to pop after the first couple of minutes. Cook until they’re as browned as you want them.

they are also totally delicious just as they are

Tofu Clafoutis with Spiced Plums

or should I say "tofutis"? 

I discovered clafoutis a few years ago while looking for dessert ideas for Iron Chef IV: Battle Chickpea. The floofy name is a little misleading—it’s nothing fancy or elaborate, just a sweetened batter of egg, milk, and flour poured over a few handfuls of fruit and baked. I suspect only the reason that the French name has survived (although sometimes Anglophone menus and recipes drop the silent “s”) is that it doesn’t really have an exact analog in English. It’s somewhere between a custard and a cake, but usually has more flour than the former and more egg than the latter. The closest thing I’ve had is the puffy “Dutch oven pancake” or pannekoek sometimes filled with spiced apples. I’ve also seen it described as a “crustless pie” or “batter pudding.”

and given that it's substantially tofu and fruit and chick peas, you can totally justify eating it for breakfastClafoutis differs from pannekoek in that fruit isn’t just an optional addition, it’s the raison d’etre, the star of the show. The traditional version that hails from the Limousin region of France calls for un-pitted cherries, which supposedly impart a distinctive almond-like flavor, probably due to the same chemical found in peach and apricot pits, the source of “natural” almond flavor. They also all contain trace amounts of cyanide, which is Eric Schlosser’s primary example of why “natural” flavors are not necessarily superior—especially in terms of health—to “artificial ones.” According to wikipedia, the name “clafoutis” actually derives from the Occitan verb “clafir, meaning to fill’ (implied: ‘the batter with cherries’).” Apparently in France, when fruits other than cherries are used, it’s called a “flaugnarde” (which comes from an Old French word that means “soft”). But I’m sticking with “clafoutis” 1) because it’s more common in English regardless of the fruit involved, 2) because the etymology isn’t specific to cherries anyhow so as long as you’re filling it with something it’s no less clafir-ed and, 3) because if anything sounds more egregiously French than clafoutis, it’s flaugnarde.

Savvy readers may be wondering what any of this has to do with chick peas, perhaps imagining some sort of horrible pancake studded with whole chickpeas. The reigning Iron Chef I was competing against did actually make a dessert that basically consisted of a chocolate custard studded with whole chickpeas, so maybe that’s not so crazy. But I doubt he’s done that again since the competition. Also, he lost.

I'm not going to write all three variations every time, but of course chick peas also go by the name "garbanzo beans" and the flour is often sold as "gram flour" What I made—and liked enough to make again—was a clafoutis recipe that substitutes silken tofu and some chickpea flour for the eggs. I got the idea from the now-sadly-defunct blog Hezbollah Tofu, which was devoted to veganizing recipes by Anthony Bourdain to spite him for various incendiary slurs he’s made about vegans and vegetarians (the title is a reference to the quote from Kitchen Confidential: “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.”). Sadly, I didn’t save that recipe and none of the other, similar versions I found used chickpea flour, which was the genius of the Hezbollah Tofu version, and not just because it was the secret ingredient I had to use. Chickpea flour is awesome—it’s the basis of the gorgeous crepes called socca or farinata and an addictive crispy-creamy pan-fried polenta-type stuff called panelle. In this recipe, it adds color, flavor and protein to help make up for the absent eggs.

But using the basic proportions in the other recipes and substituting chickpea flour for the regular flour and then throwing in 1/4 cup regular flour when I remembered that there was something preventing the original from being gluten-free, I managed to reconstruct something similar. I’ve never made or tasted an egg-based clafoutis, so I can’t vouch for its verisimilitude. I suspect that the batter is grainier and the final product less fluffy. It does have a faint soya-like nuttiness/bitterness. However, it’s still pretty delicious.  The fruit and flavor extracts mask the tofu flavor pretty well and the texture seems pretty much exactly like the descriptions of traditional clafoutis—thick and custardy, but with more structural integrity than most custards. A bit like French toast or bread pudding or a crust-less quiche.

they were pretty. i was taken in.You can use any kind of tree fruit or berry, although if the fruit is very firm or under-ripe you might want to cook it a little first. For the Iron Chef battle, I used Bosc pears, peeled, halved, and poached in white wine until just fork-tender. If you want to make the traditional version but don’t relish the idea of spitting cherry pits out of your dessert or pitting a bunch of cherries, you could use thawed frozen cherries and a little almond extract (either synthetic or cyanide-laced). For this version, my inspiration for was a bunch of little plums I had purchased, which turned out to be sort of unpleasant to eat raw. They were sort of bland and sour and instead of getting sweeter over time, they just started to develop mold spots and become grainy. I figured cooking them would be one way to add some sweetness and coax a little more flavor out of them.

I found a recipe for spiced plums roasted in orange juice and adapted that basic technique using white wine and a few different spices. The result was gorgeous—richly perfumed with the wine and a vanilla bean and just a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. After spooning the plums out of the wine, I reduced the remaining liquid to syrup, which was way more plummy than the plums themselves and I’ve been drizzling that over the clafoutis before serving it. I know every recipe for every tofu-based dessert ever makes this claim, and it’s only sometimes true, but for real: you will not believe this dessert is made substantially from tofu.

they turned more golden as they roasted, and the sauce turned pink, like it leached that pigment out  "rustic" I think is the word 

Recipe: Tofu Clafoutis (adapted from Vegan Visitor and Nom! Nom! Nom! Blog

Fills one 10” pie pan and three 4-oz baking dishes; can be halved for a thinner clafoutis tofu and sugar in the food processor

  • one package silken tofu
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk (soy, nut, dairy, whatever)
  • 1 cup garbanzo bean flour (chickpea flour or gram flour) (I may reduce this to 3/4 cup next time since I remembered belatedly that there was also regular flour and it was a little firmer than it needed to be)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour + more for coating baking dish
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 t. vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 1/2-2 cups fruit (whole berries or cut up apples or pears)
  • cooking spray, shortening, lard, or butter for greasing baking dish
  • powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 415F. Grease and flour the baking dish(es).

2. Place the fruit in the prepared baking dish. 

3. In a blender or food processor, blend the tofu and sugar until smooth.

4. Add 1 cup of milk and the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Then add the remaining cup of milk and blend.

fruit in the pie panbatter clafir-ed with plums!

5. Pour the batter over the fruit and place in the oven.

6. Bake for 15 minutes at 415 and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 and bake another 20-30 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown and the center only wiggles slightly when you shake the pan.

7. Let cool for 10-15 minutes, dust with powdered sugar, and serve. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche if desired.

poofed

Recipe: Spiced Plums enameled cast iron works well for this because you can transfer it directly to the stovetop, but any oven-safe dish will do(adapted from AllRecipes)

  • a dozen or so small plums, or half-dozen larger ones 
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 3/4-1 cup white wine
  • one vanilla bean (or 1 t. vanilla extract)
  • zest of one small lemon or orange
  • dash of ground nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and/or cayenne

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Halve and pit the plums and place them cut-side up in an oven-safe pot or baking dish.

2. Sprinkle the sugar over them evenly and add the wine.

I use the back of a knife to scrape the seeds outand put the bean in a jar full of sugar to make vanilla sugar, which is great for homemade hot cocoa

3. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape the seeds into the pot (save bean for another use). Grate the citrus zest, nutmeg and cinnamon directly into the pot or add pre-ground spices.

  microplanes are so awesome. I don't even remember how I zested lemons before I had one.this nutmeg was whole when I started, so that's about how much I used.

4. Bake for 20-40 minutes or until the plums are the desired texture—less time if you want them to retain their structure, more if you want to turn them into something like a compote or sauce. If desired, you can remove the plums and boil the liquid to reduce it further.

these would be great on their own with ice cream or creme anglaise or in a cobbler, too  I reduced it until it was thick enough that a path remained for a few seconds when I dragged a spoon through it

Sourdough-risen No-knead Pizza Dough

with a spicy tomato sauce, bacon, cherry tomatoes, sauteed onions, and fontina cheese

Homemade Bread When There’s No Time to Make Bread

One of the perks of being in graduate school is that I basically work from home most days, so if I want to take a break in the middle of the afternoon to knead bagel dough until there’s enough gluten to make a baker’s windowpane, I usually can. But I know that’s a luxury not everyone has, and sometimes even I can’t seem to fit all that kneading in. As much as I might like to live by some sort of mantra like, “If I’m too busy to knead bread for 15 minutes, I’m too busy,” sometimes, like it or not, busy just happens.  

Ezekiel, just after being refreshed with 1 c. bread flour and 1 c. water, already bubblingHowever, I also have this yeast creature named Ezekiel, and if I don’t bake with him at least once every  two weeks (and preferably every week—keeps him more active), he will eventually suffocate in his own excrement. That may be one of the biggest deterrents for people who might otherwise be interested in creating and maintaining their own starters—even if you’re an avid baker, a sourdough starter represents a kind of commitment. Whether or not you’re type to get emotionally invested in your fermenting flour paste, the whole endeavor is likely to seem like a waste of time and food if you’re just going to end up killing the stupid thing in a month or two anyhow.

However, thanks to the no-knead method popularized by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Bakery and Mark Bittman of the NYTimes, the inevitability of weeks when you will be too busy to knead a loaf of bread shouldn’t stop anyone from having a starter. Honestly, no-knead bread is probably the only reason Ezekiel is still alive. There are some culinary justifications for the no-knead method too—if you don’t have to knead a dough, it can be stickier and that increased moisture content is one way of producing a crackling “artisan bread” crust. Also, the long, slow rise produces the big pockets of air and uneven crumb people have come to expect and desire from “rustic” breads like ciabatta. But the best part by far is being able to make homemade bread with about as much time and effort as it takes to boil an egg.*

I’ll post my sourdough-risen adaptation of the classic crusty Dutch Oven-baked boule everyone loves eventually. But I think the best testament to the versatility and ease of the no-knead method is no-knead pizza.

The Four Keys to Great Pizza Crust

1) Gluten 

Pizza is even more reliant on gluten than most yeast breads. Without a lot of gluten, the crust will tear before you can stretch it thin enough to be a crust instead of something more like focaccia. can be rolled thinner for a true thin crust, but then it won't get those big fat bubbles, which I loveLots of gluten is also what makes pizza crusts chewier than normal bread—usually, you want something closer in texture to a bagel than sandwich bread. Normally, you produce gluten by kneading the dough for a long time, but the no-knead method uses a very long rise instead, which facilitates gluten production without any effort on your part. Time basically does the kneading for you.

However, you do need to use a high-protein flour to give time the raw material to work with. If you substitute all-purpose flour, the crust will probably tear when you try to shape it. If you don’t want to buy bread flour because you’re afraid you’ll never 5 lbs of it, but you do have access to a “natural foods” store, you can use vital wheat gluten to increase the protein content of regular or low-gluten flour—whisk 1 T. vital wheat gluten per cup of all-purpose flour or 2 T. per cup of whole wheat or cake flour into the dry ingredients before combining them with the wet ingredients.

2) Olive Oil

The traditional no-knead dough recipe contains no fat at all, like a baguette dough, but pizza dough usually contains at least a little fat both for suppleness and for flavor. So instead of using Jim Lahey’s recipe for no-knead pizza dough, I use the “Olive Oil Dough Master Version” from the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, adapted to work with my 100% hydration sourdough starter (a 1:1 combination of flour and water by volume). Any kind of oil will work, but I think my favorite thing about this dough is that you can smell and taste the olive oil in the final product. 

3) Refrigeration

can be used just like the refrigerated dough you can buy at the storeMost pizzerias refrigerate their crusts for a minimum of 24 hours. The cold slows the yeast activity  down and enables even more gluten development and a lot of flavor development, which is largely due to the yeast byproducts. You can bake the crust without refrigerating it, and it will turn out okay; however, it will be way better after at least one and up to ten days in the refrigerator. While that might be a bummer for instant gratification-seekers, it actually makes this a super convenient meal. You can throw the dough together one day and then after the long rise, divide it into individual pizza-sized amounts and store them in separate ziptop bags in the refrigerator for use basically anytime in the next two weeks.

Then, whenever you want pizza, all you have to do is roll it out, top it, and bake it. Even if you grate the cheese by hand and the toppings you want to use take some prep work—like cooking bacon and sautéing some sliced onion in the rendered fat or chopping up a pear or bell pepper—you can do that in the time it takes the oven to preheat. Baking only takes 15 minutes, and if you’re of the mind that pizza alone isn’t a complete and balanced meal, you can use that to throw together a salad or cut up and steam a head of broccoli. If you use already-prepped toppings like shredded cheese, canned artichokes, and pre-sliced olives or chopped up leftovers, the whole process takes less than 20 minutes of active time. Either way, your pizza will be done in less time than it takes to get delivery.

4) Hot Oven & Stone

While the exact temperature may vary by oven, which you’ll only figure out by experimenting, you can narrow your search to 400F+. A super-hot oven is what makes the yeast go crazy, producing those great big bubbles and crisping the top of the crust. For a crisp bottom crust, you need a preheated surface—ideally a baking tile or pizza stone, but a preheated baking sheet is better than nothing.

For my oven, 15 minutes at 500F is perfect—I get a soggy crust at both 450 or 550. You’d think it would just get crisper as the oven gets hotter (or at least I did), but when I tried it at 550F, after 12 or so minutes the top was starting to burn and the bottom wasn’t totally crisp, and got softer and limper as it cooled. At 450, the bottom would begin to burn by the time the cheese on top melted and despite that, never got totally crisp.

As I’ve mentioned before, you don’t have to drop $40 on something specifically marketed as a baking tile or pizza stone at Williams-Sonoma, you can use any unglazed quarry tile that will fit in your oven, which should be available at most home improvement stores for a couple of dollars (Alton Brown claims they cost $0.99 in the 2007 Good Eats episode “Flat is Beautiful” and katie k at the Fresh Loaf recommends asking for “saltillo tiles” which ran about $1.50 in Southern California in 2006).

1 pizza serves 2-3; we usually eat 2/3 for dinner and leave the last two pieces out for a snack later that night. on rare occasions, they survive and become breakfast the bubbles inevitably collapse a little once you cut the pie

Recipe: Sourdough-risen No-Knead Pizza Dough (makes 2 12”-14” pizzas)

(adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; for the instant yeast version, see Steamy Kitchen)

  • 2 c. refreshed starter
  • 2 t. kosher salt
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour (may substitute some or all whole wheat flour, but add 2 T. vital wheat gluten per cup)
  • parchment paper or cornmeal and additional flour for dusting baking sheet

1. Whisk the olive oil into the refreshed starter, and then add the rest of the ingredients (aside from the parchment paper and cornmeal) and stir just until combined—about 1 min.

2. Cover and let rise 8-20 hours or until the dough is more than doubled in size and there are fat bubbles on the surface.

ingredients just combined into a dough--it will be sticky about 12 hours later. also an illustration of why if i cooked more during the day, my photos would be so much nicer

3. Divide the dough into two balls. Stretch the surface of each one and pinch the edges together and then roll it around on a smooth surface to form round balls with taut surfaces. Pour some olive oil into two zip-top bags (I usually use the 1 qt. size) and spread it around a little or spray a little cooking spray into them and tuck one ball into each bag. You could also just store the whole thing in one gallon-sized bag and pull off a grapefruit-sized hunk when you want to bake, but I find the one ball, one bag method to be a little more convenient.

how dirty does "smooth, taut balls" sound? oiled bags

4. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to 10 days. Alternatively, shape and bake now.

5. Remove dough from cold storage 30 min-1 hr before rolling it out to let it warm up a little. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 500F with a baking tile placed on a middle rack or a baking sheet on the lowest rack possible—or even on the floor of the oven. you can also stretch it with your hands and toss it in the air. I am not that cool.

6. Roll the dough to approximately 1/4” thickness for a chewy, bubbly crust. For a true thin crust, roll it as thin as you can make it—until you can almost begin to see light through it. The best way to create a mostly even circle is to flatten the dough into a round and then roll from the center to the top edge and then turn the circle 90 degrees and repeat—roll, turn, roll, turn, roll turn, etc. always rolling in the same direction, straight from the middle of the circle towards 12 o’clock. 

7. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lightly floured towel (I usually cut open the ziptop bag and use that as the oil will keep it from sticking). Let rise for 20-30 minutes while the oven finishes preheating and you finish prepping any ingredients.

8. Top as desired. Alton Brown insists that less is more. I think it’s your damn pizza and you should do whatever you want with it. Some combinations I especially like:

With no sauce, just brushed with olive oil:

  • sautéed shallots and shitake mushrooms with fontina
  • firm pears and blue cheese (with or without bacon and/or arugula)
  • lots of fresh herbs, garlic and a hard cheese like asiago

With tomato sauce:

  • eggs (either scrambled or just broken, whole, onto the pizza so they cook over easy in the oven) with peas and ham or bacon (fake bacon works just about as well) with pressed mozarella or monterey jack
  • artichoke hearts, sliced olives, and asiago
  • salad shrimp, diced green onions, blanched asparagus tips, and a hard, sharp cheese like parmeggiano-regiano grated coarsely or peeled in strips with a vegetable peeler
  • fresh tomato and garlic with slices of fresh mozzarella (basil optional)
  • leftover meatloaf with onion and sharp cheddar

With an herb or arugula pesto:

  • sautéed bell peppers and onions with pepperjack cheese
  • fresh tomato and mozzarella (a repeat, but it’s a classic)

and bacon, sauteed onions, cherry tomatoes, and fontina wasn't half bad either 

9. Bake for 10-15 min. or until cheese is melted and crust is golden-brown.

*Why this is the standard metric of simplicity, I don’t know. I mean, I had to look up how to boil an egg not that long ago. And anytime you have to drain something and then shock it in ice water, that’s probably at a level of complexity belied by the way “boiling an egg” is invoked. I mean, have you seen The Worst Cooks in America? How many of them would know how to boil an egg? I mean, I’m sure they could put an egg in boiling water—but how many of them would know when to pull it out and how to prevent that unappetizing grey outer layer of yolk from developing? Clearly a cliché from another era.

Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Chick Pea Dip

this picture gives you basically the whole recipe

Belated epilogue to last week’s posts about artichokes: a recipe you can use to test the “sweet” effect of preserved artichokes that’s not the typical, creamy spinach affair. While I was trying to figure out what to call it, I got into a little debate about what counts as “hummus,” hinging on the importance of tahini. I was initially pro-“hummus,” arguing that you can buy “hummus” labeled “tahini-free” (why on earth any sizable number of people would desire tahini-free hummus I have no idea—are there really that many people with sesame allergies? Is it a fat-phobia thing?). But I had to concede that the label implies that hummus would normally be expected to have tahini, and indeed wikipedia defines hummus as “a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic.” On the other hand, it also says the full name in Arabic is “حُمُّص بطحينة (ḥummuṣ bi tahnia) which means chickpeas with tahina,” which simultaneously implies that hummus always has tahini and that hummus qua hummus is something separate from tahini.

Ultimately, I decided that the rosemary and artichoke made it sufficiently distinct from hummus to merit a different name, but it’s definitely hummus-like. However, that’s no reason to feel wedded to the chick peas. If I’d had cannellini beans, I probably would have used those instead. Cranberry beans or black-eyed peas would probably work as well. And of course, if you have sufficient foresight, you can use dried beans instead of canned.

The “sweet” effect is definitely more pronounced before you add the acid, but like most bean-based dips/soups, you’ll probably want the acid in there to brighten the flavors. So f you really want to play with taste perversion, try it without the acid first. Let the dip really coat your tongue, give it a minute, and then drink some water. See if it doesn’t taste at least a little bit sweet.

Serve with bread, chips, crackers, cut vegetables, or as a sandwich spread. Makes a little more than 2 cups.

Recipe: Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Chick Pea Dip

  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 1 12-15 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 16 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 3-4 T. olive oil
  • 2 t. kosher salt (might want to start with 1 t. regular salt and adjust to taste)
  • 1 t. black pepper
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • herbs (optional and flexible—I used about 1 t. fresh rosemary and 1 t. dried “Italian seasoning. I wish I’d had about 1 T. fresh parsley; any combination of rosemary, oregano, thyme, and/or parsley, fresh or dried would be great)
  • 1 t. white wine vinegar and/or 1 T. lemon juice 

the lazy person's roasted garlic1. Roast the garlic. Some people say you should slice the head in half and brush it with olive oil or some other kind of fanciness, but I never bother with that. I just wrap the whole head in foil and throw it in a 350-400F oven for 45-60 minutes. If I’m not using the oven for something else, I do it in the toaster oven to save energy. And basically anytime I’m going to have the oven on for 45+ minutes, I throw a head of garlic in too because why not? It’s delicious on its own, just mashed up with a little salt and spread on bread or crackers, and it’s awesome in a million other things—bean dips, composed butters, bread, mashed root vegetables, squash puree, salad dressings. You can do this up to a week in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

2. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel the cloves into a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for 1 T. of the olive oil and the acid.

once it's roasted the peel just falls away

3. Puree, adding more oil or water if necessary to make the mixture smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning to taste, including adding lemon juice and/or white wine vinegar if desired.

not much to look at, but you could pretty it up with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of paprika just like hummus if you were so inclined