Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ina's Pizza Party And My Problems With It

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Pizza Party

White Pizzas with Arugula

Garlic Oil

Double Fudge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ooh, Ina’s making pizza today. I admit I’m going to be slightly peeved if she doesn’t make her own crust. My feeling is she should show us how to make the dough from scratch, so we can see how she does it. She can always tell us that if we’re in a pinch we can pick up some dough from the local pizza place or supermarket.

Let’s see what she does.

Ina’s friend Shari Weston and her kids, David and Lily, are cooking with the Contessa today. Ina’s excited to make pizza with them.

Ina says the only thing kids like better than chocolate cake is a HUGE chocolate cake. Good one, Ina.

She’s going to make a very large ½ sheet cake. I may need to get my butter out this second so I can cook along with her. She measures 2½ cups of flour from the HUGEST glass jar I’ve ever seen. It should be in a zoo, not a private kitchen. She sifts the flour with 2¼ teaspoons of baking soda and 1½ cups of really rich cocoa powder. (This IS going to be a massive cake.) She adds ½ teaspoon of salt – it’s important, Ina says – not to me.

About combining the dry ingredients, even when I can’t be bothered to sift things, I always sift baking soda through a tea strainer. Little bursts of undissolved baking soda is really nasty when left in baked goods. Sieving it is the only to ensure there are no lumps. Cocoa is a good thing to sift as well, so for this cake, you might just as well sift all the dry ingredients, just as Ina says.

Ina adds 2 sticks of room temperature butter and 1 cup of sugar to the KitchenAid with 1 cup of brown sugar. She creams it on medium for 3 to 4 minutes. She cracks 4 eggs into a bowl, telling us not crack them ON the bowl. (But I wouldn’t do it on the COUNTER either.) She adds the eggs one at a time, making sure to scrape the bowl. She adds 1 tablespoon “good” vanilla and 1½ cups buttermilk. Ina hates drinking it, but she loves baking with it.

If you have leftover buttermilk, which you will, it’s fantastic in a shake. Just substitute it for yogurt - 1 cup of buttermilk, 1 banana, a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries or raspberries. Blend until smooth and it’s yummy.

Ina adds ¾ cup sour cream (she doesn’t mention reduced fat, natch) and 3 tablespoons of brewed coffee leftover from breakfast. She alternates adding the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients on a low speed. Wow, that looks great. She spreads the batter into a buttered and floured sheet pan and bakes it at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes until it springs back and a cake tester comes out clean.

Ina goes to the East Hampton outpost of Dylan’s Candy Bar to get candy to decorate the cake. Oh my, that store looks amazing. She buys Neccos. I don’t like those.

Back in the kitchen, Ina start the frosting by making ganache. She melts 24 ounces of chocolate chips in a bowl over simmering water. She adds 1½ cups of heavy cream and stirs it occasionally until melted and smooth. She stirs in 2 tablespoons of corn syrup to make it even smoother and adds 1/2 teaspoon of “good” vanilla. She lets it cool completely to room temperature. Then she beats in a stick of room temperature butter with the whisk attachment. Great recipe. I’m so doing that, but I don’t love the corn syrup and I don’t think it’s necessary.

Why is Ina bothering to tell us that the cake is very high carb? She ices it with a palette knife, while telling us that she thinks buttercream was invented to keep the cake moist. Mmm, so good.

Oh YAY!!! She’s making the dough. Thank goodness. Now I can relax.

Ina measures 1½ cups of 110°F to 120°F degree water.

If you use a thermometer the first time you dissolve yeast, you probably won't need to do it again. It's easy to remember what it feels like. It’s warmer than you think, but not so warm that you pull your hand out.

Ina pours the warm water into her mixing bowl and adds two packages of yeast with 1 tablespoon of honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. She waits just a sec to see bubbles and then adds the first 3 of 4 cups of flour.

Okay, I do have a problem here. Any idea what’s bothering me?

THIS is. Whenever there is yeast in a recipe, no matter how much you revere the person whose recipe it is, take a TINY bit of time and PROOF the yeast. That literally means proving to yourself that the yeast is working. And it is worth doing EVERY time. All you do is to dissolve the yeast in a ½ cup of warm water and ½ teaspoon of sugar and make sure it bubbles up. If it doesn’t, you just throw that yeast away and start all over and you haven’t wasn’t wasted all that flour.

The thing is I’m generally an optimistic, glass half-full sort of person, but when it comes to yeast, I’m a complete pessimist. It has to PROVE itself to me, before I’ll take the next step of adding the flour. Hence, the term PROOFING the yeast.

The Fleischmann’s folks say rapid rise yeast is designed to be added directly to the dry ingredients. I refuse to be sitting on tenterhooks, wondering, hoping, and praying that the yeast is good and the dough will rise, so rapid rise is not for me. I will NEVER NOT proof my yeast.

After Ina adds all the flour, she beats the mixture slowly with the dough hook.

She tells us that she’s going to top the pizza with an arugula salad. Good, I always throw salad on top of my salad.

Ina adds 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt to the dough. She says not to add it at the beginning or it will stop the yeast from growing. She continues kneading it (with the KitchenAid) for 10 minutes.

After Ina removes the dough from the mixer bowl, she kneads it briefly by hand until smooth. She oils up a bowl and puts the dough in upside down and then turns it over, so it’s all coated with oil. She covers it with a towel and lets it rise at room temperature for half an hour.

Ina moves on to making a garlic oil for the top of the dough. She slices 5 cloves of garlic and adds ½ cup olive oil to a pan on a very low flame. She adds the garlic and 5 sprigs of thyme and a pinch of red pepper flakes. She cooks it for 10 minutes.

Ina takes out the dough and admires it. She says it’s like a big pillow and she just loves it. She says it’s much more fun than buying it. The Contessa cuts it into 6 pieces and gets the kitchen ready for the pizza making.

Her friends arrives and her kids come up and hug Ina. So would I. The kids put on aprons.

They grate all the cheeses by hand – fontina, mozzarella and goat cheese. (A food processor would have been easier.) Each person gets a ball of pizza dough. They stretch it out and brush it with the garlic olive oil. (I think they each need more than one dough ball.) They add the cheese. Ina bakes them at 500°F for 10 to 15 minutes.

I think the kids could have handled more than one small pizza. And will the kids like arugula? The pressure is on.

Ina adds ½ cup of olive oil and ¼ cup of lemon juice to a small bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. The kids could have made that.

David refuses any salad on his pizza.

After they eat their pizzas, which might have taken 4 minutes tops, Ina hands them tubes of icing and the candy to decorate the cake. Then Ina cuts ridiculously big pieces of cakes. Is that because she realizes she underfed them with tiny pizzas?

This is a first. Folks may actually leave Ina’s house without busting a gut. The good thing, though, is that she made a beautiful pizza dough (even if she used a different method than I would have).


DebCarol said...

I jumped into this episode near the end, just as Ina was serving up slices of Chocolate Cake . . . slices the size of car doors. Sorry I missed the pizza dough part (love your baking soda/tea strainer tip).

Sue said...

Cake slices the size of car doors!!!!ROFL! WHY didn't I think of that?

Pursuit of Healthfulness said...

Haha, I am right there with you on the Necco's... and she even says that kids love them! Yeah right! I ALWAYS gave my Necco's over to my dad! I was also slightly amazed by the size of the cake slices; at least she won over the kids with those!

Regardless, I always enjoy Ina's tips on enhancing simple basic; Hearing I should add coffee to chocolate to enhance the taste (nearly) never gets old! There is just something undeniably soothing about Ina!

Emily said...

I lOVE that buttermilk shake trick. Sounds delicious.

I agree with you on the yeast. I can't believe she only waited a second. Ohhh Ina.

Mmm pizza and cake. That would be my last meal.

That's funny what POH said. Ina is so set in her ways, it's almost soothing. You know exactly what she's going to say and do. How good is that?

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Wow. It's not often you disagree with Ina! I was a little shocked with your post title. But you dont' seem to disagree too much.

I keep saying that one day I'm going to create a Barefoot Contessa drinking game. One of the rules is that you have to drink whenever she tells you to use a "good" ingredient. You also have to kill your drink every time she visits a local shop.

Speaking of local shops, would you believe I've been a few times to the Dylan's Candy Bar in Houston, but never to the one in NY?

Sheila said...

So glad to know that you're supposed to proof the yeast every time! My inlaws insist on having pizza-from-a-box every CHRISTMAS! It's maddening. But this year I've convinced them to do homemade pizza. (It IS at my house after all.) Maybe this pizza dough will recipe will come in handy.

I love salad on my pizza too!

Janet Forsythe said...

I never proof it, have never had it fail. The recipe I use is from a professional pizza baker, he doesn't proof it either. I always use SAF instant yeast. It lasts a year at least in the freezer. May be you need to change yeasts.