Pizza Napoletana Margherita – Neapolitan-Style Pizza

Pizza Napoletana Margherita - Basil

This is, without a doubt, the best recipe for pizza dough I’ve ever tried. Chilled flour, ice-cold water, salt, and a small amount of yeast are mixed together and immediately refrigerated in this unique method that draws out the complex flavors locked inside the flour. This delayed fermentation process is arguably the most important, and thankfully, also the easiest, technique in Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

When flour is hydrated, starch is slowly broken down into simpler sugars. Since the dough is kept very cold and immediately refrigerated, the yeast falls asleep and doesn’t snack on these carbohydrates until removed from cold storage. Compared to dough developed using conventional methods, the result is a naturally sweeter dough courtesy of the larger reserve of fermentable sugars.

More carbs for the yeast. More carbs for you. Everybody’s happy. Until the yeast meets its end on a 600ºF baking stone, that is.

View Pizza Napoletana Margherita - Neapolitan-Style Pizza Recipe »

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Pumpkin Quick Bread – Whole Wheat with Walnuts

Pumpkin Bread - Whole Wheat with Walnuts

If you happen to have some leftover pumpkin puree, chances are, you’ve already made something sweet or otherwise indulgent. Using whole wheat flour and just enough enrichments to make a firm batter, this pumpkin bread adds some much needed balance and nutritional value to the pumpkin-centric diet.

You could, of course, forget about counting calories, toast a thick walnut-studded slice, and slather with cream cheese. Either way works.

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Dal Makhani (Kali Dal) – Buttered Black Gram Beans

Dal Makhani / Kali Dal - with Cream and Cilantro

Poke around my burgeoning list of recipes and you may notice that outright lack of knowledge and unpronounceableness haven’t deterred me in the least from trying out new foods. In keeping with the spirit of blissful ignorance, here are a handful of things I know about dal makhani, a slow-cooked lentil stew with black gram and red kidney beans.

  • Julie Sahni calls it “The most exquisite of dal preparations.”
  • A triple batch fits perfectly in a 7-quart dutch oven. It’s that good.
  • Dal makhani is easy to prepare but takes about 8 hours to cook, much like simmering stock, which is another good reason to make a triple batch. It will be worth it.
  • It has a consistency similar to chili. Even if I’m not vegetarian, I’d choose a bowl of dal makhani over chili any day.
  • Calling dal makhani “buttered” is a mild understatement. See recipe below.

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Suji Halwa – Indian Semolina and Raisin Pudding

Sooji Halwa - Semolina Raisin Pudding with Cream

Cooking suji halwa is a lot like preparing risotto, but with a lot less stirring. Coarse-ground semolina is first toasted and rendered aromatic in ghee, the Indian version of clarified butter. Raisins and a simple syrup are then poured over the semolina and stirred over low heat until the sweet liquid is fully absorbed.

Since the semolina is first coated in ghee, the semolina puffs up as it absorbs some of the syrup but remain separate, resembling tiny grains barely clinging to each other. I’ve been avoiding this word because one of the most important figures in my life have full dentures, but it really is appropriate in this case — suji halwa has a pleasing toothsome texture. Other people avoid the word for different reasons.

Finished off simply with ground cardamom, a spice I’ve developed an intense liking to through Indian sweets, this warm dessert pudding is always a good option as the mercury dips.

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Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread – 100% Whole Grain

Whole Grain Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread - Sliced

This 100% whole wheat loaf is my idea of the perfect homemade bread. The ingredient list is fairly short and calls for only a few kitchen staples in addition to the requisite whole wheat flour, salt, water, and yeast. Compared to white flour loaves, whole grain breads are also undoubtedly the healthier choice, but its more assertive flavor and denser nature understandably takes a bit of getting used to.

Based on the master formula in Peter Reinhart’s award-winning whole grain breads book, the recipe may seem intimdating at first. The process is spread out over two days, but after trying it a few times, you’ll find that the techniques and scheduling are far more forgiving than other traditional methods.

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