I recently stayed at my friend Barbara’s wonderful Bed and Breakfast in Longdale Furnace, Virginia called the Firmstone Manor. It is a beautiful pre-victorian manor and she always makes me feel at home. While I was there, I was supposed to give a lesson in bread making, but the threat of snow on the roads forced me to come home early. So, I am going to cover some bread making basics, and transition it to pizza, one of the easiest and most delicious foods to make. Since it is Lent, I am providing a vegetarian version as well.
I like to take all the above ingredients and stir them in a food grade bucket that I have left over from some coconut oil I ordered from Radiant Life Catalog. I put this bucket of stirred dough in the fridge and let it sit a couple of days. If you double the recipe, you can just grab a chunk of dough for rolls, bread, etc. whenever you need it. As it sits, the flavor improves, becoming more like a sour dough.
An extremely important note: Do NOT use tap water for baking bread. The chlorine in the water will kill the yeast cells and your bread will not rise. I know alot of city dwellers who have said they cannot bake bread, but its the water’s fault, not theirs. I don’t recommend distilled water either because it has no remaining minerals. Try a spring or mineral water (not carbonated). We use well water and always have good results.
Take your dough and let it come back to room temperature. It will start to rise. Knead in additional flour if it is too sticky, otherwise you can start shaping the dough into the bread style you need. The first picture below is how the dough looks straight from the bucket. The second picture shows how it looks after it has been kneaded.
Dough from Bucket
Shape the dough. Here I am going to make it into baguettes and sandwich loaves. Let it rise until doubled.
Baguette – Slash the dough so it can rise.
In 400 degree oven, bake bread for about 1/2 hour until golden brown. I start with convection for the first five minutes. This is optional but does give an extra “puff.” to make the loaf rise more.
Now, say you want to make pizza instead of bread? Easy. Each recipe I gave above will yield two loaves, or two large pizzas. And I don’t mean those weeny things they call a large pizza now-a-days. Sorry y’all but a twelve inch pizza isn’t “large.”
Take an appropriately sized piece of dough and roll it out flat with a rolling pin and plenty flour. If you look at my dough baguette picture above you can see that I have a silicon rolling mat. I strongly recommend one, and a benefit to these is that they have markings to show how large you have rolled your dough out.
I place my rolled out dough on a pizza pan that I have covered first with a small amount of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. This makes the crust more flavorful. Now start with your toppings. We use Muir Glen chopped tomatoes as our sauce, but I am in the market for a new brand since they gave money to the side opposing GMO labeling in California. If I am wrong, please correct me. In the picture below is a ham and pineapple pizza. Cover with generous amounts of shredded cheese, and allow your pizzas to stand for fifteen minutes for the yeast to rise.
Bake at 400 for ten minutes and then reduce temperature to 375. Bake another approximately 20 minutes until cheese is a golden brown and center is cooked.
For a delightful vegetarian pizza, we omit the tomato sauce, using instead this delightful Roland Truffle Cream – I put it in my Amazon store. Spread about one tablespoon over a medium (12 inch) pizza.
Roland Truffle Cream
In a small pan cook sliced onions and bulb fennel with water until almost tender. Drain well and spread on pizza dough. Cover with generous amount of shredded cheese and proceed with directions for pizza above. Yum. Truffle.