Monday, August 23, 2010

Wood Fired Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

I had been thinking about making desserts for a while in my oven, and while this may be the only one I make thus far, it's so good it has dissuaded me from wanting to make anything else. I suppose when strawberries and rhubarb go out of season, I'll have to do something else. Until then....

This recipe is actually a combination of two recipes I got from the always excellent Smitten Kitchen food blog. The filling comes from her Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe, and the biscuit topping comes from her Rhubarb Cobbler recipe.

I've made a few changes. First, I found that the tapioca pearls were not dissolving fast enough in the wood fired oven - since the cooking time is dramatically faster. So I instead swapped them out for tapioca flour, and found it works just as well. Second, I found I needed a bit more fruit for my particular pan, which is about 9"X12", so I increased everything in the filling by 50%.

Since I normally keep my oven around 700 degrees, I had to modify the baking approach. I found that letting the fruit filling cook for 10-15 minutes, taking it out and adding the biscuit topping, and then finishing it off for 7-10 minutes works wonderfully. If anything is threatening to burn, just cover it with aluminum foil.

The dough can be made several hours in advance, which makes it easy for entertaining. You can cut the fruit and measure your dry ingredients for the filling, but don't combine them until just before you bake so you don't end up macerating the strawberries.


Makes one 9"X12" cobbler

For the biscuit topping:
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 hard-boiled egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add 2/3 cup of cream and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently pat it together, incorporating any stray crumbs. Pat the dough out until it is about ¼” thick and then cut into circles with cookie cutters. Repeat with the scraps until it’s all cut. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the filling:

2 ¼ pounds rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices
1 ½ pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced if big, halved if tiny
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 mounded cup light brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoon lemon juice
¼ plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup tapioca starch/flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Wait until you are ready to bake to assemble the filling. Combine everything except the butter in a bowl and mix to combine. Put the filling in a baking pan and then spread the butter evenly around. This is a large batch, so you overstuff your dish you may get some juice spilling over onto your oven floor.

Baking: Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake for roughly 10-15 minutes - the juices should be fully bubbling. Remove from the oven, top with the biscuits and then return to the oven. Cook for about 7-10 minutes, until the topping has risen fully and taken on some color. Remove and serve with whipped cream. Baking time is of course highly dependent on oven temperature, so it's more a matter of when it looks done than what the clock says. Trust me, it's easy!

You know what's missing from this blog?

Recent pizza pics, that's what!

A nice margherita. It never gets old making or eating margheritas.

This one was made with a Petite Basque Sheep's Milk cheese. A really nice change from the standard. A bit stronger cheese, nice variation.

Here's how the bottom of my crust is looking these days.

Sheep's milk ricotta, sauteed spinach and slow roasted garlic. This was made for some friends who don't eat cow's milk, but will become a staple.

This is my current favorite - mozzarella, pecorino, broccoli rabe and an egg. For me, pure bliss.

I've been branching out into making desserts in the oven - here's a wood fired strawberry rhubarb cobbler. Surprisingly easy, and always a big hit.

I'm going to work on posting recipes for all these in the coming weeks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let's Make Dough!

So here's a step by step breakdown of how I make my dough. Let's start with all the ingredients and equipment:

From left to right, we've got:

Electrolux DLX 2000 Mixer - the bowl scraper included with the mixer is the squarish thing to the left of the mixer
Pam Spray
Ziploc containers - 2.5 cup size
Recipe spreadsheet
Mesh top shaker with flour
Bowls for water and flour
Dough scraper
Digital scales
Digital thermometer
Kosher salt
Flour - 50-50 mix of KA Bread and KA Italian Style flour
Yeast - Red Star active dry yeast.

As always, I've used my pizza dough spreadsheet to generate the recipe. I modified it to make 11 275 gram dough balls. I only want 10 dough balls, but due to the "phantom dough ball problem" I've described in previous posts, I set the recipe up for one extra dough ball, knowing that some dough will be lost along the way. The spreadsheet gives me the following recipe, all in grams:

Flour 1794
Water 1166
Yeast 10.8
Salt 54

Start by measuring the water - remember to tare the scale for the bowl you're using. Put it in the microwave and heat it until it's around 120F. While it's heating, measure your flour, salt and yeast. Put 3/4 of the flour, and all the salt and yeast in the mixer. Run the mixer for a minute or so on low speed to incorporate the dry ingredients, and then pour the warm water in. Let it run for about two minutes on low speed, just to get it all incorporated and work some of the lumps out. It'll look something like this:

As you can see, it doesn't have to be pretty or lump free or anything like that. Now cover it with a towel, and let it sit for 20 minutes. This is the autolyze. I should note that this batch is fairly large and I would not recommend making a larger batch.

After the autolyze, it's time to knead the dough. Since we have reserved about 1/4 of our flour, this is what some would call a wet knead. You'll be slowly adding that flour as the dough gets kneaded, to bring the dough to the proper hydration level. I like to think of the flour as providing two distinct purposes. That 75% of the flour that was added from the start, that's the stuff that gets full gluten development, that really delivers the structure and flavor for your dough. That's really the heart of your dough. The remaining 25% of your flour is essentially just acting to dry your dough out to the proper hydration. Since it gets added later in the game, it won't get full gluten development. If you had a larger/more powerful mixer, or maybe a smaller batch of dough, you might be able to add all your flour up front and develop the gluten in all of it, but we don't, and as far as I can tell the dough doesn't suffer the least from having some minority of it not fully developed. So, just keep that in mind as you knead.

Okay, so start your mixer on the lowest speed, and let it run for about 2-3 minutes like that. Don't add any of the dry flour for the first few minutes. One thing that's kind of fun with the DLX mixer is that you can really work the dough with the bowl attachments. This also makes it more fun than staring at a mixer for the duration of the kneading process. I call the attachments the "scraper" and the "roller." With a large batch like this, manually manipulating the attachments is downright necessary, since the tension that the machine puts on the roller is not sufficient to keep it spinning on its own. So put your hands on the scraper and roller, and push them away from each other and against the sides of the bowl. Move them back and forth from time to time. Fun, right? A few minutes in, your dough should look like this:

Do you see the dough that is coming off of the roller, to its left? I call this the "curtain" - pay attention to it because it's a good indicator of your gluten development. After the first 2-3 minutes of mixing on low, turn the mixer up to 1/3 speed. The first time you do this you may think "Really? This seems really fast! And it's only at 1/3 speed!" Yes, really, put it to the 1/3 mark and leave it there for the duration of the kneading. It's at this point that you can start adding the flour - I like to add just a bit at a time - how much depends on how big your batch is. Just try to pace it so that you are adding a fairly consistent amount for the rest of the kneading. About half way through, your dough will look like this:

Some important things to notice here. First, the dough looks much smoother and more uniform. Second, it's really sticking to the sides of the bowl, which tells us the gluten is not even close to being fully developed. Look at the curtain - see how it is getting a bit bigger and better defined?

Further along, and it starts to look like this:

See how the dough has started to pull away from the sides of the bowl along the top? Also see how the curtain now spans all the way from the roller to the scraper? Since the gluten is better developed, the curtain will stretch further before breaking off. The dough has a really nice and smooth look to it now. Even though flour has been added along the way, the dough is still extremely wet at this point.

A few minutes later, the dough will look like this:

The sides of the bowl look nearly squeaky clean and you can even see the bottom of the bowl around the edges. Your dough is done! I usually mix it for another 60 seconds or at this point, just for good measure, and if you have any flour left, add it now.

How much total time it takes to fully develop your dough depends somewhat on the size of your batch. If you were to make 5 dough balls, I would guess it would take around 9 minutes, start to finish. Doing 10, it takes more like 12 minutes - but the important thing is not the time, but the visual cues that let you know how developed the dough is.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and then knead it by hand for 30 seconds or so, just to make it form one nice big uniform dough ball.

Then cover it with a towel and let it sit for another 20 minutes. Which just so happens to be the perfect amount of time to clean all the parts of the mixer, put everything away and spray all your individual containers with Pam.

Now it's time to make your individual dough balls. I like to setup my workspace like this:

The space between the big dough ball and the scale is where I form the individual dough balls. Notice that there is no flour on this part of the surface - this is intentional and important. Also it should be noted that the amount of flour on your hands should be as little as possible. You're not going to be handling each dough ball for all that long, so you don't need a lot of flour. Your hands should look like this:

Using the dough scraper, cut chunks off of the big dough ball and put them on the scale until you've got your correct dough ball weight - in this case 275 grams. Now for the actual forming of the ball. It's best described in video form, so here you go:

There's two things I'm doing here. First, I put the bottom of the dough ball up inside itself, and pull down on the outside so that it sort of turns itself inside out. This makes a nice uniform surface around the outside of the ball. Then I put the dough ball on the unfloured counter, and make a cage around it with my fingers, and then move in a circular motion. This really brings it together into one smooth ball, and creates tension on the surface of the ball. If there's flour on the counter, the ball will just slide around on top, and not get worked into a nice ball. Notice when I show the bottom of the ball that there is a "swirl" in the bottom of it. The skin has actually been twisted relative to itself, creating tension. Then just drop your dough ball into the Ziploc container, repeat until all your dough is formed. Put them in the fridge and you're set.

I like to let my dough cold rise in the fridge for at least two days, but I prefer three if I can. After two days, the dough looks like this:

The surface is shiny, almost wet looking, and you can see the air bubbles that have formed and even broken the surface in some spots. It smells quite wonderful at this point too - very yeast-ey and bread-ey.

You can see lots of gas production from looking at the bottom as well. The really big void is not actually a huge air bubble - it's the "swirl" created during the formation process. Since the yeast gives off gas and the dough expands, you might have to "burp" your containers once a day or so, just to keep them from having too much gas build up inside. I've thought about putting a small pin hole in the lids to see if it alleviates the pressure without the dough drying out or anything bad happening, perhaps an experiment for my next batch.

Well, that's how I do it! I hope others will find this useful. It may look like a lot to do for pizza, but for me it's well worth it. The fact that the dough gets made a few days ahead of time is actually quite nice, so you don't have to scramble on the day of to get the dough made in time. All told, it takes me about an hour and a half, start to finish to make the dough - very doable for any week night.