Two MORE great tastes that taste great together

My awesome wife raided the freezer to pull out our last remaining tub of frozen rhubarb compote and apply it as a topping to a lemon mascarpone gelato she found and executed last week. The gelato was pretty good at the time, but five days later, the flavors intensified pleasantly.

It can’t be long now, before rhubarb starts dominating the farmer’s market scene. Please, don’t let it be long now. Our frozen little tubs of compote have lasted almost the whole year, providing us with toppings for our crêpes and the tangy flavor in the batter of Rhubarb Sour Cream Cake.

We need fresh stocks stalks to sound the death knell of this winter.

Pan Pizza at Home

Note: this post is evolving with us as we get better working with dough and change dwellings and available equipment.

Pan Pizza at HomeSarah found this recipe a few days ago, and we’ve been drooling about it ever since.

Ingredients

We don’t have two round 10-inch cast iron skillets, like the original recipe calls for, but we do have a 10.5-inch squarish one, and a 12” round one. Here are the ingredients from the Serious Eats recipe, converted to fresh yeast1, and scaled for the pans we use.2

10″ square 12″ round
211 g bread flour 239
5 g salt 6
6 g fresh cake yeast 7
145 g water 164
4.5 g olive oil, plus more for lube 5
pizza sauce
toppings3
shredded full-fat, dry mozzarella cheese

Still measuring your ingredients by volume (cups, fl. oz.)? You must like washing dishes.

Instructions

Dough

Mix everything in a large bowl by hand or with a wooden spoon or something. Don’t make it too complicated. When you’ve got the dough formed into a ball, transfer to a different bowl coated lightly in oil. Or it could be the same bowl — that’s fine.

Oven Rise

Do the oven rise, or the steam oven rise, but not both!

Steam Oven Rise

This is the big advantage of our new4 kitchen. The steam oven cuts the rise time dramatically. Set your steam oven on “dough proofing” or similar. We set ours to 30 °C — that’s as low as ours goes. Let it rise in there for 2 hours.

No-Steam Oven Rise

Cover the bowl tightly in plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for up to six hours. We used our oven for this — set it to 50 °C for a few minutes at a time to keep the temperature warm and pleasant for the yeast to feel productive. It’s done when it’s more than doubled in size.

In-Pan Rise

You need the in-pan rise no matter what.

Coat your cast iron skillet in olive oil: bottom and sides. Use your hands, and get them slippery, too. Grab the dough out of the bowl and form it into a ball, turning it inside out a few times in your hands. Spread it out as evenly as you can in the pan without tearing it. It will resist, so stretch the dough repeatedly in multiple directions to coerce it. If it does not reach all the way the walls of the pan, do not despair: during the next rise and subsequent bake, it will.

Do an in-pan rise for an hour. We use our oven for this; you may have another warm place for dough to rise. Set the oven as low as it will go — ours won’t go lower than 50 °C — and let the dough rise in the pan for an hour. You can make the sauce and prepare the toppings while you wait.

Baking, Saucing, Topping, Serving

Take the pan out of the oven (if the in-pan rise was happening there) and crank it up as high as it will go. Ours maxes it out at 250 °C. You might want to put a pizza stone in there or a baking steel or something to keep the temperature high and stable. We found that that’s really not necessary with a convection oven, but it worked well with our conventional oven in the past.

Do two bakes — one just for the crust and sauce, and one for the toppings. You give the crust a head start and dry out the sauce a little bit with the first bake. We’re going for a golden, crispy bottom layer, with medium-crumb airiness in the middle.

Spread the sauce on the dough as far out to the edge of the crust as you dare. When the oven is preheated, put the sauced pie in your cast iron skillet in for 10 minutes. It should start to brown a little by the time you take it out.

Take it out and apply the rest of your toppings. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is largely browned.

Use a wide metal spatula to flop the pie onto a wooden cutting board. It should come out pretty easily thanks to the olive oil coating you gave the pan before starting the in-pan rise. Let it cool for a few minutes before cutting it into servable pieces.

If you fail to wait for the pie to come down to a reasonable temperature, you will burn the heck out the roof of your mouth. Enjoy it anyways.

  1. I am so grateful for this site’s Yeast Converter! []
  2. And slightly reduced even further. We found the Serious Eats recipe to be a bit too thick in the crust. []
  3. We suggest: fresh mushrooms, green pepper, and spicy pepperoni salami — all sliced thinly. []
  4. as of November 2016 []

Homemade Pasta — a series of tubes!

Large Macaroni in process

In our continuing quest to make more food ourselves where feasible (and fun!), I bought a(nother) pasta making attachment for our KitchenAid mixer on eBay earlier this month. This one extrudes dough into tube shapes![audio:http://cdn.regensblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Series_of_Tubes_-_Senator_Ted_Stevens.mp3] Continue reading Homemade Pasta — a series of tubes!

Homemade Lasagna

Lasagna Finished ProductThis was a labor of love. I’ve learned to make a bolognese sauce that is pretty outstanding, but takes a few hours to make and at least one overnight to develop. We’ve had a pasta roller for about a year now and Cliff is getting pretty skilled at its use. If I was really a go-getter, I would have made my own ricotta and mozzarella, but I’m not happy with the texture of my homemade stuff (yet), so I just bought those. This is not a saucy lasagna, and the ultra-thin noodles combined with a conservative hand filling the layers yields a surprisingly light-textured product. Just FYI, we boil the lasagna noodles prior to assembly. I know that lots of people don’t, but I prefer it this way.

1/2 recipe fresh pasta, rolled into sheets on setting 7 (second to last – very thin)
8 oz/225 g frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed very dry
1 egg
1 c/250 g ricotta cheese
2 T cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe bolognese sauce
2 small balls fresh mozzarella (preferably buffalo), drained and roughly chopped
1/2 c grana padano or parmesan, grated

Preheat oven to 375° F/190° C.

Take your sheets of pasta and cut them into lasagna sheets, roughly 6in x 4in/15cm x 10 cm. Don’t be too exacting – it helps to have a few small or odd-shaped ones to get complete coverage. If you have a rolling pizza cutter, it’s great for this task. In a large pot of rapidly boiling water, boil 3-4 noodles at a time for no more than one minute. Then remove to colander, run cold water over the cooked noodles and lay noodles flat on damp paper towels until it’s time to assemble. We ended up with about 20 noodles and used them all.

Put the spinach in a large bowl and add the egg, whisking until well-combined. Whisk in the ricotta and cream until mixture is smooth and even. Add salt and pepper and stir.

Lasagna -- halfway thereIn a 9×13 pan, spoon a little of the bolognese on the bottom and spread it into an even layer.
1) Place the first layer of noodles on the bolognese, making sure they completely cover the bottom of the pan, overlapping to seal the seams (noodles will stick to each other). Next, spread bolognese on the first layer of noodles, starting with 1/2 c/125 ml and adding more if needed to cover the noodles completely.
2) Add another layer of noodles, then top with half of the ricotta mixture, spreading it evenly to the edges of the noodles.
3) Another layer of noodles, then another layer of bolognese, this time with half of the mozzarella sprinkled over it.
4) Another layer of noodles, then the other half of the ricotta.
5) Another layer of noodles, then the bolognese and the other half of the mozzarella.
6) The last layer of noodles, with more bolognese spread on top and the grated cheese sprinkled on.

Cover the pan with foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and keep baking for 15-20. After removing it from the oven, let it sit for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it.

Fresh Fettucine Alfredo

For Christmas last year, we got some KitchenAid attachments from my family. Back in January, I posted some of our first attempts, which were great successes. Here is a detailed recipe for fresh Fettucine Alfredo: a simple, fresh pasta and a rich, creamy sauce. Continue reading Fresh Fettucine Alfredo

Pumpkin Ice Cream and Fresh Pasta

Continuing in our series of KitchenAid glory basking, this weekend we thawed out some of our pumpkin puree (most often used in pies), and equipped with all the right stuff (thanks Cheryl!), we made a batch of pumpkin ice cream and tried our hand at fettucine.

Pumpkin Ice Cream

We wanted to stick to the recipes in the ice cream maker’s instructions, but quickly discovered (remembered?) that Germany’s dairy products hierarchy don’t match up to the U.S. or British ones. If we can get Light, Heavy, Single or Double cream here in Germany, we haven’t yet found where. Thus we are limited to recipes requiring Whipping Cream (or Half-and-Half, which we can simulate through a conversion Sarah found online).

So Sarah dug up this one, requiring only whipping cream. It’s kind of hard to pour ice cream batter into the freeze bowl with the moving dasher WITHOUT glooping over the side of the bowl a little.

Fresh out of the freeze bowl after about 20 minutes of dashing, it had a lovely soft-serve-like consistency. 6 hours later at pal Matt’s house, it had the firmer texture — better for scooping — I prefer. The flavor was outstanding — this is what I want my pumpkin pies to taste like, except it was ice cream. Therefore: make and freeze enough pumpkin puree so that you can get your pumpkinny dessert on in the summer, when you can’t be bothered to turn on the oven.

We often skip steps in recipes calling for mesh straining, but it was a good idea in this case, to make sure no accidental egg bits (though I think we tempered the eggs better this time than in earlier attempts) or spice chunks from the custard made their way into the final product.

Semolina Fettucine

Having finished off that batch of goodness, it was time for us to tackle our first semolina pasta. Sarah acquired our primary ingredient from the local fancy market (Sarik, am Kassiansplatz, if you know your way around Regensburg’s Altstadt).

The standard recipe included with our pasta-making attachments was surprisingly easy. Basically: throw eggs, oil, water, flour and salt into the mixer bowl and mix for 30 seconds with the paddle on the lowest speed setting.

Switch out the paddle for the kneading hook and let it knead for 2 minutes for you on the lowest speed setting. Our mixer struggled a bit at times; I think the lowest speed is a little too low for that mass of dough.

Then knead by hand a few minutes.

Next, cut your kneaded dough ball into more manageable pieces. The instructions say 8 lumps, which made for some pretty long flat sheets of noodles.

16 lumps (on a spaghetti attempt the same day) made for shorter sheets, which were much easier to handle, but shorter noodles after running through the cutter. 12 lumps is probably the ideal compromise between flat sheet handle-ability and noodle length. We’ll try that on the next batch.

Sarah was really smart and laid out an old (clean, of course!) towel right at the start on our table. On that surface we can sprinkle flour and clean up the mess quickly.

The instructions (included with the attachments and in tutorial videos on the web) suggest sprinkling with flour between the flattening and cutting stages to prevent sticking, but we didn’t need to do that at all. If you’re going to cut them by hand (say, for your pappardelle), it’s probably a good idea to sprinkle the sheets with flour so you can roll and cut them without sticking.

We did sprinkle the cut noodles with flour to keep them from sticking while in storage.

The big test was the same evening at Matt’s place, where he whipped up a decadent gorgonzola-mozzarella-pancetta-rocket sauce. Our noodles behaved admirably: no sticking, clumping, or tangling.

Can’t wait to get that batch of spaghetti out of the freezer and give them a whirl, too…

Pumpkin Pie from Real Pumpkins

Sarah and Tammy took the German pumpkin situation into their own hands — literally — last week when tackling the time-honored American Thanksgiving dessert option. Canned pumpkin puree is hard to come by around here. You’ve got to have a military post hook-up or have flown it in with someone who otherwise travels light. Note to those reading and thinking about moving to Germany: fill up extra space in your shipping container with hard-to-find canned goods. Even if you don’t like them yourself, they are worth their weight in trade.

So here’s the weird part: the cute little good-for-cooking pumpkin varieties are pretty easily available in Germany. Most supermarkets and organic markets seem to carry them. But does that mean that everyone is cooking with pumpkin from scratch? I don’t think so. You see the occasional pumpkin soup or pumpkin-infused pasta sauce around here in restaurants, but I don’t get the impression that pumpkin is a part of standard Bavarian cuisine. So what are they doing with them? Not making pie, as far as we can tell.

I found this recipe online for pumpkin pie from real pumpkins and they set to work. This recipe is very generous with metric conversions and dietary and preparation alternatives (nice!) and Comic Sans (less nice). But oh well. The content is solid, with lots of ideas for extra pumpkinny usage.

Sarah and Tammy opted to roast the cleaned-out pumpkin chunks in the oven to soften up the flesh as described in her recipe for pumpkin purée. The upshot here was avoiding too much moisture in the puree.

pie crustsThis is the part where I got involved. I whipped up a pie crust from our standard recipe. We were worried that the crust might have been a little too thin (you can see the pie pan pattern through it!), but it came out just fine — probably owing to the reduced moisture from the roasting method of puree collection as well. I even had enough dough left over to make a midget pie, too. Sarah does the fluting (looks nice, right?) and you can see that I was in charge of the midget pie and went for the more rustic (read: lazy) look. Here are the pie filling ingredients we used — see the original recipe for alternatives:

1 cup (210 g) sugar
4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I ground fresh nutmeg shavings and cloves together in our spice grinder to make ours a few months ago; individual proportions are available in the original recipe)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
3 cups pumpkin puree
18oz (530ml) evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Note: don’t get confused by the milk nomenclature here in Germany. Evaporated milk is known in Germany as “Kondensmilch” and Sweetened Condensed Milk is called “Kondensmilch, gezuckert” — at least in our supermarkets. You’ve got to look pretty carefully at the labels. You’ll probably find them in the same section as the canned coffee creamers.

one pie, one custardMix all that stuff up together, in no particular order, though I submit that if you add the spice ingredients last, you’ll have less chance of your spices collecting on the bottom of your mixer bowl. That happened to us, and you can see spicy plumes in our midget pie and crustless pies. All three still tasted great, but the spice distribution was uneven and obviously more concentrated in the midget and crustless pie.

two pies and a custardThen fill your pie shells right up to the top. With our 9″ pie shell, we still had enough for the midget pie, and still some left over, which we baked as a crustless pie in a non-stick loaf pan. Bake the pie at 425°F (210°C) for the first 15 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 350°F (175°C) and bake another 45 to 60 minutes, until a clean knife inserted into the center comes out clean. You can see what happens if you forget to reduce the heat after the first 15 minutes on our crustless pie. Still totally edible but with more of a skin developed on the top layer.

This is a fluffier-than-I’m-used-to variety. I normally think of pumpkin pie as a dense and heavy custard, and I enjoy that, but this lighter variation was really good.