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Monday, April 14, 2014

Task 42 - Take a Cooking Class (Perfect Pizza at Home)

Class Description: If you aspire to make great pizza at home, then this class is for you. However your personal pizza tastes run, we’ll start with the basics: first the dough, made from scratch, for the essential base. Then we’ll craft a delicious sauce and discuss fun ingredients, including fresh produce and delicious cheese. Finally, we’ll cover the baking methods so that every time you open your oven door you’ll pull out a perfect pizza that’s tastier than takeout.

From that I think you can understand why I wanted to take the class. This is the 9th class I have taken at Sur La Table’s Natick Cooking Studio and every time I learn new things to make cooking both more fun and easier to accomplish. Taught by chef Instructor Clarissa Lord-Norton and special guest Andris, inventor and manufacturer of the Baking Steel, I learned how to make delicious pizza in the comfort of my own home using better quality and healthier ingredients. Class started with an introduction and explanation of how Andris developed the baking steel.

We learned that after using many different pans, stones and other gear hoping to make a better pizza. he discovered the perfect tool was in a pile of steel scraps left over at the family steel business. Steel is more a more conductive cooking surface then stone and as a result pizza and other things cooked on it will cook faster, more evenly and even at a lower temperature. This allowed him to “create the crust you love”.

His invention is made locally by his family business the Stoughton Steel Co in Hanover, MA. It’s a ¼” thick piece of 14”x14” steel which is virtually indestructible. In fact you have to be careful because if dropped on your foot it’s going to hurt. You treat the steel like you would any pizza stone and preheat it in the oven before starting your pizza.

While our baking steel was preheating we learned how to make a Neapolitan New York style pizza dough. It is the starting point and most important part of any pizza. It was a very simple process where we combined flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a bowl. Once combined we added olive oil and water until the mixture formed a ball. The next part they made go fast by having already prepared some for us to use but if you are on your own you would then take that dough and put it in a refrigerator for at least one day to allow it to rise. Then you would pull it out a few hours before you wanted to cook it and allow it to return to room temperature.

We took the already made dough and used it to create our different pizza’s each with their own unique tastes.

Pizza Bianco with Four Cheeses was the first of the three unique and tasty pizza’s we made. We started off cutting and grating all the ingredients. There are four different cheeses in this pizza each providing a punch of flavor. They were Fontina, Pecorino, Parmigano and Asiago. Along with the four cheeses we added a healthy dose of Garlic and Rosemary. Once the prep work was done we rolled out our dough to the desired size and transferred it to a well coated with cornmeal pizza peel. Then we brushed our rolled out dough with olive oil and added the garlic and rosemary before taking our four cheese blend and liberally covering the pizza.

For our next pizza we used different dough. Andis shared with is his No Knead Dough recipe and brought three premade batches for us to use for our Classic Pizza Margherita pizza. He also explained why it’s important to grate your own cheese rather than buying the pre-grated. They use a starch to keep the cheese from clumping in the bag and that addition can change the flavor of the cheese. Grating your cheese fresh eliminates that problem and allows the full and uninterrupted flavor of the cheese to shine through. After rolling our dough we assembled our pizza’s on a pizza peel as we had previously done. Again we brushed with a little olive oil then generously sprinkled the buffalo mozzarella before toping with fresh sliced Roma tomatoes and fresh basil.

Our last pizza, a Pizza with Italian Sausage, Broccoli Raab and Fresh Mozzarella, took a little more work. First we removed the casing on our sausage and in a skillet we cooked that before adding the onions and garlic. Once the onions were soft we combined the tomatoes and red pepper flakes and simmered. The last part of the process is to blanch our broccoli raab. We drop it into a pot of boiling water to cook it but not too much then it gets transferred to a ice bath to stop it from cooking any more. Once all the ingredients are prepped we roll out our dough and transfer it to a pizza peel. Then we use out sauce and coat the pizza before adding the cheese and then topping it with the Broccoli Raab.

Of course we tried all three along the way. By the time we left we had stuffed our faces with some of the best pizza I have had in a long while. It certainly has encouraged me to take my Baking Steel out of the cabinet and into the oven. 

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