All posts by Lakshmi

easiest, most delicious, home made pizza

I love home made pizza. And by home made, I mean where you make the dough from scratch, and top it to your heart’s content. My favorite kind is when I also make pesto sauce from scratch to top my pizza, but here I just want to talk about making the dough that you can use anyway you see fit. I have also discovered that using 00 flour (finer texture, less gluten than all purpose flour) which I have found on Amazon and at local supermarkets makes a nicer crust and a more delicious pizza. You can certainly use all purpose flour and it will still come out beautifully.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2.25 tsp dry yeast (one small packet yeast)
  • 3 cups 00 flour or all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • Your preferred sauce
  • Your preferred toppings
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnishing

How to:

1. Mix the water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a bowl). Mix the yeast and let it rest for five minutes.

2. When the yeast is frothy, add the flour, salt, and olive oil and knead the dough at medium speed (if using a stand mixer) or with your hand, till it all comes together and is not sticky. On my stand mixer, this took about 8 minutes.

3. Roll the dough into a smooth ball and let it rest in a well oiled bowl (you could use the stand mixer bowl), in a draft free area, for 45 minutes to an hour.

4. At the end of this time, the dough should have doubled in size.

5. Preheat the over to 500 degrees F.

5. Divide the dough into four equal sized balls. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a circle 6-7 inches in diameter (yes this is okay, because I don’t know to flip my dough).

6. Transfer the dough circle to a pizza pan. Spread your favorite sauce, sprinkle your favorite toppings, top with pieces of mozzarella cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. (Repeat process with the rest of the dough). For the pizza shown here, I spread homemade pesto sauce and topped the pizza with sun dried tomatoes, finely sliced asparagus, and mozzarella cheese. Just before serving, I topped the pizza with some micro kale, since I did not have any basil on hand.

7. Slice into six slices and enjoy!

8. If you do not use up all the dough, you can keep it in the fridge for up to two days or in the freezer for a month. Just bring the dough back to room temperature before using.

PS. If you want to make your own pesto sauce, here’s how I make mine. I take a bunch of basil leaves, a clove of garlic, a quarter cup of pine nuts or walnuts, a quarter cup of finely grated parmesan cheese in a food processor. I add a bit of salt and black pepper, and a generous amount of olive oil and grind the mix till it is coarsely ground and still has a grainy texture.

making focaccia the ligurian way

I’ve made focaccia many times over the years, recreating recipes from magazines, cookbooks, and blogs. Any focaccia made with rosemary is super loved by my older daughter. But recently, given our stay home statuses, I really wanted to try and recreate the focaccia that comes from the Liguria region of Italy. This focaccia is considered by Italians to be the original. For guidance, I turned to a former colleague, Carlo, who is from Camogli, a beautiful village in Liguria. Carlo promptly shared the recipe he had from the master focaccia maker in his village and I set about creating the same thousands of miles away. The process was time consuming (primarily due to the number of rises), but the result was the specified 1 cm thick focaccia with a crusty exterior and a chewy interior. I made so much, that we not only enjoyed the focaccia by itself, but we also made some lovely sandwiches the day after.

Ingredients:

  • 250 ml of water at room temperature
  • 25 gms extra virgin olive oil (best quality you can buy)
  • 10 gms dry yeast
  • 500 gms of flour (Since Carlo instructed that the flour have a protein content of 9-11%, I used a 50/50 mix of all purpose and 00 flour. The focaccia turns out well with just all purpose flour as well)
  • 10 gms salt
  • 10 gms sugar
  • Extra virgin olive oil for pouring on top
  • Kosher salt for topping
  • Fresh rosemary, or finely sliced onions or olives (optional) for topping the focaccia

How to:

1. Put the water, oil, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix well using a spatula.

2. Add a couple of spoons of flour and mix at low speed for just a couple of minutes. Then, using your hand, dissolve any lumps of flour that have formed. If you do it at the beginning, no lumps will form afterwards.

3. Add the remaining flour one spoon at a time, rather quickly, while the mixer is still at low speed. Increase the speed to a higher setting and let the dough work for another couple of minutes. Let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.

4. Now sprinkle the salt and sugar and mix for another two to three minutes at a higher speed until the dough is well formed.

5. Take the dough out of the bowl and work it a bit on the work surface of your kitchen (marble or granite is better than wood, so it doesn’t stick too much). To work it well, you can slap it on the counter and make some pleats and when it is fairly smooth, form a ball with a circular movement of your hands.

6. Let the dough ball rest in a slightly oiled bowl for two to three hours (cover the ball with plastic wrap or a wet towel). (I left mine for two hours). Make sure the dough rests in an area without a draft and at room temperature. You may put it in the oven off with the light on. This is the first rise.

7. Take the dough out of the bowl and form a ball working a bit with your hands to revive the dough and form the ball again. Put the ball in a focaccia pan (16x12x1 inch) coated with oil. The size of the pan is critical, because if it’s wrong you will have either a too thin or a too thick focaccia; the final product must be no more than 1cm thick. Let the ball rest covered for 30 minutes. This is the second rise.

8. At this point, you are ready for the real fun. Stretch the dough balls in the pan to cover the entire surface (by hand, no rolling pin, please!). Once the focaccia covers the entire surface of the pan, let is rest again covered for 20 to 30 minutes. This is the third rise.

9. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

9. Now use a mix of 2 tbsps water and 2 tbsps oil and pour some on the focaccia. Using the tip of your fingers, form the famous “dimples” on the surface. Spread some kosher salt on the surface, press in some toppings (if you are using any), and put the pan in the preheated oven at the lowest level for 10 minutes and then in the middle for another 5 minutes. Check the status of cooking and make sure it’s golden but not brown at all. Remove from the oven and finish the surface by brushing the cooked focaccia with some olive oil using a brush. Enjoy!

delish Gulab Jamuns

Gulab Jamuns are one of my favorite Indian desserts.  The sugar syrup-soaked deep fried balls made with a milk/flour dough with a hint of saffron and cardamom may be too sweet for some, but for me, it is the perfect dessert served by itself or with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.  For years, I used the mix made by Gits, a famous Indian instant food brand.  But once my aunt taught me how to make these, there was no looking back.  The recipe is foolproof, it turns out the perfect Gulab Jamuns each time and each person that has tried these wants the recipe promptly.  So, here’s how I make my favorite sweet and if you do give this a try, I’d love to get your feedback.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk powder
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup ghee
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk (I use it straight from the fridge, but it can be at room temperature)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • A strand of saffron, crushed
  • Oil for deep frying (I used vegetable oil)

How to:

1. Mix the milk powder, flour, baking soda, ghee, and the tbsp of sugar.  Add the milk slowly and mix the ingredients into a dough that is nice and moist and not dry.  Hold back some of the milk if your dough has already come together nicely.  Cover this mixture with plastic wrap and set aside for three hours.

2. After three hours, pinch off little balls of dough and make into smooth balls about 1 cm in diameter.  Continue to make these balls, placing each one on a plate, ensuring they are not sticking to one another.

3.. When all the dough balls are made, heat enough oil to deep fry the balls.  Test the oil temperature by dropping a little piece of dough.  When it rises to the top immediately, you are ready to fry the balls.  Fry the balls in batches, turning them gently till they are evenly golden brown.  Transfer to a plate set up with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

4.  Now make the sugar syrup.  Take the 3 cups of sugar in a large flat bottomed pan, add four cups of water, and bring the mixture to a boil.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Now add the saffron and cardamom, give it a swirl, and reduce the heat to low.

5.  Now add the fried balls to the sugar syrup, gently tapping it into the sugar syrup so it can absorb the liquid.  Set aside for 30 minutes and then serve warm or cold, either by itself or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.