Baking - Breads

Leaving ‘Baker’ Status

Is your mind racing? Haha! It’s not what you think. It’s true, I lag on the posting front, but I do still bake a lot. My title refers to the categorization of people as either bakers or cooks. Bakers follow the recipe – as they should, it’s been chemically formulated that way for a reason – to make things great; and cooks tend to throw in a bit of this and a bit of that in varying amounts to make something great.

Okay, I’m not totally leaving baker status. I have always been a baker-type, and will continue to be. However, I am getting more comfortable with it. For the longest time, no matter how many times I had made a recipe I would still always have to have the recipe right in front of me. But I’m starting to get wild and crazy – or maybe just a bit more confident – and leaving my recipe book behind. Not with everything, but with the basics.

Now, for some of you this may seem unextraordinary. But I would say this is actually a big step for me. I am a perfectionist, and as such I always need the recipe in front of me to make sure it comes out perfectly. Not using the recipe is a BIG RISK for me, because I may forget something and it would not come out perfectly.

Homemade garlic bread, adapted from pizza dough.
Homemade garlic bread, adapted from pizza dough.

This year I started a daycare and I have a two week menu plan that I follow, so every other Friday I make pizza from scratch. That’s a lot of pizza dough over and over and over. With all that repetition I’ve got a pretty good grasp of my pizza dough recipe, so haven’t had the book in front of me for quite some time. It was great on vacation, we were with some friends at a cottage and I made dough for five large pizzas, and they all came out perfectly. And as I become more comfortable doing it, I’ve started expanding it to make various flatbreads or foccacia. I made a nice garlic bread the other night, simmering the garlic in fresh, warm potato water before making the dough, and it came out so lovely, soft and aromatic.

It may sound silly, but it feels very freeing to feel so comfortable with a recipe, that I can just do it on the fly and don’t need to take my recipe book everywhere with me. That may not happen with everything I bake, some things are still pretty complicated and don’t get made very often, but even just to have a base recipe that can be varied to suit different occasions is nice. Perfectionism is good for a lot of things, but so is self-confidence!

Baking - Breads

Pizza Dough Experiment

I have been using the same pizza dough recipe for years. It is easy to throw together, using instant yeast so it only needs a short time for rising, which makes it easy to make a pizza at relatively short notice. It also makes a nice thin crust, which I like. But lately I’ve been craving a chewy pizzeria crust, and the recipe I use just doesn’t offer that.

Inspired by the artisan-type no-knead bread from several months ago, I thought to myself “I bet that would make a good crust!” So I cut the no-knead bread recipe by about a third, mixed it up the night before, and at suppertime the next day it was ready to spread in a pan for toppings.

The dough was pretty sticky, so it couldn’t be rolled out with a rolling pin, but it didn’t take much to spread it out over the pan with floured fingers. I let it rest for about 15 minutes (instead of the half hour it is for a batch of bread) while the oven preheated and before adding the toppings. I baked the pizza at the same temperature as the bread – 450F – for about 15 minutes. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to bake, since the dough was quite a bit thinner than a loaf of bread, but it also was covered in toppings. I actually took it out after 12 minutes, but it looked like it wasn’t quite done, so I put it back in. If you try this at home you might need to experiment a bit with baking times, depending on your oven and how many toppings are covering the dough.

I was very happy with how the crust turned out, golden and crispy-chewy. I will definitely be using this recipe again, as long as I remember to plan ahead to mix the dough the night before!