Friday, February 22, 2013

Pastry Class: Pizza and Dinner Rolls

In my most recent pastry class, we made our first excursion into the world of yeast breads. Up to now, we've only done products using chemical and mechanical leaveners.

Yeast is a wonderful micro-organism that consumes sugars, and releases carbon dioxide and  alcohol as waste products. When brewing, we keep want to keep the alcohol and release (mostly) the CO2.In baking, we keep the CO2 to lighten the product, and cook out the alcohol.

The thing that makes yeast breads work is a protein called gluten. Of all the grains, wheat has the highest concentration of gluten, so are by far the best for raised breads. Gluten is elastic, and can cross-link between molecules to form a web.

Up to now, we have done our best to avoid developing the gluten in bread. In cakes, pie crust, or scones, we want a soft, tender texture. For raised breads, we want the chewy texture, so want to develop the gluten.

The process to develop the gluten is called 'kneading'. It can be done by hand, or by various machines, like a bread machine, a mixer with a dough hook, or a food processor. When done by hand, the procedure involves repeatedly pressing, stretching, and folding the dough. This can take up to ten minutes. I love the moment when you can feel it go from a slightly lumpy and reluctant mass, to a smooth and fluid dough. One way to check to see if the dough has been kneaded enough is called 'the windowpane test'. To do this, cut off a small bit of the dough, and gently stretch it. If you can stretch it to a thin enough membrane to see through, the dough is ready.

At this point the dough needs to sit and allow the yeast to do their thing. If everything is working the way it is suppose to, the yeast will inflate the dough to double it's original size. This is best done in a warm, moist environment. Commercial kitchens frequently have proofing cabinets, boxes that allow for precise control of temperature and humidity. At home this can be done in an oven which is turned off. Place a bowl of hot water in the oven with the bread to provide heat and moisture.

Once the dough has doubled in size, it needs to be 'punched down'. This just involves letting the trapped gas bubbles escape. At this point, the dough can be divided into the appropriate portions. The dough should be cut, not torn. Let the dough rest, covered, for a few minutes, then shape as desired.

The bread is then allowed to rise a second time. Once it doubles in size, it gets baked.

For our first foray into yeast breads, we made pizza and dinner rolls. The pizza dough was shaped into two approximately eighteen inch diameter rounds. We were provided with various toppings, which included tomato sauce, cheese, cooked sausage, mushrooms, black olives, and fresh basil. Once assembled, the pizza was baked in a screaming hot oven. Our oven was set to 600 F. If you have a pizza stone to cook on, that will make the crispest crust. You can, however, use a well greased sheet pan.

We made three shapes of rolls; round, knotted, and cloverleaf. These were given an egg wash, and baked in a moderate oven. As always for the pastry class, all recipes provided by Chef James Foran.






Pizza Dough

Dry Ingredients
13 1/2 oz by wt. bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. instant dry yeast

Wet Ingredients
8 1/2 oz by vol. water (at 110 F)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt

Dissolve yeast in water, let stand five minutes. Stir together yeast mixture, flour, and olive oil. When combined, mix in salt. Knead 5 to 8 minutes, until smooth, and passes the window pane test. Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover, let rise until double in size, approximately 45 minutes. Punch down, divide into two equal pieces.Cover, let rest 10 minutes. Shape into flat rounds. Use cornmeal to prevent dough sticking to stone or pan. Add sauce and desired toppings. Bake in a 550 F oven until brown and cheese is melted.

Dinner Rolls

Dry Ingredients
2 1/2 lbs by bread flour
4 oz by wt. sugar
3/4 oz by wt. yeast
3/4 oz by wt. salt

Wet Ingredients
20 oz by vol milk(at 110 F)
4 oz by wt. butter melted, at room temperature.
4 oz by wt. eggs

Egg Wash Ingredients
1 egg
2 Tbsp. water
pinch salt

Dissolve yeast in milk, let stand 5 minutes. Mix together all wet ingredients. Sift together all dry ingredients except salt. Add wet ingredients to dry all at once. Once all are combined, stir in salt. Knead 5 to 8 minutes, until smooth, and passes the window pane test. Place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover, let rise until double in size, approximately 45 minutes. Punch down, divide into 2 ounce pieces. Cover, let rest 10 minutes. Shape as desired, place on parchment covered cookie sheets. Cover, let rise until doubled in size. Brush with egg wash, bake in a 375 F oven until golden brown, approximately 15 - 20 minutes.

Happy eating!

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