Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Trust Your Nose!

September 1st will mark one year since I began my career baking professionally at a local restaurant. It's been a wonderful year and I have learned so much about myself, my family, cooking, and baking since I began.

One thing that I've learned is that you should always trust your nose. We use gas ovens at work and they're affected by humidity and other factors that I don't fully understand. I've learned that some recipes that were finished reliably at 16 minutes in my home oven are done at 13 or 14 minutes when I'm at work. When the smell of whatever I'm baking starts wafting out of the oven it's often a sign that my muffins/bagels/rolls are nearly finished. I've learned to trust my instincts & my nose when I'm working in the kitchen. Don't put too much faith in your kitchen timer if your nose is telling you it's done.

Recently I purchased a used book at the suggestion of an experienced chef from another restaurant. The Professional Pastry Chef is a textbook used for many baking/culinary students. I bought the 3rd edition, not the newest, for $15 online and I'm so excited to start testing recipes.

My first attempted recipe from The Professional Pastry Chef was Pizza Dough. We've tried a few other dough recipes & they've all been pretty decent but we've struggled to find a crust that was sturdy without being overdone. This crust was perfect. When I reached the end of the recipe & noticed that author, Bo Friberg, hadn't included instructions on how long to bake the pie, I didn't panic. I knew that I could trust my nose & check it a few times. The result was wonderful.

Also, since most professional bakers weigh their ingredients instead of measuring by volume, the bread flour here is listed only by weight as that's how Friberg wrote the recipe. If you have a kitchen scale, just break it out, set your mixing bowl on top & zero out the scale after every added ingredient :).

Pizza Dough

1/2 oz (15 g) fresh yeast (or .25oz/2 1/4 tsp/1 packet dry yeast)
3/4 c. (180ml) water, at room temperature
1 tsp. (5g) granulated sugar
2 tbsp (30ml) olive oil
1 tsp. (5g) salt
1 tbsp. (15ml) honey
10 oz (285g) bread flour


1) Dissolve yeast in the water (help it along by squeezing it w/your fingers) in a mixer bowl.{I skipped this part since I use dry instant yeast}
2) Mix in the sugar, olive oil, salt, & honey.
3) Add the flour & knead w/the dough hook until the dough has a smooth, elastic consistency, about 10 minutes. {I had to add a few more tbsp of flour for it to come together}
4) Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn to coat both sides with oil, cover, and let rise until slightly less than doubled in volume.
5) Place the dough, covered, in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Bring the dough to room temperature before proceeding. {I pulled mine out a little early bc I was really pressed for time~ after about 1 1/2 hrs}
6) Divide the dough in half. On a floured board, roll & stretch the dough with your hands to make each piece into a 10- to 12- inch circle.
7) Top as desired & bake at 450F on a heated pizza stone or a thin sheet pan placed in the bottom of the oven to allow the crust to brown on the bottom. {I didn't preheat my sheet pan}


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