Healthy Italian Cooking at Home

Tag Archives: Dough

Pizza lovers have strong convictions. They either love thick pizza and hate thin pizza or they love thin pizza and hate thick pizza! What is your conviction? Well, when you first consider the differences between thick and thin pizza crust, it might seem pretty obvious – one is thick, while the other is not! However, they each have their own intended purpose and your preference may depend on what you want to eat on your pizza.

Pizza that has a thick crust is considered to be the most traditional form of pizza. The pizza dough for this style isn’t really much of a dough at all but, rather, a bread that forms the bottom and side layers of what could very well be labeled a casserole rather than pizza. The advantage to this type of pizza is that you can add as many ingredients as you’d like and fit it all comfortably on the pizza. Because of the thickness of these pizzas, they do take longer to cook in the oven.

Thin crust pizza is a thinner piece of  dough that is stretched to cover the pizza pan bottom. This type of crust cooks very quickly; but because of the delicateness of the dough, toppings are usually limited to one or two.

Make pizza the way you like it. The recipes below give you a variety of options: thick or thin; knead or don’t knead, pan or no pan.  

Thin Crust Pizza

To make the dough

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100°F to 115°F)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 1/2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To make the dough:

Stir together the yeast, water, honey, and 1 cup of the flour in a large mixing bowl, in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover the mixture and let it stand for 30 minutes; it’ll be very soupy.

Add 2 cups of the remaining flour, the vital wheat gluten and the salt to the yeast mixture, along with the olive oil. Mix and knead the dough-by mixer for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to make a smooth elastic dough. Place it in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for at least 2 hours, or until it’s doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  If you’re using a baking stone, preheat the oven to 500°F. with the baking stone in the oven.

Assembling the pizza:

Divide the dough in half, roll each piece on a floured surface into a 13″ to 15″ round (depending on the size of your pizza pans) and place the rounds on lightly oiled pans. (A 13″ diameter yields a thin crust; a 15″ diameter yields a cracker-thin crust.) Turn in the overhanging edge to form a rim.

15 ” cracker like crust

If you plan to use a baking stone to bake the pizza, place the dough on a baker’s peel, dusted with cornmeal. You will then slide the prepared pizza onto the baking stone.

Add the topping as directed below.

Bake the pizzas in the pans for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the top and bottom crusts are nicely browned. If you’re using a baking stone, bake for about 7 – 10 minutes.

Thin Crust Spinach Feta Cheese Topping

Topping for one pizza

  • one 10-ounce package frozen spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 peeled, minced garlic cloves
  • 4 ounces feta cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

 Directions:

Thaw the frozen spinach and squeeze it in your hands (or a paper towel, or a dish towel) until it’s very dry.

Heat the olive oil and saute the spinach, salt, and garlic for a couple of minutes, just until hot and well combined.

Top the crust with the spinach and, then, the feta. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano.

 

No Knead Thick Pizza Crust

To make the dough;

  • 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or Eagle Brand Ultra Grain flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina flour.
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast

Oil a 14″-diameter pizza pan or a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

Directions:

Stir the crust ingredients together to form a slightly sticky, soft dough.

Let the dough rise, covered, for 30 minutes.

A little trick, I learned to get an evenly thick pizza, is to let it rise, a second time, in the pizza pan before adding any toppings.

Place the dough in the oiled pan and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes, then pat and stretch it to cover the bottom of the pan. Let it rest, covered, for another 30 minutes.

Thick pizza dough rising in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Add the topping as directed below.

Bake the pizza for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the topping is golden brown.

Thick Crust Sausage and Vegetable Topping

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large bell peppers: red, green, and/or yellow, sliced thin
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
  • 8-ounce package mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 ounces pepperoni or browned sausage meat, casing removed
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
  • 6 ounces mozzarella cheese sliced

Directions:

Brown sausage in a large skillet. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Add oil to the skillet and and cook peppers and onions until soft. Add mushrooms and cook until all liquid is absorbed. Add sausage and set aside.

Layer cheese, alternating provolone and mozzarella cheeses on top of the dough. Spread pizza sauce on top of cheeses and layer the vegetable/sausage mixture on top.

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Homemade Calzones

Prepare the pizza dough and the tomato sauce in advance of making the calzones. It is important to refrigerate the calzone dough overnight so that it can fully rise.

Nearly any topping that works for a pizza makes a great calzone filling, Including some other bulky ingredients like vegetables or meats. Just be sure to precook those other ingredients, or else they will give off moisture.

Yields four individual calzones

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Pizza Dough, refrigerated for at least 8 hours, recipe below
  • Unbleached bread flour or semolina flour, for dusting
  • 1 cup No-Cook Tomato Sauce, recipe below
  • 2 cups low-moisture mozzarella or other soft melting cheese
  • 1 cup filling (see choices below)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • Kosher salt (optional)

Directions:

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, set it on a lightly oiled work surface, and divide into 4 equal pieces of about 7 oz. each. Roll each piece into a tight ball.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly oil it with olive oil or cooking spray. Set each ball at least an inch apart on the parchment. Lightly spray or brush the balls with olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Let the dough warm up and relax at room temperature for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Shape the dough:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F (a baking stone is optional). Fill a small bowl with bread flour, or semolina if using, and dust a clean work surface with a generous amount.

With floured hands, transfer one of the dough balls to the floured work surface. Sprinkle lightly with flour and press it with your fingertips into a round disk.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an oval or round shape about 3/16 inch thick and 9 inches across. Dust with flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

If the dough resists rolling and springs back, let it rest for a few minutes and move on to the next dough ball. Roll out the remaining three dough balls.

You could also use an 8 inch calzone press. Follow directions on the package.

Fill and bake the calzones:

Brush the edge of a dough round with cool water to make a damp band about 1/2 inch wide all the way around. Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce over the lower half of the dough. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the mozzarella over the sauce, and then top with one-quarter of the filling ingredients and 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano cheese.

Fold the top half of the dough over the filling. Crimp the dough either with fingers or a fork, sealing the damp edge tightly. Transfer the calzone to a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Repeat with the remaining dough circles and filling ingredients. Brush the tops with olive oil and cut three steam vents in each.

Put the baking sheet in the oven (or on the baking stone, if using) and reduce the oven temperature to 450°F. Bake until the crust turns a rich golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool for 3 minutes before serving.  Serve with extra sauce.

Pizza Dough for Calzones

It’s best to mix the dough at least a day before you plan to bake. The dough keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or for 3 months in the freezer. To freeze the dough: After kneading the dough, divide it into 4 equal pieces for calzones. Freeze each ball in its own zip-top freezer bag. They’ll ferment somewhat in the freezer and this counts as the rise. Before using, thaw completely in their bags overnight in the refrigerator or at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Then treat the dough exactly as you would, if they had not been frozen and continue with the directions for making the calzones.  A recipe for whole wheat dough is below.

Makes enough dough for 4 calzones

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour; more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons table salt (or 2-1/2 tsp. kosher salt)
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
  • Semolina flour

Directions:

Combine the flour, honey, salt, yeast and olive oil in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Add 1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cool (60º to 65ºF) water.

With a large spoon or the paddle attachment of the electric mixer on low speed, mix until the dough comes together in a coarse ball, 2 to 3 minutes by hand or 1 to 2 minutes in the mixer. Let the dough rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Knead the dough:

If using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook. Knead the dough for 2 to 3 minutes, either by hand on a lightly floured work surface or with the mixer’s dough hook on medium-low speed. As you knead, add more flour or water, as needed, to produce a ball of dough that is smooth, supple and fairly tacky but not sticky. When poked with a clean finger, the dough should show only a slight indentation. It may stick slightly to the bottom of the mixing bowl but not to the sides.

Chill the dough:

Lightly oil a bowl that’s twice the size of the dough. Roll the dough in the bowl to coat it with the oil, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. It will rise slowly in the refrigerator, but will stop growing once completely chilled. If the plastic bulges, release the carbon dioxide buildup by lifting one edge of the plastic wrap (like burping it) and then reseal. Use the dough, as directed in the recipe above.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Replace 25% to 50% of the flour with an equal amount of whole wheat flour. It may be necessary to add more white bread flour as you knead. Your goal is to produce a ball of dough that is smooth, supple and fairly tacky but not sticky. It may stick slightly to the bottom of the mixing bowl but not to the sides of the bowl. When poked with a clean finger, the dough should leave only a slight residue.

No-Cook Pizza Sauce

Yields 3-1/4 cups.

Ingredients:

  • 26-oz. container Pomi strained tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • Kosher salt or table salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried (or 1 tablespoon. finely chopped fresh) oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, or parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:

Whisk the tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice and remaining ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. The sauce can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to six months.

Filling Choices

Use one or more of the following (1 cup total for each calzone):

  • Crumbled, cooked bacon, pancetta or ham
  • Cooked sausage, sliced
  • Small meatballs, cooked
  • Sauteed eggplant cubes
  • Sliced, sauteed mushrooms
  • Sauteed onions
  • Steamed broccoli or broccoli rabe
  • Sauteed spinach
  • Sauteed bell peppers or roasted red peppers
  • Sliced olives
  • Cooked (or canned, drained) artichoke hearts
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Substitute another soft melting cheese for the mozzarella, such as Monterey Jack, Provolone, Gouda, smoked Mozzarella, or smoked Gouda.
  • Substitute another dry aged grating cheese for the Parmigiano, such as Asiago or Romano.

One of My Favorites: Eggplant Parmesan Calzone

Follow directions above for the dough but divide into 2 pieces.

Yield: two 12″ calzones, 4 – 6 servings.

Eggplant Filling

  • 2 medium (about 2 pounds) eggplant, cut in 1/2″ slices; peeled or not, your choice
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 to 2 cups panko or other coarse bread crumbs
  • Salt
  • Marinara or spaghetti sauce
  • 2 cups shredded or grated mozzarella cheese, or a combination of your favorite pizza cheeses

Directions:  Picture Directions Are Below:

Lightly grease two large baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Slice eggplants about 3/8″ thick. Whisk together the egg and milk. Pour the bread crumbs into a shallow dish and add salt to taste.

Dip each eggplant slice into the egg/milk mixture, and let it drain. Then dip both sides into the bread crumbs. Lay the slices in a single layer in the prepared pans. Drizzle or spray with olive oil.

Bake the eggplant for 40 minutes, or until it’s soft and the crumbs are beginning to brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool right on the pan.

Working with one half at a time, place the dough onto a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Pat it into an 11″ to 12″ circle.

Brush the dough with sauce, leaving 1/2″ clean all around the edges. Use as much sauce as you like.

Arrange half the eggplant, slightly overlapped, on half of the dough circle. It’ll seem like a lot of eggplant but don’t worry; it’ll settle as the calzone bakes. Drizzle the eggplant with additional sauce, if desired. Top with 1 cup of the cheese.

Fold the uncovered half of dough over the eggplant and cheese, pressing the edges together to seal.

Cut 3 or 4 slits in the top of each calzone to allow steam to escape. Brush with olive oil.

Repeat with the remaining piece of dough and filling ingredients.

Let the calzones rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes, while the oven preheats to 450°F.

Bake the calzones for 18 to 22 minutes until they’re golden brown.

Remove the calzones from the oven and slice into pieces to serve.


Everyone loves a pizza party! But this is no elementary school birthday party; this is a full-out feast of grown-up pies, best enjoyed with everyone pitching in for pizza creation together. Invite eight to ten of your friends over, open a few bottles of wine, and spend the evening assembling, topping and baking your pies. Split up the prep work on the day of dinner by assigning each guest to bring a pizza toppings. This is a meal to eat in stages, as each new pizza comes out of the oven, cut into small slices so everyone can have a taste.

For this menu, you want wines that pair easily with a variety of foods and don’t cost too much per bottle, so you can serve them generously for a crowd. Serve both red and white wines so guests can choose their preference. You can round out the menu with a green salad and a simple dessert, such as cookies or brownies or ice cream.

Some Party Suggestions:

Do make the dough beforehand and freeze it in individual round portions or pan size portions.

Defrost the dough overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature about two hours before guests arrive. 

Don’t buy the premade crusts, they just don’t taste the same as homemade dough. Purchased pizza dough is ok.

Do encourage your guests to stretch and roll out their own dough.

Do offer up interesting pizza toppers to create unusual pizzas or assign guests certain toppings to bring and share. The ingredients should be able to stand the intense heat of the oven, stay moist or crisp and complement the basic taste of the base.

Do interact with your guests. If you stay at the oven all night, you won’t have fun. Share the work.

Here are some pizza party ideas and they mix and match perfectly.

Pizza Margarita

Super simple, but unbelievably flavorful, this classic is made from buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

Caramelized Red Onion Pizza with Capers and Olives

There’s no tomato sauce but this succulent pizza is always a hit. Onions are cooked until soft and caramelized and spread on top of mozzarella slices. The olives and capers make the sweet onions more savory.

Pear, Pecorino and Taleggio Pizza

This is a new twist on pizza, but the flavor combinations work well together. Almost like a dessert course, the pears and cheese melt together. For a heartier meal feel free to add some Italian sausage scattered throughout.

Sicilian Shrimp and Tomato Pizza

Topped with whole cherry tomatoes, shrimp, garlic, red pepper flakes, grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, this pizza will add a kick to your party. Make sure to offer plates as it’s a little sloppy but well worth it.

Pizza Party Menu

Rather than making five different kinds of pizza dough, ignore the dough portions of each of these pizza recipes, and make four batches in advance of your pizza party. Then use the recipes simply for their toppings, or improvise your own unique topping combinations.

The key to making pizzeria-quality thin-crust pizza is a blazing-hot oven. The best way to replicate the intense heat of such an oven at home is by using a baking stone and cooking under the broiler. The stone absorbs and radiates heat, crisping the bottom of the pizza, while the broiler renders the toppings golden brown.

Allow the dough to come to room temperature before shaping. I usually take my pizza dough balls out of the refrigerator at least two hours before I need them.

Weigh the dough for individual pizzas; generally 6-8 ounces in size. Pan dough usually weighs 1 pound.

Thirty minutes before you need to make your pizza, lightly flour the ball, then press it into a circle about 1 inch thick. Cover with a kitchen towel until needed.

Use your hands and instead of a rolling pin to shape your crust. This will help to create a light crust with air pockets. The rolling pin pushes all the air out and will give you a flatter, less tender pizza crust. Use the base of your palm and fingers and keep turning the circle of dough as you gently stretch it.

Brush olive oil around the edges of the pizza dough before you add the sauce and toppings to ensure a golden brown crisp crust.

Italian Pizza Dough For The Party

This may not be your perfect dough recipe, but for me, it creates dough that is soft enough that I can press into a pizza pan with my hands and allows the crust to rise nicely during baking. It is also a very tender to the bite crust that has just enough chew to it, but it doesn’t toughen up when it cools. The other non-traditional aspect of this dough is that white wine is used along with the water to help keep the dough tender. As for yeast, I use SAS brand Rapid Rise Yeast also called instant yeast) for all my bread baking and it has never let me down and it doesn’t require proofing. This dough also freezes very well, so I often make a double batch and then weigh the balls, oil them, and wrap them in plastic wrap. I then store them in an airtight freezer bags in my freezer for future use.

Makes 4 large or 6 individual pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour, level with knife
  • 4 cups Italian Flour (Tipo 00), level with knife
  • (If you do not have access to Italian flour use 7 cups all purpose flour or 2 cups white whole wheat flour and 5 cups all purpose flour)
  • 1 cup Dry White Wine
  • 2 cups Warm Water
  • 2 1/2 Teaspoons Rapid Rise Yeast
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Olive OIl

Directions:

In a large electric mixer bowl mix together the two flours, the white wine, yeast, salt, and olive oil.

Slowly add in the warm water, stirring with the paddle attachment as you go until the dough comes together in a ball.

Switch to the dough hook. Knead until the dough is very smooth, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let double in size.

Divide the dough into 8 ounce portions for individual pizzas or 1 pound portions for pizza pans and roll each in a ball.

Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed if using on the same day or wrap and freeze for the day of the party .

Remove the dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before needed, allowing them to completely come to room temperature before using.

 

Making the Pizzas:

Lightly flour dough balls; transfer to a floured 9″ x 13″ baking pan; cover with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, place a baking stone on bottom rack of oven, about 13″ from heating element; heat broiler and stone for at least 1 hour.

Put 1 piece dough on floured wooden pizza peel or pizza pan; flatten with your fingertips.

*For baking directly on the stone:

Pick up dough and, using your knuckles and backs of your hands, gently and evenly stretch out dough, working from center outward and rotating as you go in order to make a circle of dough; let weight of dough stretch edges until circle of dough has reached a diameter of 12″.

Sprinkle pizza peel with more flour; transfer dough to front edge of peel. Brush edges of dough with extra-virgin olive oil; sprinkle dough with 1⁄4 cup grated grana padano cheese, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add toppings (see pizza recipes below).

Transfer pizza to baking stone by resting end of peel on far edge of stone, holding peel at an angle, and gently pulling it back so that lip of dough catches stone and dough slides onto it. Cook pizza, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6–8 minutes. Transfer to a board; slice and serve. Repeat with remaining dough. Makes four 12″ pizzas.

*If baking in a pizza pan follow directions for pressing dough into the pan and place the pan on the baking stone. Bake about 12 -15 minutes in an the oven heated to 500 degrees F.

Soppressata, Tomato, and Olive Pizza

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 1⁄4 cup oven roasted sliced plum or cherry tomatoes
  • 6 thin slices soppressata
  • 10 pitted black olives
  • 2 tablespoons grated grana padano cheese
  • 1 tablespoon. olive oil

Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions.

Dot dough with tomatoes, soppressata, and olives. Sprinkle with cheese; drizzle with olive oil.

Transfer pizza to a baking stone and cook pizza, under the broiler, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer pizza to a board; slice and serve.

Broccoli Rabe, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Zest Pizza 

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 1⁄4 cup broccoli rabe, cooked and chopped
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons. grated lemon zest
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil

Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions.

Cover dough with broccoli rabe, goat cheese, lemon zest, and salt and pepper; drizzle with olive oil.

Transfer pizza to a baking stone and cook pizza, under the broiler, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer pizza to a board; slice and serve.

Prosciutto, Chili, and Onion Pizza

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 1⁄2 cup sauteed onions
  • 1 chili pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 thin slices prosciutto
  • Grated grana padano cheese

Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions.

Spread onions and chiles over dough.

Transfer pizza to a baking stone and cook pizza, under the broiler, rotating every 2 minutes with a long metal spatula, until edges are golden, 6-8 minutes.

After baking, drape prosciutto over top and sprinkle with cheese.

Transfer pizza to a board; slice and serve.

Mushroom and Fontina Pizza

  • Pizza Dough, recipe above
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 plum tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups freshly grated fontina cheese
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

 Directions:

Make pizza dough according to instructions. Place pizza stone on bottom rack of the oven and heat oven to 500 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons. of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté mushrooms, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until wilted, 5 minutes. Add vinegar slowly, cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, cook for 2 more minutes, and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble pizza, stretch dough into a 12″ round on a pizza pan, pinching edge to form ridge. Cover with half the fontina, all the mushrooms, and all the tomato mixture. Top with remaining fontina and parmesan. Place pan on pizza stone and bake until crust is golden, about 15 minutes. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Have Fun !


If yesterday’s post on how to bake authentic country bread at home wasn’t your “cup of tea” due to the many steps in the recipe, below is a recipe for the quick way to get a crusty country loaf of bread in a short amount of time. While you won’t have the crumb or flavor of Pugliese or Pagnotta bread, you will have a great crusty bread to dip in olive oil or use for sandwiches.  

You will need special equipment: a Cloche Clay Baking Pan. The cloche natural clay stoneware baking dish with domed lid will simulate a hearth oven in your kitchen.

The moist dough within the cloche creates the steam needed to produce a delicious bread with a crackly, golden crust and light crumb. It eliminates the need to spritz your bread or pour water in a hot pan to get the nice crust you are after.

Most cloches are sensitive to thermal shock, so you should never put a cold cloche in a hot oven. You should also avoid putting a hot cloche on a cold counter, as it may crack. Cloches should not be spritzed with water, either, as the sudden release of steam can cause the cloche to crack. To wash a bread cloche, wait for it to cool to room temperature and rinse it with water.

CRUSTY COUNTRY LOAF 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add yeast and honey. Mix until yeast is dissolved.

Add the 4 cups of flour and sprinkle the salt on top of the flour

Using the dough hook on number 2 speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Continue kneading  for 7-8 minutes minutes, until dough is soft, but supple. 

Shape dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double about 30-40 minutes.

Some bakers skip this step and place the dough directly into the bottom of the cloche pan for one rising.  I think the bread has a better crumb with two risings and the time for each rising is relatively short – 30 minutes or so.  This is a quick rising dough. It is your call, though. 

Do not grease or spray a cloche pan. 

Sprinkle the bottom of the cloche pan with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the pan bottom.  Gently shape the dough into a round, if it becomes lopsided.

 

Cover with  greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more. See image below for how the dough should look after rising.

Put the lid of the cloche pan in the oven on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Remove the other racks since the cloche pan is quite tall. Once the oven temperature reaches 500 degrees F. heat the cloche and oven for 15 minutes more. 

With a sharp knife or blade, make a cross slash in the top of the risen loaf, place the dish in the oven and put the Cloche lid over the dough.   

USE A THICK POT HOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!

 

Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid. 

Bake 15 minutes minutes, or until bread is crusty and brown. Remove the loaf when done and place on a wire cooling rack.

Look at the sides of the bread. If the edges of the bread have pulled away from the pan, then your bread is done, especially if you have a dry-looking top along with the pulled-away edges. Once you have removed the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan and tap the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. If there is no hollow sound or if the bottom of the bread is still soft, place it back in the oven and continue baking for a few minutes longer.

Stick an instant-read thermometer into the bread. If the temperature reads between 190 degrees and 210 degrees, then the bread is done. Instant-read thermometers can be purchased at any major grocery store or wherever kitchen utensils and appliances are sold.

What is Instant Yeast?

Instant yeast is an active strain of yeast that is similar to active dry yeast, but has smaller granules with substantially higher percentages of live cells. Instant yeast generally has a small amount of ascorbic acid added as a preservative.”

What is the difference between Instant Yeast and Active Dry Yeast?

Instant yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients in this bread recipe. It does not need to be dissolved first, making it especially easy to use.  SAF Instant Yeast is a high potency, fast acting yeast that can be added directly to your dry ingredients without it having to be activated in water first. SAF Instant Yeast is more than twice as active as regular compressed yeast.

Active dry yeast requires that it be mixed in a bit of warm water to activate it, then it is added to the remaining ingredients. Unfortunately, using active dry yeast leaves room for error as the water temperature has to be just right in order to work. If the water temperature is too hot, the yeast will die. If the water is too cool, the active dry yeast fails to activate. Both scenarios often result in a bread dough that doesn’t rise very much.

How to store Instant Yeast ?                      

Instant yeast has no special storage needs, and can be kept on the cupboard shelf unopened until the expiration date, or up to 6 months. The yeast will stay fresh longer if stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer, or up to one year.                                                                                                                                


What is Italian country bread?

Italian country bread is known for its very chewy, coarse texture. The texture of this bread makes it ideal for dipping and sandwich making, because it holds moisture very well without becoming soggy. Italian country bread is also referred to as pan bigio, or “gray bread,” in a reference to the unrefined flour which is traditionally used to make it. Many Italian bakeries offer this bread, and it can also be made at home.
By tradition, pan bigio is made from minimally processed flour. Typically, this means that the flour is whole wheat that gives a very rich, nutty flavor to the finished bread. Some bakers prefer to use a mixture of lightly processed white flour and whole wheat flour so that the bread is not as heavy, creating a bread with a flecked texture and a slightly more open crumb. Cornmeal may be added as well to make the texture even more coarse.
Italian country bread is made with a biga, a traditional Italian starter. Breads made with bigas tend to be chewier and they have more complex, savory flavors as a result of the slow fermentation of the yeasts.

A starter usually consists of a simple mixture of flour, water, and a leavening agent (typically yeast). After mixing, it is allowed to ferment for a period of time, and then is added to bread dough as a substitute for, or in addition to, more yeast. So pre-ferments are critical for best tasting bread.

The primary difference, between making bread with a starter and making bread with the direct yeast method, is that starter breads require much more time to prepare, but the flavor and texture of the bread is almost impossible to achieve with other leavening methods. Bread made with starters (biga) also tend to keep better, compared to bread made without a biga. You will not find this type of great tasting bread in your local supermarket.

The bread recipes below are “Old World”, but I have updated them to make use of modern ingredients, techniques and equipment.

Puglia, Italy
“The Breadbasket Of Italy”

Puglia, or Apulia as it is also known, is in Italy’s boot heel in its south eastern most region off the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Puglia produces one-tenth of the wine drunk in Europe and its olive oil is well regarded. Puglia is also the breadbasket of Italy and home to the wonderful hearth breads, now gaining recognition in the rest of Italy and throughout the world. Today you can find these breads in bakeries and supermarkets throughout Italy.

The region is noted for its population density, mostly concentrated in populous centers, while the countryside is occupied by flourishing cultivation. Agriculture, which was very difficult in the past due to the dryness of the land, is now supported by the Aqueduct, so now, the region is among the largest Italian producers of tomatoes, salad, carrots, olives, eggplant, artichokes, almonds and citrus fruit. Also highly developed is sheep raising in the Tavoliere plain and fishing in the Gulf of Taranto. Tourism in the summer is another great resource, thanks to the beautiful beaches along the coast, and the many tourist villages and campsites.

Pugliese Bread

Oval Shape

Round Shape

The Pugliese bread is characterized by a moist dough which results in large holes in a well structured crumb, and a well-developed, crunchy crust. Heavier than a Ciabatta, and made with a higher gluten flour,  Pugliese bread is typically shaped as a Batard (oval) slashed with a single cut running lengthwise and, sometimes, is shaped as a round loaf with a dimpled top.

Yield : A 6 ½ -by-3-inch-high loaf

Dough Starter (Biga) Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour 
  • 1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 liquid cup water, at room temperature (70°F to 90°F)                                                                                                                                                                                                King Arthur Extra Fancy Durum Flour - 3 lb.

Bread Dough Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup durum flour, (durum flour is finely milled and marketed as “extra-fancy” pasta flour or “farina grade). (Semolina flour is a much coarser grind and will not work for this bread.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water, at room temperature (70°F to 90°F)
  • biga from above

Biga Directions:

Six hours or up to 3 days ahead, make the starter (biga). In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients for the biga and stir the mixture until it is very smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. The biga should still be sticky enough to cling slightly to your fingers. Cover the bowl tightly with oiled plastic wrap and set aside until tripled and filled with bubbles. At room temperature, this will take about 6 hours. Stir it down and use it, or refrigerate it for up to 3 days before baking. For the best flavor development allow the biga to ferment in a cool area (55°F to 65°F) for 12 to 24 hours.

Biga the next day.

Mix the dough:

In the electric mixer bowl, whisk together the bread flour, durum flour, and yeast. Then whisk in the salt (this keeps the salt from coming into direct contact with the yeast, which would kill it). Add the water and the biga.
Using the electric mixer paddle attachment, mix on low speed for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened enough to form a rough dough.

Change to the dough hook, raise the speed to medium, and beat for 5 minutes to form a smooth, sticky dough. If the dough does not pull away from the bowl after 5 minutes, beat in more flour 1 teaspoon at a time. The dough should still stick to the bottom of the bowl and cling to your fingers. If it is not sticky, spray it with a little water and knead it in.

Let the dough rise.

Sprinkle durum flour generously onto a counter in a 6-inch square. Using a wet or oiled spatula or dough scraper, turn the dough onto the flour, and dust the top of it with more flour. (The flour will be absorbed into the wet dough.) Allow it to rest for 2 minutes.

With floured hands, pull out two opposite sides of the dough to stretch it to double its length, and give it a business letter turn. Dust it again with flour, cover it with plastic wrap, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Stretching and turning the dough.

Repeat the stretching, folding, and flouring a second time, and again allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
Repeat the stretching, folding, and flouring a third time, then round the edges of the dough.

Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, transfer the dough to a 2-quart bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Cover the container with plastic wrap.  Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75°F to 80°F) until tripled, about 2 hours.

Shape the dough and let it rise.

Dust a counter well with durum flour. With floured hands or a floured dough scraper, gently transfer the dough to the counter. Handling the dough very gently; round it into a ball.

Begin by gently pressing down the dough into a round patty, dimpling the dough with your fingertips to deflate any large bubbles. Draw up the edges to the center. Pinch them together and turn the dough over so that the pinched part is at the bottom. With cupped hands, stretch the dough down on all sides to form a tight skin, and pinch it again at the bottom.
Transfer the round ball of dough to an un-floured part of the counter and, with your hands on either side of the dough, push it back and forth while rotating it clockwise. You will feel the dough tighten and take on a rounder shape, with taut skin.

Set dough in a towel lined basket.

Dough ready for the oven.

Gently set the dough seam side up in a colander lined with a floured towel for a round shape or a long bread basket with a floured towel for the oval shape. Pinch together the seam, if necessary. Sprinkle the top lightly with flour, and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap.

Allow the dough to rise until it has increased by about 1 ½ times, about 1 ½ hours. 

Inside crumb of baked bread.

Bake the bread.

Preheat the oven to 500°F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place an oven stone on it and a broiler pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the plastic wrap covering the colander or basket, invert the lined baking sheet on top of the colander, and invert the dough onto the sheet.
Quickly but gently set the sheet on the baking stone. Toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes onto the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450°F and continue baking for 15 to 25 minutes or until the bread is deep golden brown (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 205°F).

Halfway through baking, with a heavy pancake turner, lift the bread from the pan, remove the pan with the parchment on it and set it directly on the stone, turning it around for even baking. Remove the bread when done from the oven and transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

               Rustic Whole Grain Italian-Style Pagnotta

Pagnotta is typically found throughout central Italy, a rustic peasant loaf with a hard, deep brown crust and a soft center. In northern Italy, this bread is made into small round rolls. These make ideal soup bowls. This bread can also be used to hold dips and spreads. The dough is oten used to make pizza crusts or focaccia. This is a three day process but the steps on the first two days are minimal.  

Starter Dough (BigaIngredients:

  • 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • generous 1/4 cup room temperature water plus an extra 2 teaspoons
  • 1 1/4 cup bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

Starter Dough Directions:

On the night before you are going to make bread, in a small bowl, mix the yeast in the warm water and leave covered on the kitchen counter.

The next morning stir together the yeasted water, room temperature water and bread flour in the electric mixer bowl with a spatula or wooden spoon; be sure all the flour is incorporated.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the Starter Dough rise in a cool room for 6 to 8 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Bread Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • all of Starter Dough
  • 2 1/2 cups room temperature water
  • scant 2 cups whole wheat (white whole wheat or regular whole wheat) flour
  • 3 3/4 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Bread Dough Directions:

If the Starter Dough has been refrigerated, allow it to sit at room temperature for about an hour before starting.

In a small bowl, mix the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water and wait until it bubbles (about 10 minutes).

Add the yeast mixture and the room temperature water to the Starter Doughl and mix well  with the mixer paddle attachment. Add all the whole wheat flour and all but 1/2 cup of the bread flour to the mixer bowl.

Beat vigorously until there are no dry bits of flour left and you have created a rough dough. Cover with plastic and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Switch to the dough hook and sprinkle the salt over the dough which will be rather slack. (It should look a bit like porridge.)

Knead the dough with the dough hook adding in the remaining flour a little at a time. The dough should be quite moist. Keep kneading until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.

Place dough in a clean dry lightly floured mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise on the counter for 20 minutes. Lightly sprinkle a board with flour and gently turn the dough out, trying not to disturb any bubbles. 

Fold the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side, then the bottom. Turn the dough over and fold in half once more. Place it back in the bowl smooth side up. Cover with plastic. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes again. 

Repeat this step twice. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) After the final step, let the dough rise undisturbed on the counter until doubled – about 1 to 2 hours depending on the room temperature.

When dough has doubled, gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Flatten it gently (try not to disturb the bubbles); fold the outer edges to the middle. 

Repeat the folding 4 or 5 times until you have formed a tight round loaf. Place on a parchment covered baking sheet – or peel if you have one. Sprinkle flour liberally over the loaf. Cover with plastic and allow to rise for about 1 hour until almost doubled. 

To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. 

Half an hour before you will be baking the bread, place a baking stone on the second shelf from the bottom of the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Put water into a broiling pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven.

If you don’t have a baking stone, it’s still a good idea to preheat the oven for a substantial amount of time.  Just before baking, spray the top of the loaf with water.

Slide the bread onto the baking stone using the parchment paper to get the bread in place on the stone. You can also leave the bread on the baking sheet and place the baking sheet on the stone, but the bread will not be as crisp as baking directly on the stone.

Immediately turn the oven down to 450 degrees F; bake the loaf for 45-50 minutes until hollow sounding on the bottom. Turn off the oven and leave with the door ajar for 10 minutes.  Remove to cool on cooling rack.


The history of ravioli is yet another example of the many stories and myths surrounding pasta creations. The word, ravioli, may derive from the Latin rabiola (a little turnip) whose shape resembles ravioli, or from ravolgere (to wrap) directly suggesting the way ravioli are made or in Italian, the term “ravioli” is derived from a word meaning “to stuff” .

Enjoyed worldwide, but where do ravioli actually come from?

The city of Cremona claims to be the birthplace, competing for this title with Genoa that traces the etymology of the word back to their dialect word for the pasta, rabiole, which signifies “something of little value” and, as the legend has it, originates from the practice of local sailors who would wrap the leftovers from one meal in  thin sheets of dough to use for another meal and to break the monotony of a sailor’s diet.

Although no-one can be sure when ravioli were first made, the earliest written mentions appear in 14th century manuscripts including pieces by  Francesco di Marco Datini, a merchant of Prato, Tuscany  and in a Venetian manuscript which had a ravioli recipe consisting of chopped blanched green herbs mixed with beaten egg and fresh cheese which was simmered in broth – a very traditional way of eating ravioli (al brodo) which is still observed today. References have also been found dating back to mid 16th century Rome when  Bartolomeo Scappi served them to the papal conclave of 1549.

Ravioli is a traditional Italian pasta dish made by filling rounds or squares of pasta dough with a filling, creating a sort of pasta “pillow.” The dish is wildly popular outside of Italy, and can be readily found in fresh and frozen form in most Western supermarkets. The fillings for ravioli are limited only by the imagination, as are the sauces which can complement it, and making ravioli at home is fun and relatively easy, if cooks want to experiment with new flavors.

Within Italy, depending on where you travel, you can have meat ravioli, cheese ravioli, seafood ravioli, and versions stuffed with a variety of vegetables including squash, spinach and seasonal mushrooms. Regional Italian cuisine highlights unique flavors and specialties of the area. Typically, the ravioli are boiled and served with a rich sauce, although some parts of Italy bake their ravioli in cream sauces after boiling them.

Although many consumers associate meat with ravioli, there is actually a long tradition of vegetarian ravioli in Italy. On Fridays and during Lent, vegetarian ravioli is a popular option, because for Catholics, red meat is forbidden during fast periods. Less wealthy Italian families ate vegetarian ravioli more often, and there is a long culinary history of cheese and vegetable filled ravioli with interesting spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. Seafood ravioli is also common in port towns of Italy, and is often served with delicate lemon sauces that highlight the flavor of the fish.

All ravioli starts with a pasta dough, typically made by mixing egg, flour, salt, olive oil, and water. The dough is kneaded and worked to a smooth, moist consistency, and then allowed to rest while the filling is made. The vegetable or meat filling is usually cooked and cooled, then mixed with egg and/or cheese. The dough is rolled out into a flat sheet and small spoonfuls of filling are placed approximately one inch apart before another sheet of rolled out dough is carefully placed on top. The ravioli are then cut into “little pillows” with a cutter.

Making Homemade Ravioli

You don’t have to make pasta by hand to make it from scratch. Follow these  tips on using a pasta machine.

Combine 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 3 eggs beaten, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor. Process until dough forms; shape into a ball.

Place dough on lightly floured surface; flatten slightly. Cut dough into 4 pieces. Wrap 3 dough pieces in plastic wrap; set aside.

Knead dough with pasta machine. Set rollers of pasta machine at widest setting (position 1). Feed unwrapped dough piece through flat rollers by turning handle. (Dough may crumble slightly at first but will hold together after two to three rollings.)

Lightly flour dough strip; fold strip into thirds. Feed through rollers again. Continue process 5-6 times more, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Roll out dough with machine keeping the sheets as wide as the pasta maker roller. Reduce setting to position 3. Feed dough strip through rollers. Without folding strip into thirds, repeat on positions 5 and 6.

Let dough stand 5 to 10 minutes until slightly dry on floured kitchen towels.

Repeat kneading and rolling with reserved dough pieces.

To shape ravioli:

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water; set aside.

Place the rolled dough on a cutting board and brush strips lightly with egg mixture.

Leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges, place about 1 teaspoon of filling at 1-inch intervals on one strip of dough.

Lay a second strip of dough, brushed side down, over the first. Using your fingers, press the dough around each mound of filling so that the two moistened strips stick together.

Cut dough between filling to make individual ravioli. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Fillings to use for stuffing the ravioli.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 -1 pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Seed and peel squash; cut into 1-inch pieces (you should have about 2 2/3 cups).
Place squash in an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss gently to coat. Roast, uncovered, about 30 minutes or until tender, stirring once.
Transfer squash to a medium bowl. Mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in cheese and nutmeg.

Crab Ravioli Filling

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 6 ounces crab meat, drained, flaked, and cartilage removed
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions
In a medium skillet, cook pepper, onion, and garlic in hot butter over medium heat about 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in crabmeat, lemon peel, lemon juice, capers, fennel seeds, and black pepper.

Spinach Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups  ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 1/2 cups packed spinach (1/2 pound of frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry or a pound of cooked drained fresh spinach)
  • A pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Directions:
Drain the ricotta well, if need be by squeezing it in cheesecloth, and crumble it. Mince the spinach. Mix the spinach, ricotta, eggs, and spices together.

To cook ravioli:

Bring a large amount of salted water to boiling in a large pot. Gently drop about one-fourth of the ravioli, one at a time, into the boiling water and stir to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer ravioli to a serving dish.  Serve with your favorite sauce.


With a nod to good health and great taste, consider some out-of-the-ordinary vegetarian entrée options for grilling this summer. There’s more to vegetable grilling than just throwing some sliced vegetables onto the grill. With the right recipes, you can create tasty meat-free menu items that are substantial enough to take center plate at your cookout. They’ll be just as hearty as the meat options you’re serving, and full of fantastic flavor, thanks to time spent on the grill.
Don’t be surprised if the meat-eating guests take to these dishes as much as the vegetarians do. And if the attending carnivores want further motivation besides great taste, here it is: Research has shown that reducing the amount meat in your diet can cut your risk of developing cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

At backyard barbecues around the country, a vegetarian can often feel like the odd person out — forced to bring his own entrees or to pick around the edges. Fortunately grilling season kicks into high gear just as vegetable produce peaks. Not only are gardeners growing veggies by the bagful, but supermarket prices for fresh fruits and vegetables are also low. This is a chance for hard-core grillers to bring their talents of outdoor cookery to dishes for the meatless crowd.

In addition to providing the smoky flavor that emanates from the coals, grilling caramelizes the natural sugars in the vegetables and makes them taste extra sweet. Just about anything that sprouts from the ground or grows on a tree can be suspended over coals, including corn on the cob, zucchini, potatoes, onions, pineapples, mangoes, and mushrooms. Most vegetarian foods are more delicate than meat and have less fat. So to keep food from sticking to the grill and falling apart, it’s important to keep the grill clean and well-oiled.

Once the grill is hot, scrape it well with a grill brush to remove burned-on bits of food. Then fold a paper towel into a small square, soak it with vegetable oil. Grab it with your long-handled tongs and rub down the grill thoroughly.

For sandwiches, cut veggies like zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into thin slices–or into thick rings, in the case of onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Round out the meal by serving grilled veggies over pasta, rice, or polenta. Asparagus is one of the best and simplest vegetables to grill and is terrific in pastas and rice dishes. Leave the spears whole and simply lay them perpendicular across the grill grates!

No Fake Meat And No Tofu Recipes:


How To Make Pizza On the Grill

Grilled pizzas are a specific style of pie: typically thin-crusted, they’re lightly sauced (too much liquid means a soggy crust) with minimal toppings. They also cook very fast.

Make the Dough

Use your favorite crust recipe or see recipe below. Divide the dough into two or more pieces and shape into balls for individual-sized pizzas. Set the dough aside to proof while you prepare your toppings.
Tip: if you have a heavy-duty mixer or bread machine, double the recipe. Divide and shape the dough, and freeze each portion in a plastic freezer bag greased with about a tablespoon of olive oil for another dinner.

Assemble Your Toppings

With grilled pizza, the crust is the star. Choose a few simple ingredients that can showcase the smoky flavor and crispy crust. Or go for minimalism: top the grilled bread with a brushing of good olive oil, a sprinkling of coarse salt, and bit of chopped fresh herbs.
Suggested bases: marinara, pesto, flavored olive oil, salsa verde.
Suggested cheeses: mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, feta cheese, Parmesan, Gorgonzola.
Ideas for toppings: grilled vegetables, fresh figs, fresh herbs, fresh arugula, toasted pine nuts, olives or capers, caramelized onions, roasted garlic.

Grill the Crust

Prepare the grill for high heat.

Shape the dough into rounds, either stretching it by hand or using a rolling pin. Each round should be no more than ¼ inch thick. You can stack the rounds by layering waxed paper, parchment, or a clean well-floured kitchen towel in between the individual crusts. When the coals are hot, have all of your toppings ready near the grill.

The easiest method for grilling pizza is to par-bake the crust: grill one side just long enough to firm up the crust so you can move it easily. By taking it off the heat, you can take your time arranging the toppings and are less likely to burn the bottom of the pizza.

Begin by placing one or two dough rounds on the grill.

  • You can oil the grill grates, but it’s not necessary; once the crust has set, after about three minutes, it should be easy to pull off the heat with tongs, a spatula, or your fingers.
  • Don’t worry if it droops a little through the grate–it’ll firm up fast.
  • After two to three minutes, give it a little tug–it should move easily. If it sticks, give it another minute or so.
  • When the crust is set, remove it from the heat and transfer it to a plate or peel; flip it over so the “done” side is up, and add the toppings.
 

Grill the topped pizzas until the cheese melts and the toppings are heated through. Depending upon the heat of the grill and the size of your pies, this can take two to 10 minutes (if your grill has cooled dramatically, you might need to cover it with a lid to finish the cooking).

Grilled Veggie Pizza

4 pizzas

Ingredients:

Dough:
5 cups all-purpose flour ( or half whole wheat and half white flour)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast (or active dry yeast, dissolved)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups room temperature water

Directions:
Combine  ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook and knead for six minutes. Let rise until doubled. Divide into 4 balls of dough and keep covered.

Toppings: (Enough for 4 pies)

  • 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large red pepper, chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups sweet corn
  • 4 scallions, diced
  • Fresh oregano or basil

Directions:
Place ingredients in small bowls near the grill for easy access.

Simple sauce:

  • 2 cups tomato sauce (depending on how saucy you like your pies)
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Big pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:
Stir together sauce ingredients and place near grill.

Appetizers

Eggplant Caponata Crostini

Serves 8                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar or Truvia sugar substitute equivalent
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 8- 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices Italian bread
  • Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat a  BBQ grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of eggplant slices lightly with oil. Grill 6 minutes on each side. Cut into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Start sauce while eggplant grills. Don’t turn off grill.
  3. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion, raisins, pine nuts, garlic, and red-pepper flakes; cook stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste, cocoa powder, and sugar; cook, stirring, until tomato paste is fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggplant, vinegar, and 1/3 cup water.
  5. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and more sugar (up to 1 tablespoon), as desired.
  6. Brush both sides of bread with olive oil. Grill, turning once, until toasted and grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side.
  7. Top grilled bread with caponata; garnish with basil leaves. Caponata can be refrigerated up to 5 days in an airtight container; let cool completely before storing.

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches

4 Sandwiches                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 8 slices round narrow Italian bread
  • 2 large garlic cloves, halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices (6 oz.) fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (8 slices)
  • Pesto
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Rub a side of each slice of bread with a cut side of garlic and brush with oil. Spread the plain side of half the bread slices with a thin layer of pesto.

Layer cheese and tomatoes on top of the pesto.  Sprinkle with black pepper. Top with remaining bread, garlic side up. Grill sandwiches until grill marks appear and cheese is beginning to melt, 6 minutes, turning once.

Main Dishes

Stuffed Grilled Zucchini

4 servings.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving 1/4-in. shells. Brush with 2 teaspoons oil; set aside. Chop pulp.
In a skillet, saute pulp and onion in remaining oil. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Add bread crumbs; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the heat. Stir in the mozzarella cheese, oregano and salt.
Spoon into zucchini shells. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Grill, covered, over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until zucchini is tender.

Tomatoes Stuffed with Cannellini and Couscous

Serves: 6

After the initial assembly, this dish takes care of itself. If you like, you can prepare and grill the tomatoes well ahead of serving. The flavors will get even better.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

  • ½ cup couscous
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil (preferably extra-virgin), divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 6 large ripe but firm tomatoes (10 ounces each; about 4 3/4 pounds total)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Directions:

Preheat the grill. Coat a 9″ x 6″ disposable foil pan with cooking spray.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes, or until the onion is softened.

Meanwhile, cut 1/4″ slices from the tomato tops. Discard the tops. With a serrated knife or spoon, scoop out the tomato flesh, leaving 1/4″-thick walls. Set aside. Finely chop the tomato flesh. Add to the onion along with the beans, parsley, Italian seasoning, pepper, vegetable broth and the couscous. Stir to combine. Spoon into the reserved tomato shells, mounding slightly. Spoon any extra stuffing into the base of the pan. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Cover with aluminum foil.

Place on the grill away from direct heat. Grill, rotating the pan occasionally, for about 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender and the tops are golden.  Allow to stand for 20 minutes.

Grilled Stuffed Eggplant 

Serves: 6                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Ingredients:

  • 3 small eggplants, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 3 plum tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:
Preheat a covered grill to medium-high.
With a small, sharp knife, scoop out the flesh of each eggplant leaving 1/4-inch thick shells  and place in a medium bowl. Add the cheese, bread crumbs, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to mix. Stuff the mixture tightly into each eggplant half. Drizzle with the oil.
Place the eggplant halves in a disposable aluminum foil pan. Set on the grill. Cover and grill for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and the top is golden and crisp.

Portobello Burgers with Roasted Peppers, Mozzarella, and Caramelized Onions

Serves: 4                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

This grilled “burger” with all the trimmings will satisfy even devoted beef fans. Serve some oven sweet potato fries on the side.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 portobello mushroom caps, about 3 1/2-4 ounces each
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, about 2 ounces
  • 4 (100-calorie) light multi-grain english muffins or hamburger buns
  • 2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained and cut into strips

Directions:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Preheat the grill.
Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Combine the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the vinegar in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the mushroom caps and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Grill, covered, turning occasionally, until tender, 9 to 11 minutes. Top each with 1 slice of the cheese and grill until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Toast the muffins or rolls. Place the bottom half of each muffin on a plate and top with 1 portobello cap, one-fourth of the roasted peppers, and one-fourth of the onion. Top with the remaining muffin halves.


Benefits of Buying Seasonal Produce

Cost: Seasonal food is often cheaper than out of season produce because it doesn’t require anywhere near as much effort to produce. If it’s the right season, food can be pretty much left to grow on it’s own, meaning it’s far less labor intensive and time-consuming. As consumers, we have gotten used to seeing strawberries in our stores all year round and many of us don’t realise the hidden costs of having out of season produce available.  We may, also, forget what the taste of real, seasonal strawberries are like.
Flavour/taste: Blueberries and cherries taste great in the summer but buy them in the winter and you will be disappointed with the taste, texture and flavor. Food that’s allowed to grow and ripen properly is far tastier than artificially produced food that’s travelled thousands of miles to reach the supermarket shelves. On a positive note, some supermarkets are starting to stock produce from local suppliers and you often find the number of air miles (or the country of origin) printed on the packaging which allows us to make a more informed choice.
New experiences with food: If you follow the seasons (as opposed to a shopping list) you’ll also find a more rich and varied collection of fruit and vegetables, which will entice little ones to experience lots of interesting tastes and textures.

Seasonal Ingredient Map

Use Epicurious’ interactive map to see what’s fresh in your area, plus find ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips.

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap

Summer Vegetable Pizzas

Most fresh seasonal vegetables are delicious on pizza — thinly sliced red or green tomatoes, sweet peppers (red, green, yellow or orange), red onions, scallions, finely chopped broccoli, sliced mushrooms and asparagus tips. Fresh herbs will give intense flavor and fragrance — oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary, arugula, dill and plenty of fresh minced garlic. Keep the combinations simple and light without adding too much cheese. Thinly sliced green tomatoes with basil leaves, oregano, scallions and garlic  are colorful and inviting choices.
Use a mixture of Italian (parmigiano reggiano, asiago, pecorino romano, fontina) and other imported cheeses, such as Irish cheddar, French gruyere or English cheddar. Look for flavorful American artisanal cheeses or sharp white Vermont cheddar (Cabot). Grate and mix two or three cheeses together. Keep the cheeses in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Pizza Dough

All-purpose unbleached flour makes an excellent crust, with a deep golden color and a rich baked taste.  Add whole-wheat flour for a more nutritious, nutty taste.

2 cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour and 2 cups King Arthur white whole-wheat flour
2 packages dry rapid rise yeast
2½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ cups warm water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in an electric mixer (such as a KitchenAid) using the dough hook,  Mix very warm water and the olive oil together. Pour the liquids into the flour mixture. Knead with mixer for about 10 minutes, until the dough comes together. It will form a ball and should be firm and not sticky. Place the dough in a deep oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place. It will double in size in about one hour. While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings.

Putting It Together

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. You will need two large pizza baking pans, greased and very lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.
Shape the dough to fit the pizza pan using oiled fingers. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Sprinkle the dough with a small amount of the grated mixed cheeses. This will help to seal the dough and keep it crisp. Top with sliced tomatoes, other vegetables, garlic and herbs. Season the pizza with freshly ground white pepper. Lightly sprinkle more grated mixed cheese or crumbled feta or shredded mozzarella cheese on top.

Don’t use too many ingredients and leave space between the toppings, so that the pizza will turn out crisp. The preheated oven should have racks on the bottom and the middle. Place one pizza on the bottom rack and one on the middle rack for about 10 minutes. Switch positions and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes until the cheese is melted, but not brown. Pizzas can be baked separately on the middle rack for 15 to 20 minutes.

Some Ideas To Get You Started

green tomato, broccoli, asparagus, basil, and cheese pie

red tomato, yellow squash, sweet peppers, and red onion pie

Summer Vegetable Pizza

When peppers, sweet corn, and cherry tomatoes are at their peak, there’s nothing like enjoying them on pizza.

  • 1 large pizza crust, recipe above                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  • 1 cup homemade marinara sauce
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced thin
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degree F.  Stretch or roll pizza dough out to cover a 16 inch pizza pan.
In a small bowl mix marinara sauce, garlic, olive oil, and oregano. Spread evenly over the dough. Top with corn, peppers, and tomatoes. Season vegetables with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Top with basil, mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for about 20 minutes at or until the top is golden, and bubbly – and the crust is browned and cooked underneath. Let cool before slicing.

Herbs and Tomato, Kalamata Olive  Pizza with Peppers, Arugula, Onions, Basil, Olives, and Cheese

4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
2 oz. Italian fontina, shredded
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of fresh arugula, chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaf (julienne)
1 cup plum tomatoes, sliced
1 red bell pepper sliced into strips
½ medium sweet onion, sliced into strips
4 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 small hot chile, chopped (crushed red pepper may substitute)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste


Arrange topping ingredients on pizza dough and bake as directed above.

Now create some summer pizzas of your own based on what is in season in your area.


Although no one really knows when the first bread was baked, bread has been around for thousands of years, as evidenced by the stone tools and ovens found in archaeological sites of men long ago. In ancient Rome, for instance, bakers were highly regarded. Baking was not only important, but also a ritual. Ovens were even built in temples. Romans were the first bakers to produce the flour to bake what is known today as “white bread”.  Romans were also responsible for tweaking the wheat’s milling techniques. Around 100 BC, it is believed that Rome contained more than 200 commercial shops that baked and sold bread. They also established a school of baking around 100 AD.

The roots of bread in Italy go far back in time. The average Italian will consume half a pound of bread a day. All Italian bread is not the same, however. This is a common misconception – that Italian bread is only one type of bread. If you travel to various cities in Italy, you’ll discover that each area has its own distinct recipe for making bread.  The vast popularity of brick ovens throughout the years has contributed a great deal to the abundance of bread in Italy. Round ovens built from brick or local stone have been around in Italy for a very long time. Unlike other nations, where individuals rarely owned full rights to use an oven, ovens in Italy were typically owned by families and were smaller in size.

Italians have high standards for their bread. They are known to allow the yeast to fully rise over the course of several hours, leaving a thin crust. Italians value the size of their loaves of bread and prefer their bread to have a soft and moist interior, which is ideal for absorbing olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes, and other select toppings.

When I think of Italian bread, ciabatta comes to mind immediately, with its hard crust and soft interior filled with holes. It is not difficult to make, but you need to follow all the steps in the process to achieve that well know result. It is a two day baking process (but not all day) to the completion of the bread. Ciabatta, or “slipper bread” can be found throughout Italy. One way to create the best texture is to use a biga, or starter, made the day before, a long rising time, and maintaining a loose, moist dough through the mixing and shaping process. This is the secret to good, crusty bread filled with holes.
According to Peter Reinhart, (a baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University and author of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice),  “This bread hails from an age-old tradition of rustic, slack dough breads, however, the name ciabatta was not applied to the loaf until the mid-twentieth century by an enterprising baker in the Lake Como region of northern Italy. He observed that the bread resembled a slipper worn by dancers of the region and thus dubbed his loaf ciabatta di Como (slipper bread of the Como).”

Ciabatta

For Sponge (Biga)

  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons water (105-115 F)
  • 1/3 cup room-temp water
  • 1 cup King Arthur bread flour

For Bread

  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk (105-115 F)
  • 2/3 cup room-temp water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups King Arthur bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

Make sponge: Stir together, 2 tablespoons warm water and yeast.

Let stand 5 minutes, until creamy.

Add room temperature water and flour. Stir for 4 minutes.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.

Make bread:

Stir together yeast and milk in small bowl and let stand 5 minutes, until creamy.

In bowl of a standing electric mixer, with dough hook, blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil and flour at low speed until flour is moistened.

Because this dough is so soft, it’s virtually impossible to knead it by hand, so you will need an electric mixer to knead the dough.

Beat on medium for 3 minutes. Add salt and beat for 4 more minutes.

The dough will be VERY sticky and full of bubbles. Scrape dough into oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, until doubled- about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Lightly grease a half-sheet baking pan (18″ x 13″) or similar large baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse cornmeal to prevent sticking.
Grease your hands, as well.

Very gently turn the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface; you don’t want to deflate it. It’ll lose a bit of volume, but don’t actively punch it down. Use a well-floured surface and a bowl scraper, bench knife, or your fingers to divide the dough in half. You should have two fat logs, each about 10″ long x 4″ wide.

Handling the dough gently, transfer each piece to the baking sheet, laying them down crosswise on the sheet. Position them about 2 1/2″ from the edge of the pan, leaving about 4″ between each log.

Dip your fingers in flour and dimple loaves and dust tops with flour.

Lightly cover the dough with heavily oiled plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until almost doubled.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

You’ll see that the dimples have filled in somewhat, but haven’t entirely disappeared. Spritz the risen loaves with lukewarm water and put the pan in the oven on a center rack. Before you close the oven door, spray water on the hot oven floor to make a nice crust on the bread. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For extra-crispy loaves: 

  • When they’re done baking, turn off the oven. Remove the loaves from the baking sheet, and place them on the oven rack, propping the oven door open a couple of inches with a folded-over potholder. Allow the loaves to cool completely in the oven. Remove to cooling racks.



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