Friday, April 11, 2014

Pizza Steel - Round Number Successful!

I finally got GREAT pizza crust.  Done on top and bottom, in only 7 minutes, and with airy bubbles in the middle. --And this airy crust, not just at the edges, but all the way to the center of the pie.  

This latter trait is something I've been striving for more recently, having noted it as a goal in many of the pizza crust making articles I've read.  This started me looking at my crusts, which often seemed airy on the untopped and thicker edge, but more compressed and wettish on the rest.  It didn't look wonderful, just studying it, but, frankly, it didn't really have a noticeably negative effect on the taste or eating experience.  But still, I wanted it all, and maybe I was missing something in the experience I just didn't know about yet!

The best photo I have of the compressed crust.   I
hadn't taken many profile shots of the crust.  It just wasn't pretty.

Sooo...what was different this last time?  

It's funny to realize that impatience uncovered that, probably, patience is the key.

I actually had a little time on my hands at mid-afternoon.  I meant only to set the bucket of dough out of the fridge, as I've come to think that it being closer to room temperature may lead to a better rise.  But I was impatient, and wanted something to do, so started in on making the pizzas early.

I placed balls of dough on parchment, and let them rest, while I placed the steel in the oven (on the rack, 2nd position from the top, as instructed).  I turned the oven to its hottest setting (550 degrees), and used the mode with full bottom and full top heat.  On the Gaggenau oven's display, this is shown with a black line in 3 sections across the top and bottom.

Last week's Chicken Garlic with White Sauce

I then set in spreading the dough, making the sauce, and preparing the toppings.  I assembled the pizzas.

The oven was still coming to temperature, and the pizzas were ready to go... The oven would take a bit longer to heat the stone, and the family would be even longer in arriving home to eat after sports practices and such.  So I went away and busied myself otherwise for well over an hour.

When ready to bake, I switched the oven to
500 degrees, and full bottom heat, partial top heat.  

Right away, I saw a good 'pop.'  There was an immediate rise and bubbles formed in the crust.  I could see active bubbling inside the translucent crust bubbles!  It's hard to describe and impossible to get photos of to share with you.

I found that the oven loses heat pretty quickly... I got a significant drop (like 50 - 75 degrees) when I put in pizzas or took them out.  This meant I had to wait between each pizza for the oven to regain heat.  This would be a big problem during a sports team pizza feed.  But for every-Friday pizza night, it's a small annoyance.

My impatience at starting the pizzas taught me that patience, in letting them rest and rise, is the key.  Funny that I needed to do this, when pizzerias, and most pizza crust recipes, don't have a long rise time.  As for the difference in experience, the taste is the same, but the light crunch over the lighter interior is nice.  

Not that I'm fully done experimenting, but I'm pretty happy, for the second week in a row, with this kind of result:

 Tonight's Sausage-Mushroom-Onion with Classic Red Sauce

Monday, March 31, 2014

I Might Need my Sunglasses...

...the light at the end of the tunnel is getting so bright!

The carpet is in...

the bedroom:

and the living room:

And other things are coming together, too!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Still Here...

Sorry to have disappeared for so long!  We have been hit here with virus after virus.  One of the worst, which many in our area seem to be fighting, is a bad respiratory bug which comes with any nasty combination of fever, aches, chills, headache, congestion, and rattly cough.  The misery lasts the better part of a week, then wanes, leaving the nasty cough, but then hits again the 3rd week, sometimes nastier than Round 1!  Some we know have had 3 rounds.  I have avoided it, but all of the kids, including Prince Grandbaby, haven't been so lucky.

For our kids, Round 2 brought renewed fever, sore throats, and more congestion, which led to intense ear aches and/or sinus infections.  It is odd for older kids to get ear infections, but our pediatricians' office has been inundated with similar cases.  Prince CuddleBunny has had such full ears, he can barely hear, but didn't suffer too much pain.  Princesses Eager and Sassy weren't as fortunate when it came to the pain, but haven't been as deaf.  The nurse practitioner said the prince may not notice improvement in his hearing for 2 to 3 weeks after starting antibiotics.  It's been 10 days now, and one ear temporarily cleared this morning --he was so excited!  A little light at the end of the tunnel.

Add to all of that, spring sports started this week, and simultaneously, a new bug showed itself.  So far, thankfully, the stomach flu has only attacked Prince Go-for-It.  It was especially sad for him...  For years, he's looked forward to playing on the high school baseball team. He's worked so hard, daily, for months, to make sure he was in top shape and had his skills honed.  Then BAM.  Day of all days for it to happen, he ended up in the nurse's office at school with fever, nausea, stomach and other other body aches on the first day of team tryouts.  When I picked him up, we drove through the mob of excited and eager baseball players headed to an unexpectedly sunny field... but the prince could only go home to crawl into bed.  He persevered through the next 2 days of tryouts, though, and made the team roster.  Whew!  Far from 100%, though, he's back in bed now, resting up between school and a later practice.

I hope you're all staying warm and healthy!  This has been a new meaning of "March roaring in like a lion" for us.  I'm ready for the lambish part!


I wrote the part of this post you've read above on March 6th! That gives you an idea of how my month is going.  I was going to post it then, but I thought, "Why is this helpful to anyone?" and decided to add a picture of something that really helped the kids get through some of their misery.  Now, on March 20th, I finally have a photo of that item and am determined to finish this post!

This, believe it or not, is IT.

A beauty, eh?  Well, to kids with sore muscles and earaches, it was.  We have, somewhere, a long, cylindrically-shaped, bean-bag-type pad, for lack of a better description, that can be heated in the microwave to use to soothe muscle cramps, etc.  It is often used by the girls for monthly discomfort.  Well, as many things go around here, it is often missing when most needed.  Prince Go-for-It was miserable with body aches, and was asking for that AWOL pad.  This time I eschewed the possibly fruitless search and decided to make one.  If we find the other, I'm sure we'll appreciate having 2.

I went to the sewing area and searched for some tightly woven, sturdy, but flexible and comfortable fabric.  I spied the lower leg of a former pair of jeans that had been cut off below a hole in the knee.  Perfect fabric for this use, and already sewn into an open-ended tube. 

1) I turned it inside-out and sewed across one open end... a couple of times, for strength.  

2) I turned it right-side-out again, and went to the pantry, where I filled it with barley and, because I didn't want to use all the barley, some spelt grain, until it was shaped like a pillow.  

3) I made sure to stop filling with enough fabric free to enable me to sew the top firmly closed... Which is what I did next.  (If I'd had some dried lavender, it would've made a great addition to the filling for a pleasant and soothing odor, too.)  

So in less than 5 minutes, followed by a minute or two in the microwave, we had a new heating pad, soothing Prince Go-for-it's aching lower back and neck.  Later in the week, it was appreciated by Princess Sassy for help with her aching ears.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

New Family Fave...SO Easy!

Thanks to Slow Cooker Root Beer Pulled Pork Sandwiches  posted on Six Sisters' Stuff, we have a new addition to the list of favorite meals around here.  The family has requested it be a weekly dinner-- with plenty of leftovers for impromptu meals and snacks at other times.

With prior fails, I am still wary of Crock-Pot recipes.  But recent successes have made me braver at trying new ones.  

No Crock-Pot?  No worries.  See note at the end of this post.
This recipe was just too intriguing --with "Root Beer" in the title (yum!)-- and too easy --with only 3 ingredients and relatively no prep-- to pass up.

I threw 2 pork sirloin tip roasts (from Costco @ $1.99/pound), totaling just over 4 pounds, into my Crock-Pot.  I then poured in 12 ounces of root beer, and turned the crockpot to low for 7 or 8 hours.

After that time, following the directions given by Six Sisters, I removed the pork (for the most part, in pieces, because it was so well cooked and tender), and discarded the root beer.  

I shredded the pork and returned it to the now empty Crock-Pot  then stirred in 18 ounces of our favorite (**no-high-fructose-corn-syrup) barbecue sauceStubb's Sweet Heat Bar-B-Q Sauce.   It seemed a little drier than I wanted, so I changed the original recipe here, by adding approximately 1/2 cup of water to the empty bottle to swirl out any remaining sauce, and adding all to the pork mixture.

Inspired by the new Beef Brisket Sandwich at Costco, I served this on a toasted (homemade) bun spread with mayo, plus shredded cabbage and carrot mixture. (Prepared cole slaw, as served on the Beef Brisket Sandwich, would work, too.)  This adds a fresh and crisp element to the sandwich, as well as being a good way to sneak in some healthy veggies.

I am not a huge pork fan, nor a big fan of barbecue sauce. I figured it would be OK for my barbecue-sauce-loving family, even if I chose to make it only for nights I wasn't going to be able to be home for dinner.  As it turns out, I don't have to save this for nights I'm away.  I love it, too!!  --Better yet, it makes for a decent meal to take my dad, and he, who rarely comments about what I serve him, said, "You sure make a dandy burger!"  :-D

If you don't have a Crock-Pot, you can still make this recipe.  I had 4 roasts I needed to cook in one day, and wanted some pork mixture to freeze for quick meals when needed by athletes and those who work during dinner hours.  So I put 2 of the roasts in the Crock-Pot  and the remaining 2, with root beer, into my 6-quart porcelain lined cast iron pot, put on the lid, and did the slow cooking in the oven at 275 degrees for the same 7 to 8 hour span.  (Same method I used for Beer-Onion Soup Mix Pot Roast.)  At the 5 to 6-hour point, the roasts looked a little dry on top, so I turned them over.  After cooking, I discarded the root beer, shred the meat, and added the barbecue sauce, as above.

**Note to myself and to others concerned with this issue: 
I made the effort to find a barbecue sauce without high fructose corn syrup, but the root beer I used, and also, the ketchup I've always used to make my homemade barbecue sauce both have high fructose corn syrup.  Time to find new brands for both.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Pizza Steel, Round 2

I tried everything at once!  

I know that's not very scientific, because now I don't know which ingredient or method got me which result.  But I just wanted some great pizza... and I wanted it NOW.

1) A few hours ahead of pizza-baking time, I added a couple teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon yeast, dissolved in a minimal amount of water to my dough bucket, and left it sit at room temperature.

2) When I turned on the oven to preheat, I didn't wait to form my pizzas, but did it right away, so they could rest and rise while the oven and Baking Steel heated for 45 minutes to an hour.

3) Just before putting in the first pizza, I turned the oven to Broil for several minutes.  

4) When I put in the pizza, I returned the oven mode to Bake.  But after several minutes of baking, when the bottom crust seemed brown enough, I turned it back to Broil to finish the top.

5) I left it on Broil when I took out Pizza #1 to repeat the method for the next pizza.


GREAT "pop" of the crust... Quick rise and some bubbles formed just after putting the pizzas in the oven....and a browned bottom crust!

But, alas.... sigh... even though the pizza was browned, it was on the soft and bready side, instead of lightly crispy-crusty like we wanted.

That's the advantage of our weekly Pizza Night... It's not too long before we try again and hope to do better.  So... More later!

You might also be interested in Pizza Steeling, First Try

Friday, February 14, 2014

Pizza Steeling, First Try

You may remember that I mentioned wanting to try the Baking Steel in my most recent pizza baking post.  Well, last week, I was honored and blessed to receive it as a "because-I-want-to" gift from a friend!

She'd told me it was coming, and the whole family was intrigued and excited.  I got a text from Princess Sassy while visiting my dad:  "Something came for you today.  It's not very big, but it's HEAVY.  Maybe your pizza steel?!  :-)"

Yep!  So, last Friday was its maiden voyage.

It didn't arrive looking like this... It was beautiful and clean.
I just forgot to take its picture!

I'd read and received a few tips about using the steel, but figured I'd start with the directions that came in the box:  Preheat the oven and steel to 500 degrees for at least 45 minutes, placing the steel on a rack in the 2nd from the top position in the oven.

Since the blogs I'd read, praising the stone, mentioned baking times like 5 minutes to a slightly charred pizza and a very noticeable "Pop" or quick rise of the dough, I was disappointed that our first pizza took over 12 minutes, and was still looking pretty white, and not at all puffy.  

The crust was very delicately crispy on the outside, though, and the family was declaring the Baking Steel a winner.

For pizza #2 I tried one of the tips I'd read most often... Turn the oven to broil for a few minutes, then back to bake, just before putting the pizza on the stone.  That, however, also didn't seem to improve browning, rising, or timing.

My crust was just not browning, especially evident around the edges on top.  I wondered if it may be the recipe.  Sugar in the dough might help it brown, but I haven't had to do that before.  Even though the dough rises nicely in the bucket through the week, boosting the dough with a bit of yeast might help?  Or maybe making sure to bring the dough to room temperature before baking?  I'm not sure.  

More testing to be done!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Passing the Cue

For a recent post, Katie at Domestiphobia took a cue from a post by The Bloggess who took her cue from a Facebook meme...

So I thought I'd 'play' for a fun little diversion.

The original meme said this:

Pick up the nearest book to you, and turn it to page 45. The first sentence explains your love life.

The nearest book to me, sitting on my computer desk, is Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier.

The first sentence on page 45 is:

"The Plan is the generator."

Upon reading this, and not seeing much romance or depth in it, Katie suggested we all rule out non-fiction and kids' books, and search out a fiction book instead.  Trying to mess with fate by changing the rules, however, is not always a wise idea... My nearest fiction book was The Rosie Project, and the first sentence on its page 45 is

"A small crowd gathered and it occurred to me that another thug might arrive, so I needed to work out a way of freeing up a hand without releasing the original two thugs."

Although, this just might describe how dealing with life's happenings feels sometimes, with bills, illnesses, and overlapping schedules as the 'thugs,' I'm sticking with

"The Plan is the generator."

I'm not sure this pertains at all to my love life, though.  Unless it indicates that the plan for the garage generated an unimaginable lot of work and mess, thus making my love life practically non-existent.  LOL... and a slightly sad sigh.  ;-)

As with nearly everything, in no time, I over-thought this, and found a connection in this statement for the rest of my life.  This, I realize, again alters the original rules, but since I am a Christian, who believes that God governs my life instead of fate, I am OK with that.  I know that looking too far into any random statement can come dangerously similar to allowing horoscopes or fortune cookies to alter my outlook, so I should tread with care.  But I also think that any reminder I can use to stay on the right track is a good thing.  

-- Ack! You now have witnessed a bit of the overthinking thing in action... And maybe a bit of my ability to find depth where, perhaps, none was intended, and to basically suck the fun out of a simple activity.


First of all, with all the building that goes on around here, we deal with a lot of plans.  I am the one who drafts the plans, and Hubby is usually the one to make it happen.  So that's definitely a connection to our everyday lives, and also, how our relationship works.

More importantly, though, the first thing that struck me in the sentence, is that Plan is capitalized, where it seems that, grammatically, it shouldn't be?  But for me, that points toward the Lord's plan, which deserves a big P.  --Both His grand Plan for all of humanity, and His special part for me.  I am thankful He cares enough about me to have one, and have been focusing a lot lately on doing the tasks that will help me accomplish His priorities on a daily basis.  

I have been thinking, especially, about exactly what my job and calling are, since I wrote Interpreting my Dream way back in May.  I came to a partial conclusion about what my life's dream, or calling is...are they the same?... but recently realized I have more coming.  Which also means I'll have more to say about it later.

Meanwhile, if you want to play, too...Grab the book nearest you and reply to this post with the first sentence from page 45.  Does it apply to you at all?

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