Sunday, March 4, 2012

Food: No Knead Pizza Dough

When the new Bon Appetit arrived it had a tasty looking pizza on the cover. I'll be the first one to admit that for the most part, pizza that comes out of the home oven doesn't taste very good. I'd say the one exception is Grandma or "Nonna" style pizza, which is meant to be made in a home oven. That, however, is a post for another day.

Imagine my skepticism when I saw that pizza with "no knead" in the caption below it. "It's gonna suck," I thought. My one kernel of hope, was that Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery authored this particular recipe. His book "My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method" has been getting props for its easy to make recipes. I felt that if he was willing to put his name on it, it had to at least be decent.

I've attached a link to the recipe here, so I don't have to rehash the whole thing. Here are some accompanying pictures to show what my results were.

After 18 Hours (yeasty frothy goodness)

 Dumped out and ready to divide

Dough Balls

Finished Mushroom and Red Onion Pizza

Here are some notes from my experience:
  • When you initially mix everything together it will be lumpy. Don't worry. That's the way it looks.
  • The recipe calls for 18 or more hours. I found that 18 hours was plenty, but I also put the mixture in the warmest room in my house. At this time of year, a cold house might mean a longer ferment.
  • I use a Lodge caster iron pizza pan because I can move it around in the oven instead of fumbling with a pizza stone. Start the pizza away from the broiler for the first five minutes. When things look like there pretty close to being done, move the pizza up to the broiler. I find this method leads to a more tender crust with a good amount of char. Too much time under the broiler dries out the dough and makes it tough.
  • I go fresh mozzarella on this one just because it has a tendency to not brown as easily as the other stuff. I've had good results with Maplebrook out of Vermont, it not in brine and doesn't release as much moisture. (It also doesn't keep as long, so you have to use it quickly.)
  • I don't make sauce. Use whatever plum tomatoes you prefer and simply crush them with your hands (blending cracks the seeds and makes things bitter). I add sea salt to taste.  Done.
For oven made pizza it's a very good recipe. When you consider this is about as close to "so easy a caveman could do it" as you can get, it's a slam dunk.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cleveland: Sweetie Fry

I've been to Sweetie Fry a number of times in the last few months. At first I was a little confused in terms of what they had to offer - ice cream and fries. This is certainly an odd combination since they both seem to fall off of different branches of the guilty pleasure tree. I've seen odd combinations work before in the food world and decided to keep an open mind.

On my first visit I admittedly had a bad attitude. *What can I say? It happpens*  Businesses that deal in food that don't have websites grate on my nerves. Facebook is not a website. Twitter is not a website. I don't need music, Flash, or any of that stuff - actually it prefer they not - but a well put together, simple, clean website makes one hell of a first impression.

At any rate, I ordered the Parmesan and Truffle Oil Fries. I watched the guy in the back freshly grating  chunks of Parmesan he had just cut off of a huge wheel. He calls out the order in the back of the dining area when they're ready.  As is typically with truffle oil, you can usually smell it but can't really taste it. With something like Parmesan there's virtually no chance of tasting the oil. I think they could easily ditch the oil and just go straight cheese. At $8.75, it certainly represents the high end of their fry offerings.

On my second visit I just went with the plain fries (around $5) and I have to say that I think I like these more than the truffle oil version. The fries themselves are very robust in terms of size, yet very crispy. I don't recall having any soggy nastiness in the basket. If you're in the mood, I think you should give them a try.

On my last few visits I've gone with the ice cream. My biggest complaint is that the ice cream itself is not visible to the customer. I'm sure there's a reason for it, but I don't know what it is. You basically have to look at the list on the chalkboard and then place your order.I can honestly say that every single ice cream store I've ever been to displays their ice cream in some manner. I order with my eyes. I can't help but to think that this hinders sales to some extent. I think this system also paralyzes already overwhelmed first timers.

For the most part the ice cream at SF is above average. Sure there has been the stray ice crystals here and there, but I think it's some pretty creamy stuff. I actually think their ice cream improves considerably after you let it soften up for about five minutes. My favorite is the Maple Bacon. Maple ice cream is very difficult to make so that it has a strong maple taste - this one delivers. I'm actually so impressed with it's overall flavor I'd like to seem the ditch the bacon for something like walnuts, the maple flavor is that good.

Sweetie Fry is just a young pup. Since my first visit last fall they have added a website.It's pretty down and dirty and just gives hours of operation and location. On the plus side, it's not of Geocities circa 1997 quality; they've kept it simple and consistent with their color palette and store design.

If you find yourself in the Cedar Lee neighborhood, you owe it to yourself to stop in and give it a try. While there are some things I'd like to see them change, it really is a high level of execution on both the fries and the ice cream. It's a great little location that is already very popular with the neighborhood. Sweetie Fry will no doubt be hopping come spring and summer.

Sweetie Fry
2307 Lee Rd.
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-2300

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