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pizza friday.. with vampires!

November 7, 2010

Well, there weren’t quite as many sparkly vampires as I had been expecting, but we did get some werewolf action in their place.

As has been documented previously on this blog, Jessica and I often get together on Friday evenings after work for tea, dinner, scones, and long conversations about Life, the Universe, and our respective neuroses. Since I’d been having dinner out an unusually high proportion of the time recently and expected that to continue over the weekend, I invited Jessica over to our apartment for a movie night, which is something we haven’t done in a couple of months.

Although I have never discussed it with her before, Jessica and I seem to have an unspoken rule that when she visits I will make her something fun and non-Japanese for dinner, such as tacos with fresh corn tortillas, pizza, Belizean stewed chicken, beans & tortillas, Asian lettuce wraps, etc; whereas when I visit her she will prepare me her take on traditional Japanese dishes, such as nabe, hiyashi chuukamen, chirashi-zushi, etc. This works out very well, in my opinion, and lets us play to our individual strengths and share them with each other.

I’d recently acquired some fresh mozzarella at an import store on my way home from work, so I decided that it would be a good time to have another Pizza Friday.

I woke up a little earlier than usual on Friday morning so that I could knead up a batch of pizza dough, and still have time to feed Eric and I breakfast and make it to my weekly Group Power class before work. It was a little tight, but in the end I managed.

Halfway through the day Eric informed me that his usual Friday evening group was not going to meet up this week, so I had to modify my original plan to make one Margherita pizza and a salad for Jessica and myself to split so that there would be enough for him to eat as well.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to top my second pizza with, but as luck would have it I had just roasted up some eggplants and made a batch of Baba Ghanoush the night before, so I decided to go vaguely Middle Eastern and pair my Baba Ghanoush with Beyaz Peynir (a salty Turkish cheese similar to feta) from the Halal store in Takadanobaba.

After a quick vote I also included a few sliced mushrooms on the Baba Ghanoush pizza. The Margherita was pretty standard with a quick tomato paste/olive oil sauce, balls of fresh mozzarella cheese, and plenty of basil leaves. I included slivers of garlic under the cheese to keep the vampires away.

The pizzas both turned out fantastic. Jessica was especially pleased with the Baba Ghanoush version, so I’m very happy that things turned out they way they did in the end. After we ate we settled in to watch our movie, which, if you haven’t guessed by now, turned out to be Twilight: New Moon.

..now before you get the wrong idea here I have to explain the reasoning behind our selection.

Prior to the release of the first Twilight movie, Jessica confessed to me that she had read the books many years before (Jessica reads like it’s going out of style, one of the things I love about her) and was morbidly curious about how it would translate to the big screen. Not one to pass up potential hilarity, I proposed a movie night later on after the film had been released so that she wouldn’t have to brave the theater alone.

We made a theme night out of it, complete with garlic pizza and bright red sangria, and proceeded to laugh ourselves giddy as the movie unfolded in a manner that exceeded even our highest expectations of implausibility. We quickly followed that up with another movie night dedicated to viewing Interview with the Vampire.

Both of our vampire themed evenings were a lot of fun, but I don’t think we’ve managed another movie night since then (despite much talk of a Wayne’s World night that was forgotten until halfway through this week’s party).

This time around we convinced Eric to stick around for the first 10 minutes of New Moon with the promise of hilarity, but it turns out that the second movie has nowhere -near- the level of ridiculousness that the first one managed to reach. It was still amusing and good for a laugh, but we were surprised to learn that it actually had a bit of cohesiveness that had been absent from the previous installment. There were also a lot less vampires.

Eric bravely stayed with us until the end, despite his initial protestations (he claims to be incapable of leaving a movie once he’s started watching), and was kind enough to play bartender and mix us up some pomegranate cocktails halfway through.

We ended the evening with a slightly modified version of the Chai-Spiced Amaranth Pudding that I had been meaning to try for a while and decided to throw together at the last minute on my way home from work.

Jessica and I liked it (especially with the salty pistachio brittle topping I made to go along with it) but it was a bit too grainy for Eric’s tastes. The amaranth smelled a lot like corn meal, and had a remarkably familiar taste that I could not place for the life of me.

All in all it was a very fun evening, and the perfect way to start an eventful weekend jam-packed with friends, food, and fun.

Baba Ghanoush

400 g eggplant (about 4 Japanese eggplants)
60 g tahini or sesame paste
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cilantro
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & black pepper to taste

Prick the eggplants with a fork and roast at 180°C (350°F) for about 40 minutes or until completely soft. When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, chop them roughly and place them in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients.

Pulse until it reaches the desired consistency. This recipe makes about 400 grams of Baba Ghanoush, and should last for up to a week in the fridge. It’s perfect along with vegetable sticks, crackers or pita chips, or as a spread for wraps, sandwiches, or on pizza.

**note: you can remove the skins prior to processing the eggplant for a smoother consistency, but I find this unnecessary and leave them on. I have also tried roasting the eggplants over a stove burner prior to finishing in the oven for a deeper smoky flavor, but it is not necessary if you are pressed for time or worried about setting off the fire alarm.

Half Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

(based on Peter Reinhart‘s method from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice)

125 ml lukewarm water
100 g high-gluten white flour
90 g whole wheat pastry flour
10 g vital wheat gluten
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt

I have experimented with several blends of flours and this combination has yielded my favorite results so far, though I still consider this dough a work in progress. The vital wheat gluten is optional, but I like to use it when making bread and pizza to offset the addition of whole wheat flour and improve the texture. The amount needed will vary depending on the percentage of gluten in the flour. If you chose to leave the gluten out, use 100 g each of the flours.

Combine flours, gluten, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil and water, and mix with your hands or a spatula until the dough begins to come together.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead with your hands for about 5-7 minutes, or until it becomes smooth, soft, and elastic. You may need to adjust the amount of flour or water depending on the humidity, but try to avoid using excess flour. The dough should remain slightly loose and sticky to the touch.

When the dough is smooth and elastic, pull the sides down and tuck under to form a tight ball. Place the ball in an oiled bowl, cover with a slightly dampened towel, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into two portions. The dough can be used at this point, but for optimal results seal in pre-oiled zip-topped bags and let rise in the fridge overnight to let the flavors develop fully. If you are pressed for time and preparing the dough in advance you can skip the first rise and refrigerate the dough directly after kneading.

Remove the dough from the fridge two hours prior to use. Let it come to room temperature on the counter for about one hour, then remove from the bag, shape with a rolling-pin or your fingers, and let sit covered for a further 20-30 m while the oven is preheating before adding toppings. Bake for about 10 m at 210°C (400°F ) or as high as your oven will go.

The dough can be kept for about 3-5 days in the fridge, or frozen for later use. Makes two 25-30 cm thin crust Italian style pizzas.

**note: if using a pizza stone (which you really should) then be sure to liberally coat your peel with cornmeal prior to laying down and topping the dough so that it will slide easily from the peel onto the preheated pizza stone.

All attempts to capture Jessica’s image failed, leading me to suspect that she may, in fact, be a vampire herself.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2010 10:24 pm

    Interesting info about the high gluten flour! I was going to ask why you used it :) And the pizzas turned out beautiful- YUM!

    • November 9, 2010 10:00 am

      Those pizzas were sure good! I think I’ll have to try making your crust since mine can lack elasticity at times. And I did really like the pudding but I’ve been munching like crazy on the pistachio brittle since Friday. Man that stuff is addictive.

      I’m still annoyed that there weren’t more sparkly vampires to make fun of (maybe the garlic scared them away!) We’ll have to watch the third one whenever it comes out (and I’m sure Eric won’t want to miss it when we do).

      Also, I’m surprised it took you so long to figure out my secret!!

      • November 9, 2010 10:01 am

        Oops, hit the wrong “reply” link!

      • November 9, 2010 5:16 pm

        It’s all about the gluten! Well, that and the kneading, and overnight rise. Those all contribute to more well-developed gluten which is where you get your elasticity.

        I love bread science. :D

        I have been trying to avoid the leftover brittle. Something about its exact combination of sweet, salty, and fat makes it hard to resist. o.o

        (I should have realized earlier, what with your paleness and newfound fondness for katsuo blood >_>)

        • November 10, 2010 3:36 pm

          Seriously, that pistachio brittle is as dangerous as peanut M&M’s!

          And I wondered how long it would take you to catch on. Luckily you invited me into your house early on in our friendship!

          • November 10, 2010 7:31 pm

            It’s all so clear now! The ploy about needing a place to stay while apartment hunting… Your refusal to leave work before dark…!

    • November 9, 2010 5:10 pm

      Thanks! :D

      Gluten is what gives breads and pizza crusts their structure and elasticity. It’s important to use a high-gluten flour and develop that gluten through kneading so that it can be rolled out to the proper thinness and has that awesome chewiness once it’s finished. It also helps give the finished pizza crust extra lift and airiness in the oven.

      As a rule, whole grain flours require more gluten and more kneading to achieve the same level of development present in refined flour doughs, which is why I like to add it. It also helps to offset the use of pastry flour, which is lower in gluten content than bread flour. I originally tried a WW bread flour/high-gluten white flour mix, but the pastry flour yields better results for me. :D

  2. November 9, 2010 10:41 pm

    The pizzas look truly delicious…

    …but there is nothing on the face of this Earth that could convince me to watch a Twilight movie or read the books. Not even for hilarity’s sake. Nope.

    BUT, I appreciate a good theme night. Well done!

    • November 10, 2010 12:52 pm

      The pizzas were quite delicious, though the social nature of the evening and number of pizzas meant that I didn’t get to eat them as fresh from the oven as I would have preferred.

      I honestly think that the first Twilight movie is worth the watch for the level of sheer ridiculousness it reaches. It just keeps surpassing your expectations as it progresses. There was one point about 2 or 3 cocktails in when I managed to predict the exact dialogue and delivery of the next line that sent Jessica and I over the edge for about 10m. hah.

      No loss on skipping movie 2, though.

  3. November 10, 2010 3:20 am

    Your blog is just gorgeous. The photos tell a story, and I love that!! :)

    • November 10, 2010 1:47 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      I am crazy in love with photography, but I don’t have enough experience to be confident in my abilities quite yet. Your blog has been one of my absolute favorites for a while and I really admire your photography, so this comment just totally made my whole day. :)

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