Martha+Tom

Sheet pan pizza 2022

Pizza making around here follows an annual cycle. Since getting a portable, outdoor pizza oven, summers are devoted to Neapolitan-style pies. But in winter, when it’s too cold for the outdoor oven (I found that the Ooni struggles to stay hot enough when it’s below 20º out, plus who wants to walk out there?) we switch to focaccia or Sicilian-style pizza baked in a half-sheet pan.

My dough recipe has evolved, but all versions have adhered to some general principles. I make a very wet since it gets baked in a pan and doesn’t have to be shaped by hand or slid off a peel. A kilogram of dough is the right amount to fill a half-sheet pan.

For last year’s version of pan pizza, I would mix almost equal masses of water and flour with salt and a very small amount of yeast and let that ferment overnight in the refrigerator before panning and baking it the next day.

But that all changed this fall after I made Andrew Janjigian’s Sicilian Slab pizza recipe. This is one you really should try — it makes this fluffy, pillowy pizza — almost a cross between a pizza and a doughnut.

The Slab pizza recipe is very good, but it was a little too sweet and not quite as chewy as what I like to eat on a regular basis. But the key thing I learned from that recipe is that I could do away with the overnight fermentation and make the dough the same day as I planned to bake the pizza.

For the current recipe, I mix together:

  • 515 g bread flour
  • 485 g water (94 percent hydration)
  • 11 g salt
  • A few teaspoons yeast (I just eyeball this)

Once all the flour is incorporated, I let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Then I stretch the dough out and fold it over itself in four directions and let it rest another half hour. I’ll repeat this a fewe times as time allows. If I start the dough around 1 p.m., it’s in good shape to pan around 5.

About putting it in the pan: I prepare a half-sheet pan by spraying it with cooking spray and brushing it with olive oil — using a lot of olive oil gives the bottom of the crust a texture like fried dough, if you’re in the mood for that. After a final 30 minute rest, I turn the dough out on to a well floured counter and stretch and pat it into a rectangle.

I carefully lift the dough rectangle into the sheet pan, pour on more olive oil, and then lightly stretch and dimple it out to near the edges of the pan (it will resist going all the way to the corners). I let that rest another half hour, then use my fingertips to again dimple the dough out to the edges of the pan. From there it’s ready to top and bake in a 500ºF preheated oven, preferably with a stone or steel in it (I use both stacked on top of each other), for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese looks as brown as I like.

Speaking of toppings, I make a variant of the crushed tomato sauce from Peter Reinhart’s American Pie (actually, I thought it was exactly his recipe, but having looked back at it recently I realized I’ve diverged):

  • A 14oz can of crushed tomatoes, or a can of whole tomatoes that you puree in the food processor or with a stick blender
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • A splash of red wine vinegar
  • A splash of olive oil
  • A minced garlic clove

Just stir it all together and spread it on the pie — no need to cook it, since it’s about to go in a very hot oven.

For cheese, we use regular low-moisture whole milk mozzarella.

That’s where things stand with sheet pan pizza now. The weather in Minneapolis is warming up, so it will soon be Ooni season again (I’ve been making my Neapolitan dough with sourdough recipe based on this recipe, also from Andrew Janjigian). But when it cools down again in the fall, we’ll be back to this — or whatever its next iteration is.

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Does anyone else make sloppy joes with minestrone soup?

The first time I ever ate a Manwich sloppy joe, I thought it was so weird — and definitely not a sloppy joe. It’s not that I’m a snob about food the comes out of a can. It was because, growing up, this is how my family made sloppy joes:

  • Cook some minced onion and add ground beef and brown it, then drain the fat.
  • Pour in one can of minestrone soup.
  • Add a healthy squirt each of ketchup and mustard.
  • Cook until the soup is reduced and the mixture is thick enough to hold together on a bun.

The result is very different from the sweet, tomatoey meat mixture that comes out of a Manwich can or that you get from most from-scratch sloppy joe recipes. For most of my adult life, though, I’ve tended to forsake my culinary heritage and instead make “proper” sloppy joes. (Recipes I’ve tried include Sam Sifton’s no-recipe sloppy joe recipe and one in Cook’s Illustrated, and one whose source I can’t remember that involved just tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and spices added to meat cooked with onions.)

But recently, I started thinking fondly back to the sloppy joes of youth. After all, aren’t these the recipes that have made me who I am today? So I cooked a batch. And I’ve got to say: they are really good. They are much less sweet and more meaty than standard joes, and it’s kind of a fun surprise when you encounter a bean or a bit of pasta in your sandwich.

It also got me thinking: Where did this recipe come from? Is this recipe a regional passed on through the generations in my family? (Couldn’t be that many generations, though, since per Wikipedia the sloppy joe was invented in the 1930s.) Or did my grandma just decide to make a recipe from a magazine one day and it stuck? An internet search didn’t yield any quick answers, though some people do apparently make “soupy joes” using various canned soups. (This “Minnesota Sloppy Joe” recipe uses, what else, cream of mushroom soup.)

Does anyone else make sloppy joes with minestrone?

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Glad Våffeldagen

We almost missed observing Våffeldagen this year! I threw together my basic pancake batter and poured that in the waffle iron and the holiday was saved, but if I actually plan ahead, my favorite waffle batter recipe is the yeasted waffles from the March/April 2004 Cook’s Illustrated.

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Why you should know how to make pancakes from scratch

This is not a post about why pancakes made from scratch are better than pancakes made from a mix. Pancake mix is fine. I grew up eating pancakes made from Bisquick, and while I haven’t had a Bisquick pancake in a while, if I did I bet I’d enjoy it a lot.

But I don’t have any Bisquick in the pantry. And what if I wanted a pancake? What if I woke up, groggy, wanting pancakes, only to find just a half cup of mix left in the bottom of the bag? If mix is your only path to pancakes, it means either an early-morning trip to the store or finding something else for breakfast.

But if you know how to make pancakes from scratch, you’re never in this predicament. (Assuming that is, you’re unlikely to be out of flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and soda, eggs, milk and butter. Which is true around here!) This recipe might not make the world’s best pancakes — or even the same pancakes each time. But it does allow me to make pancakes whenever the mood strikes without much thought about the pantry or a trip to the store.

To start, I mix together in a large bowl:

  • Two-ish cups of bread flour or all-purpose flour. We have ours in a big container with a scoop and a heaping scoopful seems about right. You can also mix in a little whole wheat flour or rye flour if you’re feeling fancy (or if that’s the only way you’re going to have enough flour).
  • A half teaspoon of baking soda
  • Two teaspoons of baking powder
  • A third-to-a-half cup of sugar
  • A tablespoon (probably less?) of salt

Then melt two tablespoons of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Whisk in an egg and add … a quantity, maybe 2 or 3 cups? of milk. (Buttermilk is even better. And in a pinch, you can water down some yogurt or sour cream. Or reconstituted powdered milk.) Better to go with a lower amount at first — it’s easy to add liquid later to get the right consistency.

Whisk that together, then pour it into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix together with a rubber spatula.

This is where some judgment comes in. The batter should be wet enough that when you drop it in the pan it will spread out into a roughly circular shape, but not so wet that it spreads out too thin, like a crepe. It has taken some practice to get this right. One thing I’ve learned recently is that if you want to thin the batter, it’s better to add water than more milk — that makes for lighter pancakes.

From there, it’s standard pancake operating procedure: fry large spoonfuls of batter in a hot pan. Flip when bubbles start to burst on the surface of the batter. I use a cast-iron pan with plenty of oil. The oil gives the pancakes crispy edges (a trick I learned from my father-in-law).

These pancakes were made with a little bit of rye flour.

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All-rye soda bread

Continuing my rye kick, for St. Patrick’s Day I decided to try to make soda bread using only rye flour.

I started from a brown soda bread recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. That recipe called for a roughly fifty-fifty mix of white and whole wheat flours, with some wheat bran also thrown in, and enough buttermilk to equal about 70 percent of the total mass of flours.

Using only rye flour, I found 70 percent hydration way too low — I could barely mix the dough together and there was dry flour everywhere. I ended up with closer to 92 percent as much buttermilk as flour. That seems to be a common issue with rye; I also needed more water than was recommended for a wheat-only crust in the quiche pastry recipe above.

My recipe was, approximately:

  • 286 g rye flour
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 264 g buttermilk

Stirring that together yielded a cohesive, wet dough. I transferred that to a baking sheet with wet hands so the dough wouldn’t stick and patted it into a disk.

After 30 minutes in a 400ºF oven, a cake tester came out clean and it was done.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this since I didn’t really do any research about all-rye soda breads, but it came out pretty well. The texture was very dense, as you would expect with rye. The flavor was sweet and nutty. Soda bread might be an ideal way to put together a rye loaf, since the low gluten content is always going to limit the airiness you get from fermenting a yeasted bread. But I still wanted to experiment with high-rye sourdoughs.

As for the rest of St. Patrick’s Day dinner, it was lamb stew and colcannon:

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