Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Puffy Pizza and Planes

Gah, no update in so long! Didja miss me? Barcelona was SO FUN!!! But more on that later. When we last left Gillianasana...

I'll be honest, Thursday did not begin well. You may remember my Easter morning surprise when I woke up to find my face swollen to 10 times its normal size. I suspect it's either a reaction to Italian mosquitoes or something else like bed bugs....EW. Whatever it is, it got me again, and my eyes were swollen shut. As in, I could barely see to walk around the apartment. Thank goodness I had one Italian class left that I could miss. I have pictures...but I'll spare you. I'd hate to spoil anyone's appetite.

What upset me most about this little obstacle was that not only was today my last cooking class (*tear*), but it was the class focused on my true carb love, bread. And not just any bread....pizza dough!!!! Yes, today we made pizza from scratch. I was not about to miss this, swollen eyes or not. By the time class rolled around it had gone done a little, so I threw on my big sunglasses and was out the door. 

We all split up into 5 groups - 4 pizzas and 1 dessert. My group went with a veggie pizza - eggplant, zucchini, and mozzarella with garlic and tomato sauce. It was fantastically easy, too - my family better be ready for some pizza a la ME!

We started with the basic bread recipe - flour, water, yeast, a little salt and a pinch of sugar. *Tip*: you always use half the amount of flour for the water. Like, if you have 300 grams of flour, you use 150 ml of water. You melt the yeast in the water first and add the pinch of sugar - the sugar helps activate the yeast to move things along quicker. Mix the flour and salt together and form what I call the flour volcano - bascially make a hole in the middle of the flour pile so the flour forms a kind of wall . Pour some of the water/yeast mixture into the hole and start gently working them together - we used a fork to do this, kind of making a whipping/beating motion. Eventually it will be juuust well-mixed enough to start kneading with your hands.  Add a little olive oil, white wine, and vinegar as you knead to keep the bread from drying out. After about 10 minutes, form the dough into a ball and make an X in the top; let it rest for about 2 more minutes, then work it a liiittle bit more, then reform the ball, remark the X, and let it rest again under a damp paper towel for about 10 minutes. When your 10 minutes are up, roll it out with a rolling pin on both sides - it will probably be a funky shape, not a perfect circle. Personally, I think that makes it more interesting. Just sayin.

For veggie pizzas, the veggies MUST be sauteed at least a little before being put on the pizza and baked. Veggies are mostly made of water, and if you throw em on there raw, they will release their water onto the pizza while baking and the end result is heavy and very hard to eat - no wimpy pizzas!!! We sauteed our eggplant and zucchini in some olive oil and garlic (hard to go wrong with that combo). For the sauce, we just used pureed tomatoes and heated it up, adding a little (what else?) olive oil. Ladel it in small amount in the middle of the rolled out pizza dough and swirl it around with the bottom of the ladel. Repeat this just until it's covered - don't oversauce! I promise, there will be enough, even if you like sauce. Just put the ladel down.

Add your sauteed veggies and cheeeeeeese:
And throw it in the oven for baby and me about 20 minutes-ish at 215 Celsius, about 415 degrees Fahrenheit. E voila!
Have you ever seen such a beautiful sight?

Ours was my favorite I think. The crust was the perfect thick/thinness, there was just enough sauce, not too much cheese and the veggies gave texture and taste that made this probably some of the best pizza ever.

Another group made a Margherita pizza, which is fresh tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. I liked it, but I think I prefer tomato sauce to straight tomatoes.

Then there was a [mostly] white pizza with mozzarella, parmesan, prosciutto and I believe mushrooms. I LOVE parmesan on pizza. It gives it such a good bite. This was probably my second fave.
The last group topped theirs with potatoes and rosemary. I liked it, but I didn't love it; the textures of the bread and potatoes didn't work as well together for me. I would rather have them separate, I suppose. 

We kept it simple with dessert - stuffed peaches. They're finally in season here, and they were cut open, de-pitted and stuffed with a mixture of chopped almonds, brown sugar, egg yolk, cocoa powder

It was a very tasty little bite. The peaches were a little too underripe I think, but the filling was AWESOME. Like a really good biscotti - crumbly, sweet, almondy. Would actually be really good on oatmeal, methinks...
And no pizza is complete without wine, right? A very light white. My puffy self was grateful.
[I kept my sunglasses on the entire class. I'm sure everyone thinks I'm insane. Don't care.]

After that, it was a mad rush to GET OUT of the house and get our butts to Barcelona!! My roommate from school is studying there this semester and I was soo excited to see her :) After that the day started getting better (even though the puffiness didn't fully reside until late the next day...eek). I won't go into details about the rest of my Thursday, because, um, OY VEH. 
Barcelona - get ready. The ladies of The Palace are coming.


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