Grilled Pizza- A Summer Twist on an Old Fav

I get that summer is all about grilling hotdogs, hamburgers, steaks, and chops, but grilling takes on a whole new twist when you grill your pizza crust!

In one single swoop you can please anyone!  Meat and non-meat eaters alike. A pizza can be an app or a meal. Just use your imagination!! Your guests can even make their own with a choice of toppings. Grilling a bunch of veggies ahead that you cube or slice make great toppings. An assortment of sliced meats (even sliced hot dogs would work for the kids) along with various cheeses and olives are other toppings that work well.  If you are using sausage or an uncooked meat, be sure that you cook it FIRST Even though it will be heated, the meat will NOT get cooked thoroughly on top of a pizza crust.

Look at Wolfgang Puck who made his pizzas famous by topping them with smoked salmon and cream cheese or crème fraiche. You can even make a dessert pizza by topping the grilled crust with chocolate sauce, fruits and whipped cream. A word of caution, though. DO NOT over fill the pizza with toppings or the fillings will weigh down the pizza and it won’t make it off the grill and onto your plate.

The great thing about pizza crusts is that you can make the crusts ahead of time, and then when you are ready to eat, just top them and heat them on the grill for just a few minutes. Be sure to oil the grill racks well or the pizza dough will stick. Use a low flame and have some patience and the crusts will have that yummy, smoky, wood fired taste.

I am not big on canning, but what I like to do in the summer is make a bunch of grilled individual pizza crusts. I wrap them and freeze them to use anytime I want a smoky pizza throughout the year. I just thaw them, put toppings on and put them in the oven until the toppings are nice and hot. Even when the snow is too high to get to the grill I can still have a grilled pizza.

Home made pizza dough or store bought- it doesn’t matter! These are after all the lazy days of summer…

Chef Gail

Flaky and Loving It

In my opinion the best part of a pie is the crust. The crunchy, buttery, flakes just falling apart as my fork cuts into the crust really excites me! I have been known to not allow guests to actually eat my pie until they see those pretty flakes and appreciate them.

Did you ever wonder what creates that flakiness in a pie crust? I bet you are one of those crazy pie people that just scarfs the whole piece down without really savoring it. Not good! I will now explain the art of the flake with a little pie background first.

When you make a pie crust it is actually named after a method known as the “flaky pie crust” method. The flour and salt are mixed together and then cold fat like BUTTER or shortening is cut into small chunks and “cut” into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender, or a fork and a knife, until it gets to pea sized pieces. It is crucial that the fat is cold and in small pieces but NOT completely blended into the flour. Explanation to follow. Keep reading. Ice water is then added. Only enough to be able to form a dough.

If too much water is added, the pie can become tough with too much gluten forming. Remember gluten is a protein matrix that forms when the proteins in wheat flour mix with water. Gluten gives strength and structure to all baked goods. Some more than others. Too much water, and the crust can be tough. Too little water and the crust falls apart due to not enough structure.

Too much mixing also develops gluten which will give the pie crust a tough texture. Not a positive attribute for a pie crust! A perfect flaky crust for a pie should be crispy, yet tender and flaky.

Flakiness. How does it happen? In the oven, the fat pieces melt and leave spaces where they used to be. These spaces fill with air and steam.  Both are powerful leaveners. And remember the water in the dough ? It also forms steam when heated. Pies are typically baked at a high temperature, about 425 degrees. At this temperature the trapped steam that forms inside pushes up onto the layers of dough above and beneath, causing those layers to separate and the flakiness that we all know and LOVE!!!!!

 

Highlighting the Summer Bounty

I am going to offer some sound advice now. Be sure to take advantage of all that summer has to offer! If you haven’t been to a farmer’s market recently or even a grocery store where local farmers’ wares are showcased take a look. The fruits and vegetables are GORGEOUS!!! Especially this time of year. Peaches, nectarines and plums so juicy that they drip down your chin as you bite into them. Remember to sample the variety of berries as well. My salivary glands are working overtime just thinking about it.  And summer veggies? Don’t get me started! Heirloom tomatoes, corn and zucchini are just a few of my favorites.

Use these scrumptious summer time fruits for all of your desserts! One idea that I love to do is to create a free form tart. Just take a pie crust that you roll out onto a pizza pan. Fill the center with ANY fruits you wish, sliced of course, scatter some mixed sugar and flour on top, fold over the crust to hold all the juices in and bake it. See my video on how to make a yummy free form apple walnut tart as well.

A savory take on the above tart that works well is to fill it with fresh corn, sliced zucchini, eggplant or heirloom tomatoes. Cheese it up and bake! Add a salad and I call that a meal.

This is what summer is all about. Simple, easy and fast. More importantly, you are showcasing your baking talents with a little help from Mother Nature!

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

 

S’More en Flambe

I was recently invited to the house of good friends for dinner, and as always, I volunteered to bring the dessert. I really had a lot of fun creating a new riff on the s’more, and then one of my friends who shall remain nameless, took it to new heights (in flames) I should say.

First, I made homemade graham cookies and marshmallows that I cut to fit on top of the cookies. Then I blowtorched the marshmallows ahead and put cookies with marshmallows in between them to create sandwiches. And finally I dipped half of the s’more sandwiches into melted chocolate. OOOOHHHHH SOOOOO Goooooood!!!!

When dinner was over I brought out the s’mores, and before I knew it my friend had poured a small amount of Bacardi 151 proof rum over his and lit it on fire. To say that my dessert, or rather HIS dessert was the high “light” of the evening was an understatement.

Thankfully, I removed his napkin from the table at the peak of flaming! It really was like being at a real camp fire — almost.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Individual Baked Alaskas

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk3JJNGpxDw

 

Makes 6 Mini Baked Alaskas

For the meringue:

6 brownie circles cut out with a 3 inch diameter cookie cutter

6 scoops of your favorite ice cream

4 large egg whites, room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup granulated sugar

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the whip attachment, beat the egg whites at high speed until they are very foamy.
  2. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
  3. On high speed, slowly add the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Assembling the Baked Alaskas

  1. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Place brownie circles on sheet pan.
  3. Place a scoop of ice cream on top of each brownie.
  4. Fill a pastry bag with a large star tip half full of meringue and pipe stars in rows until the brownie and the ice cream are covered in meringue.
  5. Place the sheet pan in the freezer for several hours or until the meringue becomes firm.
  6. Place the Baked Alaskas on individual plates. Using a small blowtorch, lightly brown the meringues all over.
  7. Serve at once.