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Saturday, March 09, 2002


took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather and opened up a kilo bag of my new italian 00 flour. . .

and a fine, crispy thin crust pizza did i make! unlike my usual pizza dough, for which i use the king arthur sir lancelot high-gluten flour, this one was just a dream to work with.

let's be honest, the sir lancelot is an excellent flour, with a high ash (mineral) content for great flavor. it's also more than 14% protein. this means it has a lot of gluten; it rises well. but this also means it can be a bear to roll out. the high level of protein creates a dough that will roll and then spring back. so you have to re-roll, let rest, roll again or use dough relaxer. . .not so with the italian 00 flour. it drifts out to your desired size in seconds, with no effort, and stays put. i simply picked up the risen ball of dough, held it by edge, turned it, and let gravity stretch the dough. by the time my fingers had scurried all the way around the rim of the dough, i had a perfect, paper-thin, 12" pizza crust.

plus, it has the most delicious smell. from the second i started mixing it, i reveled in its sweet, wheaty perfume. it turns your whole kitchen into . . .well, an italian bakery. don't get me wrong, i love the king arthur flours, but no american flour has such an appetizing scent. also, the italian flour is ground in such a way that it feels soft between your fingers, not gritty or scratchy. i don't know how to say it, really. . . it feels like baby powder in your hands.

usually, when you look at recipes for pizza, you see instructions like "use high-protein flour," or "use bread flour." sometimes you will see recipes that mention all-purpose flour. i'm here to tell you to fuggedaboudit, as we say in bklyn. high protein flours can be as much as 15% protein; bread flour is often 12-13%; american all-purpose is usually about 11.4%. the italian 00 flour clocks in at around 7.4%; less than some american cake flours!

it's often said that you need high-protein flours for making pizza to get good rise and to allow the dough to roll out without tearing. so this afternoon i was a little worried that the dough wouldn't rise and would certainly tear. but hey, it works in italy and it certainly works at difara's, as if have seen myself. i'm a convert to italian 00 flour!

without further ado, here's my recipe for thin crust pizza:

2 c. italian 00 flour
3/4 c. water
1-/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon SAF yeast

combine the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. attach the paddle beater and mix just until the dough forms a rough, shaggy mass around the paddle. oil the dough hook with a little olive oil, and knead the dough for 30 mins. at speed 3. flour a baking sheet, divide the dough in half, sprinkle the tops with flour, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 4 hours, or until light and puffy -- like a big hollywood cotton-ball cloud. shape each ball into one 12" personal pizza crust as described above. for a slightly chewier crust, let each unbaked crust rest for about 30 mins.

then simply brush the crust with a little olive oil, lightly sauce the pizza (choose from my red or yellow sauces), sprinkle with fresh herbs and about 4 oz of cheese. i personally like to use 3 oz. fresh mozzarella with 1 oz. provolone. bake for 6 mins. on a well-heated pizza stone at the highest temperature you can coax out of your oven without being arrested for arson.

be happy -- it's delicious! the italian 00 flour has a heavenly taste all its own.

posted by fortune elkins | 7:00 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, March 08, 2002


in fairness i really ought to mention. . .

moka d'oro and d'amico. both of these are venerable brooklyn roasting houses, although moka d'oro is a good-sized firm, while d'amico is still a small shop. but after mentioning gillies so much, i thought it only fair to educate you as to your alternatives. . .

by the way, i'm sure you've all noticed by now that brooklyn is the coffee center of new york's universe? the best roasters, the best coffee retailers. . .all here in good ol' newly-hip bklyn. hmm. shouldn't be surprised, should i? even after the southern italian immigrants have long left for the suburbs, small pieces of their way of life remain behind. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:49 AM | top | link to this |


Thursday, March 07, 2002


just a happy little anniversary note. . .

yes, i've had my rancilio silvia for a year now. (i'd point you to the rancilio silvia page, but its endless makeover is still underway.) i'm glad i bought it, although of course if i were just made of money, i would have gone with the beautiful pasquini livia and moka grinder.

silvia has a fair-sized learning curve, one that's pretty steep the first week. in fact, that first week can be exhausting, as a really good cup of coffee seems to elude you. you can't get your grinder to the right setting, you can't really be sure you're happy with the quality of the beans, you don't yet have the experience with silvia to know when she's hot enough but not too hot, you can't steam the milk to your satisfaction. then magically, silvia breaks in, you get used to her, and you suddenly know what you're doing. coffee enlightenment descends in a blinding flash. . .

happy anniversary silvia! i'm enjoying my coffee now more than ever. what i need to do know is find a good heavy-duty appliance timer, so silvia will turn on and warm up by herself. that way i might find time every single morning to enjoy a great cup of cappucino. . .and get more sleep. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 3:12 AM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, March 05, 2002


what's that stuff you put in your coffee?

i mean, we usually call it "milk." but nowadays people are foaming up soy, almond, all kinds of vegetable products and adding to the world's favorite beverage.

in this big world of coffee whiteners, as the jargon has it, cow's milk still rules in my little red book. the problem is how to keep it cold safely if you're in a public situation.

as long-time readers may recall, i've been making coffee in office for my little workgroup. we pretty much all take milk, and for that end, i've got a an off-the-harware-store-shelf cheapo thermos that i put the milk in. but i have to confess that by about 2pm, that milk's warm. and warm milk isn't always good-tasting, pleasant-smelling, or even the safest milk.

thus when this little gadget came to my attention, it did catch my eye. i'm talking about the cool moo. it's a little box that holds a carton of milk. freeze the box, slip the milk into it, and the milk stays cold for hours and hours.

sure it's obvious, a little expensive, and maybe you don't like web sites that moo at you. but boy howdy could i use one in my office.

well, i could have. lately we've had a shortage of space and i now lack an electrical outlet for heating the water in my kettle. it's a crisis, i tell you, a crisis!

can you imagine -- a small band of desperate people, deprived of their french-press illy? so far our spirits are high, but how much longer can we realistically hold out on that cheap robusta the office coffee service is pushing through a clogged machine whose water temperature no way comes near the requisite 195 degrees?

watch this space, people. it could get grim. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:23 PM | top | link to this |


Monday, March 04, 2002


i love news stories like this. . .

beginner tries out a whole bunch of yoga types; it becomes a mission. . ."i set out on a quest to find the yoga for me," writes hilary macgregor. after attending the different classes, she finds herself attracted to mysore ashtanga practice. this is a nice article to help explain the real-world differences a beginner would notice when examining different styles.

does her article pique your interest? find an authentic mysore ashtanga class near you.

note: readers, this is not the style i personally practice. because i have tight hips, i'm too worried that ashtanga would blow out my knees. but hey, if it works for you. . . go for it! if you have flexible hips -- say, if you could do splits when you were younger -- you'll be happy in any ashtanga class. join the more than 18 million americans doing yoga today, and feel free to lose 5 lbs. in the process!

posted by fortune elkins | 10:26 AM | top | link to this |


Sunday, March 03, 2002


ah -- the valrhona chocolate souffle. it's a magic thing.

back from a dinner at bouley. while the souffle is as magical as ever, the chocolate prune armagnac ice cream that accompanies it -- and which frankly used to steal the show -- is not. such is life.

still it's great that bouley, just four blocks from the world trade center, has also reopened. it's as friendly, comfortable, and peaceful as ever, even if the food still isn't quite what it once was. . .the new entrance alone is stunning -- a simple, softly lit, white corridor holding racks of fragrant lady apples. their perfume in that small space is delicious, inviting, comforting. . .

on a more practical note, i have been looking at the browser statistics for the site recently. to prepare for the coming switch to ever-groovier web technology, i've been trying to get a more accurate feel for what browsers you use when you visit. so far, i'm pleased to say that the most common computer you use is the mac. this means my most common browser is IE 5 for the mac. however, i am discovering that between 15 and 20 percent of you are still using netscape 3 and 4. these older netscape browsers will not be capable of rendering the new site.

i don't want to leave you behind when we all go forward into the glorious web future. if you are using an older version of netscape, please upgrade to netscape 6 as soon as possible!

posted by fortune elkins | 8:10 PM | top | link to this |

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