Homemade With Love

pizza, revisited

Just when I thought there was nothing more to write about pizza, it seems the story continues. Too often, food writers talk about cooking in definitives. The problem with that is life isn’t one-size-fits-all. Pizza is a perfect example. My approach has evolved significantly in the 20+ years that I’ve been making it. My first foray into making pizza from scratch was baking it in a round, metal pan. Then I branched out to a pizza stone, but would shape the dough on parchment paper and slide it into the oven off the metal sheet, removing the parchment after the crust had “set”. Embracing a pizza peel took a bit longer. Confidence trumps skills in this department. It takes  a quick flick of the wrist for it to slide effortlessly from the peel to the stone.

I took my time, and did it on my terms, never judging or comparing myself to how other people were doing it. This is pretty much how I’ve handled most situations in my life. The only rules I play by are the ones with which I feel comfortable. So, when it comes to cooking, don’t forget you’re the boss in your own kitchen.

To me, it makes more sense to first become comfortable with cooking from scratch, and find a good workflow or routine, before trying to up the ante. Once you have that confidence, you can stretch your wings a little more. My new approach to pizza is a good example. There’s nothing revolutionary about it. In all truth, the difference is subtle, yet sublime.

The idea to mix up my pizza routine came to me during my daily pita making sessions last week. I’ve yet to share that recipe. The base for the pita starts by making a sponge. This little extra step adds a lightness to the crust. I also tweaked my cooking method, which ensures a crisp crust, while maintaining a soft, chewy texture.

So, what is a sponge? When you set out to make the dough, you begin by mixing the yeast, sugar, water and some of the flour. It all gets stirred together in a bowl, then sits until it puffs up (think of how a dry sponge expands when it comes in contact with water). This extra step only adds 15 to 20 minutes of time, and not even active time at that. Once the sponge is ready, I proceed with my dough recipe as usual.

The other adjustment I’ve made is with the placement of the stone in the oven. Rather than bake my pizza on the center rack, I remove all but the bottom rack. The stone gets hotter this way, and manages to crisp the crust evenly from the edge to the center.

One thing I should mention, though, and hopefully this will encourage more of you to finally see the light in the volume vs. weight debate for measuring ingredients. My recipe below is written in metric measurements primarily. This is how I cook normally at home, when I’m not in recipe development mode. It is so freeing to not fret with cups and spoons. If you don’t believe me in this, then listen to veteran baker Alice Medrich.

Oh, and one more thing I’ve been meaning to share. Guess what this month signals? Homemade with Love turns one! I’ve had the great privilege to be a part of your homes since its release. Seeing photos of my recipes come to life in your kitchens this past year has been a joy. I’d love to know how Homemade with Love has changed your relationship to cooking.

Has it made it less intimidating for you? Has it sparked an interest in cooking with your kids? Are there recipes that have become an absolute must-make in your family? I want to invite you all to share photos of what you’ve cooked from the book on Pinterest and Instagram for a chance to win a few fun giveaways. I’ve got some goodies I’ve brought back from my trips to Paris (Fleur de sel, Belgian chocolates), a few of my favorite cooking tools (chef’s tweezers, the best paring knife ever), and a Sur La Table gift card. The giveaway winners will be chosen at random beginning March 24th, so you have time to think about what you’d like to cook. Just be sure to tag me in your photos (@jenniferperillo) and include #injennieskitchen too, so I can find them easily.

Hope you all enjoy this new foray into pizza making. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone cooks up, too.

For more ideas and recipes on homemade pizza, take a look at what my fellow Comfort Food Feast friends are sharing this week on the FN Dish Blog.
The Heritage Cook: Gluten-Free Pizza Crust and Homemade Pizza Sauce

Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Easy Turkey Taco Pizza

Devour: Top 5 Pizzas Without Sauce

Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

Weelicious: Pizza Balls

Dishin & Dishes: Iron Skillet Chicken Pesto Pizza

Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato, Red Pepper and Corn

Red or Green: Pizza with Green Chile, Chicken and Cheese (Gluten-Free)

Virtually Homemade: Individual Cheese Quesadilla Pizzas

Domesticate Me: Grilled Pita Pizza with Prosciutto, Chanterelles, Arugula and a Fried Egg

Food for 7 Stages of Life: No Yeast Pizza Dough
The Blue Apron Blog: Our Favorite Pizza Toppings

The Sensitive Epicure: Mini Deep Dish Polenta Pizzas (Gluten-Free)

FN Dish: Homemade Pizza Comfort by the Slice

Jennie's Pizza Dough

6 grams active dry yeast

5 grams granulated natural cane sugar

360 grams Antimo Caputo “00” Pizzeria Flour, or bread flour, plus more for shaping

1 cup (237 ml) warm water

6 grams fine sea salt

1 tablespoon (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Add the yeast, sugar, and 70 grams of flour to a deep bowl. Pour in the water, and whisk well to combine. Set the bowl, uncovered, in a warm spot until the water absorbs the flour and the mixture puffs up, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add 220 grams of flour to the bowl, along with the salt and oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the flour is mixed in completely. The dough will be rather wet and sticky. Sprinkle a little bit of the remaining flour onto a board or countertop. Scrape the dough onto the board. Sprinkle a little bit more flour on top. Gently knead the dough until it’s smooth, and no longer sticky, adding more flour, a bit at a time, as needed (you may not need all of the remaining flour).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm spot until it has doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 hours).  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently press it down to deflate. Divide the dough in half. Place each half in its own lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until doubled in volume again. This second rise happens much faster, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust the rack in your oven to its lowest position. Place the pizza stone on top, and turn the oven on to 500F (260C). Make sure to do this step as you start the second rise, so the oven has enough time to get nice and hot.

Take one ball of dough, and turn it out onto a lightly floured wooden or metal peel. Press or stretch the dough out into a 12-inch (22 cm) circle , whatever method you prefer (I start by pressing from the center, then switch to stretching).

Top with your desired ingredients (marinara sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, vegetables). Slide the pizza onto the stone, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly, if using, and the crust is very lightly golden. Repeat with the remaining ball of dough.

candied pecans {easy homemade gift-giving}

We had our first big snowfall in the country this weekend. Well, not in the country, as in the United States of America. I mean the country, as in the area where our house is upstate. I figure you all probably knew what I was talking about, but the writer in me felt compelled to make it very clear. I have readers around the globe (it boggles my mind, really), and I didn’t want anyone to confuse my country with the country.

See how easy it is to get caught up on the little details? Something as simple as me coming here to share an easy recipe for a quick last-minute homemade gift has me pondering the clarity of my own words. Perhaps the simple things are the tasks that truly push us to look closer at the finer details of life. I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately. Continue reading »

peach allspice muffins

My eyes stared in bewilderment as I read the words “I rarely bake on vacation”. This last week in North Truro alone, I’ve baked four loaves of bread, two types of muffins and a zucchini hazelnut quick bread.  And yet, those words from three years ago, they were true. I wrote them on August 24, 2010.

This is our ninth summer in the same cottage. The location is perfect beyond words, the house nestled in the sand, just a few hundred feet from the bay. The kitchen, however, is better suited to cooking up simple meals. It’s stocked with pots and pans that show their scars from the many renters that have come before. I’ve learned over the years to bring some essentials from home, my kitchen bags always outnumbering the rest of my luggage. The year I snuck my cast-iron skillet under the front seat, I knew I was pushing it. Mikey rolled his eyes, but I stood my ground, demanding if his guitar got to go, then so did my favorite instrument. Continue reading »

orange poppy olive oil muffins

Years ago, when Isabella was a wee little one, we had a neighbor who insisted on counting her son’s age in months up until he was three. Mikey and I laughed so hard at the idea of that. Imagine someone asking how old your kid is, and replying 32 months. It just sounds odd, right? I’m guessing that mom’s rationale was wanting to hold onto her son being a baby as long as possible. I get it. Oh man, do I get it, especially these days. In just two weeks, my babies will turn five and ten. I feel like I blinked and life tapped me on the shoulder, then screamed SURPRISE!

This whole way of counting has been weighing on my mind a lot lately. People often refer to Mikey having died a year and a half ago, or almost two years ago. Me? I refer to it as what it is—20 months ago. Unlike my old neighbor who wanted to cherish her babies early years, I’m trying to stay close to Mikey. The more time that passes since his death signifies the growing distance between my old life and my new one. Continue reading »

feelin’ groovy

I spent 12 hours traveling home today. No, I didn’t go to Paris. Nor did I venture to the west coast. I was simply trying to get back to NYC from Chicago. The details of my travel aren’t important, though if you follow me on twitter, you likely saw my heated exchange with American Airlines.

And now here I am at my laptop, clacking away when I should be going to bed. Alas, sleep will have to wait until mid-May when the book publicity settles down. But I had to pop in here and share something. Before coming upstairs to my office to start the night shift, I made a blueberry spritzer. I had some blueberry syrup in the fridge from this event last week, and simply mixed it with some Pellegrino. As I took the last sip and looked down in my glass, six tiny wild blueberries had settled to the bottom of it, all in a row, forming a smile. At that moment, my cup wasn’t half empty or full. It was simply smiling at me, reminding me that happiness is a choice as long as you keep yourself focused on it at all times.

I’m adding a few links for your reading and viewing pleasure below. Hope everyone is having a great week, and be back in a bit. À bientôt.

Music Pairing: The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) by Simon & Garfunkel

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My cooking segment on Good Day Chicago.

A peek into the NYC launch event for Homemade with Love.

Some reviews of Homemade with Love from Edible Brooklyn and The Washington Post. Plus a few of my friends hosted a virtual potluck this week to celebrate the book’s publication. Go see what Gina, Ilina, Jodi, Amy, and Kim cooked from the book.  I’ve also started a Pinterest board to gather all the reviews of the book in one place.

p.s. if you ever find yourself traveling with the kids to Chicago, or just want the ability to cook a meal in your hotel room, I highly recommend the Residence Inn on East Walton Place. The suite didn’t break the bank, and the staff was incredible.

Book Tour Update

April 1st is fast approaching people, but it’s no joking matter—this week starts the media merry-go-round for Homemade with Love! Is it okay to refer to it as such? I probably should run this post by my publicist, or at the very least not be writing it at 3:33am—make a wish! You know that one, where you make a wish whenever the time reads all the same numbers…11:11, 2:22, etc. I’m still a schoolgirl in that I make wishes at any chance I can get, like on the first star at night. I even do that thing where you tie the paper from a straw into a loop and if it comes out in a knot it means the boy you love is thinking about you. All silly stuff, but wishes are just dreams we want to make come true one day, right?

Any way, I’ve figured out the perfect recipe for squeezing in a few more work hours to the day.

1. Collapse in bed right after the kids are tucked in, which for me was 8:30pm tonight.

2. Wake up at 12:30am feeling completely rested.

3. Toss and turn for an hour because one really shouldn’t get up and start working at 12:30am.

4. Finally give into insomnia at 1:30am, and run a hot bubble bath. Then go into home office and start clacking away at your laptop.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t the perfect recipe, but it is my State of the Union at the moment. I know I’m going to regret not trying harder to fall back to sleep, but since I can’t fall asleep on command—I was always envious of Mikey’s ability to do this, I figured it was a good opportunity to gather all my book tour information in one handy place. And there are updates—I’ve finally confirmed my Canada trip, and added another event to my North Carolina stop too. Continue reading »

broccoli rabe & fresh ricotta frittata {Homemade with Love}

To the rest of the world, this simply looks like a bunch of celery. Albeit an incredibly gorgeous, delicate bundle, with a flavor only celery from the farmers’ market could possibly capture. That bunch in particular probably came from Maxwell’s Farmstand at the Grand Army Plaza farmers’ market.

I feel the lump welling up in my throat as I write this, and yet I can’t pull my fingers away from the keyboard. I feel crazy even going “there”, but that celery is the last bunch of celery I bought while Michael was alive. It’s celery for heaven’s sake, and it’s capable of reducing me to tears. At moments like this I want to bury my face into a pillow and collapse into a pool of tears. I bought that celery the day before Mikey died. I came across it while looking through my photo archives for a recipe of the Broccoli Rabe & Fresh Ricotta Frittata from Homemade with Love, and suddenly found myself frozen as I inched closer to the photos I took in the days leading up to his death.

It’s not just a bunch of celery, just like these aren’t just a box of matches.

It’s a bunch of celery on the windowsill of our old apartment…in the kids’ old room, which was actually our bedroom before we even had kids.

That celery represents something I can never have again. That celery represents a routine I so loved, and have struggled to get back into the last 20 months. See, before Mikey died, I woke up every Saturday morning at 7:00am, got dressed quietly and snuck out of the house to go to the farmers’ market at Grand Army Plaza. I would beat the crowds, and get the best of whatever was in season before most people had rubbed the sleep from their eyes. Continue reading »

a birthday, of sorts

In the midst of running errands yesterday, I swung by my local Barnes & Noble, and there before my very eyes was Homemade with Love displayed in the window. Even though it shouldn’t have taken me by surprise, I still had to blink a few times to believe what I saw. It sounds silly to say, considering it’s been in other people’s homes for two weeks now, but this was my first time seeing it displayed in person.

So many of my hopes and dreams are laced throughout the pages of Homemade with Love. It’s funny how life seems to operate in both slow motion and warp speed simultaneously. It feels like just yesterday that I was a 24-year-old, reading an article Mikey gave me about becoming a personal chef in Newsweek—and yet, it was 15 years ago.

Next week begins the busyness of publicity for the book. I mentioned some book signing information in my last post, and have two more updates—Chicago and Canada, here I come! I’m working on Boston and New Jersey, just bear with me, as it’s a lot trying to manage childcare these days, especially the overnights. Thankfully, my auntie is coming up from Florida to lend a hand, and we seem to have finally found a wonderful new babysitter too. Continue reading »

inspired lunches

Well folks, it really is official. Homemade with Love has made landfall, and the messages, tweets, and photos on instagram have nourished me more than you can possibly understand. Even though I often feel lonely these days, and gearing up for the book tour is filled with some anxiety as I take a few more steps on my own in the world, the truth is I’m never as alone as I sometimes feel. Thank you for welcoming me into your hearts and homes.

Here’s a peek at signings that have been confirmed so you can mark your calendars. I’ll be in Chicago and Canada too, and will be sure to share information on signings there once dates have been finalized. In the meantime, if you’re in NYC, North Carolina or San Francisco, gather a group of friends, and come support these local bookstores that are so graciously supporting me.

NYC

Saturday, April 13th 7:00pm—BookCourt 163 Court Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY.

North Carolina

Friday, April 19th 7:30pm—Quail Ridge Books & Music 3522 Wade Avenue in Raleigh, NC.

San Francisco

Tuesday, April 30th 6:00pm—Omnivore Books 3885a Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco, CA.

Another fun bit of news I’d like to share is the launch of a fun, new sweepstakes for Glad Food Storage. Starting today though April 25th, you can share photos of your homemade packed lunches, or pictures of ones that inspire you to pack your own, on your Pinterest page for a chance to win all sorts of great prizes every week over the next five weeks. The photo you see above is a standard airplane meal for me. I’ve signed on as a spokesperson for Glad, so be sure to check my Pinterest page too, to get more ideas for Inspired Lunches as part of Glad’s campaign. My relationship with Glad goes back a few years. Ever since I found out they’re a corporate sponsor for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, I’ve been a loyal customer. You can find out the full contest details here.

Okay, that’s it for now. There’s lots more to share but my head is in the clouds right now—literally, I’m on my long journey home from Agadir, Morocco. Hope everyone’s week is off to a good start.

xo—Jennie

the homestretch

My eyelids are refusing to cooperate this morning, as I find myself fighting to keep them open. Changing the clocks ahead one little hour this weekend is proving to be more challenging than the six hour time difference I so often encounter when I go to France. I figure you’re all feeling sort of sluggish and sleepy today too, and what better way to jolt you than with some fun news surrounding the release of Homemade with Love. If you’ve preordered the book, then you likely got the same email I did on Sunday—it’s shipping earlier than expected. As in you may have it as soon as the weekend depending on the shipping method you chose!

The love, security and sense of self I derive from being in the kitchen are feelings I hope to spark in all of you once Homemade with Love becomes a part of your lives. My reason for wanting to write a cookbook four years ago was simple. It wasn’t about vanity or dreams of fame. I wanted all of my positive experiences in the kitchen to become contagious. I wanted to show people in a very genuine way that cooking is about so much more than just eating. It is about feeding your soul, and enriching the lives of the people you love. Continue reading »