Hot off the press, Cohasset entrepreneur Andris Lagsdin’s new cookbook proves his culinary invention is good for much more than just pizza.By Maria Allen | Photos Courtesy of Andris Lagsdin
There’s been a buzz surrounding the Baking Steel ever since Cohasset resident Andris Lagsdin launched the product in 2014. Foodies come from miles around to attend hands-on pizza classes inside the cozy test kitchen located in a remodeled barn behind his home—and to meet the man behind the steel.
Thanks to its simple design and high level of thermal conductivity, the Baking Steel is a versatile kitchen accessory for home chefs. Pizza dough, for example, adorned with toppings and placed atop a Baking Steel inside a conventional oven, will cook in under five minutes—giving a whole new meaning to the term fast food. But what if you’re craving something different for dinner?
Lagsdin answers this question and many others inside his new cookbook “Baking with Steel: The Revolutionary New Approach to Perfect Pizza, Bread and More” (Little, Brown and Company, 2017). Readers learn the secrets to the perfect pizza dough and also discover other types of delicious dishes that can be cooked using a Baking Steel, from rustic boules and baguettes to sizzling bacon and eggs, beef satay, soft pretzels and even hamburger buns.
We asked Lagsdin to share a few of his favorite recipes from the book.
Arugula with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Pizza
This pizza holds the prize of being my wife Leslie’s absolute favorite. While it’s a worthy pizza at any time of year, it truly shines in early July, when the first fresh arugula is coming out of the ground. Combined with fontina cheese, sweet caramelized onions and a splash of balsamic, this pie has just enough going on. It’s an elegant pizza that tastes fancy but is very easy to make.
Makes one approximately 12-inch pizza
1 ball 72-hour pizza dough (see recipe) or your favorite pizza dough
100 grams (3 ounces) fontina cheese, thinly sliced
100 grams (2 ounces, or about 1/4 cup) caramelized onions
30 grams (1 ounce, or about 1 cup, loosely packed) arugula
15 grams (1 tablespoon) balsamic vinegar
Fine sea salt, to taste
1. Preheat the Baking Steel in your oven at 500 F for one hour.
2. Stretch your dough into a 12-inch circle (oblong or oval is fine). Lightly flour your peel and place the dough on top.
3. Set the oven to broil.
4. Evenly distribute the fontina and the caramelized onions across the top of the pizza, leaving about 1 inch around the perimeter for the crust.
5. Use a generously floured pizza peel to launch your pizza onto the Baking Steel and bake under the broiler for 2 minutes.
6. After 2 minutes, open the oven and use your pizza peel to give the pizza a 180-degree turn. Turn off the broil setting but keep the oven at its highest temperature and continue cooking for another 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese has attained your desired brownness.
7. Use your pizza peel to remove the pie from the oven. Scatter the arugula over the top. Splash with balsamic and then sprinkle with salt to taste. Slice and serve.
72-Hour Pizza Dough
One of my favorite pizza-dough recipes is Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough, on which this recipe is based. It’s simple, doesn’t require any equipment and doesn’t make a big mess. (My wife disagrees about the mess; I have a talent for covering the kitchen in flour.) I make this dough at least once a week, sometimes quintupling the recipe and saving the extra balls of dough to use later or for the pizza classes I teach.
Through the years, I have adapted Jim’s original recipe to make it my own. One change is that I use bread flour instead of all-purpose flour, which adds the perfect heft to your crust when the dough is baked at high heat in a home environment. And somewhat ironically, I actually knead the no-knead dough. After I incorporate all the ingredients, I wet my hands and knead the batch for two to three minutes. Without this step, I’ve ended up with dried clumps of flour in the dough. There are worse things in life, but we’re seekers of pizza perfection.
This dough is simple and foolproof, but you do need time. Not hands-on or working time, but 24 hours for rising and then 48 hours for the cold ferment. That’s 72 hours total, in case you don’t have a calculator.
The first 24 hours allows the dough to bulk ferment (or rise as one unit before being divided into individual dough portions) at room temperature; just park the dough someplace where it won’t be disturbed. The dough will release a pleasant aroma that will make your kitchen smell like a bakery.
Next, you’ll portion out the dough, ball it up, and store the balls in the refrigerator for a minimum of one day and up to 10. This is when the dough will develop some kick-ass flavor. The process is called cold fermentation, and it slows down the activity of the yeast to produce amazing flavors in your dough. The strike zone for the dough, in terms of optimal texture and flavor, is from day three through day five (or 48 to 96 hours after the bulk fermentation that occurs in step 4). You can take the dough out of the fridge and make pizza earlier, but the full 72-hour method is what gives it a truly memorable taste and texture.
This dough recipe makes 4 10-inch pies, 3 12-140-inch pies, or one 18 by 13-inch Sicilian pie.
500 grams (3¾ cups) bread flour
16 grams (1 tablespoon) fine sea salt
1 gram (¼ teaspoon) active dry yeast
1½ cups water, at room temperature
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour, salt, and yeast.
2. Slowly add the water and mix with a wooden spoon just to combine. Once the mixture is moistened, lightly flour a countertop or large cutting board and remove the dough from the bowl with lightly oiled or wet hands (to discourage sticking). Knead for 2 to 3 minutes to remove clumps. The dough won’t become elastic but should easily form a loose ball.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.
4. Place the bowl on the counter and let sit 24 hours at room temperature. It will double in size and you may see bubbles forming on the surface.
5. Lightly flour a large cutting board or your kitchen countertop and place the dough on it. Wet or lightly oil your hands again.
6. Divide dough into 4 equal portions for 10-inch pies or 3 portions if you’re making slightly larger pies. With wet or oiled hands, make each portion into a dough ball.
7. Place the dough balls into oiled, cylindrical airtight containers (deli-takeaway containers are ideal), date them, and place in the fridge for 48 to 96 hours.
8. Remove from refrigerator at least 1 hour before use to allow the dough to come to room temperature; this lets the gluten relax and makes the dough malleable.
Beef Satay with Scallion Chimichurri
My mother raised me right. When I get invited to a party, I never show up emptyhanded. These skewers are the perfect offering: a simple savory appetizer that will feed (and please) a crowd. Best of all, provided you’ve taken a few minutes to prep a marinade in advance, they cook extremely quickly. The crisp sear and rich flavor on these steak skewers, thanks to the Baking Steel Griddle, make them taste fancy and decidedly chef-caliber. You can scale the recipe up if you’d like, because once you show up with these griddled wonders, you’re going to get invited to a lot more parties.
225 grams (8 ounces) flank steak
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons orange juice
5 grams (1 nub) fresh ginger, finely diced
5 grams (1 clove) garlic, finely diced
10 grams (about 2) scallion whites, finely diced (from the greens used for the chimichurri sauce)
110 grams (4½ cups) griddled
Scallion Chimichurri (see recipe)
8 bamboo skewers
1. Slice the flank steak across the grain into 8 thin strips. Try to make them as similar in size as possible. Skewer the meat on the bamboo sticks.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, ginger, garlic and scallions until combined.
3. Put the skewered steak into a gallon plastic bag, pour the marinade in and seal the bag tightly. Allow the steak to marinate for 3 to 4 hours in the fridge.
4. When your skewers have marinated, position your Baking Steel on the stovetop.
5. Preheat on medium-high for 10 to 15 minutes; you’re looking for a temperature of 375 to 400°F. To test the surface, sprinkle a few drops of water on it; they should dance across the hot steel.
6. Sear the beef for about 15 seconds per side, looking for a pleasing char on both sides. Once cooked, transfer to a serving platter.
7. Garnish with Griddled Scallion Chimichurri and serve immediately.
GRIDDLED SCALLION CHIMICHURRI
It’s hard to overstate the addictive qualities of chimichurri sauce. Rumor has it that the sauce came about when Basque settlers hit Argentina in the late 1800s. Culinary fusion occurred, and the term “chimichurri” is said to be derived from the Basque term tximitxurri, loosely translated as “a mixture of several things in no particular order.” Regardless of where the funny name comes from, this is undoubtedly a sauce that tastes great on everything.
Note: This sauce can be made up to 3 weeks in advance.
180 grams (6 ounces, or 3/4 cup) olive oil, divided
90 grams (1 bunch) scallions, sliced
5 grams (1 clove) garlic, diced
85 grams (approximately 2 ounces, or 1 bunch) cilantro
85 grams (approximately 2 ounces, or 1 bunch) parsley
25 grams (1/2 ounce, or about 2 tablespoons) dry red chili flakes
225 grams (8 ounces, or 1 cup) apple cider vinegar
Fine sea salt and pepper, to taste
1. Place your Baking Steel on your stovetop. Heat on medium for 10-15 minutes, looking for a surface temperature of 325-350 degrees F. To test the surface, sprinkle a few drops of water on top of the surface; they should “dance” across the hot surface.
2. In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste. Carefully scatter the mixture on the hot griddle and cook, shifting the mixture around using a spatula, until the scallions begin to soften and gain color and are slightly wilted. This will take 4-5 minutes.
3. Remove using heatproof tongs, and transfer to a blender. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender, and blend until smooth. Drizzle in the remaining olive oil; adjust for consistency and flavor. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three weeks.