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To create the perfect stromboli…

…you must first invent the Universe. (With apologies and puppy-eyes to Carl Sagan.)

Following my recent mid-year evaluation of the How-To List, I thought it high time to get tackling some of these suckahs. Tonight: stromboli!

Context: in the middle of going mano-a-mano with a cold, and probably overmedicated on tea, Vicks VapoRub and boredom, I decided I wanted to have a crack at Stromboli. I can make a pretty mean pizza when I’m in form, so how different could it be? Having recently gone nightshade-free, I decided the stromboli for me would be broccoli and cheese. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I ROLL.

Beautiful beginnings!

There was some raw dough in the fridge (M and I have been making big batches of plain 70% hydration dough and keeping it in the fridge all week, so that when pizza time comes, you can just grab a handful and start working with it pretty well right away), so I grabbed some of that, worked in a bit of extra flour, yeast and water, and presto! Dough. I made some cheese sauce, with extra black pepper and a dab of hot English mustard for kicks, and that made the base sauce.

And then I realised my critical mistake. Well, two mistakes. Both critical. 1: I rolled the dough out quite thinly, much too thinly to fill and move. 2: I rolled the dough out in a big rectangle on the bench, but none of our baking trays are rectangular.

The solution to both mistakes: shift the rolled-out dough onto the baking tray. I had to bend it to fit it on the circular tray. Retrospectively, it would have been dandy to make it into a circular stromboli, but at the time I thought the classic toilet-seat shape would be ideal. Top with cheese sauce!

Try to ignore how unappealing this picture is.

Top your cheese sauce with finely shredded, cooked broccoli, black pepper and extra crumbled cheese. (Go with something fairly dry, like an old cheddar.) Now to roll your stromboli! Under advice of everything I read on the Internet, I effortlessly lifted the long edge of the sturdy, uniform dough and enveloped the filling, rolling it into a neat scroll. That bit is a fib. My dough stretched some, tore some, twisted and was generally a bit wobblesome and unstable, like myself.

RUPTURE

Slow-rise raw pizza dough is pretty forgiving, like myself, so I pinched together the bits that had burst open, and decided not to push my luck by aiming for a flawless scroll. Instead, I concentrated on tucking the sealed edges in and making it as tidy a toilet seat as possible. Then brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and hey presto into the oven!

A feast!

A noticeable difference between most stromboli recipes I’ve read and how I make pizza: the oven temperature. My approach to pizza making is to crank that shit right up. The stromboli recipes recommended a moderate oven. I assume this is because you’re supposed to have dough coiled inside the tube, and cooking at too high a temperature would bake the outside quick-smart and leave the inside whimpering and raw. The moderate oven approach seems to work fine, but I’m keen to experiment and try the crank-it-up approach. On the other hand, maybe I should concentrate on getting that tight scroll happening first.

But dudes, check it:

Only a fool would call this a failure.

The thin dough worked beautifully: it was light and crunchy and sturdy, and the filling hot and delicious. (Cheese and broccoli! That shit’s the cat’s pyjamas.) A thicker dough would detract, I think, because it would end up too chewy and bready. I like thinner dough, but I need to work on getting it more uniform so I don’t get bursts (see RUPTURE, above) when I roll it up. Because I will be making this again! This is perfect “bring a plate” food.

I’m calling this a win. Take that, Learn-How list!

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