Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Toire no Hanako-san

One of the women that used to watch after me when I got out of school once told me a story that remains with me to this day.  I can’t recall the whole tale but I remember the lasting effect it had on me.  The story was something about a witch who haunts the toilet and reaches up and grabs you as you’re using the potty.    Throughout my youth and sometimes to this very day I have check the toilet bowl to make sure there’s not a scraggly hand lying in wait to seize my unsuspecting bottom. 

The Japanese legend of Hanako-san is a similar tale of terror of the toilet.  It’s a story of a menacing young girl that haunts school restrooms, terrorizing little schoolgirls all across Japan.  It is one of the most famous ghost stories known as Toire no Hanako-san  or Hanako of the toilet .  Hanako is frequently found  haunting the third stall in the restroom on the third floor . . .  the girls' room . . . of a school.

Like most stories, there are versions, but in most she remains inactive unless provoked; when a silly little non-believer taunts her by knocking on her stall door three times and calls her name. 
"Are you there, Hanako-san?"

"Hai, I am here."  
If the girl is brave enough, she will open the door. But then Hanako-san will pull her into the toilet.

The story gained the status of an urban legend in the 80’s but rumors of Hanako’s damp porcelain existence began more than thirty years before that.  It is believed that Hanako-san is the ghost of a WWII-era girl who died in a bombing raid on the school while she was playing hide-and-seek.

If left alone, Hanako-san is harmless and can be avoided simply by staying away from her hiding spot.


Okonomiyaki . . . Japanese Pizza . . . yeps they even have pizza there.  It’s not quite the same as what we call pizza in the United States . . .  in Japan, it often takes some strange forms.  More like a pancake with toppings like rice, seaweed, squid, cod roe. 

There’s even Pizza Huts in Japan . . . you can get a napoorio with a  thin crust, pahn pizza ehm saizi, pahn pizza eru saizi or a cheezu crusto.  They can be made with the more familiar Pizza Hut toppings plus the odd things that the Japanese like to eat. 


Pizza Dough Recipe

This is THE best pizza dough recipe I've used . . . it's now my standard for pizza dough!

4 1/2 Cups Unbleached Bread Or All-Purpose Flour
1 3/4 (.44 Ounce) Teaspoons Salt
1 Teaspoon Yeast
1/4 Cup (2 Ounces) Olive Oil
1 3/4 Cups Water, Ice Cold (40°F)
Cornmeal for Dusting

Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl.  

With an electric mixer, mix on low speed with the paddle attachment, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed.  Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough.

If mixing by hand:  With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed.  Repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand.   Do this for 5 to 7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.

Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces  for large size pizza.  Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball.  Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip into a food-grade plastic bag.  Refrigerate the dough for several hours to allow it to rest.  You can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

When you’re ready to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil.

Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it.

When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide.

Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy

Loaded Mashed Potato Pizza

1/2 Pound Of Bacon
1 (14 Ounce) Ball Pizza Dough
2 Cup Prepared Mashed Potatoes
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 Cup Sour Cream, For Topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook bacon in a large deep skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain, crumble and set aside.

Spread the pizza dough out on a lightly greased baking sheet. Spread mashed potatoes over the dough, leaving a small crust around the outside if you want. Sprinkle the cheese and bacon evenly over the potatoes.

Bake the pizza in the preheated oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly. Then slice into wedges and top each one with a small dollop of sour cream.

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