Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pizza Dough Recipe

Okay, I'm just a little excited about this post. Of all the recipes that I have ever striven to perfect, this is THE ONE. Pizza, arguably one of the best culinary concoctions ever, would be nothing without it's crust. A house built on sand, a sandwich without bread, I think you understand what I am getting at. Of all the different kinds of crust: the thin crust, the almost cracker crust, the deep dish crust (yuck, sorry Chicago), my favorite is the yeasty, chewy crust. That is the recipe I'm sharing today. If you are looking for one of the others, go away silly, you won't find it here. However, I challenge you to try this pizza dough recipe, it just may convert you.

A little side note, you need 3-4 hours to make this start to finish. Yes, there are quick pizza dough recipes out there and they simply do not compare. Plan ahead for this, it's worth it and after a few times of making it you won't even think twice about it. Also, try my pizza sauce recipe, it's quick and very tasty:

(Sounds intimidating, but it’s not)

1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast (check the date on your package, if it’s old it won’t rise and that’s always a disappointment.)

1 tsp. sugar

1 ½ cups warm water (about 80 degrees)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 ¼ cups bread flour (Use the bread flour, all-purpose does not have the protein level you need to develop the chewy consistency that makes this dough so good.)

Place the yeast in a medium bowl (you can use the bowl from your mixer) and add the water and sugar, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Allow the yeast to rest for about 5 minutes, until it turns creamy. Stir the oil into the mixture and then gradually stir in the flour, mixing until well incorporated. Now it’s ready to go through it’s first rise, just scrape down the sides of bowl, cover, and let the sponge rest in a warm place (about 85 degrees) for about 1 ½ hours, or until the sponge is very bubbly and has risen to about double its volume. I have found the best place to let my dough rise is in the oven. I turn the oven light on and it warms the oven just enough to create the perfect environment for the dough to rise.


The sponge

2 to 2 ¼ cups bread flour

2 to 3 teaspoons of salt (depending on your taste)

Deflate the sponge which will be sticky and loose, and fix the mixer with a dough hook. Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt to the sponge and mix on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and, if the dough isn’t coming together nicely and cleaning the sides of the bowl (look below for pictures of this), sprinkle in a little more flour by spoonfuls. Continue to knead on medium speed for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Although the dough may remain moist and a little sticky, you should be able to grip it without having it stick uncomfortably to your fingers. Now the pizza dough is ready for the second rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, turn the ball of dough over so that its entire surface is moistened with oil, cover, and allow to rest in a warm place for 1 ½ hours, or until it has doubled in bulk and holds an impression for a few seconds when you prod it gently with your finger. It is then ready to stretch out into pizzas; you should get two nice sized crusts with this pizza dough recipe.

When baking the pizza, bake at 450 to 475 for around 15 minutes.

This is the sponge after the first rise, I sprinkled in the salt before I took the picture.

This is not pulling away from the bowl yet, needs more flour.

This is pulling away from the bowl and ready for the second rise.

In the bowl, before it's risen:

It's risen! Ready to make into pizzas with your favorite toppings.

Cooking Light's Citrus Chiffon Cake

I wanted to bake a cake but I was looking for a recipe that was light and worthy of serving to guests. I found this Cooking Light recipe, I think it is from the June 2005 issue. The citrus is not overpowering, just the right balance. I don't think the cake would be that good without it. And good variation would be lime or key lime with the orange or lemon. I made a thin powdered sugar icing with orange juice in place of milk and drizzled over each slice. YUM. I can also picture this served with fresh strawberries or any berry that's your favorite. Lots of plans for this one, let me know if you try it!

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. sugar (about 1 cup), divided
6 oz. sifted cake flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
1 Tbs. grated orange rind
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 Tbs. grated lemon rind
5 Tbs. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 large egg yolks
8 large egg whites
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325°

A couple of notes, I have a postal scale so I measured out this recipe in ounces, like it says to. I also used a silicone angel food cake pan and I think this would work well in a bundt pan if you have one. 158 calories and 5.3 grams of fat per serving.

Combine baking powder, salt, 7 ounces of the sugar and all the flour in a large bowl. Stir with a whisk until the mixture is well combined.

Combine orange rind, orange juice, lemon rind, canola oil, vanilla, and egg yolks in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add rind mixture to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.

Place egg whites in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 1 ounce of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-forth of the egg white mixture into the flour mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture.

Spoon batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan, spreading evenly. Break air pockets by cutting through batter with a knife. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until cake springs back lightly when touched. Invert pan; cool completely. Loosen cake from sides of pan using a narrow metal spatula. Invert cake onto plate and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spanakopita Pie

It's been a year! Sorry, it's been a busy time for me and my family and you know they come first! My latest kitchen concoction was inspired by the abundance of feta cheese leftover in my refrigerator from the holidays. With that in hand, I spotted a lonely roll of phyllo dough the rest was history. Make this in a 9x13 and cut into squares before you serve it. I can always tell how good something was by how much of the 9x13 my family cleans out, this time they ate 3/4's of it. I'd say that makes it a success! Let me know if you try it and if you make any variations. If you're like me and are always looking for another way to use ground beef, I think you'll like this. It messes up a few dishes but just wash them while it's baking and then reward yourself with double helpings!

Spanakopita Pie

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 large bag washed and ready fresh spinach
3 Tbs. lemon juice

2 cups cooked white rice, I use jasmine and rinse it well before I cook it.
12 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 eggs

1 roll of phyllo dough, defrosted
3/4 stick of butter, melted
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 375. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and then drain off the fat if needed. Add onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes until the onions start to become tender. Then add salt, coriander, pepper, and nutmeg. Slowly start adding handfuls of the fresh spinach, stirring to help it combine. The spinach will keep shrinking down, when you've added about a quarter of the bag, add the lemon juice. Then keep stirring and adding the spinach until you've added all of it. Once it has all wilted down, remove skillet from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the cooked rice and feta cheese. Stir in the eggs and then stir in the beef and spinach mixture. The filling is done!

Start layering buttered sheets of phyllo in the bottom of a 9x13. Cover the phyllo with a wet paper towel if you have to walk away from it for a minute, it dries out quickly. I have a silicone pastry brush that is excellent for brushing the butter over the delicate phyllo, if you don't you'll have to get creative! Lay down 6 or seven layers of phyllo and then cover it with the beef and spinach mixture. Cover the top with at least 6-7 more layers of phyllo and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-45 minutes, watch the top, don't let it over-brown.

Serves 8 if you have sides and only 6 if your crowd is hungry!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Strata Spanikopita

I was looking for what to make for dinner and decided to create something that pays tribute to my favorite appetizer, spanikopita. Perfect for brunch as well, this bakes up fluffy and full of vibrant flavor and color.

10-12 slices of Texas style toast, cubed
8 eggs
4 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. pepper
Olive oil
1 pkg. fresh spinach or 1 box frozen, thawed and drained
1/3 cup red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 2/3 of the cubed texas toast in the bottom. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, thyme and pepper. pour 2/3 of the egg mixture over the bread in the 9x13.

Saute the onion and garlic for several minutes in a skillet and then stir in the spinach, lemon juice and nutmeg. Saute for several more minutes until heated through and spinach has wilted. Spread spinach mixture over the bread and egg mixture in the 9x13. Crumble 2/3 of the feta cheese and chopped tomato over the spinach mixture. Spread the remaining bread cubes over the top and pour the remaining egg mixture evenly over the top. If the bread looks too dry, pour a little milk over the dry spots. Spread the remaining 1/3 of feta and tomatoes over the top. Let sit on the counter for 1 hour and then bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour or until the center is set. It will puff up considerably.

Variation: Add some cooked and cubed chicken breast in with the spinach layer if you like.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Summer Carrot Soup with Ginger Essence

The taste and body of this soup will have you savoring every spoonful. So simple and elegant, it's perfect for a brunch or summer dinner. I serve with a mixed green salad and parmesan crisps. And yes, it's even better the next day so feel free to make ahead and gently reheat.

2 lbs. organic carrots (typically sweeter)
4 1/2 cups water,
2 tsp. salt
5 inch piece fresh ginger, approx.
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
Additional water

Cut tops from carrots and peel them. Halve and cut into one inch pieces. Place in pot with water and salt and cook at a gentle boil until they are soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the ginger over a fine grater into a fine sieve placed over a bowl. Press down on the grated ginger, until you have 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of ginger juice. Set juice aside.

Once the carrots are soft, transfer carrots and remaining water to a food processor and process until smooth. Careful when processing hot foods. Add cream and 1 tablespoon of the ginger and process again. Return to pot and add wine and additional water (if needed, you probably will need) to reach desired consistency. This is not a thin soup. Gently bring back to low boil, taste and add remaining ginger juice if desired. Serve.

Notes: You can reserve some cooked carrot, slice it, and place on top of soup with a drizzle of cream for a nice presentation. You may also reduce the amount of cream if you are looking for less fat calories.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coffee Crumb Cake

I love anything that has coffee in it. This cake is so dense and moist, and not to sweet. It's a great breakfast treat when you have company or to snack on when getting together with friends for a game of cards. You can make it in a 9x13 or divide it into 2 8x8 cake pans and freeze one for later. Freezing one is the only way I can keep myself from eating the whole thing!

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 c. warm coffee
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix the sugar, salt and flour together in mixer bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, making fine crumbs. Take out 1 cup of the crumbs and set aside. Dissolve the baking soda into the coffee and add to crumb mixture. Add egg and vanilla. Stir until combined, the batter will be thin and a little lumpy. Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan. Sprinkle the reserved cup of crumbs evenly over the top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Try not to overbake.

Note: I use a mixer but you can also mix this by hand.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Canned Roast Beef

Can the right cut of beef and you will have roast that is tender, delicious and quick. I use it to make beef and noodles, (homemade egg noodles that I make with my mom) and for meat in a quick vegetable soup. It's also divine heated in the skillet with onion and peppers for hot roast beef subs. My mom has been teaching me to can and I have been having a ball with it. I have so many ideas to try! I shop around for the beef, when I find it on sale that's when I can. This recipe is for 7 quart jars because that's how many my canner holds. Always follow all the instructions that come with your pressure canner. In the summer months some towns will have canning kitchens at schools and etc. where you can go to can your goods. Check around to see if you have one in your area.

16 lbs. of raw chuck roast or rump roast.
7 glass canning jars with rings and lids.

Wash the jars in very hot soapy water and let dry, I do not pack raw beef into hot jars. Trim most of the fat from the beef and cut into one inch cubes. (roughly) Fill jars with the raw beef but do not pack them tight, leaving one inch headroom at the top of the jar. I find I get between 1.8 to 2 lbs of beef in each jar. Add one teaspoon of salt to each jar and pepper to taste. Wipe the tops of the jars to remove any residue before you place the lids on. Make sure to follow your pressure canners instructions and remember to boil your lids before you use them. Cook at 11 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes, again following your canner's instructions. You will be glad to have this on your shelves!

Note: You do not add any liquid when you can raw beef, it makes it's own beautiful broth. I have always wondered how it would turn out if I added 1/4 cup red wine to each jar though...