Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Basic Pizza Dough - Daring Bakers Challenge

***'s that time again...Daring Bakers time, that is! This month we were challenged to make our very own pizza dough. But that was only half the challenge...we also had to transform into pizzaiolos for a day and actually toss the dough + take pictures of the tossing action! I was pumped...I had never attempted tossing pizza dough until tonight (yes, I waited until the very last minute to complete this challenge). The recipe was taken from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart.

Our lovely host this month was Rosa from Rosa's Yummy Yums. Thanks Rosa for the wonderful challenge!!!

I chose to make a simple, Margherita pizza (mozzarella, roma tomatoes, basil & olive oil). I ended up with 2 large dough balls (instead of 6 smaller ones), so I've got another one sitting in the fridge waiting for its turn. I didn't want to do anything too complicated for the first go-around...just in case the dough didn't want to cooperate. However, the dough was perfect! I think that making the dough with chilled ingredients and then letting it sit in the fridge overnight makes a big difference in the texture and quality of the dough. I'm going to try different toppings on the second pizza...I haven't completely made up my mind yet though. There are SO many options!

As you can see, Brad had fun trying out his new camera for the "dough tossing photo shoot"...LOL. I think I had even more fun tossing the dough and trying not to let it hit the floor!

I can't wait to see what next month's challenge will be...stay tuned!***
**The 3 photos in this post were all taken by my husband, Brad.**

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar

1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Red Velvet Cake - "Southern Living"

***I recently got the opportunity to make these cheesecake pops and a star-shaped Red Velvet Cake for a friend's baby shower. The theme was: "You're a Star Sebastian!" It was so much fun! I was worried about the star-shaped pan...I was nervous that the cake would stick to the sides & bottom, and I wouldn't be able to get it out all in one piece. However, if you know the correct way to grease and flour a cake pan, you'll never fail!

The secret is using solid Crisco shortening to grease the pan...not butter...and not Pam! The shortening makes a big difference for some reason. I also always put a round (or in this case, a star!) of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, and add a dusting of flour. The results couldn't have been better. The cake slipped right out with no problems.

This red velvet cake recipe was divine! It was moist and delicious, with just the right amount of yummy cocoa. I can't wait to make it again for Christmas. And as always, the cheesecake pops were a BIG hit! They tend to go quickly. ;)

Red Velvet Cake
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3 large eggs
1 (1-ounce) bottle liquid red food coloring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add sugar, vanilla, and vinegar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add food coloring, beating until combined.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch cakepans.

Bake at 350° for 20 to 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 5 minutes; remove from pans, and cool on wire racks.

Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on tops and sides of cake.


Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans

Beat cream cheese and butter until creamy; gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating well. Stir in pecans.

***Note - I didn't mix the pecans into the frosting as the recipe suggests. Instead, I covered the sides of the cake with chopped pecans.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chocolatey Hazelnut Brownies ....Mmmmm.....

***The other night, I had a major craving for a brownie (or 2!)...nothing too fancy, just a chocolatey, nutty, delicious brownie. I hit the jackpot with this recipe. It calls for walnuts, but I used hazelnuts instead. I also sprinkled chocolate chips over the top of the batter before baking. The result: Chocolate Heaven! Consider this a warning though - they are seriously addicting. Do not make these if you're on a diet, LOL.

I did double the recipe and then cooked them in a square baking dish instead of a loaf pan. Also, instead of regular shortening, I used margarine. After doubling the recipe, I started with 1 stick margarine, but the batter seemed to be too thick. I added another 1/2 stick melted butter and that brought the batter to the perfect consistency.

I found this recipe in a great cookbook that Brad recently surprised me with. It's "The Taste of Home Cookbook." I highly recommend it! The recipes are all easy to make (there's over 1,200 recipes!), and most of them call for ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Plus, when you buy the cookbook, you get a FREE subscription to Taste of Home magazine...can't beat that!***

1/4 cup shortening (I used 1 1/2 sticks margarine, instead)
3 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I used hazelnuts)

In a small mixing bowl, cream shortening and cocoa; beat in egg, sugar and vanilla.

Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined. Stir in walnuts.

Pour into a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Yield: 8 brownies.
Editor's Note: This recipe may be doubled and baked in an 8-in. square pan for 20-25 minutes.

Source: "The Taste of Home Cookbook"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shrimp in Ginger Butter Sauce

***This is SUCH an easy, fast, and delicious way to prepare shrimp. The ginger butter sauce was fabulous...I'm loving fresh ginger lately. You'll only need 5 ingredients and 15 minutes to complete this dish! The only thing that I changed were the amounts...the recipe says it serves one, so I just doubled everything to serve two. It was a hit in our house. I found this recipe in the Sept. 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine (my new favorite mag!).***

From Gourmet magazine:
Shrimp in Ginger Butter Sauce
Serves 1
"Ginger and cilantro add Southeast Asian oomph to this French-style butter sauce, which lightly coats big, meaty shrimp. For more recipes inspired by the City of Light, visit our Paris City Guide."

6 oz large shrimp in shell, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled ginger
2 tablespoons medium-dry Sherry
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro

Pat shrimp dry and season with salt.

Heat butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then sauté ginger 30 seconds. Add shrimp and sauté 2 minutes. Add Sherry and sauté until shrimp are just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cilantro and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with: a baguette; green beans

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Cake

***When a friend, Peggy, recently asked me to make a double chocolate cake for a party, I had just the right recipe in mind. I had seen this recipe on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa canister, and I had also heard wonderful things about this particular cake over on Good Things Catered. So, I decided to give it a try. And let me just tell you...making a chocolate cake and not eating a slice was EXTREMELY hard for me...LOL....I am very much a chocolate addict. I was very pleased with the results, though. The cake was wonderfully moist (just look at the pics!) and the frosting was out-of-this-world delicious. Seriously...this cake is my new go-to chocolate cake.

Peggy wanted a fall-themed cake, preferably with sunflowers. I had a lot of fun thinking of ideas for this cake!***
Cake Batter = Chocolately Goodness!
Just look at those yummy layers...

2 c. sugar
1-3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c. milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. boiling water (or 1 c. freshly brewed, hot coffee)

For the Frosting:
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
2/3 c. Hershey's Cocoa
3 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl.

Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, make frosting:
Stir melted butter into cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add a small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. (Yields about 2 cups frosting.)

Frost cake when completely cooled, as desired.

Source: Hershey's Kitchens

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sauteed Chicken in Riesling (Poulet au Riesling)

***I know, I're probably wondering why in the world I haven't been posting as much lately. I apologize...things have been kind of busy. I did accomplish something pretty cool though. I ran my first 5K this weekend! It was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I had a blast! It's such an amazing thing to see SO many people unite for one cause. There was somewhere between 13,000 - 16,000 participants!

But, don't fear...I have A LOT of posting to catch up with. I've been in the kitchen almost every night, and there are tons of photos on my camera right now...and they can't wait for their turn in the spotlight. :)

Tonight's post is yet another wonderful dish from my new favorite cookbook, Williams-Sonoma: Paris. This dish was incredibly tasty...I can't imagine chicken sauteed in a fabulous wine not being good...can you? The meat was so tender, and we were all glad there were left-overs for the next night.

You'll enjoy this one!***

4 1/2 lbs. chicken pieces, preferably legs with thighs attached
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive-oil
6-8 shallots, about 1/2 lb. total weight, chopped (I used onion)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle dry Riesling (I used Relax a blue bottle)
3 Tbsp. small pieces dried mushrooms such as chanterelle, cepe, or fairy ring (I left these out)
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp. coarsley chopped fresh tarragon
3/4 cup heavy cream
A few drops fresh lemon juice (optional)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh chives
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh chervil (I used fresh parsley)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper, then rub with the olive oil. In a large, heavy nonstick pan over medium-high heat, brown the chicken in batches, turning occasionally, 10-15 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.

2. Pour off all but 1 tbsp. of fat from the pan and return to medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the Riesling, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, 10-15 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms, stock, and half of the tarragon. Pour the sauce into a roasting pan at least 4 inches deep and large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Arrange the chicken on the sauce.

3. Bake the chicken until opaque throughout when pierced with a knife, 35-40 minutes. Raise the heat to 400 degrees F. and continue baking until the edges of the skin are crisp, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a deep platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

4. Spoon off any fat from the sauce. Place the pan over high heat, bring the sauce to a boil, and cook, stirring, until reduced by about half, 7-8 minutes. Stir in the cream and taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and with lemon juice, if using. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with the chives, chervil, and remaining tarragon. Serve at once.

Source: Williams-Sonoma: Paris Cookbook

Saturday, October 4, 2008

GrannyRene's Chicken & Dumplings / Steamed Cabbage

***My sweet grandmother, GrannyRene, recently came to stay with us, and we had so much fun! We got into the kitchen and cooked up a storm...Chicken & Dumplings, Steamed Cabbage, Collard Greens w/Ham...just to name a few of her specialties. Growing up, she made Chicken & Dumplings often. It has always been a favorite of mine...just the smell of it cooking brings back so many wonderful memories. I've made her Chicken & Dumplings before, but I really wanted GrannyRene to teach me how first-hand. She has several tricks that make them really special! She even wrote down all the recipes for me. I've included a scan of those too. In my opinion, you can't beat a hand-written recipe lovingly written by the cook!

There are so many ways that you can make Chicken & Dumplings (with herbs, onions, etc.), however, GrannyRene's simple recipe is packed with flavor and will always be my favorite! The flavor in this dish will surprise you, considering the short ingredient list. It's perfect on a cool fall evening, and it is the ultimate comfort food!***

Chicken & Dumplings
- GrannyRene's Original Recipe

1 (2 lb.) whole, boiler chicken
1 can cream of mushroom soup (you can also use cream of chicken soup instead)
2 Qts. water
1/2 cup flour
1 (12 oz) package of frozen dumplings
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cut chicken up into desired pieces. Wash and remove excess fat and skin.

Put chicken in a heavy pot and cook in 2 quarts of water until fully cooked and tender. Remove from broth and let cool. Remove meat from bone, tearing into bite-sized pieces.

Add cream of mushroom soup to chicken broth. Season with salt and pepper. Let broth come to a boil.

Take the dumplings and break into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle dumplings with all-purpose flour until they are covered well (see above photo). Add dumplings to the chicken broth. Turn heat down to medium-low and cook until dumplings are done (The flour on the dumplings will help to thicken the broth). Add the bite-sized chicken pieces to make your meal complete!

Steamed Cabbage
- GrannyRene's Recipe

1 medium cabbage
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water
Salt & Pepper to taste

To prepare cabbage for cooking, remove first 2-3 outer leaves of cabbage. Cut into four quarters. Remove the center stem of each quarter (see photo below). Wash and drain on paper towels.

Take outer half of each quarter of cabbage and cut into small strips (see photo below).

Place 1 cup water in a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. Put cabbage strips in pot; add olive oil and cook about 20 minutes.

Cut up the remaining cabbage and add to the pot (see below). Cook about 10 minutes longer. By cooking some of the cabbage longer than the rest, you will end up with a nice mixture of soft and crunchy cabbage.