I am a wife, a mom of three, and the kitchen is my favorite place in the house. I read cookbooks in my spare time and enjoy getting kitchen appliances for presents :) I love preparing delicious and healthy food for my family and here are a some of what graces our table each week.

Email Me for any of the recipes :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - October, 2008 - Basic Pizza Dough and Toppings

I have always wanted to be a better baker, especially when it came to fancy schmancy birthday cakes and the like. I came across a website a couple of months ago that referred to The Daring Bakers, a group of (what seems like) a million bloggers who bake the same recipe each month and post their results on the same day. I was totally intrigued and couldn't wait to start. As luck would have it, my first challenge was to be posted a week after I was to give birth. Fortunately, I was able to do the challenge way ahead of time and post the results just in time. I can't wait for next month's challenge!

It was kind of funny that I had been so excited to do some serious baking and the first challenge was pizzas. I make pizza from scratch all the time, but this dough was totally different, as was the baking process. I followed everything exactly, but did not attempt to toss the dough. It was such a soft and moist dough, the best I could do was stretch it without tearing it. Good thing I don't care how round my pizzas are! Everyone loved their dinner and - as always - I have some extra dough in the freezer waiting for me.

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.
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.
The ingredients:

Day One:

Day Two:

A simple tomato basil pizza sauce which has become Danny's favorite...

Mushroom/Yellow Pepper Pizza for Danny...(I forgot to get an "after" picture, it was devoured too quickly!)

Cheese Pizza for the kids...

Black Bean and Scallion Pizza for me :)

This is what a 500F oven will do to you...ouch :(

Friday, October 10, 2008

Planning Ahead

As you have seen, I haven't really been cooking so much these past couple of weeks. Partly, due to strict orders, but mostly because I can barely stand up! Luckily, I have lots of pre-cooked meals in the freezer that I was able to choose from and we have continued to eat pretty well. I did get myself in the kitchen today to stock up the freezer for the weeks - and maybe months - to come. Even though I think of myself as somewhat of a freezer-maven anyway, I took this book out of the library called Can I Freeze It? for a little inspiration. This is what I made this afternoon...

Instead of Ghana Meatballs, I browned the meat mixture (2 lbs worth) and put it into two ziplocks to use for pasta sauce.

I cubed and marinated 3 lbs of chicken breasts in a sesame ginger marinade to use for stir fries - three separate bags for three easy dinners.

I made Sesame Oven Baked Chicken with my other 3lbs of chicken breasts.

And, finally, two Dutch Meatloaves...
That concludes the meat portion of this insanity. Next week - Mac n' Cheese and Pizza ;)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Last Week...

I have definitely been slowing down and sitting at the computer is getting a little more uncomfortable everyday - hence the delay in posting these pictures. I probably wont be doing much cooking in the next couple of weeks, with the holidays and the fact that I am being forbidden by everyone in my family...That being said, here are a couple of things I snuck by last week:
Chicken with Ginger from Everyday Food. Two thumbs up! Easy and yummy flavor, a definite keeper.

Sunshine Chiffon Cake from the KitchenAid cookbook (too tired to type it out)

Looked beautiful, but the yolk mixture fell to the bottom while baking...not so tasty. I am pretty sure I didn't beat the egg whites quite stifly enough. Good thing that I don't get defeated that easily. Of course, I do have a half n' half angel food cake recipe that is half yellow/half angel that is one of Danny's favorites...maybe I will just stick to that one :)