Monday, February 28, 2011

Pizza Night!!

This pizza was fantastic and that was largely in part to using Annie's pizza crust. The crust was SO easy to make. When you make a batch there is enough for two pizzas so you can freeze one like I did or use this recipe when you want to make enough pizza for a game night or when you're feeding a larger crowd.
I was really scared to make my own dough, I've never really made anything with yeast and didn't want it to flop. I was pleasantly surprised! Annie's instructions are so easy to follow. I've copy and pasted her exact instructions below and have put my notes in italics.

I've tried homemade pizza before using Trader Joe's prepackaged pizza crusts but it didn't turn out. The crust was too thin and it didn't hold up to the toppings on the pizza. This crust is the opposite of that. The bottom of the crust is crisp and sturdy but also soft and chewy, exactly like pizza crust should taste. It held up to the pizza toppings nicely and provided a huge sense of satisfaction as we ate it. I don't know about you but when I make something that tastes really good, I feel like a Chef in a world-renowned restaurant. I did it. I am a good cook.
As far as pizza toppings, that's up to you! There are so many possibilities, just think of the pizzas that you like. Spinach and Mushroom? Veggie? Alfredo pizza? Cheese? Sausage? Yum! The one pictured above is a take off of Annie's Chicken Ranch Pizza. I knew I had most the ingredients, but I wanted to add some bacon to ours. I also drizzled a bit of BBQ sauce on our pizza before baking.

Basic Pizza Dough

½ cup warm water (about 110°)
1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ tsp. salt
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions: (don't be scared. It seems like a lengthy process, but it's not that bad, honest)
Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it. I think I put a little too much oil in my bowl, there was always a 'layer' sort of of oil. I would suggest dabbing some oil onto a paper towel and rubbing the paper towel on the inside of the bowl to oil it.

Measure a piece of parchment paper to fit your pizza stone. I tried to roll out my dough without knowing how big my stone was and as it turned out, I could have made a bit larger of a pizza. I would have rather had that happen than to find out that I made my pizza too big for my stone. To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

If you're only going to make one pizza, now is the time to freeze the other. Wrap the portion you're not using tightly into plastic wrap and store inside a freezer-safe bag. The double layer is important because the dough will continue to rise for a bit and will pop out of the plastic wrap, so by putting it in a plastic bag as well, you'll keep the dough contained. Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Top as desired. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

Thawing instructions for frozen dough:
Freeze the dough until it is ready to be used. The day you plan to use the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator in the morning to thaw in time for dinner that evening. (If using the dough for lunch, transfer to the refrigerator the night before.) The dough that has been frozen tastes every bit as good as fresh, so it is incredibly convenient to have available for a quick, throw-together meal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oven Scrambler

Introducing... my very first guest blogger. My wonderful Husband, Matt, is sharing a recipe with us today. Here is his recipe for a breakfast he made for us when we had a random weekday off together.

Ok so for this recipe I used a one time use aluminum pan. You could use this or a glass baking dish would work too. I sprayed the pan with non stick spray, set that aside. I then took 3 potatoes cut them into quarters and sliced those up, added them to a frying pan with a bit of EVOO and some Tastefully Simple Seasoned Salt. I fried those for about 10 minutes just to get a nice golden brown,  while those fried, in a bowl I mixed together 4 eggs with about a ¼ cup of milk and some tastefully simple Bacon Bacon and added that to the aluminum pan and placed it in the oven at 350. After the potatoes started showing some color I pulled the eggs from the oven stirred them around, and added the potatoes. I placed them back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes were up I took turkey lunch meat that I had cut up, tossed in with the eggs and potatoes and sprinkled sharp shredded cheese on top and placed in the oven just to get it melted.

Amy's Opinions:
It was a very good breakfast. It was something that was quick and easy. It was nice to have a 'treat' for Breakfast. Typically, we take yougrt & english muffins or cereal or frozen waffles to work and eat after we get to work. On weekends, or on weekdays that we're off together, it's nice to have a heartier breakfast.

You could definitely make this for a large group, just add more ingredients! This would be great with some fresh onions too, but we were all out.

My only suggestion for improvement would be to have smaller chunks of lunchmeat.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chocolate Malt Cookies

You know when people have news to share, whether good or bad, they ask the person who is about to receive the news "are you sitting down?" Well.. before you go any further, I need to ask you...

Are you sitting down? Are you ready for this?

These chocolate malt cookies from Smells Like Home are phenomenal. Oh. em. gee. They are fantastical. I noticed them when there was a virtual baby shower for Annie. Annie has a completely cute little boy named Andrew and they're expecting their Daughter, Caroline, very soon. So, some of her blog friends hosted a shower for her. How cute!

I didn't realize until after I made these cookies, but I have the Martha Stewart cookbook that they're originally from. I thumbed through the book a little the other night after realizing it and found so many cookies that I'd like to make in there!. Where shall I send a dozen to first?

Ok, I'm done rambling, onto the cookies!

Dressed up for Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Malt Sandwich Cookies
From: Smells Like Home
Originally From: Martha Stewart

Yields: 18-20 sandwiches

Tara made note that she could not find malted milk powder in grocery stores around her. I was prepared to use Ovaltine as a substitute per her suggestion, but much to my surprise, there was malted milk powder on the shelf right next to Ovaltine at my local Target.
Cookie Ingredients:
 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plain malted milk powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I used sea salt which I wasn't a fan of. Perhaps that was too coarse)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons hot water
Ingredients for the sandwich filling:
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup plain malted milk powder
3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons half-and-half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Let's get bakin!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, malted milk powder, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg, sour cream, and hot water. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture.

Space tablespoon-size balls of dough 3 1/2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until flat and just firm, 10 to 12 minutes. (I took them out at the 10 minute mark. I didn't want them to get too crispy) Let cool on parchment on wire racks.

While the cookies are baking, melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simming water, stirring. Let cool. (I've never melted chocolate in this manner before. I've always melted it in the microwave in ~30 second increments. I'm an impatient person, but melting chocolate this way was super stress-free. It was almost therapeutic watching the chocolate slowly, slowly melt into a smooth velvety chocolate) With an electric mixer, beat malted milk powder and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Gradually mix in half-and-half, chocolate mixture, and vanilla. Refrigerate, covered, until thick, about 30 minutes. Beat on high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. After chilling, the filling will be very thick and dark but as soon as you start to beat it, the color will begin to lighten and the filling will become very fluffy.

Match up cookies of similar sizes into pairs.  Using a tablespoon-size cookie scoop, scoop a heaping tablespoon of the filling onto the bottom of one cookie.  Sandwich with another cookie until the filling pushes to the edges of the cookies.  Repeat with remaining pairs of cookies.  Cookies can be kept at room temperature between layers of parchment in airtight containers up to 3 days.

I originally made these for a coworker who helped me restore a huge Excel document that I accidentally erased.  I could have kissed her I was so happy! I figured she deserved something home baked as a thank you. We often go to her for all of our excel questions and I don't know that she ever really gets a proper Thank You.

Take your baked goods to work day!
I sent the rest of the batch to work with Matt. I have to admit, I really love the compliments that come rolling in when I send treats with him to work. The one that I'm most humbled by.. his 'Work Mom' is a novice cook and baker. She's always bringing homemade cinnamon rolls, egg bakes, pastries etc to work for her coworkers. She told him that these were 'the best cookie I've ever had.' I really feel honored that she said that. A couple different coworkers of his told him that I should open a bakery. Little do they know, if money were no object and that was completely doable, I'd open a bakery in a heartbeat. Definitely a pipe dream.

Unfortunately, I can't take the credit for these wonderful concotions, that's all Mrs. Martha's doings. I'll gladly reel in the compliments though :-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Smokies

Bacon Wrapped Mini Weenies
Amy's Kitchen Creation Original Recipe

I know there are hundreds of recipes out there for mini weenies.  Some in bbq sauce, some wrapped in bacon, some just thrown in a crockpot.  These are super easy to make.  We were having a potluck at work and I wanted to bring something that you could sort of classify as an entree.  Usually at our work, potlucks are a lot of chips, store bought dips, store bought fruit trays etc.  I wanted to make something at home, even if it was using prepackaged foods.

Everyone loved them.  I only made a small crockpot full and they were gone in about two hours, if that.  I made them again for another occasion with family shortly after.  Delicious.

1 package of bacon-I used regular (not maple) and regular cut (not thick cut)
2 packages little weenies (whatever brand was on sale)
Sprinkles of Everyday Grillin Seasoning, Seasoned Salt and Black Pepper
Few drizzles of Bayou Bourbon Glaze

Cut your package of bacon into thirds. Lightly spray an 8x13 pan with cooking spray Using a strip of bacon from one of the third sections, wrap it around the little weenie, secure with a toothpick and place in your pan.  Repeat this process until you're out of bacon and weenies. 

I baked them at 350 for about 30 minutes I think. I didn't set a timer, I just watched them while I prepared dinner. Cook until the bacon is done and even a little crispy.

I left them cool while we ate dinner. Once they were cooled, I took all of the toothpicks out and stored them in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, I heated them in the microwave real quick and when I got to work I put them in a mini crockpot and they were ready for our lunch potluck.  

You'll have to excuse my picture. This is a picture of the leftovers. I've also decided, mini weenies don't photograph so well.