In Need of a Distraction

28 02 2009
Ouch!

Ouch!

After spending the week fulfilling various writing assignments, covering everything from mother-in-law TMI to commercials that employ the use of flowing armpit hair, there comes a time where the assignments are done and all of the housework is completed, and I have to focus on the issue at hand: looking for work is starting to really get to me.

I am not used to being unemployed and, truthfully, I don’t do it well. I actually enjoy being overly busy with a an overflowing inbox and a line of people outside my office. It makes me feel useful and necessary. However, leave me at home with nothing to do but scan job listings and tackle a mountain of housework, and I am completely at a loss and, most likely, a hostage whatever topic is being discussed on “The View.”

Then, there are those well-meaning souls who constantly ask, “how’s the job search going? Have you found anything yet?” Could I feel like more of a loser as they ask those questions and give me Pity Eyes?

Yes, I know I’m not alone in this situation and it will get better. The right job (as opposed to just any job) is out there somewhere. I just have to keep looking. We will find each other.

Thankfully, I can always bake (which is so much more fun than obsessive cleaning!). This month’s Daring Bakers Challenge – Chocolate Valentino Cake – consists of three simple ingredients and how you interpret them is part of the challenge. This is a very dense and fudgey cake that forms a brownie-like crust on the top.

This month’s challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad – Baker & Chef. This month, we made a Flourless Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Valentino, inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. The recipe comes from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan. Notes in parentheses are from Wendy and Dharm.

A few notes before you get started:

  • Use your favorite chocolate – the finished cake will taste exactly like the chocolate you use. Be creative with your chocolate, if you like a sweeter cake use milk chocolate or a combination of the semisweet and milk chocolate. If you like bittersweet chocolate use that and add sweetness by mixing the semi sweet with bittersweet. If you are daring, try white chocolate. (Dharm used all bittersweet and Wendy used a half bitter/half semi sweet chocolate).
  • A higher cacao percentage increases the bitterness of the chocolate.
  • Equipment – it is optional to use a heart shaped pan. For a real Valentino, bake it in a heart shaped pan or cut it out into a heart shape. You may use any shape pan that gives you an area of 50” – 6×8 or 7×7. An 8” spring form pan works with great results as do smaller pans or ramekins.
  • An instant read thermometer highly recommended.
  • I am a total crapweasel, as I did not have the time (or the inclination as unemployment tends to make us Type A’s a tad depressed) to make my own ice cream, so I used what Hubs bought on sale at Kroger.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Dharm’s Ice Cream Recipe
Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)

Ingredients
1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat)
{you can easily increase your cream’s fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted – cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed. Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse
Lift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy. 3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time
4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.
5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container. Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)
By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

Wendy’s Ice Cream Recipe
Vanilla Philadelphia Style Recipe
Preparation Time: 5 minutes

2 cups (473 ml) of half and half (1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of whole, full fat milk)
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
2/3 (128 grams) cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 (12 grams) tablespoon of vanilla

Mix all ingredients together (we do this in a plastic pitcher and mix with an emulsifier hand blender-whisking works too).
Refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer
Mix in your ice cream maker as directed.

David Lebovitz link for making ice cream if you do not have an ice cream freezer.

Links to helpful tips:
Folding video demonstration.
Egg Whipping video demonstration.

heart-brownie_thumb

db





Riddle Me This

13 01 2009

media_monkeys

For those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn (shame on you!), I am now an official source of knowledge. I received a call yesterday from a reporter at msnbc.com (thanks to my pal Kelby at Type-A Mom) for a story she was writing on the dangers of using Vicks Vapo Rub on little kids. For the record, I am pro-Vicks, when used correctly. Read all about it here. While I’m thrilled to have been asked, I’m a bit disturbed and perplexed. Apparently, the national media now considers me a credible source because I have a child and a blog, never mind that I could, in theory, be some random crackpot. Ah, the power I wield just by having a vagina! Now, if only I could solve that whole women-making-78-cents-to-every-dollar-a-man-makes-for-the-same-job thing!

Since I have been out of work a whopping two weeks now, I have finally had the time to think about who I want to be and the image I want to project as a professional, which, of course, screams makeover. As a marketing maven, I prefer to refer to this as “personal branding.” However, it has finally dawned on me that as a woman, I am constantly in a state of reinvention – for a new job, new man, etc. – and, perhaps I don’t know the authentic me as well as I should. Is it possible that we all renovate ourselves on such a regular basis that we lose touch with our true selves? Did I mention that I have way too much time on my hands?

Since I have all of this free time, I have been putting it to good use – and Hubs’s waistline is reaping the benefits! I’ve been cooking quite a bit and am in the midst of deciding what I want to make tomorrow for dinner. I could go relatively healthy with a white bean-chicken chili concoction or go in a more interesting direction with mini burgers. Mind you, I’d have to bake the buns myself since I have a specific bread type in mind, plus I have limited fixins, so this could be a bit of a challenge. Any thoughts?

Finally, I’m still having trouble adding pictures to my post now that WordPress has updated their interface. Maybe it’s just my craptastic computer? What I need for this blog is a sponsor – someone who will litter my beautiful little blog with their garish
logos, but give me a really sweet new laptop in exchange for the free advertising. Any takers?





Ho-Ho-Hell Yeah!

26 12 2008

This may sound very un-mommylike of me, but I’m very glad that Christmas is over. No more frenzied baking, shopping, and moments of forced gaiety. And the minute I wake up on New Year’s Day, the Christmas crap is coming down! Monday, my dog managed to surprise me by moving the Christmas tree three times in the span of two hours. Not bad for a dog whose intellectual capacity generally rivals that of a bowling ball, eh? Despite my je-ne-sais-whatever (you do know that making up words is a slight obsession of mine, right?), The Baby had a great Christmas: lots of presents and great food, if I must say so myself. For those keeping track at home, dinner consisted of sweet pepper stew, sausage stuffed pork loin, garlic mashed potatoes, salad, crusty bread, and pecan pie.

Meanwhile, the job search resumes, now that the holiday machine is getting ready to grind to a screeching halt. Wednesday is my last day at work and it’s going to be a tough day. I never wanted to leave and maybe this would be easier to accept if I had done something wrong However, it is what it is (a layoff) and I don’t have time to sit and feel sorry for myself.

On a totally random note, what is the deal with WP? All of a sudden, I can’t insert photos into my posts. Why???





Escape Mechanism or Overcompensation? You Decide.

29 11 2008

Thanksgiving weekend is now halfway behind us and, after having survived being housebound with two kids, I can offer a few survival tips:

  • Bribery will get you everywhere. Last weekend, we initiated a non-annoyance clause and forced the girls to work together to get something they wanted.
  • Thank God for the library and its video collection.
  • Thank God for tryptophan. Who knew the Baby would love turkey and gravy so much?
  • Finding time for yourself is a good thing. Yesterday, I carved out some time for a run, which helped me get to my “happy place” and stop focusing so much on the noise and craziness at home.

My other favorite distraction is baking and, thankfully, this is the weekend for yet another Daring Bakers’ Challenge – Carmamel Cake with Carmelized Butter Frosting by Shauna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater, courtesy of Dolores at Culinary Curiosity, with help from Alex of Blondie and the Brownie, Jenny of Foray Into Food, and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go. Click here to find the original recipe.

cake

CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Notes from Natalie for those of you baking gluten-free:

So the GF changes to the cake would be:

2 cups of gluten free flour blend (w/xanthan gum) or 2 cups of gf flour blend + 1 1/2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1/2 – 1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.

CARAMEL SYRUP

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for “stopping” the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.

CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner’s sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner’s sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)
(Optional) GOLDEN VANILLA BEAN CARAMELS
– makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels –

Ingredients
1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Equipment
A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer

Procedure

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.

Variations

Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

(recipe from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111)

Chef’s notes: this recipe didn’t excite me a whole lot, as I just don’t like too much “sweet” at one time, but this does make a nice treat for those who stop by during the busy holiday season! I thought the recipe was fairly easy to make, but it is pretty labor-intensive, so I would recommend only making this for those who would appreciate all of the work involved (ie: not kids or dessert-scarfing husbands). I doubled the recipe for the cake itself so I could make a double layer cake. BTW, it’s hard to stay out of the syrup because it tastes like liquid toasted marshmallows (ie: crack-tastic).

db2





A Few of My Favorite Things

1 11 2008

Last night was trick or treat night and the Baby cleaned up. She went as a “Rainbow Barbie Fairy Princess,” which was absolutely adorable, despite the fact that her costume was already falling apart and this was only the second wearing (she wore it last weekend for the Halloween party at our church). We have tons of candy, which Hubs won’t let me take to work, and the Baby had a great night.

One of my Halloween traditions is that I make a pot of chili on trick or treat night. So, I tried a new recipe, Buffalo Chicken Chili, courtesy of Rachael Ray. The finishing touch is that you top it with tortilla chips and melted blue cheese:

Buffalo Chicken Chili

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery with leafy tops, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
  • 1 can stewed, fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes (15 ounces)
  • 1 sack whole grain tortilla chips, lightly crushed
  • 3/4 pound Maytag Blue cheese, crumbled
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preparation

Place a large pot over medium-high heat with the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan. Add the ground chicken and break it up, lightly browning it for 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, paprika and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 7-8 minutes. Add the chicken stock and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pot.

Add the hot sauce, tomato sauce and the stewed, fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes to the chili and bring up to a bubble. Simmer for 8-10 minutes more to let the flavors come together.

While the chili is simmering, pre-heat the broiler.

Spread the chips out on a cookie sheet. Top with the crumbled blue cheese and transfer to the oven to melt the cheese, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.

Top each serving of Buffalo Chicken Chili with a few blue cheese chips.

 

One of my favorite things to do is cook, especially this time of year when you get stuck inside because of miserable weather, so imagine my glee at having a Daring Bakers Challenge that combines both baking and cooking. This month, we were challenged to make pizza, which is a big favorite in my house. Although we were challenged to toss the crust, I gave it a try, but ended up rolling it anyway. Also, I stayed with the traditional tomato sauce and cheese topping, but I’m intrigued by using pumpkin puree. Would love to hear from any of my fellow DB’s who used it. What else did you use with it?

~ BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~
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).

Ingredients:
4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled – FOR Gluten Free: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast – FOR GF use 2 tsp
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 – FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

DAY ONE

Method:
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.

Or

2.  FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then 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.

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.

DAY TWO

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.

Or

8.  FOR GF:  On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator.  Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and 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.

Or

10.  FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

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.

Or

11.  FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

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

Or

12.  FOR GF:  Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

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.

Or

13.  FOR GF:  Follow the notes for this step.

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.

REMARKS:
Tossing links:

http://www.wikihow.com/Toss-Pizza-Dough

http://www.vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?f … D=35480534

http://www.ehow.com/how_2066953_toss-pizza-dough.html

http://www.classic-hand-tossed-pizza.bl … hands.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhcTKeslAmk

http://www.ask.yahoo.com/20050222.html

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NOTE ON SAUCE: Your sauce (any) should not be too thick as it will thicken in the hot oven. Less is more but make the less truly more by using quality ingredients.

SAUCE IDEAS: Pestos, white or brown sauce, tomato sauce, sour cream, thick cream, Bolognese sauce, etc…
Check here for sauce recipes: http://www.tenspeedpress.com/page.php3?ftr=300

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TOPPING IDEAS: Seafood, fish, meat (dry, cured, smoked or ground), cheeses (Gruyère, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Provolone, Ricotta, Maroille, Munster, etc…), nuts, tofu, veggies (tomatoes, bell peppers, artichokes, hearts of palm, zucchinis, pumpkin, red onions, etc…), herbs (mixes, fresh or dried), spices (garlic, gourmet salt, pepper, curry, berbere, ras-el-hanout, za’atar, etc…), nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashew nuts, Brasil nuts, macadamia nuts, etc…)….

TOPPING LINKS:

http://www.greatpartyrecipes.com/pizzatoppings.html

http://www.correllconcepts.com/Encyclop … ppings.htm.

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GENERAL PIZZA LINKS: http://www.breadtopia.com/pizza-dough-recipe/

This came out okay for me (I was home by myself, which is why there are no photos of me tossing the dough, which is probably a good thing as it’s just not a skill I possess!). However, two days is a bit much for me, considering how many pizzas we go through in my house. Also, I don’t like the crust of dough that’s been handled too much, which is why this recipe, courtesy of Emeril Live, remains my recipe of choice:

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe basic pizza dough, recipe follows
  • Cornmeal, for dusting
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups your favorite tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1-pound mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick

Directions

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. If you have one, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven.

Divide the dough in half and roll into a 12-inch circle, about 1/2-inch thick.

Dust pizza peel or baking sheet with cornmeal. Place rolled out dough on peel. Brush pizza dough with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread 1 cup tomato sauce evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the edges. Sprinkle 1/4 cup basil leaves on top of sauce and then top with 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finally, top with 1/2-pound mozzarella slices. Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and the edges are golden brown. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 2 pizzas.

Basic Pizza Dough:1 package active dry yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)

1/4 cup lard or vegetable shortening

3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

Olive oil

In an electric mixing bowl, whisk the yeast, sugar, water and lard together to make a paste. Add the flour and salt and mix, using a dough hook, until the dough comes away from the sides and crawls up the dough hook. Remove the dough from the bowl. Grease the bowl with olive oil and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide dough in half. Roll the dough into balls, cover, and let the dough rest for 15 to 20 minutes. The dough is ready to be shaped.

Yield: dough for 2 (12-inch) pizzas





Interesting Weekend

28 09 2008

This weekend started like any other – trying to sleep in, but started by being rudely awakened by the alarm clock, reminding us to hurry up and get the girls ready for gymnastics. So, we woke up at 7:45 to get the ladies ready. The Baby, however, wasn’t having it. She wasn’t especially hungry and started the day by throwing her stuffed dog across the table and into her sister’s pancakes (I’m a big fan of pancakes on the weekend. They’re quick and easy to make and they fill those little tummies, but I digress…). A few additional factors made us run a little late today and made things extra-stressful, but we made it.

On a total AW note, I weighed myself today and I have lost 13 pounds in three weeks. No idea how idea how I did it, but I’m totally okay with it!

We went to my friend L’s engagement party tonight. Surprise! It ended up being her wedding, instead! You could have knocked me over with a feather! And my church lady friends are on a retreat this weekend (which I skipped to go to the engagement party/wedding), so I have no one to discuss this with tomorrow morning over coffee!

Despite all of that, this weekend was the September challenge for the Daring Bakers – lavasch crackers, with my choice of spread/dip. The recipe is as follows and, might I say that I was quite excited for a savory challenge, instead of the usual sweet one!

Lavasch Crackers

RECIPE – Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Here’s a simple formula for making snappy Armenian-style crackers, perfect for breadbaskets, company and kids…It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and Northern African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface)…

The key to a crisp lavash,…is to roll out the dough paper-thin. The sheet can be cut into crackers in advance or snapped into shards after baking. The shards make a nice presentation when arranged in baskets.

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see http://www.wikihow.com/Determine-if-Bre … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

or

2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.

or

4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt – a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Note: I topped mine with rosemary, sage, and a touch of kosher salt.

Options for toppings

You may use your choice of topping/dip/salsa/relish/spread for your lavash crackers as long as it is vegan and gluten free.

We had a couple of favorites that you might want to try along with your own creations:

Honeydew – Peach Salsa from The Splended Table (http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/re … eydew.html)

Try the salsa with grilled seafoods and poultry, or over rice noodles. Chile could be added to taste. Is best eaten within several hours of preparation. Use organic ingredients if at all possible.

* juice of 1 lime
* 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely diced red onion
* 1 Red Fresno and 1 Hot Yellow minced chile (seeds removed)
* 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar,
* 1/2 ripe sweet honeydew melon, cubed into bite-sized pieces
* 4 small, ripe peaches, peeled and cubed into bite-sized pieces
* salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/3 cup minced fresh coriander, or coriander and mint combined

In a medium bowl blend the lime juice, garlic, onion and chilies. Let stand 20 minutes, then blend in sugar and fruits with salt (a generous pinch) and pepper (to make piquant) to taste. Refrigerate up to 3 hours. Fold in fresh herbs just before serving.

Copyright 1997 Lynne Rossetto Kasper, all rights reserved.

Tahitian Almond Dipping Sauce by Robert Yarosh and Lisa Soto, from The Complete Book of Raw Food, Lori Baird, Editor.

* 1 1/2 cups almond butter
* 1/2 cup pine nuts
* 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
* 1 clove garlic
* 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (you may want to add more juice or add some water, depending on the consistancy you like).
* 1 1/2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey

Blend all ingredients together until smooth (in your blender or food processor). Serve with your favorite crackers and fresh fruit.

Not thrilled with a sweet opping, I did some digging online and here is what I ended up making as a topping, instead (note: I am NOT an olive fan, by any means, and ended up digging the olives out of my serving, but I have friends who love olives, so I made this for them. See? The sacrifices I make for my capadres?! Next time, I’d like to add some sauteed onion to add some depth to the flavor).

Ingredients:

1 can tomato sauce (8oz)

2T chopped black olives

3 large mushrooms, chopped

3/4c frozen spinach

1oz feta cheese

1t olive oil

Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Put Olive Oil in a small pot or deep sided pan. Heat over medium.
2. Add mushrooms and sautee until their juice as released.
3. Add the spinach and cover the pan until the whole mix loosely incorporates.
4. Add the tomato sauce, cheese and olives, stirring to mix and let the cheese melt.
**If you don’t have feta : riccotta salata and a creamy cheese are an excellent substitution.

Use by topping lavash and baking or store and add to crisped slice of bread and bake.

Next time I make these, I’d like to treat them like gourmet pizzas and top one with turkey, swiss cheese, and crushed tomatoes, another with ham and swiss, and the last one with pepperoni, mozerella and crushed tomatoes, just to appease Hubs. I’ll let you know how that works out!





I’m Officially a Relic, I Think

1 09 2008

I’m in one of my moods today and that only means one thing – lots and lots of baking. I started off with a pecan pie to surprise Hubs. Now, I have two loaves of whole wheat bread rising. I was getting ready to post my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe and thought that I might save time by finding it online and copying and pasting. However, my recipe wasn’t on the BH&G website. So I then turned to All Recipes to see if I could find a similar recipe, but to no avail. All of the bread recipes were for bread makers. Doesn’t anyone else make bread by hand anymore? I, myself, really enjoy the process of kneading and rising and, eventually, baking. Man, I feel old!

This raises an interesting paradox. I prefer to bake bread by hand and occasionally use an old-fashioned typewriter (gasp!). I pay my bills either online or over the phone and have no clue how much a postage stamp costs, yet I’m a firm believer in the power of a hand-written letter. I’d rather die than receive a business call in my off hours, yet I feel completely powerless without my cell phone. No ground-breaking conclusions here, only questions: why, why, why? Why are we so tied to electronics and technology, yet retain some of the more charming elements of the world in which our parents were raised? When did this revolution officially happen? I don’t recall ever having been invited!