Sweet potato, goat cheese and rosemary-sage pizza

May 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

The following is a paraphrased and nearly completely inaccurate account of a recent text conversation.

Text from Nan: J’s sick, can’t use tix to tonight’s show at Club Passim. Can you use them?

Text from Dainty: Uh … wha? Tonite? Sure! Who’s playing, where’s it?

Nan: Meg Hutchison. She’s great. H Sq.

Dainty: We’re in! Coming after Baptiste yoga, could eat a cow. Do they have food?

Nan: Veggie Planet serves their food. Order Henry’s Dinner. On a pizza. Trust me.

Jennifer and I do indeed trust Nan—she’s a lawyer, after all, and we love her. We go to Club Passim, ravenous, and after a cursory glance at the menu, immediately ordered the Henry’s Dinner, pizza version. Something about sweet potato, goat cheese, asiago, rosemary and sage—oh, don’t forget the caramelized onions—all atop a whole wheat pizza.

First thought: Um … yeah. It’s really good. Things that should come together as a side dish at Turkey Time turns out to be a great topping for a pizza.

Second thought: I could totally make that.

And I did Here’s my version.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pizza doughs from the Biga-Based Pizza Dough recipe (which makes a total of four)
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 sweet onion
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • fresh rosemary and sage, ground in a spice mill together, about 2 tbs each
  • a log of goat cheese
  • asiago cheese (we used parmesan)
  • salt and pepper go without saying …

-We had a gigantic sweet potato, so we spiked it with a few holes and popped it into a 425F oven for nearly an hour. After 45 min you want to keep poking a fork in it to see if it’s done all the way through. When done, let it cool enough to handle. The skin will just peel right off with your hands. Slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch think rounds.

baked sweet potatoes

Baked sweet potato

-While the potato is cooking, slice up that sweet onion. Add about 2 tbs olive oil to your trusty large skillet, set on medium high, and toss the onion in there. Add maybe 2 tbs balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Toss often. After a bit you’ll want to turn the heat down low and let it saute low and slow. Half hour, maybe. Give the onions a taste halfway through – you might want to add more balsamic to your liking. When they’re done, let them cool, too.

-Heat the oven to 480F. Got a pizza stone? You need one, seriously.

-When you’re ready, flour your counter and roll out that pizza dough – thin but not super super thin. Sprinkle a pizza peel with fine corn meal and lay that dough on there.

-Next, brush the dough surface with some olive oil. Now you can arrange your ingredients however you want. I put the caramelized onions on the bottom. Next I layer with sweet potato – I broke my potato slices into chunks and spread them out a bit. Same with the goat cheese – I just broke chunks off the log and applied liberally. Next, a generous dusting of the rosemary-sage mixture, followed by Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper on top.

-Slide the pizza onto the stone. 6-7 minutes is all you need. You should have enough ingredients for two pizzas, so while the first one is cooking, get the second one all set to go.

-Wait 3 minutes before cutting into it. You gotta let that thing set up.

sweet potato, caramelized onion, goat cheese and rosemary-sage pizza

sweet potato, caramelized onion, goat cheese and rosemary-sage pizza

Jennifer just took the leftovers for lunch and popped it into the break room toaster oven. A colleague asked, “Hey, is that the Henry’s Dinner pizza from Veggie Planet?” Looks like I got it right.

Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich

February 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Sometimes I think crazy thoughts.

Such as …

-Will the universe implode if temperatures reach 0 Kelvin?

-How would civilization be different if we only had four fingers per hand and foot?

-Could we all just be toys in the toybox of some celestial kid?

Over the years, my crazy-deep thoughts have turned toward the culinary. And more recently they have focused on the pinnacle (at least in my book) of creative dessert forms: the ice cream sandwich.

I do have a soft spot in my heart for those vanilla-soft-serve-between-soft-chocolate-cookie creations. They’re reliable and the eater has no expectations at all—except perhaps to have chocolate goo between their front teeth for at least 10 minutes afterward. But when it comes to a real ice cream sandwich created by hand, the vanilla and chocolate combo becomes passe.

And dare I say it, so does the chocolate chip cookie and vanilla combo. It’s a good starting point. But there’s oh-so many possibilities. Start by staring at the Ben & Jerry’s selections.

Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich

Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich

Credit for this Ginger Ice Cream Sandwich’s inspiration comes from a friend – let’s call her Ginger – who is the spice’s biggest fan. The Ginger Ice Cream is courtesy of the local Jamaica Plain ice creamists at Batch. And yes, there are bits of crystallized ginger scattered about its creaminess. A generous 1/4 cup—more, perhaps—is sandwiched between two massive Ginger-Molasses Cookies, whose recipe comes from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook. And here’s a key step to keep in mind for anyone constructing an ice cream sandwich: Let it firm up in the freezer for about a day so the ice cream doesn’t escape when you bite into it.

Oh, yeah. It’s good. And there’s one in my freezer right now.

Other crazy ice cream sammy combos are on my to-bake list. And if Ginger has any say in the matter, each sammy will have a corresponding cupcake. One person’s crazy is another’s brilliance.

 

 

 

Homemade Oreos: Even better than the original

February 1, 2012 § 6 Comments

“Dainty, where have you been?”

Well, I um … I’ve been around.

“Around? I haven’t heard from you in ages. What’s up? I mean, is something wrong? We’ve been kinda worried. Is it us? Did we do something? Or not do something?”

What? No! No no no. I’ve just been … well, remember when I said I wanted to read more? I’ve been reading. Every morning for an hour. And that was usually the time I hung around here.

“Oh. Well, what about switching it up to some other time?”

Yeah, about that … I’ve also gotten really into yoga. Like, every day or as much as I can. It’s exactly the thing I’ve been missing in my life and I love it. Time’s tight …

“No kidding. Well, what about that – yoga. Good for you. So … you’re here again … ”

I am. Absolutely. Here again. With some changes in the works over the next month or so. I know … I know, I teased y’all about that before. “Major stuff in the works!” But this time the ball is rolling – actually rolling – and there will definitely be bigger and better Dainty stuff to interest everyone in the coming weeks.

I promise.

Meanwhile, let’s talk homemade oreo cookies. It could be the most awesome childhood-memory-inducing cookie ever. That’s to Joanne Chang at Flour Bakery in Boston … literally at the end of my block … adults now have a decadent deep-chocolately lustful version to dream about. Seriously good stuff.

Now, with food blogging, printed cookbook recipes are shared all the time. And I really don’t like publicly posting recipes from bakeries in my neighborhood or who I kinda/sorta have a connection with. They gotta make money, right? How can they do that if their recipes are out in Googlespace?

BUT … I’ve made Flour’s version of oreos—and with several different additions—for several events now and I keep getting requests for the recipe. I owe it to my peeps to share. So, Joanne, please do forgive me for what I’m about to reveal.

A note before I get started: I make a Christmas version of these with 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract in the cream filling. And for my most recent batch—whose cream filling was made in an ice bucket in a hotel room in Louisville (no kidding)—I omitted the milk and added a full shot of bourbon. And believe me, the chocolate pairs really well with bourbon.

bourbon oreos

A shot of bourbon in the cream filling pairs really well with the chocolate.

So, with full credit going to Joanne and her sheer brilliant baking skills, here’s the recipe.

Homemade Oreos ala Flour Bakery

Chocolate Cookie Ingredients and Recipe

  • 1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and cooled a bit
  • 150 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 200 g semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled a bit
  • 1 egg
  • 210 g unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 90 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt (kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend butter and sugar with the whisk attachment. Add in the vanilla and chocolate, then the egg, and mix until thoroughly combined.

2. In a different bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. With the stand mixer on slow, carefully add the mixed dry ingredients. Turn up to low-medium for a bit until the dry and wet ingredients are well combined. Let the mixture sit at room temp for about an hour so it firms.

3. This is the tricky part so pay attention. Where going to take this dough and make it into long logs. And from these logs  you’ll slice off individual rounds that’ll bake up into the chocolate cookies. Got it?

First, let me say that Joanne makes these logs with a diameter of about 2.5 inches. That’s a pretty big cookie—and a fine cookie size, actually. But when I bake these, I am typically taking them to a party or something, and I find that smaller bite-sized cookies are better suited for partytime. That said … once the dough is firm, I split the dough into three or four equal piles. Place one pile onto a half-sheet-sized piece of parchment paper or waxed paper. With your hands, shape it into a log of about 1 or 1.5 inches in diameter. Roll the paper around the log a bit and roll it along the counter to make it a bit smoother, trying to get the air bubbles out (you can see them through the paper). Repeat with the remaining piles of dough, and then place the rolled dough into the refrigerator for 2 hours. You might find it helpful to reroll the logs a few times during the 2 hours so keep that log shape.

4. Preheat the oven to 325 and position a rack smack-dab in the middle. Prepare a couple of half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Remove a log from the fridge and unwrap. You might want to trim off both ends of the log so they are flat. Then slice the log into 1/4-inch thick rounds. With a 1 or 1.5 inch log, you’ll end up with about 30-35 slices. Place the slices onto the parchment paper about an inch apart. I can fit one whole log’s worth of cookies onto one sheet.

5. Pop them in the oven. For Joanne’s 2.5 inch cookies, they bake about 20-25 minutes. These smaller cookies will be done in 18 minutes. They’ll just be firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then put them onto cooling racks. Chocolate cookies: Done.

Cream Filling Ingredients and Recipe

Peppermint oreos

Slightly overfill the oreo so the filling oozes out a bit, then roll in crushed candy canes. People won't stop calling you Martha.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 230 g confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • suggested additions: 1/2 tsp peppermint extract for Mint Oreos; a shot of bourbon for Derby Oreos (omit milk)

This is awesome and easy to do while your cookies are hangin’ out and cooling.

1. Remember that stand mixer? Wash out the bowl, give it a dry, attach the paddle to the mixer and then beat the butter on low for about 30 seconds. You want it to be smooth.

2. Carefully add the confectioner’s sugar (you don’t want to make a cloud of it!) and the vanilla and beat until it’s perfectly smooth. Add the milk and salt and beat yet again until smooth. At some point the concoction will go from a butter yellow color to a whitish, and it’ll be stiff. You’re done!

Note about adding bourbon: I made two batches with bourbon. The first I included the milk and the filling was too soft. The second batch sans milk was much better. You need about a shot’s worth of liquor in order for the flavor to be apparent.

3. Now the fun part: filling. What I do is pair lay out the cookies – top side down – and match them up in pairs, hopefully getting them partnered with someone about their same size. I then put the filling into a Ziploc bag, seal it up, and push the filling down into one corner, creating a makeshift piping bag. Cut the corner, and carefully pipe out however much filling you want – about 2 tsp should do for a small cookie – onto one cookie in the pair. Top with the other and there you have it—an actually homemade oreo cookie.

Use a great-quality chocolate chip, vanilla and other flavorings and these can be orgasmic. I’ve had nothing but raves. These are truly a spectacular cookie. Thanks, Joanne!

Given the realm of possibilities here, what flavorings would you add to make these cookies your own? Leave a comment and let Dainty know.

Down for Maintenance

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Down for Maintenance.”
I’m not referring to the Dainty Dot blog. I’m referring to Dainty herself. Not one single post in the month of November. Call it my month of maintenance. Am I good with that? Yeah, I’m good with that. And now that December is here, I’m good with that, too. Get back in the saddle, as they say.

So, what have I been doing, maintenance-wise … Let’s see:

1. Exercise stuff. I had big plans to lose 6 lbs by the end of the month. A continuing bum knee (yes, ma’am, I did finally go to the doctor) kept me from running, but I learned to love the elliptical. But the 6 lbs? No way, but close.

2. I discovered I love yoga. Like, really LOVE it, with all caps. It’s kinda like how I really get excited about a batch of soft and growing bread dough. Or when the row of spinach seeds come up. But instead of bread forming or food growing, it’s me doing something really cool. I like it. I want it. I’m gonna keep doing it.

3. Shhh … Don’t tell my boss … I’ve learned how to streamline my work to get it all done in about … Well, in less time. At least for now – until travel season starts in a matter of a month or so. But, it’s afforded me some time to do #1 and #2.

4. I did go on one biz trip and extended it into a long weekend in Chicago with Jennifer. Here’s my thought on Chicago: It’s s nice town, and too bad it’s in the middle of the country. Because as you may or may not know, I’m a time zone snob. I just can’t do the middle. No offense, Middle America. You’re just not for me.

5. #3 also afforded me time to do some soul searching about what I wanna be when I grow up. And I realized, wait, I’m already all grown up. As Bette Midler says in my most favorite song she sings, “Is that all there is?” The answer? The answer … If I had the answer, man …

6. Speaking of looking for answers, So I picked up a thin book that’s been on my shelf for about a dozen years. It’s called Buddhism Without Beliefs. It’s not religiony in any way – hence the “without beliefs” reference – and it’s been a good way to get my head decluttered. I recommend it.

7. Pie was made. And if there’s anything Dainty does, it’s pies. It was just one pie, but it was a mighty fine pie. Dutch apple. Sorry I didn’t share. I’ll make another. I promise.

8. Dainty has plans in the works for 2012. Big plans. Now with the paying work streamlined into lean-flow efficiency, I have some time to do Dainty the way it deserves. Details to be revealed over the next month or so.

9. So, here’s a question for you: what do YOU want to see Dainty do next year? More travel stuff? More baking? Bread or sweets? Wanna know more about my mad skills in the garden? Oh man, I mean I’ve got mad skills. You want to see something, you let me on know. ‘K?

Grilled Pizza

August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Summertime … and the grilling is easy. Cheese is melting, and the pizza is fine.

Okay, I’m no George Gershwin, but what I’m trying to say is this: Pizza on the grill is not only easy, it’s one of the quickest summertime grilled meals possible. What do I like about it most? The fact that I don’t have to deal with my smoke alarms going off. Yeah, that happens whenever we cook pizza inside. The super-heated oven ends up burning the corn meal that remains on our pizza stone. Pizza in January usually means both our front and back doors are open to prevent smoke buildup. No. Kidding.

So, when we can slap that pizza dough on a hot grill, we go there.

And you can go there, too.

I’m not going to tell you what kind of pizza to make. Your toppings are your toppings. You want pepperoni? Have pepperoni. You want smoked salmon? Go for it. Sauce? Yes, please—but don’t go overboard. A little dab will do ya (I’m showing my age with that quote).

My assorted pizza toppings, minus a bowl full of kale-ricotta mixture.

Plus, I’m not the pizza maker. Jennifer is the star when it comes to assemblage. I make the dough, I’ll make sauce. I’ll sous, but she chefs when it comes to pizza time. We’re practiced at this, but the following are our tips, not our must dos. Also, p.s., our grilling is done on a gas grill. Charcoal? A slightly different animal, so adjust as you see fit.

Grilled Pizza Tips

A hot hot grill is good. 500F is good. Clean it really well, not leftover burnt chicken skin, please.

Prep your toppings. I can’t emphasize that enough. Slice, dice, chop, stir. Get ’em ready. AND, pour a small bowl – maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 cup? – of olive oil to have on hand. Put ’em all on a big cutting board or tray to carry out to the grill.

Roll out a nice flat but not too thin dough. Round, square, oblong, whatever.

Here’s a great trick: Lightly oil a section of aluminum foil. Take that dough you just rolled out and put it down on the foil. Now, lightly swab the top of the dough with oil.

Okay, maybe I over-oiled this one. Swab off any extra oil!

Grill’s good and hot. Your toppings are ready to go. Your dough is ready to go. So, go out to the grill and … Quickly flip that dough, oiled top side down, on top searing-hot grill, and peel back the foil.  There’ll be some “yikes!” and “oh, sh*t” moments, I’m not gonna lie to you. Pull the dough one way or the other, make your tweaks QUICKLY, and then close that grill cover. And fast. The sooner heat completely surrounds the dough, the quicker that dough is going to turn into a pizza crust. Right? Right.

Two-three minutes. Peek once or twice to make sure the underside is not burning. Oh, it’ll burn. Believe you me.

Oh damn, I burned the first one. These things happen.

NOTE: The first dough got kinda … well … crispy. I started another. Much, much better.

Get your mise en place in place, ready to go. Open the grill, flip that crust over.

Not using a sauce? Then give a quick brush all over the top with evoo. Using a sauce? Spread it thinly and quickly. Layer everything else on as you see fit. And be quick about it!

Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the bottom, making sure it’s not burning. When the cheese (if you’re using) and the sauce look melty and hot, it’s time to take it off the heat.

Let sit for three minutes to let the sauce and toppings set. And then cut yourself a slice.

Worth it all, huh?

Salad from a City Garden

July 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Remember yesterday?

Remember that haul of produce I brought home from my city community garden plot? All of it—the lettuce, the chard, the beets, the tomatoes and whatever else I gathered—is washed/bagged/roasted/drying/sitting in a hydrator.

Are you interested in how I saved the lettuce/chard/etc? There’s a way to do it. I can tell you about that later if you want …

But for now, let me tell you about my lunch.

-Lettuce from the garden.

-A half of a beet from the garden, roasted.

-Cherry tomatoes from the garden.

-A half of a zucchini from the garden, roasted.

Greek Salad Dressing, made with oregano from the garden.

-Boiled eggs, from our backyard hens (Oh, please. Who do I think I am? Jayme Jenkins?).

Pickled red onions, pickled myself!

-Green lentils and bulgur – okay, I didn’t grow them but at least I boiled them myself.

-A slice of bread I made using my wild yeast sourdough starter.

I’m full. I need a nap.

Martha’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

July 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Martha, Martha, Martha … what where you thinking? Turning cookies into a cake? It’s this kind of thinking that made you rich and famous.

Martha's Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

Martha's Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

Spotted in the July issue of Martha Stewart Living, I just knew this dessert—alternating layers of homemade chocolate chip cookies with a marscapone whipped cream—would make my recuperating friend very, very happy. Okay, okay, I admit it, it would make me very happy, too. But I needed an excuse … and a houseful of people to eat it. No better time than weekend visit to Provincetown, I say.

As I said, the cake is layers of cookies—seven layers, in fact—and whipped cream. As it sits in the fridge overnight, the cookies soften a bit, just enough, from the whipped cream surrounding them. By the next day, you can slice right through the cake with no trouble.

 

Ingredients

8 dozen 2 1/4-in. chocolate chip cookies (use your favorite recipe)

4 cups heavy cream

8 oz. marscapone cheese

2+ tbs. sugar

-Chill a mixing bowl (preferably from a standing mixer). Whip up the heavy cream, cheese and sugar on medium high speed at first. It takes a while to form soft peaks. When it does, taste for sweetness and add a bit more sugar if you wish. Continue whipping until the mixture stiffens. Refrigerate until you’re ready to assembly the “cake.” At least an hour.

-Arrange 5-7 cookies on a plate or cake stand. If you use a plate, make the surface as flat as possible.

-Scoop out a big dollop or two of the cream mixture and spread it over the first layer of cookies. Don’t make it too thick or you’ll run out before you build up your seven layers. And don’t make it too thin or there won’t be enough cream to soften the cookies.

-Continue stacking the layers of cookies and spreading cream. Put your structural engineer’s cap on and try to build it as sturdily as you can.

-Really, it doesn’t matter how many layers you make it. If you want leftover cookies, great – don’t add as many layers. Just make sure you end with a layer of cookies on top and about a heaping cup of cream. Pop the cream in the fridge.

Martha's Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Cake

After sitting in the fridge overnight, the cookies are surprisingly easy to slice through.

-Cover the cake with plastic wrap. I lightly inserted a few toothpicks on top to make sure the wrap didn’t cling too much to the cake. Pop that in the fridge, too. Let it sit overnight.

-When you’re ready to serve, spread the last cup of cream over the top of the cake. Grate some chocolate shavings on top if you wanna get fancy.

This would be a fun cake for a kid’s birthday party. If you cover the cake completely with cream – sides, too – they’ll have no idea it’s filled with cookies. Surprise! Cookies! Cake! Whipped cream! You’ll be the hero.

 

 

Biga-Based Pizza Dough

June 1, 2011 § 5 Comments

Pizza is one of our fallback meals in the Dainty domicile. And it’s not delivery; not even DiGiorno. It’s made with good ol’ homemade, hand-thrown dough. With a special addition. Let’s call it Dainty Dough.

There are two things that make the Dainty Dough a bit different. First, it’s made with biga, one of many types of dough starters. It’s a yeast-based starter, not a natural sourdough starter—meaning it contains commercial yeast and not yeast found naturally in the environment (have I lost you yet? Hang on for a minute.). The biga ferments—i.e. sits on your counter bubbling away—for 8 to 24 hours or so, all the while developing a richer, chewier flavor. Pizza crust with flavor, not just used as a platform for toppings, imagine that.

The second thing I do is add a dollop or two of my Sourdough Starter, aka Milo the Baby Dough, during the dough-making process. A few months back you may recall I was experimenting with natural yeast and tried creating a real sourdough. Well, after a month or so, Milo is alive and well. I feel like I created a golem, it’s so incredibly cool. It’s totally not necessary to add this sourdough starter, but I’ll explain in a minute why I do it.

Dainty Dough: Step 1

Biga Recipe (from my Basic Baking class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts)

  • 1/4 oz. yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (warm=dip in a finger and it should feel the same temp as your body)
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 3/4 cups flour (I suggest all-purpose flour here. If you want wheat dough you can add wheat flour later)

-Add yeast and 1/4 cup warm water with sugar in a bowl and stir together. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Add remaining water and the flour and mix thoroughly. You’ll end up with a creamy mixture. Cover and either let sit on the counter 8 hours or place in the fridge for 24 hours. It will become creamy and bubbly. The biga will remain
-At this point you can proceed with the next step and make the pizza dough. Or, I suggest weighing out your biga into 4 oz. pieces, reserving one piece for your current pizza and placing the remaining into individual freezer baggies and popping them in the freezer. Label and date your baggies! Otherwise a year from now you’ll excavate your freezer and wonder what the heck that thing is. From this one batch of biga you will get up to 8 4 oz. pieces. And each 4 oz. biga gives you four pizza stone-sized pizzas. Do the math—that’s a lot of pizza!

Dainty Dough: Step 2
Pizza Dough Recipe

  • 4 oz. biga
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (kosher preferred)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • A dollop or two of Milo the Baby Dough sourdough starter (optional)
  • 4 1/2 cup flour (for wheat dough use 2 1/2 cups all-purpose and 2 cups whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cup water

-Add biga, salt, oil, sourdough starter and flour to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn on slow speed, let it mix together for up to a minute then add water slowly. Because I’ve added a bit of the sourdough starter, there is more moisture in the dough and depending on your weather conditions, you may not need all of that water. Yes, baking depends on weather conditions, believe it or not.

-If you’ve added all the water and the dough seems wet and watery, add a tablespoon of all-purpose flour and let it mix in. Keep adding flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer wet but not bone dry! You’ll likely need no more than four or five tablespoons of flour.

-Keep mixing on medium speed for about five minutes. The dough has a tendency to ride up the dough hook. Stop the mixer when the dough makes it above the hook’s collar and push the dough back down into the bowl. Keep mixing until the dough feels smooth and it’s started to relax a bit; i.e., it shouldn’t feel like a hard tight wad of flour.

-Oil a medium bowl. Roll the dough around in the oil so it’s slightly oily all over. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for an hour. The dough won’t have risen all that much—it’s not rising like bread, we just want it to become elastic.

-Cut the dough into four equally sized pieces—they’ll likely have a triangular shape. Want an oddly shaped pizza? Then place these dough pieces as they are on a baking sheet or on the counter and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Want a perfectly round pizza? Then do this: Holding the dough piece in your hands, pull all the dough from around the piece into a central point. Go around the outside a couple times pulling it all into the center. Now, do your best to pinch that central point closed, then place the dough with that point facing downward. What you will have is a little ball with a perfectly round top, no seams showing anywhere except on the bottom. Cover these with oiled plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes.

So, about adding that dollop or two of sourdough starter to the dough … here’s why I did it. I did, in fact, excavate my freezer recently and found two baggies of 13 month-old biga. Doing a little research I found that the recommended time for biga in the freezer is a max of four months. Oops. I added the sourdough starter as a way to give the dough a kick of fresh yeast. I think it worked. Plus, I noticed the crust did have telltale sourdough bread-like air bubbles. Tasty!

Hmm … turns out I have absolutely no photos of any of this. Bummer. Guess I’ll have to make some biga and dough later today.

By the way, biga can be used for more than just pizza dough. So instead of making 4 oz. balls of biga for the freezer, you can use what you have left for bread baking.

Wait, what? Am I leaving you without actually making a pizza? You bet. That’s for another day, when Jennifer can chime in on her favorite toppings. I make the dough, but she’s the pizza master.

 

Seriously Good Protein Bars—Homemade!

April 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was making my Half-Whole Wheat Bread this morning, and since I had the Kitchen-Aid mixer out I thought, why not make some protein bars? We’re exercising a bit more and have cut down on our meat eating, so it’s a good idea to have additional sources of protein for those oh-my-god-I-wanna-eat-a-horse moments.

Yeah, I like those packaged protein bars – especially those Odwalla bars (mmmm….LOVE the carrot cake ones!). But a) they get kinda expensive and b) they aren’t as healthy as you think. full of sugar and all that.

So, when I saw Alton Brown make protein bars on Good Eats, I was all over it. Here’s the recipe with my minor alterations:

Alton Brown’s Protein Bars

4 oz soy protein powder – about a cup

2.25 oz oat bran – about 1/2 cup

2.75 oz whole wheat flour – about 1/2 cup

0.75 oz wheat germ – about 1/4 cup

1/2 tsp kosher salt

dried fruit – his recipe calls for 1/2 cup each of raisins, cherries, blueberries, apricots. I just use 2 cups of any dried fruit.

1 package silken tofu

1/2 cup unfiltered apple juice (do your best to find something along these lines)

4 oz brown sugar, about 1/2 cup packed

2 large whole eggs

2/3 cup natural peanut butter

-Line bottom of 13 b 9 inch glass baking dish with parchment paper. Or, just spray with Pam-like substance.

-Heat to 350F. I turn mine up to 375F.

-In large mixing bowl, combine protein powder, oat bran, wheat flour, wheat germ and salt. Set aside.

-In the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer, whisk the tofu with the whisk attachment. Add apple juice, brown sugar, eggs and peanut butter, each one separately. Make sure  everything’s incorporated. Change to the paddle attachment and add in the flour.

-Take bowl off mixer. Add dried fruit and mix in with a wooden spoon. Pour into glass dish. Spread around evenly.

-Bake about 35 minutes, until internal temp is 205F. Remove and let cool. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container. Best to keep in fridge because these can get a bit moldy otherwise.

-Chop up your dried fruit so it’s all about the size of raisins. Set aside.

Lacy Almond Cookies

April 18, 2011 § 4 Comments

I have a secret. One of my favorite cooking mags is Everyday Food. That small-sized Martha Stewart pub is packed with some simple, easily put together recipes. We’ve been getting it for a few years now and it’s one of those things that if I don’t read one or two or three issues in a row, I don’t really miss out on much. There’ll be something I can get out of it the next time.

For it being The Year of Ellen Baking, I haven’t really been baking all that much. Yes, I bake bread a LOT more than I mention here. And I am working my way through the Flour cookbook, although not that steadily. So when I saw the recipe for Lacy Almond-Orange Cookies in the April issue of Everyday Food, I decided to put that apron back on and give it a go. In fact, the cookies were in the oven by 7am today.

Lacy Almond-OrangeLemon Cookies

Lacy Almond Lemon Cookies

  • 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
  • 3/4 tsp anise or fennel seed (I used fennel)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp course salt (like I use any other kind!)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbs grated orange zest. Um, where’d that orange go? It was here yesterday. Hence the lemon substitution in the header.

-Preheat oven to 375F with racks in middle. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

-It says to put almonds and fennel in food processor and pulse until coursely ground. I used my coffee grinder instead.

-Put mixture in small saucepan, add butter, sugar, honey and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. You may want to keep an eye on it or turn it down slightly. Mine started to burn a bit sooner than I expected it would. Stir to combine ingredients.

-Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and add flour and zest. This stuff is going to seize up on you fast, so work quickly to spoon teaspoonfuls of batter onto the parchment about 2.5 inches apart. It says the recipe makes 24 but I only got 18, so if you want 24, make the spoonfuls on the smaller side.

-Put in the oven for 4 minutes, take out and turn the sheet pans around and put back in for another 3-4 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the trays on wire racks.

I must never have had a lacy cookie like this before. Otherwise I would not have made these. They aren’t as crisp as I thought. Wait, that’s not true. I just ate another bit of a cookie. Maybe as they continue to sit they become more crisp. Okay, let me put it this way: As a cookie all by itself, I would never eat these. The lemon substitution was okay, but that’s not the problem. They are just too buttery. My face swells with fat just looking at them. Now, I could eat these as an accompaniment to ice cream. Oooh, yeah, that sounds good. But, these are not cookies I’d keep around and just munch on, which means I probably don’t need two dozen of them anyway. And, that also means I’m giving them to Jennifer to distribute to her work colleagues. I wonder if they freeze well … I’ll keep a couple in the freezer for the next time I have some ice cream. I’ll let you know.

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