Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Deep Pan Pizza

Thick crust Deep Pan Pizza
Unfortunately, I made this after the good daylight was gone,
so the pictures are less than awesome. The pizza tasted great though.
Sometimes a thick crust pizza is in order. When it is, I use this recipe. Although my husband gingerly shared with me this evening that he prefers a more balanced cheese to crust ratio than this thick-crust pizza provides, it is my current favorite. My actual favorite (if you must know) is my Ciabatta Crust Pizza, but since one of my kids is going gluten-free I don't make that one so as not to torture the poor kid. So, I make a separate gluten-free pizza for my son. I will post that recipe soon, I hope, and I tonight I made this gluten-full pizza for the rest of us. Besides the yummy bready crust of this pizza, I like the fact that I can make the dough and the pizza in just about an hour and a half. All of my other favorite crusts take 12 to 24 hours of forethought, and I just don't have that kind of thinking time these days.
I don't know if you can make this pizza in a different kind of pan or dish because I've only made it in a cast iron skillet. It reminds me of what we get at BJ's Pizza in Southern California. If you want a slightly thinner crust, as my husband does apparently, you can use the recipe for a 10-inch pan and put it in the 12-inch pan. I think I'm going to try that next time I make this. In the meantime, I think I might work on baking up some thin crusts to have in the freezer for quick pizza dinners.

Deep Pan Pizza
   --adapted from Pasta & Pizza Presto by Maxine Clarke and Shirley Gill

Dough for 12-inch Pizza*
  • 3 cups high protein flour (I used 2 cups King Arthur All Purpose and 1 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided (3 T for dough/3 T for pan)
In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Put the dough hook attachment onto the mixer. Add the water and 3 tablespoons olive oil to the flour. Turn mixer onto low and mix dough until the liquid is incorporated into the flour. Turn onto medium speed and knead dough for about 8-9 minutes. Turn mixer off, scrape dough off of the hook, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled (about 45-60 minutes).
Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
When dough has doubled, turn mixer on again to medium low and kneed dough for another 2-3 minutes. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
While dough rests, prepare a 12-inch cast iron skillet by pouring in the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and coating the sides and bottom, using your fingers.
After dough has rested, use a rolling pin and your hands to shape it into a 12-inch circle. Place dough into prepared pan. Stretch dough, if needed, to cover the bottom of the pan.
Your dough is now ready for toppings.

My Pizza Ingredients
  • 1 unbaked 12-inch pizza crust (recipe above)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup pizza sauce (tonight it was Classico Fire Roasted Pizza Sauce)
  • 1/4 pound sliced pepperoni
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup Italian 6 cheese mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 cup (or so) diced fire roasted tomatoes (drained, from a can--sorry purists)
Mix the cheeses in a medium sized bowl.
Spread sauce over the ENTIRE surface of the dough--all the way to the edge.
Evenly place pepperoni slices over the sauce.
Evenly sprinkle cheese mixture over the entire surface of the pizza--even the edges (this is why it's important to oil up the sides of the pan).
Sprinkle garlic salt all over the top. 
Evenly spread diced tomatoes all over the top.
Bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-30 minutes. This part is tricky, because you want to make sure the dough is done. If the toppings are browning too much before 25 minutes, place a piece of foil on top--don't wrap the foil over it, just place it lightly on top. Once edges are pretty well browned, take pizza out and poke a knife in, lifting up some of the dough and toppings to see that the crust is baked through and bready looking, as opposed to doughy looking.
Remove pizza from oven when done. Run a thin, sharp knife around the edge of the pan to make sure it's loose all around. With a strong spatula in one hand, and a thick oven mitt in the other, move pizza to a cutting surface and remove the pizza from the pan by lifting with the spatula and pulling the pan away at the same time. Now, I won't guarantee this will go smoothly, but you have to get the pizza out to cut it. Once the pizza is out of the pan, slice with a pizza cutter. 
Serve hot, but be careful not to burn your mouth.
Makes one large pizza.

*Dough for 10-inch Pizza
  • 2 cups high protein flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (2 T for dough/2 T for pan)
Prepare dough same as for the 12-inch pan above, but use a 10-inch cast iron skillet instead of the 12-inch.

Cocoa Whipped Cream

Stabilized Cocoa Whipped Cream, Day 1
Well, today was another "early out" for me and my kids. I don't fully understand the decision-making process, but here in Iowa, sometimes when it snows, and they expect it to get messy and dangerous for the drive home, they let school out 1 1/2 to 2 hours early. Today is one of those days, so I'm at home with some new Penzy's Dutch cocoa, a quart of heavy cream, and an itch to do some blogging (oh yeah, and my kids too). I refer to this cocoa whipped cream occasionally when replying to comments on Food Pusher, so I decided to do two things today: 1. give this yummy whipped cream its very own post, and 2. try using the gelatin mixture that I use for Stabilized Whipped Cream to stabilize the cocoa whipped cream--something I've been meaning to try for a while. So what you see above is the stabilized cocoa whipped cream.
I usually don't bother stabilizing the cocoa whipped cream because I think the cocoa has a stabilizing effect on it, especially when the cocoa whipped cream is used to frost cake. The cake absorbs the excess moisture that would otherwise escape and turn the whipped cream flat. I've actually observed the cocoa whipped cream sort of shrink as it stays in the refrigerator over a period of two or three days, and I'm assuming that's because moisture is soaking into the cake. I might be wrong, but I'm just telling you that's what I imagine happening.
What you see at the top of this post is the fresh cocoa whipped cream. At the bottom is the same cup of whipped cream the next day. When I scooped into it there was no liquid at the bottom--the cocoa whipped cream maintained its firm texture. The only difference that I could see is that it got slightly darker after spending the night in the refrigerator. It was delicious too, by the way. I might have eaten that entire little bowl and rationalized that it was just like eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
By the way, I LOVE this stuff. I eat it as is. Usually I make excessive amounts for cakes or cupcakes  JUST so I'll have plenty leftover to pipe into a large spoon to eat alone (meaning the whipped cream is alone and so am I because I don't want anyone to witness me indulging like that). If you decide you'd rather try this out on a cake or cupcake, try out one of these recipes listed below. I love all of them very, very much, and I think that's pretty much because all of them have plenty of this stuff on top. 

Cocoa Whipped Cream Cupcakes
Chocolate Cake with Cocoa Whipped Cream
My Chocolate Birthday Cake

Cocoa Whipped Cream
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
In a small mixer bowl, mix cocoa and sugar.  Stir in hot water until a smooth paste forms.  Allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before proceeding. Add cream.  Beat just until firm peaks form.  Do not over beat.
Makes about 2 cups
(From Nestle Cocoa box)

Stabilized Cocoa Whipped Cream
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 cup plus two tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
In a small mixer bowl, mix cocoa and sugar.  Stir in hot water until a smooth paste forms. Allow to cool while you prepare the gelatin mixture.
Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons cold water in small bowl to soften. 
Scald 2 tablespoon of the cream; pour over gelatin, stir until gelatin is dissolved.
Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg white. (This takes about 10-15 minutes.) Then, with a whisk, beat until smooth.  
Add remaining cream to the cocoa and sugar paste.  Beat until whipped cream just starts to thicken and you start seeing the beater tracks. Add the gelatin mixture at this point and beat just until firm peaks form.  Do not over beat.
Makes about 2 cups

Here's the gelatin mixture. As usual, I let this firm up a little bit too
long, but it doesn't seem to affect the final product as far as I can tell.
Stabilized Cocoa Whipped Cream, Day 2
Stabilized Cocoa Whipped Cream, Day 2--perfect texture

Friday, February 15, 2013

Au Gratin Potatoes

Ruth's Chris Au Gratin Potatoes

I've eaten at Ruth's Chris Steak House just once, about fifteen years ago, and it's still a meal I think about fondly. As if the amazing steak was not enough, we had two kinds of incredibly delicious potatoes on the side: lyonnaise potatoes and au gratin potatoes. The au gratin potatoes were simple potato perfection, cooked to a nice melt-in-your-mouth tenderness in a thick cream and then topped with fabulous melty cheddar cheese. Oh my goodness. 
When I decided to grill some tri-tip chunks tonight, I thought that those potatoes would be a lovely pairing. So, I got home and googled "ruths chris au gratin potatoes" and surprise, surprise! Epicurious had a recipe called "Ruth's Chris Steak House Potatoes Au Gratin"! I LOVE it when that happens.
I'm going to post the recipe as is for now, because that's how I prepared it, but next time, I will add slightly more salt (like 1/2 teaspoon instead of 1/4) and a bit more cheese (2 cups instead of 1 1/2). They were awesome as-is, but I think they'd be even more fantastic with those additions. Oh, and I did not have parsley to garnish, so I omitted that ingredient all together.
The garlic flavor in these is more pronounced than I would have thought, and I love that, but if you're not a garlic fan, you might want to back off of the garlic a little. Enough said. Try these.

Au Gratin Potatoes
   --adapted from Epicurious.com

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour (I like to use Better Batter gluten free flour)
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut potatoes into slightly thinner than 1/4 inch slices, then quarter those slices.
Whisk together the cream, milk, flour, salt, pepper, and garlic.
Coat the inside of a baking/casserole dish with the butter.
Arrange 1/4 of the potatoes on the bottom of the dish, and then pour 1/4 of the cream mixture over the potatoes. Repeat three more times with remaining potatoes and cream.
Cover the dish and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove the cover and bake another 40 minutes, until the tops start to brown. 
Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and starts to bubble and brown.
Serve hot, but be very careful let them cool on your plate a little before eating.
Makes 4-6 servings

Right before going into the oven

Friday, February 8, 2013

Martha Stewart's Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies. Bottom pic is for size reference.

My boys and I visited the Urbandale Library last weekend, and I checked out the book Martha Stewart's Cookies. The book is organized in one of the cleverest ways: the beginning of the book has eleven pages of cookie photographs, with about 20 cookies pictured on each page. The cookies are organized into seven categories: "light and delicate," "soft and chewy," "crumbly and sandy," "chunky and nutty," cakey and tender," "crisp and crunchy," and "rich and dense." I love it. I haven't had the time to look through it the way I'd like to yet, but I looked far enough to hone in on this recipe here. 
I tried making these last weekend, for Superbowl Sunday, but they didn't turn out right because I was that baker who tried to substitute what I had for what was called for. It bugs me a little bit when people will criticize recipes when they've made so many alterations that the end product is clearly never what was intended by the recipe's author. Therefore, I've waited until I had the time and ingredients to do it right, and I'm glad I went to the effort. I must confess, though, that I low-balled it and used a relatively inexpensive brand of Dutch process cocoa, but I definitely will try them again with better cocoa. Hopefully that will produce a richer chocolate flavor than the cheaper brand.
They're delicious as they are. They look like Martha's photo in her book, they taste like chocolate sugar cookies, and they are "sandy" in texture, particularly around the edges. My first batch baked a little too long, so the edges got a little too done, but the center was chewy. I took the next batch out a couple of minutes earlier, and when I get around to feeling that I can eat another one without too much guilt (these cookies are 4" in diameter), then maybe I'll try another one. 
Martha's original recipe yields eight cookies, and when I used my 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop the cookies, I ended up with 11. Perfect. I've adjusted the time from her recipe to account for the slightly smaller size of my cookies.
There you go. If you don't try these cookies, at least try to check out Martha's book. Lots of great recipes to explore.

Giant Chocolate Sugar Cookies
     --Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt by either whisking them together in a small bowl or shaking it through a sieve. Set aside.
Place room temperature butter and sugar in a bowl and mix on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add melted & cooled butter and mix until combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add dry ingredients and mix on low (pulsing at first if you're using a stand mixer) until dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix.
Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop a level 1/4 cup of dough. Using a small silicone spatula, scrape dough out onto parchment lined baking sheet and pat a little to get it back into a sort of ball shape. I fit 5 cookies onto my AirBake baking sheet, and I left about 2.5 inches between dough mounds. 
Bake cookies at 375 degrees for about 16-17 minutes, or until edges are set. Remove from oven and slide parchment with cookies onto a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool before enjoying with some milk.
Makes about 11 4" cookies.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Yummy Mexican Grilled Chicken

Mexican Grilled Chicken
The yummy marinade
A couple of things are going on here with this recipe: 1. I love, love, love the Cheesecake Factory White Chicken Chili that I make (but it's pretty involved to make, AND I don't want to burn out on it) and 2. I just signed up to bring a crock pot full of chicken for tacos for the teachers at my son's school. I made up a marinade tonight based on most of the flavorful ingredients of the white chicken chili and gave it a run through tonight. All three of us who ate it LOVED it. It might become a regular for our chicken nachos, which is the way my boys enjoyed it tonight. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the chicken with homemade flour tortillas and Mexican rice. It was very satisfying. I wanted to eat more, but decided I'd save the last chicken tender either for my husband to try when he gets home later, or for my lunch tomorrow. (I'm rooting for lunch tomorrow.) 
Next time I make this, I might add some salsa verde, though, to give it even more of a kick. I left it out tonight because I don't want to mess with teachers' digestive systems too much during parent-teacher conferences. I'm a teacher too, and I know I would NOT appreciate an upset tummy particularly in that situation.
So, for now, this is what I have. It's pretty easy, especially if you already have the ingredients for the Cheesecake Factory White Chicken Chili. Have I mentioned how much I love that chili...?

Yummy Mexican Grilled Chicken

  • 1/2 medium sized yellow onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup canola (vegetable) oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic paste 
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle Tobasco 
  • 1 4-oz. can diced green chiles (I used Ortega Fire Roasted)
  • 4-5 pounds chicken breast/chicken breast tenders (You can portion out enough to coat a smaller amount and refrigerate/freeze leftover marinade for later.)
Place the first eleven ingredients (everything BUT the chicken) in a blender or food processor, or in a tall cup if you have an immersion blender. Blend until smooth and the texture of a loose natural peanut butter.
Place chicken in a plastic zip-top bag and put enough marinade on the chicken to thoroughly coat all over, but it should not be swimming in the marinade. (That might be wasteful.) Zip the bag and refrigerate 1-2 hours. 
Preheat grill to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place chicken on grill, turning every 4-5 minutes until chicken is done/juices run clear, or a meat thermometer reads 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit (there will be a little carryover cooking, and most placed I've looked recommend 165 degrees for chicken).
You can either serve pieces of grilled chicken, or you can cut the chicken into bite-size pieces for people to spoon into tacos or burritos.

Makes enough marinade for 5 pounds of chicken

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Gingerbread Cookies w/ Browned Butter Buttercream

Gingerbread Cookies with Browned Butter Buttercream
I thought they might look cute stacked.

I kind of thought about making gingerbread cookies over the Christmas break, but I never got around to it. It's February, and I still have some cream cheese I wanted to try in cookies. The other day in the kindergarten class I work in, I noticed a cute picture of a gingerbread man on the color chart, and thought, "Mmmm...gingerbread sounds good." Then I thought since I like my gingerbread cookies soft, I'd try the cream cheese in them. Yep. It works. These cookies are wonderfully soft and fabulous tasting. The browned butter buttercream was just because I thought it would taste good. And it does. I'm hoping that my sister-in-law, who LOVES gingerbread, will take most of these off my hands. We also have the Superbowl gathering at her house tomorrow, so I'm sure they'll be welcome there too.
These are just a simple, soft gingerbread cookie, and the browned butter buttercream adds just the right amount of sweetness with the added dimension of toasty butter flavor that reminds me a little of English toffee. Mmm... I need to get these out of my house soon.

Gingerbread Cookies with Browned Butter Buttercream
     --adapted from ALLRECIPES.COM

Cookie Ingredients:
  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Buttercream Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened & divided
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream
Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Beat butter, cream cheese and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla; beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into a thick flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Brown half of the buttercream butter by placing 1/4 cup of the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat for about 8 minutes, or until all of the milk solids are a nice deep golden brown color (see pic below). Keep an eye on it so you don’t burn the butter. Pour/scrape browned butter into a heat-proof bowl and set aside to cool completely.
When dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men shapes with 5-inch cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.
While cookies cool, prepare buttercream by beating the other 1/4 cup butter with the cooled browned butter until well combined. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of cream and beat on high until creamy. Add remaining tablespoon of cream, a little at a time, until you get a nice smooth, creamy consistency. Scoop buttercream into a piping bag or a quart size zip-top bag (cut 1/4 inch of a corner off once it’s in the bag).
Decorate cooled cookies as desired. Store cookies in airtight container up to 5 days.
Makes about 3 dozen large cookies

Just so you know how brown the browned butter should be.

01 09