Rock Cakes

April 29, 2011

I was trying to think of something wonderfully British for us to eat while we watched the highly anticipated Royal Wedding. Since it’s an early morning affair for us (6 a.m.), I was leaning towards a breakfast type food. We’ve eaten a lot of scones in the past and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure we’ll eat a lot more. They’re a definite favourite. But I was looking for something a little different and that’s when I remembered Rock Cakes. Rock Cakes are a traditional British tea time treat.

Not to mention a particular favourite of none other than Harry Potter! Apparently, Mrs. Weasley’s cakes are much tastier than Hagrid’s, which resemble an actual rock a little too closely! I’ve wanted to make these for quite a while now, so I got busy. These little treats are very easy to make. They are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee as you prefer.

These tasty gems are crumbly, buttery, sweet and spicy. YUM! Served slathered with butter. You can’t go wrong!

Thankfully mine were closer to Mrs. Weasley’s than Hagrids!

Rock Cakes

Serves 12

Recipe adapted from Mrs. Maged’s Kitchen

Ingredients:
1 cup (225g) all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup (110g) butter

1/4 cup (55g) granulated sugar

1 cup (115g) sultanas

1/4 cup (55g) chopped crystalized ginger

1/2 teaspoon zest from lemon

2 medium-sized eggs

1-3 tbsp milk

A pinch of salt

Demerara sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 400° F (200C/180C fan/Gas 6) and grease or line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place sultanas in bowl and cover with hot water. Allow them to sit for 5-10 minutes and then drain and pat dry.

Place flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in food processor. Pulse to mix together. Add butter, cut into small 1″ cubes and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

Add sugar and pulse until combined.

Lightly beat one of the eggs. Remove flour mixture from food processor and place in large bowl. Add egg to flour mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Add sultanas, crystallized ginger and lemon zest to bowl. Stir gently until just combined.

Add milk one tablespoon at a time until a stiff batter is achieved.

In a small bowl, lightly beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon of  milk.

Drop the batter 1 heaping tablespoon at a time onto the prepared baking sheets. Create 12 equal-sized portions, evenly spaced out on the sheets. Paint the top of each cake with the egg/milk wash. Rough the top of each cake with the prongs of a fork. Sprinkle with the Demerara sugar.

Place in the oven for 15 minutes until they’re lovely and golden. Remove to wire rack to cool.


Two years ago today…

April 26, 2011

Two years ago today, at Cloghan Castle in Kilcreest, County Galway, Republic of Ireland, Jay and I were married! According to various anniversary gift lists I’ve browsed, I believe two years together entitles us to “cotton”. Hmmm…. I’m at a bit of a loss there. Though perhaps it could be referring to a big, fluffy cotton terry bathrobe that we could wear at a luxury spa….like the Ice House Hotel in Ballina Ireland, where we spent our honeymoon, for example.

Ice House Suite Bedroom

Ice House view of the Moy River

Yes. We had hoped to go back there last year for our first anniversary and it was not possible. Unfortunately, this year is following suit. We are hoping to post-pone any Ireland travel until September. Keep your fingers crossed for us. I really, really miss Ireland!

Conor Pass, Dingle

As far as anniversary gifts to each other (not going to be that spa robe till September at best), we had decided once again to buy something for the both of us. In fact we had our eye on the Harbor Lounge chair by Thomas Moser. I fear however that instead of this:

We will be getting this:

Boooo!

Let me explain. The temperature here in Virginia has already climbed into the mid-80′s several times this Spring. I really think that is totally out of line. It is much too early to be suffering that kind of weather and it really makes me fear what the actual summer has in store for us. Jay and I both despise the least bit of heat and humidity! So we were quite unhappy yesterday when the mercury climbed to 85° F and our sad, older AC unit was not able to keep our house in the mid-70′s, a temperature range in which we can continue to exist. So although I had been picturing myself relaxing in my Harbour Lounge chair, the image became considerably less pleasing when I thought of myself melting all over the beautiful chair come around July. Oh well!

So what kind of celebration did we have today? Very low-key. Of course it involved this (our all time favourite):

And a delicious cupcake from another favourite, Baked and Wired. Best in the DC/Metro area!

We did also go to dinner at Tunnicliff’s Tavern on Capitol Hill.

It was the first restaurant Jay and I went to when we were officially dating. But otherwise we thought we’d save what we could for some vacations we hope to take later in the year, namely Maine and Newfoundland. Both cooler climes we hope to visit during the depth of the oppressive Virginia summer.

Maine Sunrise

Foggy Bauline Newfoundland

Our second year of marriage has been as wonderful as the first. Both of us can truly say we’ve never been so happy. We look forward to many more together! Now, time to go, champagne’s a waitin!


Cadbury Bunny-skivers!

April 24, 2011

Happy Easter! What better way to start off this sugar drenched day but with the Easter breakfast of champions – Ebelskivers stuffed with mini Cadbury Creme Eggs and mini Cadbury Caramel Eggs! O.k. So I’m sure everyone knows what the Cadbury candies are, but you may be wondering “what is an Ebelskiver?” If you missed my previous post on Nutella and Banana stuffed Peanut Butter Ebelskivers, they are round pancakes which originated in Denmark and are perfect for breakfast, appetizers or snacks. You will of coarse need one special piece of equipment to make these goodies – namely the Ebelskiver Pan.

Ebelskiver Pan & Turners

My husband received one for his birthday a couple of years ago. The ebelskiver turners, long, carved wooden sticks, are great to have, but you could possibly get by with chopsticks, wooden skewers or even knitting needles in a pinch. For these treats, I made a vanilla ebelskiver batter. Unwrapped all of my Cadbury Candies.

Mmmmm....Cadbury yummies!

Placed a bit of butter in each well of my pan. Once this butter started to bubble, I placed 1 tablespoon of the batter in the pan and then placed my mini Cadbury Egg in the center of the batter.

mini Cadbury Egg filling in place

Then you place 1 more tablespoon of the batter on top to cover the filling.Turning the treats takes a bit of practice, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. Once it is time to turn them, place your turners on opposite sides of the pancakes and slide them down between the wall of the well and the cooked edges.Gently lift and rotate. Rather than flip mine over all at once, I quickly move around the pan rotating them 1/4 turn at a time until they are completely turned over. Once these Easter-skivers were done cooking, I dusted a bit of confectioners sugar over top and Voila!

I’m not sure whether I prefer the traditional creme filled egg ebelskivers or the caramel filled egg variety.

They were both quite decadent! As you can see, I couldn’t resist dressing one up as a bunny.

I’m afraid we ate the others too quickly before they had a chance to get into their bunny suits! If you have any mini Cadbury Eggs left over from your Easter baskets (I’m not sure how that could possibly happen…) give these a try. You’ll love ‘em!

 Cadbury Bunny-skivers

Makes batter for 20 Ebelskivers

Ingredients

1 Cup (5 oz/155g) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 Cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) milk

2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

20 mini Cadbury Creme Eggs or mini Caramel Eggs – your choice, or a mix of both as I did

Confectioners’ Sugar for dusting

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks, then whisk in the milk, 2 tablespoons of the melted butter and the vanilla extract until smooth. Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and, using a wooden spoon, stir until well blended. Don’t worry-the batter will be lumpy.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest just until no white streaks remain.

Add butter to the wells of the ebelskiver pan. This can be done with a pastry brush, or I often just put about 1/8 tsp. in each well. Place the pan over medium heat. When the butter starts to bubble, add 1 tablespoon of the batter to each well. Working quickly, carefully place one Cadbury mini egg into the center of each pancake. Top each with another 1 tablespoon of the batter.

Cook until the bottoms of the pancakes are lightly browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Use your ebelskiver turners or whatever you have, turn all of the pancakes and cook until browned on the second side-about 3 minutes longer.

Remove the pancakes from the pan. Dust them with confectioners’ sugar.  Serve immeadiatly.

Recipe for Vanilla Ebelskiver Batter from Ebelskivers by Kevin Crafts


Bird’s Nests

April 23, 2011

This is a fantastic Easter treat! I saw several versions of these whimsical Bird’s Nests around on various food blogs. I really liked the one featured on the Curvy Carrot blog and followed that recipe. The treats were very easy to make and chock full of ingredients that I love – chocolate, butterscotch and peanut butter…YUM! Even better, these little nests were filled with mini Cadbury Eggs.

Now, I really, really love them. (to the point that I often refer to them as “Crack-bury Eggs”…soooo delicious and addictive!) I can hardly restrain myself when they make their appearance in the stores around Easter. Yup, I”m doing the “Cadbury Happy Dance” through the grocery store aisles! This year I managed to score not only the traditional milk chocolate Cadbury Mini Eggs, but I also found the dark chocolate version. Be still my heart!

Another favourite Easter candy of mine is Robin’s Eggs. For those of you who don’t know what they are, they’re malted milk balls essentially dressed up for Easter! I decided that some of my nests would hold the mini version of them as well.

What can I say? These goodies taste phenomenally good and look just as great! They were a big hit at a party I went to just last night. Make some today and fill them with your Easter candy favourites!

Birds’ Nests

Recipe from the Curvy Carrot

Servings: 12

Ingredients

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, for greasing the muffin pan

6 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 ounces of butterscotch chips

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 ounces of chow mein noodles

mini Cadbury Eggs

mini Robin’s Eggs

marshmallow fluff

Instructions

1. Generously grease the wells of a muffin pan with the butter (this will help later when you are taking out the chilled nests).

2. In a large microwave-proof bowl, heat the chocolate and butterscotch chips in 30 second intervals until thoroughly melted, stirring after each increment.

3. Once melted, add the peanut butter to the chocolate/butterscotch mixture, mixing well until smooth and completely combined.

4. Carefully add the chow mein noodles, stirring with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until completely coated.

5. Using a large spoon, mold the mixture into the wells of your muffin tin, indenting the tops slightly with the back of the spoon.

6.  Chill the nests until hardened, about 1 hour or so.

7.  Once chilled, remove the nests from the muffin tin. Gently prying them loose with a butter knife worked well.

8.  Place mini eggs, or treats of your choice in each nest, securing them to the nest with a bit of marshmallow fluff.


Hot Cross Buns

April 22, 2011
“Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a penny, Two a penny, Hot Cross Buns!”

It’s Good Friday today and that means you are sure to find some of these yeasty cinnamon, fruit buns around. The cross on top of the bun is said to be a symbol of the Crucifixion. It is also said that these buns may pre-date Christianity as buns adorned with a cross, which symbolized the four quarters of the moon, were made in honour of the Saxon Goddess Eostre. Indeed, there are quite a few legends surrounding this Easter treat. For instance, it is said – probably by those old wives – you know how they love to tell tales – that Hot Cross Buns baked on Good Friday will never get moldy. If you keep one hanging in your kitchen to dry out, not only will it protect your household from fire and aid all of further bread baking endeavours, but once thoroughly dry it has the medicinal uses. You take the powder from the dry bun and mix it into a glass of water, ale or milk and give it to the person who is sickly and it is a curative. This amazing powder can also be applied directly to a wound. Caution now! This will only work with buns actually baked on Good Friday, so if you’re not baking these yourself today,  you’ll have to check with you bakery on the date their buns were made to see if their magic curative charm is intact.
There is a pub in England named the Widow’s Son which has an interesting Good Friday Hot Cross Bun tradition. It seems that long ago their was a widow who lived in a cottage where the current pub now sits. She had one son who was a sailor. He was due home from sea in time for Easter. On Good Friday, she baked him a batch of Hot Cross Buns for him, as they were one of his favourite treats.Sadly he never returned home. However, she continued to set one bun aside for him every year for as long as she lived. She passed away in 1848 and her cottage was turned into a pub. The new owners christened it “The Widow’s Son” in memory of her grief and continued to set aside a bun for her long lost son every Good Friday. To this day, this pub upholds this tradition. On Good Friday, a sailor from the Royal Navy is invited to the Widow’s Son Pub. He brings along a fresh Hot Cross Bun to add to their collection-over 200- which hangs from the ceiling. Many of these buns are well over 100 years old!
Well I did actually make mine today on Good Friday so they are sure to be powerful. I’m going to try to set one aside. I make no promises though. These buns are really tasty….
Hot Cross Buns
recipe adapted from Epicurious
makes 24 buns
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup warm milk (105°–115°F.)
  • two 1/4-ounce packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons milk
Directions:

In a small bowl stir together milk, yeast, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Let mixture stand 5 minutes, or until foamy.

Place raisins and currants in bowl. Cover with hot water and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain fruit and pat dry.

Into a large bowl sift together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cut butter into bits and with your fingertips or a pastry blender blend into flour mixture until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Lightly beat 1 whole egg with egg yolk. Make a well in center of flour mixture and pour in yeast and egg mixtures, currants, raisins, and zests. Stir mixture until a dough is formed. Transfer dough to a floured surface and with floured hands knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Butter 2 large baking sheets, or line with parchment paper.

On a floured surface with floured hands knead dough briefly and form into two 12-inch-long logs. Cut each log crosswise into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and arrange about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets. Let buns rise, covered, in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

While buns are rising, lightly beat remaining egg with superfine sugar to make an egg glaze.

Brush buns with egg glaze.

Bake buns in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until golden, about 12 minutes. Transfer buns to a rack to cool slightly.

Combine water, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk and mix until smooth. If it seems too thin, add more powdered sugar until it reached piping consistency. Place icing mixture in icing bag and pipe crosses onto the top of each bun.

Buns may be made 1 week ahead and frozen, wrapped in foil and put in a sealable plastic bag. Thaw buns and reheat before serving. Serve buns warm or at room temperature.


Mini Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies

April 21, 2011

What a fantastic treat for Easter! I’m sure they must be a favourite of the Easter Bunny and are definitely one of my favourites now too! These cookies are incredibly moist, and enticingly spicy.

Sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, which works great with the sweet cream cheese frosting sandwiched between. Believe me the cookies are delicious on their own, but oh, with the addition of that creamy filling…just heavenly!

These little bite-sized morsels are completely addictive. And how fun! You get your own personal little carrot cake! Maine is definitely on to something…Who wouldn’t love a whoopie pie?!

Mini Carrot Whoopie Pies

Slightly Adapted from Craving Chronicles (If you haven’t been to this blog you are missing out! Gorgeous photos!)

Makes 12 Mini Whoopie Pies (filled cookies)

Ingredients

3/4 cup golden raisins (2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 + 3 tablespoons cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup finely grated carrots (2 medium or 4 small)
1 cup walnuts (3 ounces), chopped

8 ounces cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Place raisins in a small bowl and add enough hot water to cover. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and pat dry.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, walnuts and raisins on low speed. Add flour mixture and beat just until combined. Set dough in refrigerator to chill for 15-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.

Working with one baking sheet at a time, drop 1Tablespoons of dough per cookie onto baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake each sheet separately, 13-15 minutes or until centers spring back to the touch. Cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a stand mixer, scraping down sides with a spatula as needed, until smooth. Add powdered sugar slowly, only a couple of tablespoons at a time and vanilla. Mix until a thick frosting consistency is reached, adding more powdered  sugar as necessary.

If making ahead, store cookies at room temperature and frosting in refrigerator. Frost cookies before serving.


Chicken Potpie

April 15, 2011

My husband LOVES Chicken Potpie. I don’t know many folks that don’t. This nostalgic dish can truly warm body and soul on a damp, rainy day. A hearty, delicious, tried and true comfort food. With the dreaded “tax day” coming up (not today, April 15th, but Monday April 18th this year due to the extension) there are probably more than a few out there who might need some comfort! This recipe is mouth-watering, very easy to make and will go a long way towards soothing your frayed and frazzled nerves. You begin by preparing the buttery, flaky pastry dough, guaranteed to bake to a beautiful golden brown. You saute the veggies.

veggies cooking

Once done, you add them, along with the shredded chicken to a savory, thick gravy. After the potpie filling has cooled for about an hour, you simply assemble the pies and pop them into the oven. I made several different portion sizes. The version pictured above was baked in a large popover pan and is a good lunch sized portion. I baked some in 7 oz. ramekins for the petite appetites,

Petite Pies

as well as some in large 22 oz.-”hungry man” sized ramekins.

The Hungry Man!

Believe me, once you bite into one of these deliciously gratifying pies, you will feel your mood lift and will swear the skies actually brighten! Get creative and make some of these today. Your family will go wild!

Mmmmm! How can you resist?!

Chicken Potpie

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 pound, quartered Button Mushrooms

1 Cup chopped Leeks, white and pale green parts

1/2 Cup Carrots, finely diced

1/3 Cup fresh or thawed frozen peas

1/3 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon All-purpose flour

4 1/2 Cups Chicken stock or broth

1/3 Cup Dry Sherry

2 teaspoons fresh Tarragon, minced

4 Cups cooked, shredded Chicken (rotisserie chicken works great!?

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Double-Crust flaky pastry dough (see below for recipe)

1 Large egg

Ingredients for Double-Crust Pastry Dough:

2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup plus 5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, chilled

1/2 Cup Ice Water

Directions for the Pastry Dough:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Cut the butter into chucks and scatter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture just until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of peas. ( I actually do this in the food processor. It takes about 5-6 pulses to get the flour butter mixture to have that coarse meal appearance.)

Drizzle the ice water over the flour mixture 1 tablespoon at a time and either mix with a fork or pulse your food processor after each addition. The dough should be crumbly and will not hold together on its own but will when gathered into a ball and compressed with your hands. If it is too dry, add a bit more ice water. Again 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Can be made ahead and frozen for up to 2 months.

Now you are ready to begin making the Chicken Potpie filling.

Directions for Chicken Potpie:

In a large frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 6 minutes. Stir in the leeks and carrots, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the peas.

In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 5 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour and let bubble gently for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the stock and sherry and then the tarragon. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Stir in the shredded chicken and the mushroom-leek mixture and season with salt and pepper. Let cool until lukewarm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spoon the chicken mixture into six 1 1/2 cup ovenproof soup crocks or ramekins. Or if you’d like to make the smaller popover shaped chicken potpies as pictured above, lightly grease the individual wells of a large popover pan. Line each well with pastry dough making sure there are no holes in the pastry lining and that it is snug against the walls of the well. Work the pastry so that it comes up just over the edge of the well so that you can easily attach a lid. Cut your lids out to be slightly larger than the diameter of the popover well. Poke a couple of holes is the lid so that steam can escape during baking. Fill the pastry lined wells with the Chicken Potpie mixture. Brush the underside of the lid with the egg wash. Place lid on the top of the individual pie and crimp around the edges. Brush the top of each pie with the egg wash.

If you are using ramekins, after you have filled them, place the pastry dough on a lightly floured work surface and dust the top with flour. (If the dough is chilled hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes until it begins to soften before rolling it out.) Roll it out into a rectangle about 20 x 13 inches and 1/8 inch thick. Using a 6-inch saucer as a template, use a knife to cup out 6 rounds. Beat the egg with a pinch of salt. Lightly brush each round with the egg. Place 1 round, egg side down, over each ramekin, keeping the pastry taut and pressing it around the ramekin edges to adhere. Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet. Lightly brush the tops with the egg. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 25 minutes. If you are making the popover sized pies, you will likely be able to reduce your cooking time to 15 minutes. Transfer each ramekin or popover to a dinner plate and serve.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food by Rick Rodgers


Jay’s Pizza Nights

April 12, 2011

I generally do most of the cooking around here. However that is not because my husband can’t cook. He definitely can, but tends to specialize in a few things. He does an awesome breakfast. He always cooks the bacon to a crispy perfection, whereas I tend to burn it more often than not. He also really loves to make home-made pizza. So on Jay Pizza Nights, I get to be sous chef and let him take over the kitchen. I love it! It’s not simply because he is doing the cooking, it’s because Jay’s Pizza Nights are always bunches of fun! There’s great tunes playing, wonderful company, cocktails served all around so that the actual experience of making the dinner only barely takes a back seat to the delight of scarfing it down. And let me just say right now, these pizzas are delicious!  He usually prepares two pies, rectangular shaped, about 5″x10″. On this night he made a sausage pepperoni pizza with and arrabiata sauce and a chicken, spinach pizza with an alfredo sauce.

He begins a couple of days before our Pizza Night by preparing Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough. This recipe makes dough for six- 6 oz. pizza crusts. We freeze the extras for future Pizza Nights. We love thin, crispy crust pizzas and this recipe will give you just that. Don’t be intimidated by all the steps. Believe me it is so worth it. As I mentioned, you do need to plan ahead and make the dough at least day before you plan to prepare your pizzas. It needs to be in the refrigerator overnight at a minimum. Once the dough has finished fermenting, he removes it from the refrigerator, re-shapes it into two discs, about 5″ in diameter and lets it then rest for 2 hours at room temperature. Finally, he stretches it out to form two rectangular pizza crusts, though you could do round pies, 9″ to 12″ in diameter, if you prefer. He places these crusts on a pizza paddle or peel which has been dusted with yellow cornmeal. The cornmeal will allow the pizza doughs, once prepared and ready for baking, to slide more easily onto the pizza stone, which has been preheated in the oven for 45 minutes. The pizza stone is important. If you don’t have one, seriously consider investing in one. Your pizza crust will thank you.

Fresh Toppings

Now we’re ready to add the toppings. It is very important to show some self-restraint here and this is always difficult to do so! The temptation is to load that pizza dough up with every kind of goodness you can imagine. The more the merrier right? Unfortunately this will not result in the dream pizza you were hoping for. More likely you will end up with something soggy and unwieldy. Remember, less is more! Jay uses store-bought sauces, as previously mentioned, an arrabiata and an alfredo. He add just a bit of sauce, no more than 3 Tablespoons, spreading it over the dough though stopping about 1″ or so from the edge. This will allow the crust there to puff-up and crisp. Then he tops it with just the right amount of toppings like pepperoni, hot italian sausage, freshly picked basil and fresh mozzarella for the red pizza and fresh spinach, sautéed garlic, roasted chicken breast and fresh mozzarella for the alfredo pizza. One of the great things about pizza though is that it is easy to customize it to your taste. So let your imagination run wild here, but always remember-less is more!

Pepperoni & Sausage Arrabiata Pizza ready to bake

Spinach, Chicken Alfredo Pizza not far behind

He brushes the edges of the crust with a flavoured olive oil and sprinkles it with a bit of flaky Maldon sea salt. We transfer these pizzas, one at a time from the pizza paddle on which they were prepared, onto the hot pizza stone in the oven.

On the Pizza Stone and into the oven!

Then we simply bake them at 475°F until the cheese is melted and the crust has turned a beautiful, crispy golden brown.

Finished Pies!

YUM! Who needs pizza delivery? You’ll be ruined for it after this! Get started on your own Pizza Night today!

And don't forget the wine!

Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe

Recipe originally from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

The pared down version of the recipe shown here is from 101 Cookbooks.

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice-cold (40°F)
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low-speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn’t come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50° to 55°F.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Now let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800°F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550°F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift 1 piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss as shown on page 208. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling-pin, though this isn’t as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other toppings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American “kitchen sink” approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.



Octopus iPhone Case

April 10, 2011

I thought I’d take a wee break from the cooking today and show you the other “crafty” things that I’ve been up to. My husband and I are now the proud owners of iPhones. We have waited quite a loooong time for this. I know iPhones have been out for a while and we could’ve had one years ago. However, Jay and I both have an extreme dislike, dare I say “hatred” of AT&T. It was actually one of the things we discovered that we had in common when we first started dating. AT&T had done both of us wrong in the past. I had vowed to never use their services, EVER again if I could possibly help it. Jay felt the same. So even though we own all things Apple and were drooling over all of our friend’s iPhones, we held out with our pathetic old mobile phones until the Verizon iPhone made its appearance. Joy!!! We actually got up at 3 a.m. so that we could do the pre-order with Verizon online, not wanting to go one more minute without that tech than was necessary. We now are proud owners and couldn’t be happier! We love our iPhones! Of course we needed cases for them to protect their pristine screens. We didn’t actually see any we were crazy about after a bit of a poke around online. Jay had mentioned he would love to have one with an octopus on it. (He may have a “thing” for octopi) So, I went ahead and made him one and am quite pleased with the results! It’s a hand-stitched, felt case with velcro closures, sporting an adorable appliqued octopus.

Front of case

Back of case

A bunch of folks who have seen it, id’ed the critter on it as Cthulhu. Not my intention. I think my guys looks a bit cuddly for one of the Lovecraftian Great Old Ones, whose mere visage is known to strike abject terror and insanity in those who are unfortunate enough to meet him, but I guess to each his own. Now I have to get started on one for myself. I’m still carrying my beloved iPhone around in a very undignifed sock! Stand-by for more yummy food coming your way soon-think home-made pizza!


Banana Oatmeal Power Cookies

April 6, 2011
I noticed a few mornings ago that we had a banana that had seen better days. It was definitely ripe. Too ripe for me to consider eating it on its own, or even cut up over cereal. What to do? What to do? Ah hah! Banana Oatmeal Power Cookies! These little cookies are full of great stuff like fruit, nuts, and grains. They are very moist, slightly chewy and sweet, but not so sweet you can’t go on. I think it’s quite likely that super heroes and maybe even international spies eat these power cookies for energy when they are out on assignment. I actually have some photographic evidence of these cookies amazing restorative powers. We recently went hiking at Great Falls Park. The path was great, but had long portions where we were scrabbling over rocks on a somewhat steepish ascent. We were quickly worn out!

Poor Gimlet! (Pre-restorative cookie)

Luckily we had a few Power Cookies in our backpack. We took a wee break to gobble them down and Voilà!

Reinvigorated Husband and Puppy on top of the world!

So when you have to accomplish some super human tasks, look to these cookies. They’ll be the perfect treat to get you through your hectic day.

Impenetrable Wall of Cookies

Banana Oatmeal Power Cookies
recipe slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma recipes
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room
    temperature
  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
Directions:
Preheat an oven to 325°F. Lightly grease 1 or 2 baking sheets or line each with a Silpat nonstick liner or parchment paper.In a bowl, stir together the flour, coconut, oats, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a large bowl, cream the brown sugar and butter with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Add the banana and egg and beat with a fork until blended. Stir in the flour mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, then stir in the apricots and pecans.

Spoon the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheet(s), spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through baking if 2 pans were used.

Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet(s) on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Transfer the cookies to the rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Makes about 18 cookies; serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Outdoors Series, Cabin Cooking, by Tori Ritchie (Time-Life Books, 1998).

Tower of Power!


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