Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pizza with Bacon, Caramelized Onion and Cream

This recipe is so perfect in the balance of flavors and textures that there's no way to improve upon it.  I made it for this afternoons tea and it was a huge hit all around with four out of four people adoring it.

Pizza with Bacon, Onions and Cream [Alsatian Pizza]
Stolen from Smitten Kitchen who adapted it from André Soltner via Food & Wine
Serves 4 for a light dinner with a salad; can be divided to 8 appetizer portions or 16 tiny party portions
1/2 pound pizza dough
Olive oil, for oiling baking sheets
1/2 cup fromage blanc or ricotta
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound thickly sliced smoky bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 450°F. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon crisps up. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Add onion to skillet and cook until softened and beginning to caramelize (I added a pinch of sugar which aids the caramelizing process), an amount of time I forgot to write down but would estimate at 7 to 10 minutes.
Whisk together (or blend together in a food processor, if you want it silky-smooth) fromage blanc and crème fraîche with flour, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out to a rough 8-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. If the dough becomes difficult to roll, let it rest for 10 minutes, then continue.
Oil two large baking sheets. Transfer two dough rounds to each. Spread the fromage blanc mixture over the rounds to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Sprinkle with the bacon and onion. Bake on the bottom shelf of the oven for about 12 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve.

Awesome and Easy Pizza Dough

Have you ever not done something because you thought it would be difficult or time consuming then once you tried it wanted to kick yourself for not doing it sooner?  That's how I'm feeling about pizza dough today. 
I will admit that ever though there are 7 steps to this dough (plus another two for pizza)  I skipped a few.  I mixed up the dough and divided into eight equal balls, covered and put in the fridge over night, the next morning all I did was let it  come up to room temp for an hour, flatten it out to the size and thickness I wanted and let rest for another hour, top and bake.  That easy!!!  See,  totally kicking myself. 

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe

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

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 tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.
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 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, 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 I 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 re-flour 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 top- pings, 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.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Apple Scones

This is a sort of modification on a delicious recipe from Inside BruCrew for Caramel Apple Scones.   I really wanted to make her version but didn't have the exact ingredients on hand.  I needed a bit more flour than the recipe called for too, They turn out almost cake like, perfectly moist and oh so yummy. 

Chocolate Toffee Apple Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter cut up and frozen
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1cup chopped apple (about the size of pencil erasers)
a scant cup of chocolate toffee candies chopped (I used Ande's  Toffee Crunch Thins because I had them on hand, but a crushed chocolate toffee candy bar such as Skor or Heath would work just as well. )
Heat oven to 400*F
In a food processor add your flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Pulse a couple of times to combine then add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles course crumbs. 
Whisk together the milk and egg and slowly add to the flour mixture until a dough forms.  Add the apples and chocolate.  They will probably not fully incorporate in the food processor, so turn out onto a well floured surface and knead a few times to get them fully mixed in.  Note: The dough is pretty sticky.
Lightly spray a cookie sheet with no stick spray and place the dough in the center flattening it out to about a 9 inch round.  Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and bake for aprox. 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges.  You can serve these warm but they're just as delicious the next day...if you have any left.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Berry Medley Scones

Gracious Hospitality had this lovely recipe for blueberry scones posted from the other day and I just had to try it. La Tea Dah always has such wonderful posts, I really enjoy following her blog.

I don't make it a habit of having dried blueberries on hand though so I had to do a bit of editing on the recipe to make it fit what I had in house. I could have used my dried cranberries but that wasn't the flavor I was going for. Then I remembered the triple berry mixture I had in the freezer. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Perfect! I added them still frozen at the last possible minute to the mixture because I didn't want the berry mush that you get when you thaw frozen berries, rather I wanted the whole berries dispersed through the scones.

I've made these twice since then the first time with mixed berried and again yesterday with frozen sweet cherries to serve
for tea with my girlfriend. They came out wonderfully both times, the ground oats give a wonderful nutty flavor and more hearty texture.

Berry Medley Scones (a slightly altered recipe borrowed from Gracious Hospitality)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup rolled oats, whizzed in blender
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar NOT packed plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 1/4 frozen berries NOT thawed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Combine flour, oat flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl. In a cup, blend the egg, milk and oil. Toss the frozen berries into the flour and add the liquid ingredients stirring until the dry ingredients are moist and blended. Work mixture together with hands until a soft dough is formed. Form into a small ball.

Place dough on a floured board. Shape the dough into one large round, about 1/2-inch thick. Place on a baking sheet that's been lightly sprayed with no-stick spray. Using a sharp knife, cut into eight wedges, sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 350 degrees F. for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm with soft butter.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Slice of the Pie

Pie hot from the oven and soup ready to ladle into bowls.

The other day I spent pretty much all day in the kitchen. I was making Butternut Squash Chowder and my Raspberry Cherry Pie. Since I believe in having dessert first, that's the recipe I'm giving.

My pie crust is a variation on Alton Brown's recipe but I had to be honest with myself...Lard? I was not going to go to the store to buy a pound of lard for all of 4 tablespoons of the stuff no matter how magical it may make my crust. sooo, I substituted.

Using a food processor made the whole process as easy as, well... pie. The recipe makes only one crust though. For Thanksgiving I doubled the recipe for a two crust pie and decided that since the process was so quick it is just as easy to do it twice and not worry about divvying up the dough equally (it's hard to judge when it's all crumbly)

Easy as Pie Crust (makes 1 crust)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter cut into small pieces and frozen
1 cup flour plus more for rolling the dough
1 teaspoon salt if using un-salted butter or 1/2 teaspoon if using salted
Ice water

Pi Filling
2 cans lite cherry pie filling
1 can raspberry pie filling

Now Alton said to put the ice water in a spray bottle and spritz the flour mixture until it forms a dough. Um...yeah, not so much. I live in a desert and I'd be spritzing all day trying to get my ingredients to the proper consistency. So I improvised, and instead I used a drizzle bottle, I'm not sure the actual name for them but they're the kind usually used for oil. I put water in instead and put it in the freezer with the butter until it was almost frozen. Pie crusts love the cold!!

So just like Alton, the flour and salt went in my food processor and pulsed a few times to mix. from there I removed the lid to add the frozen butter, replaced the lid and pulsed until the mixture resembled medium course crumbs. Then I took the ice water and still using the pulse option slowly added water until the mixture resembled really course wet crumbs and formed a ball when squeezed. This got poured onto plastic wrap and formed into a disk and put in the fridge for about half an hour.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

After the dough had chilled I took one disk out, rolled it out and lined my pie pan with it,trimming it flush with the pan edge then put it back in the fridge for another 10 minutes. While it was chilling I opened my pie filling and mixed the two fillings together in a bowl. After the crust was chilled again I took it out and put the filling in, then rolled out the other crust for the top.
I like to use a center hole for my vent so I cut this before putting the crust on the pie. I then lay it over the pie, trim the crust so there's about a 3/8 overhang to turn and flute and then decorate. I have little bitty cutters for my shapes which I stick on using warm water dabbed on the back of the shape.

Almost ready to go in the oven, isn't it pretty?

Put your pie on a cookie sheet in case of drips. I also like to use a foil cuff to keep the pie from getting too brown. to do this I take four strips of foil about 5 inches wide and fold them together to create a continuous strip. This I wrap around the pie, fold on it's self to form a ring and push the top portion of the foil to dome loosely over the crust. it will look like a foil volcano shape.
Bake for 30 minutes then rotate and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove the foil and brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Return to the oven for another 5 minutes or until top is golden brown.

I got a little happy with the sugar there

Friday, December 3, 2010

Join me and a Merry Scotsman for Tea?

I made another Raspberry Cherry pie the other night and decided I wanted a slice with my tea this morning.

It's easy and yummy, the perfect combination. Consider this a teaser. I'll share my recipe tomorrow.

I thought you might also enjoy my merry Scotsman china.
A Scot, a coat of arms and a bouquet of thistles amid the tartan.

The back of the saucer, each piece is also numbered, do you see the black 5 at the top?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Herbed Butter

We got to have two Thanksgiving dinners this year. The first was Thanksgiving day with Lewis' mom and step-dad and the second the day after with his dad and step-mom. Each was delicious and I came away with new recipes to try.
I was in charge of a cherry pie for the first dinner but as I was looking at the cans of pie filling at the grocer I felt the need to add a bit more to it so I also grabbed a can of raspberry pie filling and using Alton Brown's pie crust recipe (best crust like ever) I made a raspberry cherry pie that was to die for. I wanted to kick myself though, it was beautiful and just turning golden when I took off the foil...and then I left it in for about five minutes to long and the crust started to burn. So no pictures of that version. I think I'm craving it now though so another may be in the works for tea with the ladies.

For our second dinner I was in charge of rolls and I got a bit lazier. I would have made them from scratch but we'd gotten home too late the night before to pull out the bread maker to pre-program (cut me some slack, I was tired and had had quite a bit of wine to drink) and dinner was scheduled fairly early and I didn't want to get up early to make them. So I did what any self respecting lady of the house would do.
I whipped up a batch of herbed butter to go with the store bought rolls. It came out better than I expected and was enjoyed on our rolls as well as home grown potatoes from M and L's garden.
I think this would be lovely on tea sandwiches as well.

1 stick butter
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried basil
just a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (you can get whole nutmeg for a song at Indian markets and they're so very worth it!)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Allow the butter to soften, I speed things up by cutting it into slices and putting in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time until it's soft but not melted.
Add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Let it sit for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavors to meld.
I kept it at room temp so it was spreadable, but you could also put it in a butter mold or roll and refrigerate until firm.