Category Archives: Baking

Common ground {AKA} Fresh pizza

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With three growing boys in the house it can be difficult to find something that all three enjoy eating, never mind something that is going to satisfy their bear-like hunger. They are certainly not picky eaters by any standards, they’ll pretty much eat anything (read: everything) I put in front of them, but when I offer up something like Tofu BLTs or Eggplant Lasagna, someone is bound to growl at me. Needless to say, planning my dinner menu for the week often takes longer than I should ever own up to.

Luckily, year in and year out there is one dinner that works for every ravenous and often times, veggie-adverse tummy in my house. Not surprisingly, it is Pizza, of the freshly-made persuasion. It must be something about the arrangement of the veg that makes pizza a much more appetizing way to enjoy portabellas, onions, spinach, artichokes, and tomatoes. Or perhaps it is that there is all that cheese. :) Either way, it makes them happy, so I’m happy.

Honestly though, the best part about this recipe and what makes it a great mid-week treat as well as a Friday Family Movie Night staple is that it is easy.  Like spur of the moment easy. So easy that you’ll never need delivery, or DeGiorno, again. I know that most, if not all, other pizza dough recipes require that you allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. This one does not. It is a think it, make it, enjoy it kind of pizza dough. Which makes it absolutely awesome for those nights that you waited too long to feed the kidlets and they are starting to grow fangs.

But before I divulge this recipe I want to set your expectations in the right place. This is very good pizza dough. The results are consistent. It is easy to work with and can be rolled and shaped with ease. What this recipe is not is world-class pizzeria dough. For that you will still have to head to your favorite pizza joint or catch a last-minute flight to Italy.

Okay now that you have been prepped and ready to go, here is my not-so-secret-anymore recipe:

Easy Pizza Dough

"Did someone say PIZZA?!?!" (This cutie does not one of mine. A good friend of ours that we lovingly refer to as C$.)

“Did someone say PIZZA?!?!”
(This cutie, pizza-mouth and all, is not one of mine. A good friend of ours that we lovingly refer to as C$.)

Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 20-25 minutes  Makes one large pizza

1C ………………. Water   110°F
1 TSBP ………… Yeast (1 standard size package)
1 TBSP ………… Sugar
2 1/2C …………. All-purpose flour
1 tsp ……………. Salt
1 tsp ……………. Italian seasoning/garlic powder (optional)
2 TBSP ………… Olive oil
dusting ……….. Cornmeal

 

1. Preheat oven to 375°-400°, depending on how you prefer your crust.

2. Dissolve the sugar into the water. Add in the yeast, and mix together. Set-aside and allow to proof (mixture will become frothy and creamy).

3. Whisk together dry ingredients.

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture. Add in olive oil.

5. Mix gently with a fork until the dough starts to come together.

6. Knead in the bowl until completely combined, about 10-15 times.

7. Allow dough to rest while you gather all your toppings.

8. Roll-out by hand or with a rolling pin.

9. Bake pizza for 20-25 minutes on baking sheet dusted with cornmeal and/or lined with parchment paper.

 

{Tips} I use a pizza stone. I allow the stone to heat in the oven while the oven is pre-heating. I roll my dough out on parchment paper and then transfer the paper and pizza to the stone when the pizza is prepared. If you don’t have a pizza stone, that is fine. Simply put your baking sheet into the oven while it is pre-heating. Top and bottom of pizza will be cooked to perfection.

{I use this same recipe to make calzones.}

 

 

~ Mangiare! 

 

Sardines and Apple Bread

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No… not together. That, I would have to say is awful. This is not.

I’ve always had inklings that my boys were pack animals, like wolves. When the three of them are in the same space, they are golden. Remove one from the situation and their entire dynamic changes — this can often be a good thing, trust me. But somehow or another they *always* end up on top of each other, and, by extension, me.  I’ve grown accustomed to a lack of personal space. Some days it bothers me, and you’ll hear my saying, “I need a ten foot radius” — but for the most part I accept this as their way.

I don’t really know why my boys are like this. Perhaps it’s because the older two are twins and have been smack on top of each other since, well, nine months before Day One. Perhaps it’s because I work from home. Or maybe it’s that we homeschool now. It’s non-stop, all the time, all of us. Bam! You’ve got yourself a pack of wolves.

So last night the boys took their pack mentality to new heights. My youngest hopped into my bed for a bedtime story. Nothing out of the ordinary, this happens all the time. But a few pages into the book, the ‘middle’ kidlet comes in with his book, book light, blanket, and pillow. Um… okay. Sure. He gets comfy on the other side of my bed, next to the youngest. I continue the bedtime story without a word about it, and before I’m done, the last kidlet comes in and does the same. Book. Book light. Pillow. Blanket.

Have I missed something? Did I sign-up for a slumber party? Who knows, but needless to say, we ended up “sleeping” like a bunch of sardines last night. Even though we all started out in our own designated slit of the bed, the passing hours broke down all claims for space. And whether it was simply gravity pushing them to the well-slept side of the bed, a desire for warmth, or perhaps even some instinctive need to be as close to me as possible, I was pushed out of my own bed long before it was light out. So I’m up writing while they’re all warm and snoogly in my bed.

All this togetherness, and me being up *very* early got me thinking on what I could bake the pack of little ones for breakfast this cold, blustery morning. I’m going with their fave, Apple Bread.

I bake this in a springform pan, but you can use anything of a similar size. This recipe is easy, even though you’ve got two things going at once.

applebread

Apple Bread  ~  Total time: 60-70 minutes  /  Prep: 15 minutes   /  Baking: 45-55 minutes

Ingredients:

Bread
2 C           All-purpose flour
1 C           Sugar
3 tsp        Baking powder
1 tsp         Salt
1 tsp         Cinnamon
1/4 tsp     All spice
1/4 tsp     Nutmeg
1/3 C        Butter – softened
1C             Milk
1                Egg – room temperature

Filling/Topping
1 1/2 C     Peeled, chopped apples  (3-4 small/med, 2 large)
1/3 C        Packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp     Butter
1 Tbsp      All-purpose flour
1/4 tsp     Nutmeg
Dash        Salt

apples

1. Pre-heat oven to 350° – Grease pan (springform, round, square, whatever your heart desires)
I get started on the apples first so they can cook-down on the stove while I’m preparing the batter. I always peel my apples like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle — it earns me cool points with the kidlets.
2. Topping/Filling: Peel and chop apples. Place in heavy-bottom pot over low/med heat. Add in sugar and butter. Allow to melt. Stir occasionally. Add in remaining ingredients, stir until combined. Leave to cook while you prepare the batter.
3. Batter: In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk together completely. (Flour should be practically flying at this point.) Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add in all of the remaining ingredients.
4. Mix together the batter. 30 seconds on low, two minutes on medium. The batter will be thick.
batter5. Decision time: Mixing and topping, or layering for filling. Your choice.
~ Mixing and topping: Take one large scoop of apples and add it into the batter. Mix well for about 10 seconds. Pour all of the batter into your prepared pan. Top the batter with the remaining apples, spread them out evenly. — this is what I do now
~ If layering the apples into the batter, pour half of the batter into the pan. Layer half of the apples evenly across. Pour in the remaining batter, and top with the rest of the apples.  – this is what I used to do
6. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes. – Allow to cool slightly before serving. I let it sit in the oven, with the door cracked, for about 10 minutes.
7. Make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy the smells coming from your oven.piece

And as I sit here in the quiet that comes from waking so early, I realize that even though we were squished together like sardines, there is a peace and comfort that comes from having all my boys within reach. Kind of like tea and apple bread.

Versatile sweet white bread

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This recipe had me convinced that I had finally solved the ingredient mystery of those highly-addictive Hawaiian King Rolls. Soft, delicious, sweet, perfection. And imagine, I have (well, had) two fresh loaves of it. Bliss.

I made the bread according to the recipe below but the flavor of this bread lends itself perfectly to be tweaked any way you want. In the future I will swap out two cups of the bread flour for two cups of whole wheat flour and fully intend to use this recipe as a base for some cinnamon raisin breakfast bread.

Time commitment:  2hrs. 20 min.   Active time: 20 minutes

15 minutes for steps 1-5
1 hour of rise
5 minutes for step 6
30 minutes of additional rise
30 minutes of baking

Super simple recipe:

2 cups warm water (110°F)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast (equivalent of two packages)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 olive oil (light tasting) or vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

Directions:

  1. In a LARGE bowl (you will be adding in 6 cups of flour into this bowl), dissolve the sugar in the warm water. (Have the temp set a bit above the 110° because the mixing in of the sugar will decrease the temp)
  2. Stir in yeast and allow it to proof (creamy foam layer along the top)
  3. Mix in the salt and oil in the water/yeast mixture (it may or may not combine completely, no worries, just give it a really good mix)
  4. Add in the flour one cup at a time. Knead until smooth.
  5. Place in a well-oiled bowl, turn to coat. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise until doubled in a warm’ish draft-free area. (approx. 1 hr)
  6. Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes to work out those air pockets. Divide the dough in half. Shape into loaves and place in two well-oiled loaf pans. Cover with the damp towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes (dough should rise to above the level of the pans).
  7. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Enjoy and let me know what you think.

~M