Posts tagged ‘cheese’

Thin, Crispy Pizza Done Right

About once a week we make homemade pizza from a batch of homemade whole wheat pizza dough recipe. After much experimentation, I think I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out the perfect way to do thin-crust pizza. Here’s a hint: high heat is the key. (Note: if you like deep-dish, high heat is probably a horrible idea. Nothing like uncooked dough and soggy pizza).

Yes. High heat is all you need, but I’ll break my technique down a little further. First, defrost the dough if it was in the freezer. (When I make a batch of dough, I usually double the recipe and divide it into 4 portions. Eating pizza once a week, a batch lasts us a month). Next, let it rest somewhere warm and dark for at least 30 minutes. This helps the glutens relax and makes it easier to roll out. It will rise a bit during this time. Begin rolling out the dough. When I roll mine to about the edges of our pizza pan, it ends up being about 1/4″ thick or less. If you like bubbly pizza, let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes or so. Doing this allows the yeast to keep eat, and as they do so, the release carbon dioxide.

Preheat the oven to 350. Stick the dough in for 5-10 min. so that it cooks slightly, just until the outside looks dry instead of doughy. (You make skip this step if you want. However, I’ve had a couple pizzas turn out doughy. Since I started pre-cooking the crust, I’ve never had it burn, so I don’t think there’s any risk with this method). Meanwhile, start preparing the trimmings. Chop and cook anything that needs chopped or cooked before it goes on the pizza (like onions usually do, in my experience).

Once the dough has cooked for a few minutes, remove it from the oven and crank up the heat to the highest your oven will go. I mean that. Get it as hot as possible. Mine goes up to 550. I’ve heard that in Italy, some restaurants crank the heat up to 700. (If you’re really hardcore, get a couple dozen unglazed quarry tiles from the hardware store. Stick them in the oven and bake them at your highest heat for 15-20 minutes. They’ll absorb it, and allow you to get much higher temperatures out of your oven.)

While you’re waiting for things to heat up, top your pizza with whatever ingredients you decided on. I can’t say enough about adding minced garlic and rosemary to the sauce. It’s really the best thing that’s ever happened to my pizza. If you’re using fresh basil, remember to put it on right after the sauce, under the cheese and other toppings. Otherwise, it will come as nothing more than like crispy, black flakes. Once the oven is hot, put it in and bake until it’s done. When is it done? Up to you but I have three criteria. 1) A good portion of the cheese is a warm, golden brown on top. 2) The ends/edges of any toppings sticking up too far out of the cheese are shriveled and burnt. 3) The crust is a nice, medium-heading-towards-dark, toasty brown color.

Experiment all you want with this method, but it’s been consistently turning out quality results for us.

Advertisements

April 30, 2011 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

Homemade Gnocchi with Spinach & Roasted Garlic White Sauce Recipe

Last night we made gnocchi for the first time. It was actually relatively easy, except that something with the recipe was a little screwy. Basically, you’re supposed to mix a little flour in with the potatoes, until it gets to a dough consistency that is slightly sticky to touch, but doesn’t doesn’t stick to you. The recipe calls for two cups. I used close to eight, and it still was too sticky. We just made sure our hands were well floured before handling it. So anyhow, I’m including the original recipe in the hopes that there was something goofy with my batch. Just be sure you have plenty of flour on hand just in case. Otherwise things went well. We made ours a little too big, but it wasn’t too bad. I would say the ideal size would be oblong balls as long as a quarter and as thick as a dime.

Gnocchi can be gut busters, and this recipe (adapted from Mario Batali and the Smitten Kitchen) makes plenty. We fed 5 people with it, and had enough left over to freeze an entire gallon Ziploc bag of them.

Ingredients for gnocchi:

1.5 kg (3 lbs.) russet potatoes
2 c flour (or 8 if you’re me)
1 egg
1 tsp salt

Ingredients for sauce:

1 bulb of garlic (yes… bulb, not clove)
1 lb spinach
1 c of milk (or cream, if you’re feeling caloric)
4 T olive oil, butter, or a mixture of the two
4 T white flour
1+ c white wine or chicken broth (I used broth)
1/2 c grated mozzarella
1/8 c grated parmesan
Dash of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Prick the potatoes with a fork. Place them in a large pot of water, bring it to a boil, and cook for 45 minutes until the potatoes are soft when pierced. (It’s important to both prick the potatoes with a fork and to bring the pot of water to a boil with them already inside–rather than adding them to a pot of boiling water. If you don’t follow these two steps, the potato skins may split open causing soggy potatoes. And soggy potatoes may have been my problem). Once the potatoes are finished, remove them from the pot.

Preheat the oven to 375. Take a sharp knife, and cut the top the garlic bulb. A tiny bit of the top of each bulb should be exposed. Place the bulb in the center of a square of a aluminum foil. Sprinkle the top of the exposed cloves with salt and pepper. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the bulb. Wrap the foil over the bulb, and twiste it at the top. Place the bulb on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove it when it’s done and let it cool while you make the gnocchi dough.

If you have gloves specifically made for playing Hot Potato, get them now. As I understand it, you want the dough to stay warm while you’re making it, so grab a clean towel (if you don’t have Hot Potato gloves) for handling them. Peel the potatoes, and mash them in a large bowl. (Ideally, pass them through a food mill. I didn’t have one, so I grated them. You could use a food processor, too, or mash them the old fashioned way). Form a volcano hole in the middle of the potatoes, and sprinkle 2 cups of flour over the top. Add the salt and egg to the volcano. Quickly mix them all together so that the egg mixes before it gets cooked by the potatoes. Knead for an additional 4-5 min until the mixture is dough, and slightly sticky to the touch. (This is where my attempt bordered on disastrous. It was super sticky even after an additional 6 cups of flour. Better luck to you).

Take the garlic bulb, and squeeze it from the base towards the top. The roasted cloves should pop out. Take a fork and mash these into a smooth paste. In a large skillet, melt the butter (or add the oil) and heat. Sprinkle the flour a bit at a time, whisking it into the hot oil until it dissolves. Mix in the garlic paste at this time, too. Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking vigorously to make a roux. Add wine/broth until you have a thick sauce, then bring the mixture to a simmer. Sprinkle the cheese on top and mix it into the roux. Add nutmeg, salt & pepper. Reduce heat to low, and stir sparingly. Add more liquid if it’s starts getting to thick. Remove any thick stems from the spinach and roughly chop. Add a tiny bit of water to a pot and heat. Wilt the spinach, drain it and squeeze as much liquid from it as you can. Set it aside to be added at the end.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Take a fist-sized chunk of dough and roll it out kindergarten-style into a snake about the thickness of a dime. Cut the snake into one-inch bits. Roll them briefly in your hands to round any pointy edges, then roll them long-ways along the tines of a fork to create ridges. (Traditionally gnocchi has ridges; we skipped this step). Place them on an oiled baking sheet and rub them around or spray them with oil to prevent sticking. Break off another piece of dough and repeat.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir once to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Cook about 2 minutes until it floats up to the surface. With a slotted spoon, scoop up the cooked gnocchi and plop them into the sauce. (Alternately, transfer them to an oiled baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. This prevents them from freezing into a large gnocchish lump). Add the spinach to the sauce, and mix them all together.

March 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm Leave a comment

Beer Cheese Bread Recipe

Beer. Cheese. Bread.

Is there any combination of three words which can top that? I think not.

I got this recipe from the madre. I must say, I was not disappointed. On my first attempt, I used a low-end light beer (PBR? Heineken? Don’t remember). On my second attempt, I upped it to a Guinness. The flavor difference was noticeable. Surprisingly, it tasted much more yeasty with the Guinness. I still want to try using a Belgian ale sometime, but it’s very difficult for me to do anything but drink a Belgian.

Recipe:
3 c self-rising flour
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
2-4 T fresh chopped chives
1 (12 oz) bottle beer
1/4 c melted butter

Instructions:
Mix together all of the dry ingredients. Fold in the beer. (Like pancakes, it doesn’t need to be smooth. Chunky goopiness is a good thing).  Pour into a greased 9 x 5 bread pan. Bake at 350¹ for 45 min. Pour melted butter over the top and bake 10 more minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes then remove from pan and finish cooling.

(Self-rising flour is easy to make if you don’t have any. For every cup of flour add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. For this recipe add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder to the 3 cups flour.)

Possible Variation:
Skip the chives and add chili powder instead. How much depends on how much you can handle. Since this recipe liberally uses cheese and butter (which counteract the burn), I would recommend doubling the amount of chili that you would usually use to flavor something. I put my slightly more than standard amount in, and could barely feel a burn.

September 1, 2010 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

Corn and Bean (Burritos)

This has become an absolute staple in our house. It’s cheap, healthy, low in fat, high in fiber, delicious. We affectionately call it, simply, “corn ‘n’ bean.” For the black beans, we use a pressure cooker to cook dry beans, but you can use canned beans. The spice mix for this recipe is the key.

Spice mix:
2 parts cumin
2 parts coriander
1 part cinnamon

Ingredients:
4 c black beans (2 cans)
2 c corn (1 can)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c salsa
4 T corn’n’bean spice mix
Chili, salt, pepper to taste

Instructions:
In a large frying pan, saute the onion in olive oil. 3 minutes before the onions are done, add the garlic, spice mix, chili, salt and pepper. Then, add the beans, corn, salsa and simmer for 10-15 minutes until most of the liquid cooks off.

Put in tortilla with cheese, kefir, and Sriracha.

May 20, 2010 at 4:32 am 1 comment

Just when you thought fast food couldn’t get worse

KFC introduces it’s “double-down.”

How does one make a double-down? Easy. Put two pieces of bacon and two slices cheese between two pieces of deep-fried chicken. Omit the bun. If, after eating one, your fingers aren’t to greasy to keep a hold of the phone, please call 9-11 and order an ambulance immediately.

This “sandwich” stomps a Big Mac with more calories, fat and sodium. In your face, Ronald. How much calories, fat and sodium? 540 calories, 32g of fat, and 1380mg sodium. Eating two puts you over your daily limit for saturated fat and sodium, so make sure to skip breakfast. (Is it really worth it?)

Don’t worry, according to the Indy Star, KFC is giving away all the extra buns that they’re not using. According to their VP of Marketing, “thousands” of buns will be donated nationally. Thousands, huh? Not tens or hundreds of thousands? Let’s be optimistic. Let’s say they donate 9,000 buns (on the high end of the “thousands” category). That means each state gets about 180 buns. Talk about generosity! We can all learn a valuable lesson from KFC… and that lesson is, if you can’t give everyone a heart attack, try starving them to death.

April 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm 2 comments

Pesto Portobello Sandwich Recipe

So… it was Saturday night, and Dave and I sat despairing in the kitchen. The pantry was full of the same stuff we always eat, and we were both tired of it. “Ugh,” he lamented. “I’m tired of the same meal every day!” I agreed.

Then the breakthrough happened. “Oh, I forgot I had this pesto,” he said. I suddenly remembered the baby portobellos I got at the grocery earlier that day. And we were off.

While I was sauteing the mushrooms and chopped onions in a bit of wine, Dave started toasting bread, then topping it with cheddar and sticking it under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Once the bread was ready, we spread the pesto on the un-cheesed pieces, shoveled on the mushrooms, and topped them with mixed greens.

Two sandwiches each with a bunch of grapes between them on the plate… and we had a dinner fit for royalty.

It was freaking delicious.

January 26, 2009 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment


Categories

Recent Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers