Dough.

I have had some major snafus with pizza dough in the last couple of years. I’m not quite sure what the problem has been, but I remember days when pizza-making was super easy. I could just whip up some dough, let it rise, and easily roll it out, slathering on the toppings with a really, really happy face. The last couple of times have been angry face extravaganzas. Rolling, watching the dough jump, no, leap! back into place, waiting for a few minutes (like they always say! be patient!) and then rolling again. During those few minutes, a lot of words like this – #&%*$^%^ – were said.

Of course, eventually I’d get something resembling a pizza, nevermind the wayward shape. And then it would come time to bake it, and I’d run into more problems. Dough sticking to the wrong surface, despite the hefty slathering of cornmeal on the surface. Toppings falling off. My pizza stone being a thorn in my side (I have never successfully used one, but maybe mine is just sucky.) – the problems are ongoing. I do end up with a pizza – I haven’t resorted to rolling them over and making calzones (though I should, actually), and I haven’t quite ruined dinner because of it. But still….it could definitely be better.

That explains why you haven’t seen a pizza recipe over here since May of 2010 (I still remember that pizza, too. Some kinda tasty). Damn, that’s over 2 years! Without pizza! How in the world have we gotten by without pizza?! I actually have no idea.

But that changes as of today. How fitting for November 1st, no?

By now, I’m sure we’ve all heard of Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough, right? He makes bread in Dutch ovens, for crying out loud. P.S, why have I not tried this??!! I have seen his pizza recipe all over the Internets, for months. I get a slice (pun intended) of hope, then I remember how my past adventures in pizza dough turned out, and I close the page. A few months ago, I even clipped a recipe from Bon Appetit, and every time I see it in my stack, I have skipped by it.

But then a couple of weeks ago, I happened to have bacon and corn in the fridge, and I happened to remember a recipe from Joy the Baker that I pinned a few weeks ago, and I decided that this was the moment.


(LOOK HOW PRETTY!!!!!!)

And now, there is no turning back, folks. The pizza dough was easy-peasy to make, it rose nicely, though it was dry as all get-out, and my smoke detector didn’t even go off when the oven hit 500 F. It was meant to be. Meanwhile, I have a few extra doses of homemade pizza sauce and another pizza’s worth of dough in the freezer, and I swear it’s asking me to put more bacon and this time, some brussels sprouts on top.

Watch out!

pps: thanks for all the lovely comments on the last post. I’m glad I’m here, too. But more importantly, I’m glad YOU are. xo – hw

Corn, Bacon, and Arugula Pizza
Adapted from Joy the Baker, dough makes 2 pizzas

time commitment: 3 hours (2 hours of rising dough, inactive)

printable version (with pizza dough recipe)

ingredients
1/2 recipe of Jim Lahey’s no-knead dough (recipe below)
3/4 c pizza sauce (store-bought or homemade. I used a wayward variation of this recipe)
1 1/4 c shredded mozzarella cheese
2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 c cooked/roasted corn
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
arugula and red pepper flakes for topping

instructions
Follow recipe for pizza dough below. Meanwhile, place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees F right before you start pressing your dough into the pan.

Top pizza with sauce (all the way to the edges) cheese, and toppings.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges are charred and bubbling.  Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool for a few moments then slice and top with crushed red pepper flakes and fresh arugula.  Serve immediately.

 

 

Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough
Adapted from Joy the Baker & Bon Appetit, March 2012; makes dough for 2 pizzas

time commitment: 2 hours, 15 minutes (2 hours rising dough, inactive)

printable version (pizza dough only)

ingredients
3 c bread flour
3/4 c spelt flour
2 1/2 t (1 packet) active dry yeast
3/4 t salt
3/4 t honey
1 1/2 c warm water
extra virgin olive oil for the pan

instructions
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, yeast, salt, and honey.  Add warm water all at once.  Work the mixture together until all is incorporated, using either a wooden spoon or your hands.  The dough will be slightly shaggy and much drier than what you’re used to with pizza dough.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Let rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

After resting, dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide in half.  [Note: If you’re only going to make one pizza, wrap the second piece of dough in plastic wrap, place in a ziplock bag, and place in the freezer.  Defrost dough in the fridge overnight and allow to come to room temperature before pressing out into the pizza crust.]

Working with one dough at a time, liberally oil a 13×18-inch rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.  Place the rounded dough on the pan and stretch and press the dough out into a flat rectangle.  If the dough springs bag as you’re pressing it out, simply wait five minutes to allow the dough to rest and then try again.  The dough should be very thin and may tear in places are you are spreading it, but don’t worry – just patch it up.

Juicing It

Last week is a week I hope not to repeat any time soon. Not because I had a lot of work to do, and not because traffic was rough most mornings, and certainly not because I was sick or anything of the sort. Last week sucked because Chris and I did a 3-day juice detox.

Exactly.

Sure, vacation was great and all, but somewhere along the way we became pretty disgusted with ourselves and all of the greasy, processed, yummy food we were eating. Our pants were a lot tighter (remember? I said bring your fat pants on a Deep South trip) and our tummies much gassier than usual, which, for me, is saying a lot. Too much detail? Never! Anyhoo, let’s just call it the straw that broke the camel’s back, and leave it at that. A 3-day diet of nothing but juice seemed like the perfect punishment answer.

To be honest though, it wasn’t the most horrible event to ever happen in my life. And we did choose to do it (and pay a ginormous amount to do it, also). The juices were tasty, at least most of them (I actually miss the almond drink at night), and we certainly weren’t starving since we were drinking water and/or juice almost constantly. But damn, I missed eating. I missed chewing. I missed the variety of tasting something different every day if I chose to. The worst part about it all? We had a lovely weekend beforehand including extra-amazing pulled pork, coleslaw, and baked beans, and I couldn’t even eat the leftovers since we had to go vegan for two days before the juicing started.

Let’s chalk that up to poor planning on our part. We ran out of weekends in September and October, and we had to have a “shredded meat + zombie show marathon” party before the season 2 premiere of The Walking Dead this past Sunday, so there really was no way around it whatsoever. I want to say it was worth it, but all day Sunday I thought about my friends Elizabeth and Kevin and just knew they were tearing into the leftovers we’d forced on them. If they didn’t live all the way on the other side of the bridge I would have stolen it all back come Wednesday, so clearly it’s best that we just got the leftovers out of our sight, right?!

Of course, now that we’ve advanced to solid foods (yay grown ups!), we are trying our best to keep things on the lighter side. Juicing was not only a great way to get rid of a lot of toxin buildup, but it was also a good kickstart to some better eating around these parts. Don’t get me wrong – we’ll still be eating butter, heavy cream, cheese, and our fair share of red meat around here, but hopefully just a little bit less than we have the past few months.

The tacos you see here were eaten the night before and the night after three endless days of nothing but juice our wonderful, exhilarating detox. They were inspired by Joy the Baker’s recent post, primarily because I had everything on hand but the sweet potatoes. Her recipe also included a crunchy component, a cabbage slaw, which is certainly a great idea. I was in no mood to have extra food lying around, so I skipped it. But seriously, crunch is always welcome in a taco, so feel free to add something similar if you’re feeling the need.

As for me, I gotta say – these tacos were great, easy to throw together, and perfect for pre- and post-detox requirements, but this week, I’m ready to have something with actual meat in it. Hallelujah.

ps – if you live in the Bay Area and wanna give the juice detox a try, use Juice to You. They use organic, local veggies and reusable glass jars – super duper green! Outside of the Bay Area? Try BluePrintCleanse, the national company that ships it to ya like nobody’s business.

 

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Tacos
inspired by  Joy the Baker; makes 8 hefty tacos

time commitment: ~45 minutes (most inactive)

printable version

ingredients
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 T + 1 t olive oil
salt and pepper
1 t chipotle chile powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 corn tortillas, warmed in the oven
1 T cilantro, plus more for garnishing
lime juice, for garnish

instructions 
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Toss the sweet potato with 2 T olive oil, salt and pepper, chipotle chile powder, and cumin onto a baking sheet and bake for ~30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat remaining teaspoon of olive oil in a medium skillet and toss in the onion. Saute on medium for about 5 minutes, until soft, and toss in the garlic for another minute. Then add the black beans and cook until heated throughout. Meanwhile, get the tortillas heated up in the oven. Once the black beans are heated, mix in a tablespoon of cilantro and then dump the beans and sweet potatoes into a bowl together.

Finish off with cilantro and lime juice, then scoop into corn tortillas.

Batter Up

It’s National Pancake Week, boys and girls! I truly, honestly had no freakin’ clue until around 12 PM on Thursday. Otherwise, I might have held off on the Vietnamese sandwich shop talk until later and instead provided some pancakes for you to mull over early in the week.

Do you just love love love pancakes? Growing up, we didn’t eat waffles or french toast; at least not that much and not enough where I can remember it. I do remember pancakes though – they were griddled on the weekends if my pops wasn’t making those bacon, egg, and cheese samiches that we all loved so dearly. Straight from the box of Bisquick they were, but they were all I knew and quite frankly, all I cared to know.

Aside from Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup, which was the only syrup I would eat as a child. To this day, I like it better than maple syrup on my flapjacks (although I don’t eat it now, because now I know maple syrup is “better”). In fact, I hated eating breakfast at other kids’ houses; they always had Log Cabin or Mrs Butterworths, or even worse, some generic brand that tasted like sugar water. In those instances, I’d eat my ‘cakes plain, no lie. There was no Aunt Jemima substitute when it came to the syrup and as I mentioned, there still isn’t if you can get past the ‘high fructose corn syrup’ taboo.

So, friends, it’s a good day to be reading my ramblings. I have two tried and true pancake recipes for ya and until today I wasn’t sure when I’d be posting them :). I whipped up one of these batches for company a few weeks ago (s’mores weekend) and they were demolished in moments, sorta like the way my cat scarfs down a nibble of bacon. I’d consider that batch as one of my very favorite pancake recipes of all time – and really, who wouldn’t adore a flapjack that tastes like a slice of carrot cake? Exactly.

The other is from pancake fanatic, Joy the Baker, who must have at least 15 different pancake recipes on her blog. I made these for my lover boy on Valentines day morning, as I just happened to have some lovely Michigan blueberries in the freezer and a couple of Meyer lemons in the fridge. These, I think, might be his favorite pancakes, as he didn’t leave a crumb behind.

So, here you are. If I were you, I’d be making some weekend breafast plans right. this. minute.

Carrot Cake Pancakes
Adapted from Cooking Light, January 2010; serves 6

printable version

ingredients
5.6  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/4  c  chopped walnuts, toasted
2  t  baking powder
1  t  ground cinnamon
1/4  t  salt
1/8  t  freshly ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of ground ginger
1/4  c  brown sugar
3/4  c  low-fat buttermilk
1  T  canola oil
1 1/2  t  vanilla extract
2  large eggs, lightly beaten
2  c  finely grated carrot (about 1 pound)
Cooking spray
butter, for topping
maple syrup, for serving

instructions
Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 c brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in 2 c carrot.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or pancake griddle over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Spoon 4 (1/4 cup) batter mounds onto pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned. Repeat procedure twice with remaining batter.

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Blueberry Meyer Lemon Pancakes
Adapted from Joy the Baker; serves 3 (12 small pancakes)

printable version

ingredients
1 egg
1 c flour
1 T sugar
zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c buttermilk
1 c thawed and rinsed frozen blueberries (or fresh, if in season)
cooking spray
butter, for topping
maple syrup, for serving

instructions
In a small bowl rub the lemon zest into the granulated sugar until pale yellow and fragrant.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and butter.  Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir until just combined. Batter will be clumpy and not smooth, which is perfect.  Fold in the berries with a few strokes until barely combined.

Heat a griddle pan or large skillet over medium-hi heat.  Add a smidgen of butter or cooking spray and let melt.  Add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter to the pan.  Heat until bubbles form and start to pop.  Carefully flip over and cook through.   Place cooked pancakes on an oven proof plate and let rest in a 200 degree F oven while you fry the rest of the pancakes.

Top pancakes with maple syrup (or Aunt Jemimas!) or as Joy suggests, mascarpone sweetened with a dash of powdered sugar and the juice of one Meyer lemon.

 

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Want some more pancakes to choose from? Here’s a few from around the blogosphere:

Chai-Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes from Joy the Baker (I will totally hit these up one day)

Whole Grain Pancakes w/ Blueberry Maple Syrup from 101 Cookbooks

Gluten-Free Pancakes from Gluten-Free Girl & the Chef

Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes from Smitten Kitchen

Uncle Austin’s Mexican Pancakes with Coconut from Homesick Texan

Strawberry Cardamom Blender Pancakes from Adventures in Shaw

Pour Some Sugar On Me

giant sugar cookie stack
Think you know a lot about food? The Chicago Tribune challenges you to test your foodie IQ. Go ahead – try it and see if you can beat my score. I dare you. Click and take the quiz. Put your score in the comments and I’ll tell you mine afterwards. Dont be scurred – you may know more than you think 🙂

In other cool news, I’ve been meaning to post this little blog award I received a few weeks ago from these bloggers. According to “blog award rules”, you’re supposed to pass it on to a few other fellow bloggers, chain-letter fashion in hopes of continuing the award-giving process. Easy enough! So without further adieu, I’m passing it on to: The Kitchen Table, The View from the 32nd Floor, The Whole Kitchen, Scrumpy in the City, Chow & Chatter, & Confessions of a Wishful Slacker.


sugar cookie batter


Alright, now let’s get to business.

We made another Saturday trip out to Arlington Park this weekend to bet on some horsies and thus collect our loads of winnings to pay for our roof repairs. The horse races are our new favorite weekend adventure – a great way to sit out in the sun, hang with friends, and enjoy cold beverages and tasty food. Oh, and hopefully end the day with more cash than you started with, although that rarely happens. And so after dinner Friday night I realized I hadn’t thought about the food for the day – and of course I’ll take any opportunity to make my own than to buy their cold, stale, lifeless blobs of barely edibles that is exactly like the fare at concerts and baseball games (minus the hotdogs at the ballparks – those are the exception to tasty treats at those events) – and so, for dessert, to Joy the Baker’s blog I went to find a quick, simple cookie recipe.

cookie blobs

I must confess that I’ve actually never before made sugar cookies. Well, not from scratch. I have bought plenty of those Pillsbury rolls, having eaten half of the roll prior to managing to make a few cookies. The raw dough just makes you feel so mischievious when you eat it. I remember the days I used to hand pick the cookie dough out of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. It felt so good to be so bad – ya know?! And something about the dough in the ice cream container – it tasted so much better than anything else.


piles of cookies

I could easily do the same to this dough if given the opportunity. In fact, I was, and I did, as did Chris, and he did more than I. Now, that’s a lot of doin’. Equally as tasty, heck – a buttload tastier, than the store-bought. And I’m confident there is a way to make it a little lower in fat, but I needed a quick go-to cookie recipe that wouldn’t fail me and I didn’t have the time to play around with any substitutes. And quite frankly – some recipes just can’t and shouldn’t be altered. Maybe sugar cookies are one of them.


nice crumb


These cookies are a perfect recipe for a last minute gathering. The use of one bowl also makes for quick clean up. And the taste – just what you’re looking for – a little crunchy, a tad bit chewy, simple but decadent, and finished with that sugar crystal texture on top that every sugar cookie requires. Perfect. Want to make more than one batch? Go right ahead – it doubles easily. Shoot – you could even double it, split it in half, and roll one batch of dough right on into the ol’ icebox.


Giant Vanilla Sugar Cookies
From Joy the Baker, who credited The Pastry Queen; makes 1 dozen 4-inch cookies



ingredients
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for topping
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

instructions
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the oil (not to worry if it doesn’t fully incorporate – promise). Add the granulated sugar, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla, beating on medium speed until each ingredient is completely incorporated.
Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt all at once using a wooden spoon or the mixer set on low.

The dough will be soft.


Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes just so it’s easier to handle. Preheat the oven to 350 F prior to taking the dough out. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.


Dollop 2 Tablespoons of cookie dough onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. For smaller cookies use 1 Tablespoon for each cookie. Press the dough evenly with your fingers or palm to 1/4-inch thickness. Generously sprinkle sugar on top of the cookie dough.


Bake for 12 to 14 minutes for larger cookies or 8 to 10 minutes for smaller cookies. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely. The cookies will keep for up to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.