Read about pizza dough, pizza sauce, and pizza toppings, too!
For the better part of my pizza making career I've been baking my pizzas on a jelly roll pan with a Silpat underneath. It worked just fine, but the crust was inconsistent. Sometimes I'd get a nice crispy crust, but sometimes I wouldn't.
Then I read on Tammy's Recipes how she makes pizza and it made a huge improvement on my crust. I started buttering a round pizza pan, which helped the crust not to stick and to brown up. Instead of pre-heating my oven while I made the pizza, I first made the pizza and then let it sit while the oven heated up. This let the crust rise a bit and created a nice fluffy pizza crust. This is definitely the method I recommend if you don't have a pizza stone.
About a month ago I gave in a purchased a pizza stone and pizza peel and they have revolutionized my homemade pizza. Seriously. There is nothing that crisps up pizza crust and makes your homemade pizza taste like it came from a pizzeria like a pizza stone. I made some for my dad and he couldn't believe it wasn't take out. I'm still perfecting this method, but I can tell you that you have to use corn meal on the peel and you have to use a lot of it!
To bake a pizza on a stone, you pre-heat the stone right in your oven. I bake all my pizzas on 500 degrees. If your oven goes hotter, then bake as high as it goes. Regardless of what you are baking on, pre-heat the oven to get it HOT. Back to the stone -- You make your pizza on the peel and slide it off the peel on to the stone (the tricky part!). Pizzas will bake on stones twice as fast as in a pan. I love, love, love my stone and I wish I had gotten one sooner!
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Read about pizza dough, pizza sauce, and pizza toppings, too!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
The first two parts of this series can be found here (dough) and here (sauce).
The key to pizza toppings is not what you put on, but how you put it on. In general, I put down dough, sauce, cheese and then the toppings go on top of the cheese. Maybe this makes sense to you, but for years, I put the toppings on top of the sauce and the cheese on top of the toppings. My husband, however, set me straight. I have found, however, that chicken does better underneath the cheese (it dries out if it's on top). On top of the cheese you can sprinkle some Italian seasonings or a touch of olive oil.
Pizza isn't pizza without cheese. I can think of pizzas without sauce and pizzas without toppings, but I can't think of a pizza without cheese. I used to only put mozzarella cheese on my pizzas until one day when I was short on mozzarella. I filled in with some cheddar and Parmesan and they added whole new depth of flavor to our pie. Now I use a combination of all three or I throw on whatever I have on hand. But I always use a little mozzarella as a base and then add to that.
If, like me, you buy cheese in bulk, keep it in the freezer. Cheese loses its moisture as it ages and dry cheese does not get you a nice, gooey, stringy, cheesy topping. I try to remember to pull the cheese out of the freezer before I need it, but you can toss it on the pizza frozen.
As far as toppings for the pizza, the sky is the limit! Around here the favorite with the kiddos is good old pepperoni. I buy the large slices of all natural pepperoni at Whole Foods. My husband likes meat and lots of it on his pizza. Being from New York, his favorite is meatball. I take homemade meatballs and slice them thin. I have to admit -- it's delicious! One of my all time favorite pizzas is tomato, feta cheese and banana peppers. Really, it's delicious and it was the favorite in my sorority house in college. I will often rifle through the fridge and throw whatever leftovers I can find on the pizza. We haven't found a bad combination yet (although, I'm sure they exist!).
What is your favorite pizza topping? Do you have any "weird" combinations that you love?
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Click here to read Part 1 of this series, How To Make Homemade Pizza: The Dough.
It took me a while to figure out that pizza sauce is not "just pizza sauce". Once I started fiddling with sauce (and not just dumping on a can of plain tomato sauce), I realized that it is the sauce that really makes a pizza. At least for me.
This pizza sauce recipe from Real Mom Kitchen was the first sauce I mixed up and I still love it. I don't use canned tomatoes anymore, though so I've had to branch out usually using homemade tomato sauce and tomato paste from a tube. I use mostly tomato sauce (around a cup) with just enough tomato paste to thicken the consistency. While I'm not one for purchased seasoning mixes, I use Pampered Chef's Italian Seasoning mix in my pizza sauce. A friend gave a bottle to me once and I love it so much in the sauce that I keep buying more. I also add a touch of sugar to flavor my pizza sauce. I played around with the sugar amount and I like just a hint of sweetness.
Like the dough, the tomato sauce is freezable. I like to make up a big batch and throw what I don't use in to the freezer for later.
You can also use a lot of other condiments as your sauce. I've used barbecue and buffalo sauce and I think that alfredo sauce or ranch dressing would be delicious for a "white" pizza. Any kind of pesto would be delicious and taco sauce is great for a taco pizza. Or you can even go sauce-less! My favorite pizza of all time is Margherita Pizza and it doesn't have any sauce at all. The possibilities are endless.
Do you have a favorite traditional or non-traditional sauce you love on pizza?
Monday, October 25, 2010
Pizza dough can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be. I've made pizza dough in 5 minutes and I've made pizza dough over a few hours. You can really use any bread recipe you like as your pizza dough. Just shorten or skip the rise unless you like a thicker, breadier crust, then by all means let that baby rise!
I think the easiest way to make pizza dough is just to use a hunk of Artisan Bread in 5 minutes A Day Master Recipe. I almost always have this dough in my fridge and in a pinch, I scoop out a hunk, roll it out and go. The crust is FABULOUS!
My current favorite dough is Camille's (nope, not me!) Best Ever Bread Dough. While this dough requires a few more ingredients and steps than most pizza doughs I've used, it is truly impossible to mess up. It also has a magnificent flavor. I love that there is no need to let the dough rise. At all. I make 4 pizzas out the recipe.
The basic pizza dough recipe below is the one that started it all for us. We still use this recipe on a regular basis and I love it.
The best thing about pizza dough is that you can freeze it! I always make a double batch (or in the Best Ever Bread Dough, I just freeze half that single batch) and freeze. I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and tuck it way back in the freezer so that it freezes quickly. I then put the frozen dough in a freezer bag. I'm not perfect at thawing it and I'm trying to pin down a precise thawing process. I like to give it enough time to thaw and warm up and rise just a bit so I know the yeast is good to go. How long that takes just depends on the time of year. But I usually let it sit out on the counter all day long.
Basic Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons oil (I like olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute some whole wheat)
In a bowl, mix yeast, sugar, and water. Add in olive oil, salt and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Mix to combine. Keeping adding flour by 1/4 cups until the dough is smooth and tacky, but not too sticky. Bread dough should almost always have a little annoying stick to it. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, covered, up to 2 hours.
Do you have a favorite pizza dough? I'd love to try it out!
Friday, October 22, 2010
I have been making homemade pizza for six years. I picked up a frugal cookbook just after I got married and the author suggested making your own pizza rather than ordering out as a way to save money. As we were on a tight budget, my husband and I dove in with both feet and found that we really love homemade pizza.
The one thing I've learned in the past six years of making pizza is that there is no one way to make it. I've also picked up a number of tips and tricks for making all kinds of different pizzas. Because I don't want you to miss out on the delights of making your own pizza, I'm going to write a series of posts on how to do it.
The topics I'll cover are:
1. The Crust
2. The Sauce
3. The Toppings
4. The Baking
My goal is to get these posts out Monday through Thursday next week so that by Friday you, too, can be enjoying the best pizza in town right out of your oven!
Thursday, October 21, 2010
There are probably thousands of recipes you can find on-line for homemade marinara sauce and meatballs. I am on a continual search for a go-to recipe. The December 2010 edition of Cook's Illustrated magazine takes up the challenge of a "better" spaghetti and meatballs. I gave the recipes a go, making my own changes to make the recipe a bit more pantry friendly. For example, the Cook's Illustrated recipe calls for Knox Gelatin for the meatballs. While I agree it probably plumps them up nicely, Knox Gelatin is expensive and I never have it on hand so I skipped it.I also cooked my sauce in my Crock Pot instead of the oven.
I was really pleased with how this turned out. I made the meatballs two days before I made the marinara. It was nice to make the marinara in the morning and just let it simmer in the Crock Pot all day long until we were ready to eat! This will easily feed 6-7 adults -- with meatballs left over for the freezer.
1 1/2 cups finely ground bread crumbs (preferably panko)
Just over 1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
3 pounds 85% lean ground beef (or 2 lbs beef/1lb pork or turkey)
1 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley (or fresh, if you have it)
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine bread crumbs and buttermilk in a large bowl (this is a panade). Let sit, mashing with fork every once and a while, until a smooth paste forms. Add eggs, meat, parsley, garlic, Parmesan and salt and pepper. Using hands, knead the mixture until it is uniform making sure that the panade is fully integrated and mashed up (or you end up with mini-bread balls in your meat!)
Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Roll meat mixture in to 2 inch balls. Place meatballs on prepared pan. I put any extras in a glass baking dish and bake them in there. Roast until browned.
Homemade Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1-2 onions grated
6 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6 Tablespoons dry white wine
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
10-12 cups of tomato sauce (mine was homemade from cooking down tomatoes)
Heat olive oil in pot or pan. Add onion and cook until soften and golden around edges, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in wine and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Once simmering transfer sauce in to the crock of slow cooker. Add in about 20 meatballs if desired. Cook on low for as long as desired, but at least a few hours, I like 4 hours. Add in salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. I use about 3/4 Tablespoon of sugar. I also added in chopped fresh basil at the end.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
My kids would eat pancakes all day long. I'm a big believer in a good hearty breakfast every morning, but sometimes making that good hearty breakfast gets to be tiring. I can always trust that pancakes will get eaten. Thankfully I found a healthy baking mix that not only streamlines my morning, but also ensures my kids are getting a healthy breakfast.
Healthy Homemade Baking Mix
7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (or 1 more cup all purpose flour)
1 cup oat flour (throw some oatmeal in the food processor and process in to flour)
1/4 cup bran
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoons baking soda
6 Tablespoons baking powder
Measure all ingredients in to a LARGE bowl and use a whisk to combine. This recipe just fits in to a gallon sized freezer bag.
If you want, you can process the dry ingredient mixture with 3 sticks of cold, hard butter (in batches). If you do this, keep the mix in the fridge and do not add any fat to the recipes below.
To make pancakes: measure about 1 1/2 cups of mix in to a bowl. Add 3 Tablespoons fat (oil or melted butter); 1 egg; and enough milk or buttermilk until the mixture is as thin or thick as you like.
To make biscuits: Measure 1-2 cups of mix in to a bowl. Cut in 2 Tablespoons cold butter. Add enough milk to just form a dough. Knead to form dough. Roll and cut as biscuits. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
You can also use the mix to make scones, but I have don't it yet!
Recipe adapted from Like Mother, Like Daughter Blog. Her granola is awesome, too!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
You can use any sausage you like in this soup. I used a spicy Italian and it made the whole soup HOT! I think a nice smoky kielbasa would be good as well.
Slow Cooker Lentil and Sausage Soup
2 medium carrots, cut in to 1/4 inch pieces (I cute min on the bias for fun)
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, cut in to 1/4 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 sausage links, cut in to 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cup lentils
5 cups chicken broth
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
In a pot or large frying pan, heat a Tablespoon of oil. Add sausage and onions and saute for a few minutes. Add garlic, carrots and celery and continue to cook until onions are clear. Put contents of pot/pan in to the bowl/crock of slow cooker. Add lentils and chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 4 hour or on high for 2 hours. Stir in baby spinach, salt and pepper just before serving.
Altered from the November 1, 2010 edition of Woman's Day Magazine.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Every single time I make this soup, my husband rants and raves about it. The nice thing is that if you have broth and meatballs in the freezer, this literally takes about 15 minutes to come together. I serve it with fresh bread from the oven and it always fill us up.
This recipe is very versatile. You can homemade broth and meatballs or use store bought ones. You can use fresh spinach or frozen spinach. And any type of pasta works, too.
Italian Wedding Soup
7 cups chicken broth
20 or so meatballs
1 carrot, chopped
2 cups fresh baby spinach or 1/2 package frozen spinach
1/2 box orzo or other smallish pasta
Bring broth to a boil in a large pot. Add in rest of ingredients. Cook for 10 minutes or until pasta is tender.
One of my husband's favorite fall treats are pumpkin scones at Starbucks. We only go to Starbucks about twice a year so I really have no idea how he found these, but I've been promising to make pumpkin scones since last Fall. I finally got around to it last week when I happened upon this recipe at Tammy's Recipes. I made a few minor adjustments (of course!). I find that sometimes scones have a hard time baking up well without getting too brown, but these baked up perfectly as directed.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Scones with Cinnamon Icing
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
6 Tablespoons butter, cold
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup buttermilk
6 Tablespoons brown sugar or sucanat
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Enough milk to make icing, about 1 Tablespoon
In a large bowl whisk together flours, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture is coarse.
In a small bowl whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk, sugar and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir to mix. Knead mixture to form in to dough. Roll or pat dough in to a 3/4 inch high disk on a cookie sheet. Cut disk in to 6 or 8 pie pieces. Separate.
Bake scones at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Combine sugar and cinnamon. Stir in enough milk to make in to icing. Drizzle or brush icing on to hot, warm, or cooled scones.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The original recipe is half of this, but trust me, you'll want to make this bigger batch. I used pepperoni for my topping and Parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella because I'm out of mozzarella. Warm up some pizza sauce or make some ranch dressing to dip these in.
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 cups of toppings cut in to small pieces (pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, peppers, etc)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease two 24 cup mini muffin pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Whisk in eggs and milk. Stir in cheese and pepperoni. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Stir batter and fill muffin tins full. Bake until puffed and golden, 20-25 minutes.
Recipe from Noble Pig.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
The original recipe calls for vegetable oil, which I avoid. I would have used coconut oil, but the cold milk and eggs would cause it to solidify so I opted for grape seed oil. The dough is pretty thick so I'm thinking you could easily substitute yogurt for the milk to make this even healthier.
Last Fall I peeled, cored and sliced apples and froze them. I have one bag left and I used an apple from the freezer for this. It worked great and I highly recommend freezing apples now for use all winter and summer long.
Mini Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins
1 1/4 cups natural bran
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 medium apple, peeled and finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Grease mini muffin pan.
In a large bowl stir together bran, flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, stir together milk, oil, and eggs. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. Fold in apples.
Fill muffin pans. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I had never heard of a tomatillo or salsa verde until we moved out west 6 years ago. If they were available, I certainly didn't pay any attention to them! My introduction to salsa verde was in Albuquerque, New Mexico when a waiter asked if I wanted "red or green" with my meal. He was asking what kind of chili sauce I wanted. I fell in love with salsa verde at that meal. This super easy and quick recipe means salsa verde can now be a staple in my kitchen. Finding a bag of tomatillos on manager's special for $.22 makes this even better!
If you aren't familiar with salsa verde, you can use it like taco sauce, salsa, or enchilada sauce.
10 tomatillos, husked
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves (or more or less)
1 pepper, chopped (poblano or green; jalapeno if you want some heat)
Juice from 1/2 lime (I didn't have this so I skipped it)
A few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
A dash or more of hot sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet. Cook all ingredients until the tomatillos are softening and brighten a bit in color, about 10 minutes. Put everything in to a blender or food processor and blend until liquid.
I put mine in jars and froze them, but you could also can these or freeze in freezer bags.
This recipe is from Debi Does Dinner.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I found this recipe on the inside of a Horizon organic butter box. I love finding recipes on products. They are usually very good. This one did not disappoint -- I love these cookies as do my kids. My dough was very, very crumbly. I couldn't figure out why until I recalled that I used 1/2 and 2/3 cup of sucanat and skipped the brown sugar. I'm wondering if the brown sugar would have creamed better. Guess I'll have to make them again!
I didn't use raisins or pecans because the granola I used had cranberries and pecans in it already.
Trail Mix Cookies
1/2 cup salted organic butter (or just butter)
6 Tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 Tablespoons wheat germ
1/4 teaspoon baking SODA
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup granola
1/2 cup lightly toasted pecans
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Cream butter, peanut butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, vanilla, and wheat germ. Add baking soda, salt, and flour. Stir in granola, pecans, raisins, and chocolate chips.
Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
One of my favorite meals of all time is taco salad. I lived with a college friend after I graduated from college and she taught me the yummiest taco salad recipe that used French or Catalina dressing and Doritos. When I "cleaned up" our eating habits, I really missed the Catalina dressing on my taco salad (I replaced the Doritos with homemade corn chips).
The days of taco salad sans Catalina are no more thanks to this recipe for homemade French Dressing posted by Laura at Heavenly Homemakers. I didn't change a thing so you can click over to see her recipe. My husband wasn't fond of the store bought Catalina on his taco salad, but he loved this! We agreed that it is leaps and bounds better than store bought.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
This is a fabulous recipe for a crowd. I've served it at birthday parties and pot lucks and it is always a hit! Double the dough recipe and put half in the freezer for later.
Dough (or any pizza dough):
1 scant Tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or any oil or melted butter)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3-3 1/2 cups flour (I use 2 cups unbleached all purpose and 1 cup white whole wheat)
3 cups chopped cooked chicken
4 slices crisp bacon, chopped
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/3 cup mayo
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
In a bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer combine water, yeast, and sugar. Add in salt, oil, egg, and 1 1/2 cups of flour. Stir with wooden spoon or mix with paddle until smooth. Change to dough hook and add in rest of flour. Stir to mix. Hand knead for 10 minutes or about 5 minutes with the dough hook. Let rest for 1 1/2 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. In a bowl, combine chicken, bacon, 3/4 cup cheese, mayo, mustard and lemon pepper and mix well. Roll out dough in to a large rectangle, about 12 inches long and 8 inches wide. Cut sides of dough into 8 strips, about 1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long. Scoop chicken filling evenly over center of dough. Starting at one end, lift one strip of dough, twist one turn and lay across top of filling. Repeat, alternating strips of dough to form braid. Sprinkle top with remaining cheese. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
Friday, October 1, 2010
I have had a hard time keeping my husband full lately. I think it's because his body was used to a nice big breakfast all summer long. Now that he's back to work (and leaving the house at 6:00 AM), he doesn't eat breakfast. It's hard to convince yourself to wake up earlier to eat breakfast when the alarm clock is already going off way too early!
I've been feeling a bit guilty about having a hungry husband, but the weather has not been cooperating either. We are running about 15 degrees above normal, which means we are STILL over 100 degrees. I do not like to turn my oven on when we're hitting temps that high. So I took advantage of cool-ish 85 degree overcast day and finally baked for the poor man!
The bread is peasant bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day. I finally got the book for my birthday last month. It's the master recipe with some rye and wheat flour subbed in with the all purpose flour.
The cookies are Trail Mix Cookies and the recipe is coming for those. They are delicious!
The muffins were my husband's request -- cheesy sausage muffins. I double the recipe to get 24 pretty large muffins. They freeze well and he can just let it thaw on his way to work. Instead of evaporated milk and water, I used 1 1/2 cups of milk (or 3/4 cup for a single recipe).