Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Basic Pizza Dough

Pizza Margherita
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was the basic pizza dough recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, hosted by Rosa's Yummy Yums where you can find the recipe if you are interested.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice is written by one Peter Reinhart, who happened to open a pizza restaurant fairly recently in Charlotte, NC. Since Charlotte is two hours from me and on my way to a conference I attended earlier in the month, I was able to make a stop at Pie Town.

Pie Town Margherita
Pie Town was a classy place, and was pretty busy during the lunch rush. Our waiter was excellent, and the menu had a lot of options even for us vegetarians. I ordered the Pie Town Margherita pizza (with local Chapel Hill creamery cheese), and N- ordered the wild mushroom. I loved the crust - it was chewy but not overly so. The middle of the pizza was a bit soggy but I loved that they served chili oil to drizzle over everything. I filed that little detail away for when I made the crust.

While I was at Pie Town, I picked up an autographed copy of Reinhart's other book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza. I flipped through it while plotting my own pizza recipes, and I really appreciated his advice for the home cook. So many pizza dough recipes I encounter assume you can or want to track down a tile or create your own pizza oven, and most of us just don't have the storage or resources!

From American Pie, I made crushed tomato sauce, white sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and followed his general recipe for pizza margherita (pictured at top of this entry). I had purchased basil oil for drizzling on the top, but it is still sitting unopened, whoops. Next time.

He also said you could substitute another flour for unbleached bread - 1 tbsp for every cup, so I did add about 1/4 cup of rye flour to the dough. I liked the additional texture and flavor depth that brought without altering the consistency.

Red and White Mushroom Pizza
I had read about Pizza Bianca, or White Pie, throughout the book, and decided to make a version of it using this crust. The white sauce I made only covered half the pie, so that was an easy fix with additional crushed tomato sauce. On top of that went the sauteed mushrooms, and fresh mozzarella. The white side of the pie was pretty sweet, since I cooked the onions in the white sauce so long. Sweet as in sweet-tasting, not sweet as in "dude!"

Butternut Squash - Goat Cheese Pizza
The last pizza I made comes from Entertaining for a Veggie Planet. Sometimes I'll see recipes and they go into my mental storage to pull out at an appropriate time, and this butternut squash - goat cheese pizza recipe was the best possible combination of fall flavors and pizza! Also included were carmelized onions and fresh sage. Delicious, and the goat cheese really balanced out the sweetness of the squash and onions. I think I liked this pizza the most out of the three because the other two had sauces or cheese that made the crust a little soggy.

Categories: Cheese, Daring Bakers, Dough, Onions, Pizza, Squash, Tomatoes

Monday, October 27, 2008

Double Crusted Cheddar Apple Pie

Growing up, attending many church potlucks*, I witnessed a strange repeating occurrence of older church members adding slices of cheddar cheese to their apple pie. At the time, I was disgusted but intrigued. I wondered if there was a way to fit the flavors together in an intentional way.

I wasn't the only person to think of this. Sarah Moulton created a Double Crusted Cheddar Apple Pie, and John T. Edge pushed it even further in his Cheese-Straw Apple Pie, complete with cayenne pepper.

I'm not sure why I picked Sarah's recipe, because she has said time and time again that she is not a baker. And from the reviews I knew the pie filling part was watery, so I substituted another person's pie filling for hers. I think the pie would have been better if I had picked a better variety of apples. It lacked depth of flavor to compete with the intensity of the crust.

Double Crusted Cheddar Apple Pie
Oh, the crust. It was delicious. I'm not sure I'd pair it with apple pie again, and in fact, I used the remnants on a quiche tart (with "mom-dried" tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella), and it was marvelous in that capacity. But not just good flavor - flaky, buttery, and sturdy.

Cheddar Crust
(from Double Crusted Cheddar Apple Pie)

* 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cubed
* 4 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
* 4 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated fine and chilled well
* 2 egg yolks beaten lightly with 1/3 cup cold water
* Milk**

Make the dough: In a food processor combine the flour and salt. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until it resembles very coarse meal. Add the Cheddar and pulse until it again resembles coarse meal. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add the yolk mixture, tossing with a fork until it forms a dough. Add more cold water 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Form the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disc, and dust with flour. Wrap the dough in waxed paper and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Do with it what you will. :)

* - in the south, these are sometimes called a "covered dish," in the midwest they were "pitch-ins." Just didn't want to confuse anyone!
** - I used cream. Why not.

Categories: Cheese, Pastry, Pie

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oktoberfest - Schwarzwälder

Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
Yesterday was the first annual Colvin Family Oktoberfest. N- made vegetarian sausages, and I made Roggenbrot (German rye bread), Caraway-Ale Potato Salad, and Cheddar and Hard Cider Fondue (highly recommended).

With all the dark, sour, and vinegary flavors included in German food (from beer to sauerkraut), it was essential that we have a sweet dessert to balance everything out. I think this must be why most German desserts are so sweet.

Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cherry Cake)

For the cake:

* 6 large eggs
* 1 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
* 4 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
* 1 cup flour, sifted

For the syrup:

* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/3 cup water
* 2 tablespoons Kirsch

For the filling:

* 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar / icing sugar
* 1/3 cup unsalted butter
* 1 large egg yolk
* 2 tablespoons Kirsch

For the topping:

* 2 cups canned sour cherries, drained
* 2 tablespoons confectioners' / icing sugar
* 1 cup heavy cream, whipped
* 8 ounces semisweet chocolate

CAKE: Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla together until thick and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Alternately fold chocolate and flour into the egg mixture, ending with flour. Pour the batter into 3 8-inch cake pans that have been well greased and floured. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 5 minutes; turn out on racks to cool completely.

SYRUP: Make syrup by mixing together sugar and water and boiling for 5 minutes. When syrup has cooled, stir in kirsch. Prick the cake layers and pour syrup over all 3 layers.

FILLING: To make the butter-cream filling, beat together sugar and butter until well blended. Add egg yolk; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in Kirsch.

CAKE ASSEMBLY: To assemble cake, place 1 layer on a cake plate. Spread with butter cream filling. Using 3/4 cup of the cherries, which have been patted dry, drop cherries evenly over cream. Place second layer on cake. Repeat. Place third layer on top. Fold 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar into the whipped cream. Cover the sides and top of the cake with whipped cream.

Decorate top of cake with remaining 1/2 cup cherries. To make chocolate curls from chocolate bar, shave (at room temperature) with a vegetable peeler. Refrigerate curls until ready to use. Press chocolate curls on sides of cake and sprinkle a few on the top. Chill until serving time.


The only thing I didn't do very well was incorporating the chocolate - I think it was too warm, and I ended up with a flecked cake instead of a chocolate one. It still tasted good though. The kirsch is essential to make this "authentic" but it definitely has a presence. That combined with the sour cherries (as opposed to maraschino or cherry pie filling) makes the cake less sweet than you would assume, and there is a nice contrast and balance in the flavors.

I wanted to be blogging about the rye bread which I spent a blissful 12 minutes kneading, but my kitchen was too cold, the dough never went through its second rise very well, and the end result was tasty but too dense. I really want to go more towards bread baking and get away from these super sweet desserts!

Categories: Cake, Cherry, Chocolate

Monday, October 13, 2008

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Big Soft Ginger Cookies..
Originally uploaded by watchjennybake.
Sometimes a cookie recipe is so good that you make it frequently. These big soft ginger cookies go so quickly, I always just try to make what I think we should eat and store the dough in the fridge. They almost disappeared on our picnic in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park before I thought to take a picture, which explains the strangeness of the photo.

This recipe has been reviewed over one thousand times at, and I'm glad someone pointed it my way. I wouldn't change a thing.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

The park is beautiful this time of year!

Categories: Cookies, Ginger, Molasses

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Bread with Maple Cheesecake Layer

There are a few baking blogs that I read with religious devotion, and Culinary Concoctions by Peabody happens to be one of them. She takes amazing pictures, develops creative recipes, and often tells funny stories. The entry that includes this recipe actually has a great story but I didn't notice it until I'd looked at it three times. All I had eyes for were these amazing layers of pumpkin spice bread and maple cheesecake, all in one delicious mini loaf.

When it came time to make the recipe, I didn't have loaf pans, so I pulled out my trusty bundt pan that I found for 50c at a garage sale in Broad Ripple, Indiana. It is an old fashioned metal one that you probably can't even buy anymore, but I adore it and make almost every breadlike or cakelike recipe in it. Someday I'll get out of my rut.

You can tell there is more pumpkin spice on the "top" of the cake, meaning the "bottom" ended up being more like a marbled bread-and-cheesecake mixture, but frankly, I didn't care because it just tasted SO good. I also left the nuts out, like usual.

The day the weather drops below 70 degrees or there is even a slight hint of a chill in the breeze, I have to start baking more. Autumn demands it! Just this weekend I made ginger cookies for a hiking trip, Souffled Pumpkin Oven Pancake for breakfast on Saturday, and this pumpkin spice bread. This one won the weekly blog post, hands down. You have to try it. Go to her blog today for the recipe and other great creations.

Categories: Bread, Cheesecake, Maple, Pumpkin

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies

I stumbled across this recipe one day while looking for something completely different, and had tucked it away in my brain. As temperatures dropped, my fall baking instincts kicked in, but didn't seem to be interested in apples or pumpkin. I remembered this recipe, and there you have it.

Inside-Out Carrot Cake Cookies
Gourmet Magazine - April 2004

Active time: 20 min Start to finish: 45 min

Makes about 13 cookies.

1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coarsely grated carrots (2 medium)
1 scant cup walnuts (3 oz), chopped
1/2 cup raisins (2 1/2 oz)
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup honey

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 2 baking sheets.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in carrots, nuts, and raisins at low speed, then add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Drop 1 1/2 tablespoons batter per cookie 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until cookies are lightly browned and springy to the touch, 12 to 16 minutes total. Cool cookies on sheets on racks 1 minute, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.

While cookies are baking, blend cream cheese and honey in a food processor until smooth.

Jenny's Notes: There is a lot of sugar in these cookies, so they bake very flat. You can't see my nuts or raisins as well as in the Epicurious website recipe, because I used slivered almonds and golden raisins (that's what I had in the pantry!). I also added some cinnamon to the cream cheese to make it a little more flavorful.

My biggest complaint with this recipe is that once you make the sandwiches, you really only have a dozen cookies. I have 8 hungry student workers, and wish I had doubled the batch. Because of the cream cheese I stored them in the fridge, and they reminded me of whoopie pies because of the chill factor.

I'd definitely make these again. They were sweet, spicy, and chewy. I'd take these over carrot cake any day.

Categories: Almonds, Carrots, Cookies, Cream Cheese, Raisins