Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls

This recipe is comes from my wife's side of the family and  since I end up modifying it every time I thought I would write it down and take some pictures this time.  In the past I have adapted this recipe to make monkey bread, you can do this by rolling the dough into small balls and covering with the cinnamon sugar mixture and baking in a bundt pan.  These rolls take a fair bit of patience but the wait is well worth it.  

Duration: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: moderate

Dough Ingredients:
4 cups flour 
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon active dried yeast

Sprinkle Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper ( optional )

1/2 stick of softened butter ( to spread on dough )

Initial Dough Instructions:
Mix and kneed dough into a nice round ball. This dough should be very soft.  A soft dough will not leave itself on your fingers but it should feel a little sticky.  Set dough aside in a lightly greased bowl in a warm ( 75 degrees or so ) location for an hour. The dough should expand to at least twice its original size.

Cinnamon roll Topping in greased pan
Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter ( a stick )
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (opt )
1 cup of walnuts or pecans

Topping Instructions:
In a sauce pan on a low heat melt butter. Once butter is melted add the rest of the ingredients then stir and bring heat up to medium. Be careful to not burn this. After a couple of minutes reduce to a low heat and cover with a top for a couple of minutes.

Spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray and pour out topping into the pan.  Set aside to cool while waiting for the dough's first rise.

Putting it all together

Rolled out and topped with the sprinkles
With a rolling pin roll out the dough into a long rectangle.  I choose to roll my dough fairly thin ( about a 1/4 of an inch thick ).  Thicker dough achieves wider rings on your rolls. Keep in mind, however, to make a nice long rectangle.

Spread softened butter evenly across the dough and liberally cover this with your sprinkles.  You may not use all of your sprinkles but keep in mind a warm buttery piece of toast is a great place to use up this cinnamon sugar mix.

Roll up the sprinkled dough into a long tube. Dough stretches so feel free to grab the ends of the tube and give a gentle tug and a shake to gain a little more length. To keep things easy I like to cut the tube up into 16 even rolls.  Cut the entire tube in half then cut those two smaller tubes in half cut those four tubes in half and finally cut all remaining eight tubes in half.

If your toppings haven't cooled to less than 100 degrees you will  have to wait.  We don't want the rolls to cook yet.  If the topping pan is warm to touch but you can leave your hand there comfortably then this is about right.  Evenly place your 16 rolls directly on the toppings in the 13 x 9 inch pan. Give them a little shot of cooking spray to keep the air from drying the surface.  Set this entire pan aside for one more hour.  During this time your rolls will roughly double in size.  About 45 minutes into this hour preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place pan in oven and bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes.  Before you pull them out place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter. When you pull the pan from the oven immediately quickly flip it onto the parchment paper.  Allow the pan to sit for about a minute on top of the rolls.  Gently pull up on corner of the pan and slowly remove it.  The hot topping has no desire to stick to the pan and will stay on the rolls.

That's it!  Enjoy!!

Cinnamon Rolls straight from the oven ( they didn't last long)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tomato Romano Basil Bread

Tomato Romano Basil Bread
Most Saturday mornings I wake up well before anyone else in the house. It is a perfect time to get after making some bread.  Most bread I make takes around 2 1/2 hours to complete.  This is due to a one hour initial proof and then an additional hour of rising in the pan and finally a 25 minute bake.

I love Italian food and that was the inspiration for this loaf.  Romano cheese, basil, olive oil and tomato blend together wonderfully. I am not thrilled with the pictures I took of the loaves but the smell and taste is fantastic.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 2 1/2 hours

Key ingredients for Tomato Romano Basil bread

6 cups flour
2 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 cup diced Romano cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons yeast
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey


Mix all ingredients together. Turn dough out onto counter and kneed manually for a few minutes to make sure the dough is well combined.  This dough should be pretty moist. If it sticks to your fingers add more flour until it doesn't.  Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl that is at least twice the size of the ball.  Place the bowl in a warm place (in the winter I put it on a hot pad on lowest setting). Allow dough to proof (rest) for 1 hour.

Turn out dough from bowl onto counter and split into two equal parts.  Kneed and form into two loaf shapes.  Place these loaves into a greased medium to large bread pan.  Allow these loaves to rise for an additional hour.

After 45 minutes of the final rise preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Once the bread has risen for one hour cook the loaves for 25 minutes.  If you want a darker crust on top you can turn on your broiler for a couple of minutes.

That's it! Enjoy!!

Easy Pie Crust

Why buy a pie crust when you can make a fresh one?  Any pie crust you make will be flakier and tastier than one that has been sitting in the freezer at your supermarket.  These pie crust recipes are great for pies and quiche.  I think you will be surprised at just how easy they are to make.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 20 minutes

2 Crust Recipe


2 Sheets wax or parchment paper ( wax is easiest )
2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
3 tablespoons cold water


Pie Crust rolled between sheets of paper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix ingredients ( sans wax paper ) in a bowl with a spoon. Split into two equal portions and form into balls.   If you are using parchment paper lightly dust the paper with flour before placing a ball in between two sheets.  With a rolling pin roll out the dough between the sheets until you form a nice circle that is wider than your pie pan.  Pull the top sheet off of the crust and invert the remaining paper / crust onto the pie pan and work the crust into the pan, releasing it from the other sheet of paper.

Cook for 15 minutes.

That's it! You are now ready to add whatever fabulous ingredients you have dreamed up.

1 Crust Recipe


1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
2 tablespoons oil


Same as 2 above.


These two recipes are from my wife's aunt Elaine Jelinek and are found in a private recipe book that was dedicated to her grandmother Aunt Susie ( yes that was confusing to me as well ).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cranberry Lemon Soda Bread

Cranberry Lemon Soda Bread
I get a lot of inspiration for cooking from watching cooking  shows. Our family lives about 30 miles out of town so ingredients on hand typically determine how I will make something. It is not at all uncommon for me to take an existing recipe and adapt it to those available ingredients.  The trick is, of course, trying to make sure I have a good stock of staples.  This recipe is an adaptation from The Barefoot Contessa.   The most notable changes are switching out cranberries for currants, honey for sugar, 100% white flour for 1/2 whole wheat, lemon zest for orange and finally skim milk + lemon juice for buttermilk.  That sounds like a big list but in my opinion the trades are reasonable.

Difficult: easy
Duration: 1 hour


4 cups flour
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter
1 3/4 cup skim milk
1 large egg
1 lemon's zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Mix the ingredients. I use my kitchen-aide but if you don't have one just use your hands.  This mixture will be very sticky.  Form into a round loaf, place on top of the parchment on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 45-55 minutes.  To test if is done cooking; stick a toothpick into the top of the loaf and if it pulls out clean you are done.


Instead of pulling the post down I decided to leave this up.  I personally do not like this recipe.  I think it is recoverable and that would include adding quite a lot more honey.  The cranberries were simply too tart and the bread did not have enough sweetness to offset the tartness.  If I take some of our incredible strawberry jam that we make from local strawberries and slather up a slice it becomes reasonable to me.  But I am completely of the opinion that this has everything to do with how wonderful that jam is.  

If you want to try what I think my next attempt would be I would double the honey ( 1/2 cup ) and switch from 1/2 cup chopped cranberries and go to 1/2 cup of cran-raisins.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Parmesan Spinach Cracked Pepper Wheat Bread

Parmesan Spinach Cracked Pepper Loaves

This warm loaf of wheat bread combines the flavors of cracked pepper corns, the salty dryness of Parmesan cheese and the moist earthy texture of spinach.  It may seem a little unconventional but you will love the results.  I can't wait to slice mine to make grilled cheese sandwiches and serve with a tomato bisque soup.

Difficulty: easy
Time Required: 2.5 hours

Makes 2 medium loaves


2.5 cups whole wheat flour
2.5 cups unbleached white flour
3 tablespoons honey
5 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon peppercorns chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, small cubes
big handful baby spinach, chopped

Instructions -

Mix together all of the ingredients leaving out the spinach and Parmesan cheese.  This dough should just be on the edge of sticky but shouldn't leave itself on your fingers.  Add water or flour to get to this level of softness.  Once your dough is well mixed kneed in the spinach and Parmesan cheese.

Dough ready to rest for an hour

Set the dough aside in a large greased bowl in a warm (75- 80 degrees is ideal). I have to place mine on a heating pad on it's lowest setting because it is in the middle of winter in Nebraska and nothing in my house is 75-80 degrees.  Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour, it should double in size in this hour.

Punch down the dough and split into two.  Kneed into two small loaf shapes and place into medium sized greased loaf pans.  Place these pans back into a warm location for another hour. The loaves will rise to above the top of the loaf pans in this time.  About 45 minutes into this hour you will want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Rising on the heating pad

Bake the two loves in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

That's it! Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Small Stack Whole Wheat Pancakes
Nothing beats hot pancakes freshly made on a Sunday morning.  This recipe is so simple anyone can make it.  Even more fun is you should feel free to experiment by adding your own blueberries, raspberries or whatever you find in season and desirable.

Difficulty: Easy
Duration: 15 - 20 minutes


3/4 Cup Milk
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Honey
1 Egg
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat skillet to medium and spray with cooking spray.  Mix all ingredients together with a whisk in a bowl.  The mix should be pretty wet something like the consistency of applesauce.  If you think it is too runny just add a bit of flour.  If too dry add a bit of milk.  It is probably best to just try it on the skillet if you are unsure.

Drop the mixture in the center of where you want the pancake to cook, it will spread out evenly from there (unless it is too thick).  A quarter cup measuring cup works really well for me as it is the size of pancake I like to make.

Allow to cook on one side until nice and brown.  Be careful not to flip too early or the pancake will loose its shape.  You can lift a corner of a pancake up and see if the bottom is browning to your satisfaction.  The pancake will cook for a longer time on the first side.  

This recipe is good for about 9 pancakes and is easy to double if necessary.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sourdough French Loaf

Sourdough French Loaf
Do you have things in your cupboards that you have long since forgotten?  While preparing Thanksgiving dinner I stuck my head up in a high cupboard searching for my turkey thermometer.  While I didn't find the thermometer I found a clay oven that is a good shape for a french loaf.  I felt that it was taunting me into action and so I placed it on the counter for Friday morning.

If I lived in France I believe my recipe would not qualify as a baguette in that I use a small amount of honey. It is not enough for you to taste the sweetness but it seems to help make it a bit fluffier.

As with most of my sourdough recipes this takes both evening and morning time as well as an established sour dough starter.  If your starter is in the refrigerator you should get it out at least 2 days early and get it fed so it is rolling.

Difficulty: easy to moderate
Time: 15 minutes the night before, 2.5 hours in the morning

1/2 cup of sourdough stater
2 cups flour
1 cup water
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon yeast
corn meal, roughly 1/4 cup

In a bowl combine 1 cup of flour with 1/2 cup of sourdough starter, 1/2 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of honey.  This dough should be mixable with a spoon and pretty sticky.  Add water if necessary.  The bowl needs to be at least 2.5 times larger than the resultant ball of dough.  Place a towel on top and leave in a warm place over-night (75 degrees is ideal, I use a heating pad on low in the winter).  Ideally you will let this sit for 18 hours before you work on the next step.  If you only have 12 hours that will work too the dough will be a bit less sour and will still be delicious.

In the morning kneed in the remaining 1 cup of flour, 1.5 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 cup of flour.  You are looking for a very moist dough, just on the edge of sticking to your fingers as you kneed it.  Don't be afraid to drizzle more water on as you kneed the dough.  In a clean bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray place this dough and leave in a warm location for an hour.  The dough will rise to at least double it's original size.

After an our turn out the dough onto a clean surface and shape into a long loaf shape.  Sprinkle corn meal onto counter where the loaf can be allowed to rise again and leave loaf there for another hour.

After 45 minutes of the second hour, place clay oven (with lid on top) into your oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  At one hour (or longer if you need your loaf to rise more) remove the clay oven from your oven and carefully transfer the loaf into the clay oven.  Please be careful as the clay oven is extremely hot.

Bake for 30 minutes with the top on. Once 30 minute has elapsed, reduce heat to 350 degrees and remove the top to allow the top of the loaf to brown.

That's it!  This bread is simply delightful with a crisp crust and soft steamy center that instantly melts the butter.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hearty Sausage Spinach Quiche

There are few things as easy to make as quiche.  We also made our own crust but to be honest we don't mind the premade crusts when we are in a hurry.  I originally got this recipe from my sister-in-law Julia V.  and I have done some updating to our family's tastes.  The ingredients of quiche make all of the difference so don't skimp on quality when selecting your sausage and cheese.  I purchased fresh, uncooked brats from our supermarket's meat counter and choose to use Manchengo cheese.

Diffulty: easy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 45 minutes

3 eggs
1 cup  shredded sharp or medium-dry cheese
1 tablespoon chicken bullion
1/2 pound sausage
2 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/2 shallot, chopped ( this is about 3 tablespoons )
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 large handful baby spinach
Deep Dish Crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook sausage and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix eggs, milk, bullion and flour together until eggs are well beaten.  If your spinach has large leafs chop it up a little but don't mince.  Combine spinach, shallots, cheese and onion with egg mixture.  Pour everything into your deep dish crust.

Place unbaked quiche onto a cookie pan.  It is not uncommon for quiche to out grow the sides of a pie crust and spill over.  Place all into oven and cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thats it! Enjoy!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sourdough English Muffins

Sourdough English Muffin

I can think of nothing more inviting on a cold fall morning than warm and buttery Sourdough English Muffins.  Making these delicious treats has been somewhat of an exercise in patience and I am delighted that I finally turned this corner on the recipe.

In a previous post I discussed how to build a sourdough starter and I am happy to report that my starter is alive and thriving.  Sourdough starter is much like kids.. if you keep feeding them they will stay around.

This particular recipe takes a while to create and there may be more time efficient recipes out there but since I generally rise before 6 in the morning I have plenty of time to deliver the goods.

Difficulty is moderate and you will start the night before and need to have 1 1/2 hours of time in the morning before serving.


1/2 cup Levian ( sourdough starter )
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dry yeast 
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp honey


Mix 1/2 cup of sourdough starter with 1 cup of flour, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1 tsp honey.  Place this in a bowl and cover with a moist towel or put a top on it that can leak the sourdough gasses. 

In the morning combine with remaining ingredients  1 cup flour,  1 tsp yeast, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1 tsp honey.  Kneed by hand adding enough flour to get the dough to the point where it isn't sticking to your hands.  As dough goes this is very soft.  Form into a large ball and place in bowl in a warm place for an hour.  This dough should rise at least double its current size.

Dough ready to cut
After allowing dough to rise for an hour, pull it out into a long cylinder.  Cut into eight even chunks.  Form each chunk of dough into a flat round muffin. Once formed place the unbaked muffin onto cornmeal. Allow the muffins to sit for 1/2 an hour.

unbaked english muffins on cornmeal
Warm a griddle up to a just a bit lower than a medium heat.  Once  warm sprinkle corn meal onto the griddle.  Carefully transfer the muffins to the griddle by hand.  

Muffins cooking on griddle
After 4-5 minutes flip the muffins carefully. The objective is to keep the dough from falling. Continue flipping every 4-5 minutes until you cannot feel doughiness in the sides of the muffins.

That's it!  Use a fork to split the muffins and pop them into the toaster.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Simple Wheat Bread

Simple Wheat Loaf
As is not uncommon I woke early today. It is a curse that my father passed down to me and I hope not to pass to my own sons.  Nonetheless I found myself in the kitchen waiting for the coffee to drip and thinking about what I could make that would make our Sunday morning more enjoyable.  Already this weekend I had failed on a couple of experimental recipes and I wasn't up to trying something new so I decided to make a nice loaf for the family.  Since I was starting at 5:00am I would have plenty of time to allow for a nice long double proof/rise cycle before the troops arrived.


3 cups of flour ( I use 1/2 whole wheat & 1/2 unbleached bread flour)
2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon yeast
2 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup honey ( roughly measured )
1 cup very warm tap water
1 large egg

Difficulty: easy!
Time Required: 2 hours 15 minutes


1) Mix all ingredients.  

The dough needs to be soft to the point of being almost sticky.  For me I know I have the softness done correctly when it feels tacky but doesn't leave anything on my fingers while I am kneading it.  If your dough is too hard it won't rise nicely.  Too soft and you won't be able to work it.  Add flour to stiffen add water to soften.

2) Kneed for several minutes.  Mold into a ball shape.

3) Place ball in a slightly oiled bowl that is at least three times the size of the ball.   Spray the dough with cooking spray to keep it from drying out.

4) Put bowl in a warm place. And allow to sit for about an hour.

In the winter I put it on a heating pad on low.  I believe the ideal temperature is 85 degrees or so but anything over 75 seems to work well for me.  The dough will expand to at least twice it's kneaded ball size.

5) Knead dough once again.  This time shape it in a cylinder the length of your bread pan.

6) Place dough in oiled bread pan.  Allow this to sit for another hour in a warm place.  Spray cooking oil on top of dough to prevent it drying out.

7) Preheat oven to 350 degrees (do not use convection setting, it will prematurely brown the top)

8) At the end of the hour your dough should be above the top of your pan.  Place in hot oven.  Bake for 25 minutes.

9) Pull freshly baked bread from oven.  Allow it to sit on counter for 5-10 minutes before touching it again. 

After this time I move the loaf to a cooling rack.  Fresh baked bread has a lot of moisture in it and at 350 degrees that moisture is steam.  If you leave it in the pan your crust will get soggy.

That's It!  Enjoy!!

Simple Wheat Loaf Sliced

Sunday, November 13, 2011

First sourdough bread

Sourdough Bread - came out nice!
As you know I really enjoy trying new recipes. One thing I have avoided is sourdough.  I attribute my hesitance primarily to my perceived difficulty of getting the levian (starter) going.  With a three day weekend ahead (Veteran's day) it seemed like the perfect time to give this a try.

Something that I find really appealing about the bread in the picture is the absolute simplicity of making it.

Recipe for bread:

1.5 cups white flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
0.25 cups levian ( sourdough starter )
1.5 cups non-chlorinated water ( easy if you live in country )
1.5 tsp salt


Combine ingredients and allow it to sit for 18 hours.   This is probably best done in a bowl allowing room for the dough to double.  Cover with a cloth for this time, I believe this is called proofing.  

After your 18 hours is done, move dough onto a floured surface, fold it back onto itself a few times until you have a nice round ball. Put back into a clean bowl that has some flour or bran or something in the bottom that will allow you to get the dough out relatively quickly.  This needs to sit again for about 1.5 hours.

Heat up a dutch oven to 475 degrees in your oven.  Once the oven is at 475 degrees pull it out (be very careful it is extremely hot)  Sprinkle some flour into oven lightly covering the bottom.   Transfer the dough into the dutch oven, place the top back on.  Bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the top from the dutch oven and cook for 15 more minutes.

Sourdough Starter

The starter is pretty simple but just takes a few days to get rolling.  For four days in a row add  2 Tbs whole wheat flour and 2 Tbs of unsweetened grapefruit juice.  The mixture needs to stay at 75ish degrees. On the 5th day pull 1/4 cup of the mixture into a separate container and add 2 Tbs of flour and 2 Tbs of non-chlorinated water.  That's it.. you have starter.  To keep this around it is pretty simple.  Put mixture into the fridge and once a week move 1/4 cup of the material into a new container, add 2 Tbs of water and flour.  When you are ready to use again, remove from fridge a day or two early and feed it daily with the normal weekly mixture ( 2 Tbs water / flour ).  When you are moving 1/4 cup during the weekly feedings you are throwing out the remaining mixture. 

Give it a try!!

Checkout - I found most of my information on this page.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Empanadas de Calabaza

Pumpkin Turnovers

Empanadas de Calabaza
It all started with Rachael Ray and her wonderful show 30 minute meals.  The particular episode that I picked up was in preparation for Halloween.  On the menu were two particularly delectable items; Green Garlic Bread and Pumkin Pasta.  So what does this have to do with Pumpkin Turnovers?  Simple, I purchased too much pumpkin. I ended up making both the pumpkin pasta as well as the green garlic bread and they were both quite a hit but I didn't take any pictures so that will have to wait for another post. Sorry for getting your hopes up on that one.  If you are in a hurry just follow the links, Rachael surely does it better than I do, although I have a slightly different take on the pumpkin pasta.

Having made pumpkin pasta I found that I had a half a can (8 oz) of pumpkin available.  I decided that I should make some pumpkin oat cookies.  Again this is just back story as I didn't take any pictures and I completely winged the recipe.  So I took the cookies to work to share and here is where we actually get to the turnovers.  One of my co-workers shared that one of her favorite pumpkin related treats were these emapanadas de calabaza.  So good for you for sticking with me through all that.

So here is where I found the recipe for empanadas de calabaza. I did very minor substitutions to this recipe only switching out the white flour for 1 part white flour for 3 parts whole wheat flour.  I also found that I have no crushed anise and substituted caraway seeds.  Finally I added 1/8 tsp of cayan pepper.  The recipe otherwise worked 100% and was a big hit around home.

This weekend I plan to make the green garlic bread and pumpkin pasta again and take pictures for your benefit.  I will also publish my pumpkin oat cookies recipe.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Breakfast Pizza

Finished product
A Family Tradition
For a family of five that lives in the country one of our great bonds is joining together for food.  Our breakfast pizza recipe is something we all enjoy and take some pride in.  The recipe has changed somewhat over the years  as it has become more refined but at a minimum it is a great starting point for any level of cook.

There are five main components of the pizza; crust, gravy, meats, eggs and cheese.  If you are looking for something that is going to help you on your diet, you probably should look else where.  This is celebration food!

My choice for crust is to make my own.  Think about stopping by a local bakery that makes whole wheat bread and see if they will hold some dough for you ( if you can think that far ahead ).  I would not hesitate to use whatever whole wheat / honey dough they have.  My local Great Harvest can help you out if you are in Lincoln, Ne.

The basic recipe I follow for a crust is: 2 cups flour (I use whole wheat) 2 tablespoons honey (I am liberal with this), 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp yeast, 3 tsp olive oil, 2 tsp dry basil, 3/4 cup warm water. Mix until the dough is soft but not wet ( you might need to add water or flour to get this to the softness of a fluffy pillow ).

In our house we are gravy snobs.  It isn't hard to make and I guarantee that if you follow these directions you will end up with an amazing gravy.

Take 4 Tbl (table spoons) butter + 4 Tbl flour ( I use whole wheat here ) and heat in a sauce pan for 5-6 minutes or until it starts turning just a little brown, stirring with a whisk.  Reduce heat and quickly add 2 cups of milk and 2 tsp of some sort of bullion. Use the whisk to combine milk, bullion and butter/flour mixture.  Add salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste. It will take more of this than you expect so be bold!  Also I like to add some dry basil, just be careful with other Italian seasonings as they can overwhelm the taste.

Once the mixture is heated up, cover with a top and remove from heat. This should be the consistency of a loose pudding.  If it is not, then you most likely didn't heat the butter and flour enough in the beginning.  This is OK just heat the mixture on a medium heat and whisk (to keep from burning bottom) until you get to that consistency.

First, remember this is a special pizza, not an everyday food. It is time to indulge a bit.  Brown up some sausage and several strips (6 ish) of bacon.  I personally love the uncooked bratwurst that people cook on the bbq.  You want to cube the bacon and chunk up the bratwurst completely cooking both.

Set the meat aside it is OK to let it cool down.  Scramble up 8 eggs.  Remember the trick to good scrambled eggs is to beat the eggs with some milk, preheat the pan, melt some butter in the pan just before you add the eggs.  And one of the most critical items is not to over use your spatchula.  You want the eggs to be able to form some nice hunks.

In our house the only cheese that can survive for any period of time is shredded mozzarella.  It is also the basic cheese of any pizza in the our home.  You will need 2-3 cups of shredded cheese. I like to mix a little colby, or cheddar in as well. You can get crazy here and no harm will be done. I would consider adding a Spanish Mahon, Manchengo, Parmigiano-Reggiano and small amounts of romano, blue, etc.  We buy our  cheese from Sam's club (they have some incredible deals on foreign cheese which is 12$-15$ / lb in most places). In a pinch we will get it from iGormet who has most things but you pay full retail + shipping.

Breakfast pizza ready for the oven.
At this point I will have dirtied a fair number of dishes and am running out of counter space.  So take a minute, turn on your oven to 375 degrees and make some room on your counter top.  The dough will have had some time to rest but honestly we don't need it to rise very much.  Use a rolling pin and roll it out flat and in the shape of whatever pan you are going to use.

Use a non stick spray and then shape your dough onto that pan. You can build up a crust or not.  I like to run the toppings out to the very edge but be creative.  The layers are now easy, gravy  on the dough, meat on the gravy, eggs on the meat, cheese on everything! 
Out of oven ready to eat!
Ovens vary widely but at 375 this should take 16-18 minutes.  If you have convection don't use it initially it will prematurely brown your cheese.  We have a convection and I will switch to the convection for the last 2 minutes to brown the cheese.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scones, Pizza and Muffins - Oh Joy

One of the fun things I love about this blog is that it is so patient with my crazy life changes. It is always here for me to come back to when I have chased my next dream.

Cooking / baking is one of my passions. I find inspiration in the most random things. My latest inspirations have come from two events. Matthew, my 22 year old son, purchased a number of lemons for something he was interested in making. Time conspired against him and these beautiful lemons he purchased were no longer needed. What to do....

The same day Janet and I decided to visit Trader Joe's. We had never visited and I really had no idea what to expect. Needless to say we had a great time discovering this new store. I was surprised at the prices as I thought all of their high quality stock was very reasonably priced. I was a little disappointed to find that they didn't have any fresh basil, however. Well they had some but it was attached to a plant and it feels a little late in the season to be buying a basil plant. We ended up grabbing some vine ripened tomatoes and a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese.

Unknown to me, Janet grabbed a small package of dark chocolate candy bars. Once home when I was storing the groceries I happened to rip the package of the dark chocolate slightly. To be fair I felt that I had to remove a small chunk of the chocolate so that it wouldn't be further damaged by rough treatment.

Hmm... what to do... lemons, chocolate, mozzarella.... Yeah, that isn't all going to make it into a single dish but it is a great start to a weekend of baking.

I decided to make a simple pizza with the fresh mozzarella and vine ripened tomatoes. The recipe is startlingly simple.

Crust: 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp yeast, 2 tablespoons honey, enough warm water to make the dough nice and soft ( about 3/4 cup ). I use a kitchen aid mixer to mix the dough then I kneed it on the counter for a few minutes. Letting the dough rest for 10 minutes is a great way to soften it up. Roll it out with a rolling pin, toss it with your hands.... you get the point, make it flat and in the shape of whatever pan you want to use.

Sauce: simply take the best small can of tomato paste you can find ( don't get ch
eap on this ). Spread a thin but not transparent layer onto the crust.

Toppings: thin tomato slices, generous slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkle with garlic and basil, drizzle with olive oil

Bake this in the oven for 15-18 minutes at 350. I prefer to use a very dark sheet pan, this gathers the heat nicely and crisps the crust.

This was pretty great, but I need to get onto that chocolate and those lemons... My next idea was to make a lemon scone with a chocolate lemon glaze.

My recipe on this is fairly rough. I have never made scones before and I don't really understand the science of making whole wheat fluffy. I probably should have switched to white flour but then what would be the fun in that?

Scone: 3 cups whole wheat, 1 cup sugar ( I used white ), 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 cup soured milk (this is milk + a 1 tsp vinegar ), 1 1/2 sticks of butter, big handful of cran-raisins, big handful of chopped walnuts, zest of 1.5 lemons.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture and add the soured milk. I zested two lemons and tossed 3/4 of the zest into the mixture. I pealed one of the lemons and cut out the insides of the wedges and added directly to the mixture (this too a bit of doing ). With your hands mix until it gets good and clumpy and the butter isn't in too big of chunks.
Form into a couple of 6" rounded cakes and then cut into wedges. Place onto parchment paper on a light colored sheet pan ( dark will cause the bottom to crust more ).

This cooks at 375 degrees for 16 minutes or so. I had to use two pans and the convection setting.

The glaze is easier and has lots of room for improvisation. 1/2 stick of butter, 1/2 of a lemon's zest, a small dark chocolate bar, 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, most of the juice from a nice sized lemon. I found it easiest to warm up the butter and add the pow
dered sugar I wanted this nice and smooth, I then added the lemon zest and juice and slowly added the dark chocolate bar.

My recipe is loosely based on's Dried Cranberry, Walnut, Lemon scone.

Finally, I wanted to make some lemon based muffins.

Muffins are an impatient man's best friend. They are difficult to mess up and most people really enjoy them. I know I do.

So hang on to your seats for this recipe... zest of a whole lemon, 1.5 cups oats, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1.5 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, just shy of 1/4 cup olive oil, 3/4 cup shredded carrots, big handful of spinach that has been food processed into small bits, big handful of cran-raisins, chopped walnuts, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons of honey and some almond milk.

Just add all this stuff together in a mixing bowl. The almond milk is just there to get this mixture to the consistency of yogurt ( firm but not sloppy ). Spoon into muffin cups and cook for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Not only are these intensely great tasting but they pack spectacular nutritional value.