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.