Battle Pizza Crust: Part 1

Pizza

I make a fair amount of pizza at home since it is something I can assemble quickly during a busy evening. Usually, I use my favorite no-knead bread dough as a crust since I always have a batch of that in the fridge. lately though, I’ve been wanting more. The no knead boule is great bread but…it just lacks something for a pizza crust.

dough

All of my cookbooks are currently packed up for our upcoming move, so off to google I went. I came across a few different options but settled on Bobby Flay’s Pizza Crust. The dough came together easily though it did take longer than I anticipated. I ended up using all of the 4 cups of flour plus about 3 tablespoons of bread flour to get the dough to finally begin coming away from the side of the stand mixer bowl.

garlic

While the dough was rising, I mixed up a chunky pizza sauce.

Chunky Pizza Sauce
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion
1 large can of whole tomatoes
herbs (basil, oregano, thyme)

Saute the onions and garlic until translucent, add the can of tomatoes and crush. I use a tomato masher though I know some people prefer to crush by hand in the can.

Add the herbs and simmer until it cooks down and thickens. I let my simmer for 45 minutes or so to get it nice and thick.

sauce

Once the dough had risen, I divided it in half and assembled the first pizza. Top as you wish, I did a basic pepperoni.

slice

I reserved the other half of the dough for later in the week. After 5 days waiting in the fridge, the dough didn’t suffer at all. There was one small dry patch on it that I plucked off before shaping. The taste was very similar–perhaps a little more sour (it smelled faintly like my sourdough starter) but it wasn’t a bad quality at all.

Overall, this was a good dough–crispy and chewy. I have a few other recipes to try out before I commit to this one and it doesn’t delivery everything I want in a crust. I’m still looking for a buttery crust that would be suitable for a thick crust/deep dish pizza. I have a feeling this recipe would just taste like a thick lump of dry bread.

Next try: Alton Brown’s Pizza Dough. I probably would have started with his but it required an overnight rise and my pizza needs couldn’t wait that day.

Pizza Pasta Bake

baked pasta

I love making meals from scratch but, lets be honest, sometimes….it just isn’t going to happen. We’ve had a really busy few weeks here in Chez Piehole and we needed some comfort food, stat.

I originally had this dish at a restaurant in the mall I used to frequent with a friend of mine in my angsty-mall-shopping teenage years. Between the trips to Bath and Bodyworks and the bookstore, my friend Katy and I always stopped at the American Cafe (creatively named, no?) and had this pasta dish. The restaurant is long gone but I still make this at home occasionally when we need something easy that will give us some leftovers.

pasta

Undercook a little bit of pasta (by 45 seconds or so), mix with a jar of pasta sauce of your choice in a 9×13 baking dish. If you are feeling FANCEE, you can add some herbs to the mix. I used oregano, thyme, and basil from the garden.

pepperoni

Cover that with a layer of pepperoni. Try to make a pretty solid sheet so your cheese doesn’t melt into your sauce. You want a nice melty cheesey layer like you have on lasagna.

cheese

Cover with some mozzarella cheese. Ok, a lot of mozzarella cheese. This isn’t even healthy to start with, so you might as well make even more enjoyable.

Now, you can get creative. What do you like on pizza? Olives? Peppers? Put it here. I usually do artichoke hearts and green peppers but I was going for ease and speed last night.

Bake! 400ish for….20 minutes? Until it looks like this:

finished

Oh yes. Baked pasta. Let it cool for about five minutes and serve it up like you would lasagna. Cut into squares and then serve up as nicely as you can. Bonus points for adding some additional fresh basil on top.

Mr. Piehole’s Manchos

Below is a guest post by my husband, Mr. Piehole. While he has many, many fine qualities, his cooking skills are a little below average. I don’t really mind this since it means that he is fairly amazed at even the simplest things I do in the kitchen. He also goes and gets all the takeout, so I consider it a fair split.

————

My wife can cook and I can not cook. This is not to reinforce gender stereotypes to say that women can cook and men can not. Nor is it to say that all valid couples are male/female or that one is only valid within a couple or anything like that. One must always provide provisos like this on the Internet; never has our ability to comment gone from zero to Hitler so quickly.

Of course, we have on in the background an episode of MasterChef where they are assigning sweet versus savory baskets right now and the sweet baskets are pink with a bow. Really.

Anywho, you may know someone who can cook. In this post, that person will be my wife. You may know someone who can’t. That’s me.

If you are in the Ms. Piehole category, the first thing that you should know is that when a person says they can not cook, they do not mean this literally. They are certainly capable of holding something over a fire and applying heat to it. Then pulling it out and putting it on a stick, probably, because that fire is hot.

What they mean is that all of the shortcuts you have built up over time, they don’t have. They don’t even know the long way, or they would take it. This includes:
–Where stuff is. Saying the parchment paper is next to the muffin containers is like saying that Henry IV was king during the rule of the House of Lancaster. It’s true, but the novice wants to know whether he fought with swords, guns, or biplanes; your answer makes them wonder if they heard wrong and he has a brother named Tyrion.
–What stuff is. I once was sent to the store for dried beef. I like my beef moist, so this was an odd request. The me in your story doesn’t know where to even to start looking for this. There’s a good chance that your local supermarket stocker doesn’t either. I know — I was one once. I remember searching a produce department for jicama, which was pronounced gee-comma for me. Eventually, I had to leave that poor man, who is probably still wandering through a Pick n’ Save, surviving on foods we learned in our alphabet books like apples, carrots, and zebra meat.
–What stuff goes with other stuff. Before Ms. Piehole was Ms. Piehole, she caught Mr. Piehole eating rice, barbeque sauce, and corn. They happened to be the three things left in the apartment at the time. Today, this meal would be much better, but only because there’s more stuff in the house.
–Ratios. Not math ratios. Mr. Piehole calculates ROI, CPM, and CTR PDQ. But how much of one food would one logically want with other food? This mystifies.

So if you live with such a person, please treat them, in this area, as you would a novice. Don’t assume. Use good reference points like “it’s in the cabinet you always leave open.” There is a world of difference between “next to the oven” and “next to the mandolin.” You do not want your loved one wandering like Jicama Man.

If you are such a person, this “recipe” is for you. It can make you successful enough to feed yourself and your loved ones when you need or want to (and you should want to every so often). It is a basic food delivery system.

Other examples of systems I have worked to perfect…

hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Sorry. Thought I could get through that with a straight face.

Other examples of systems I have worked on are 1) boxed couscous, 2) minute rice, 3) egg scrambles/omelettes, and 4) smoothies. These are all things that have other things in them and can be adapted to your taste. If you like it, you may like it over rice or in an omelette or in a smoothie. If you don’t, but it’s good for you, you can shove it in there and probably not notice. Ratios don’t matter as much and can be refined over time.

So nachos were the next mountain to climb. Uh, molehill to scale. I have written this recipe for people like me. Be gentle.

nachos

Mr. Piehole’s Nachos

Chips, preferably tortilla. Would it work with Doritos or something? Try it and let us know (on the worst episode of America’s Test Kitchen ever!)

Cheese. Preferably shredded. Classical cheeses are usually yellow/orangeish. But if you want white, we will not judge you a cheese racist. If you are shopping for this dish specifically, go for Mexican mix. Let someone else sort out which cheese.

Other stuff you like to eat. I’d recommend a protein that someone with skillz already cooked (I used leftover ground beef (It was leftover taco meat I made with chili powder, paprika, cumin, chipotle, and cayenne–Meg)) and a tasty vegetable or three (I used green peppers).

Salsa. From a can or jar.

1. Get a cookie sheet. I puzzled on which one. I went with one that had raised sides. Any chance of less mess, take it.

2. Put parchment paper down on the cookie sheet. If your house is like mine, it’s next to the muffin containers. If not, can’t help ya. Basically, you want to cover the cookie sheet to minimize drippage and have an easy transfer to your eventual serving vessel.

3. Put down a layer of nachos. As many as you and your clan will probably want to eat.

4. Put down a big old layer of cheese. More than you would think. Finely shredded, especially, will melt down small.

5. Put down a layer of stuff. Actually, if, like me, you have a green pepper, you should cut it first.

5. (revised) Cut up your green pepper by cutting off the top (with the stem) and bottom. Slice it once and unroll it so the inside is up. Cut off the fibery parts. (This is the level you are dealing with, quality cookers. At least with me). Make them pretty small, about the size of the base of a Monopoly house.

6. Now put down your layer of stuff.

7. Put it in the oven.

8. Actually, you should have probably turned on the oven.
Revised step 5: Turn on oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This should be fairly precise. You want at least 50 degrees between you and the temperature at which books burn.

I’m just kidding. Nothing in this recipe is precise.

9. Put it in the oven. Wait about 8-10 minutes.

10. Take it out with hotpads if it looks like it would be tasty to eat. You are probably looking for the cheese to have turned into a flat surface rather than disconnected parts of cheese.

11. Transfer your parchment paper to a serving vehicle. Ms. Piehole suggested a white platter on top of the china cabinet. This was clearly overkill for a recipe including the ingredient “stuff”, but hey.

12. Put salsa on top to taste. Jalapenos too, if you dare. I dare to put them on for Ms. Piehole, but not myself.

13. Eat when they don’t burn your mouth.

grabbyhands

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy. In future episodes, maybe I’ll teach another platform. Or have burned down the house. Good luck!

PS. Step 14: Turn off oven.

Kolache

I had never heard of a Kolache before I moved to Texas about 7 years ago but, apparently, a lot of Czech immigrants ended up in Texas and started selling these little pillows of amazingness.  They have really caught on here and there are several Kolache bakeries in my town. Though they originated mainly as a dessert, stuffing bbq into them was really just a matter of time here in Texas.

We are preparing to move away from this area and, sadly, that means my love affair with the kolache drive through right by my house will come to an abrupt end. I have until the move to both eat as many as possible as well as learn to actually make the dough. Its unlike most savory breads I’ve had as it is super soft and pillowy and also sweet.

This is my first try and I’m going with the Kolache Recipe from King Arthur Flour, my usual standby for great bread recipes.  The dough came together easily and was easy to work with.

dough

You prep it the night before and allow it to rise in the fridge, so this recipe does require a little planning but I threw the dough together in a few minutes before we headed to bed, so its a minimal issue.

divideddough

The next day, the dough had risen a little and was ready to divide into equal-ish sizes. I rolled each into a small tortilla sized circle and piled on the stuffing. I went with bacon and cheese, since it is my personal favorite.

baconstuff

I gathered the edges up, smooshed them together and then inverted it so the seam was on the bottom.

readyforbaking

The kolaches around here have the amazing buttery quality to them, so I took an extra step and brushed them with melted butter once about 2/3 of the way through baking and then again right when I pulled them out of the oven.

baked

I was really pleased with how close these looked to the kolaches we buy at the bakery.

insides

The final result was close to great. I need to roll the dough a little thinner on the edges so there isn’t quite so much bread at the seam. Also, more fillings! The cheese really shrinks down so stuffing them with more will result in the nicely filled kolache from the bakery.

Other stuffing ideas:
–bacon and cheese
–cheese and jalepeno
–bbq beef
–leftover meats? brisket? Chicken?
–pizza toppings!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins–Part 1

muffins

Not every new recipe is a winner right off the bat. Some muffins are dry, some cookies are too crisp, and some main dishes just aren’t amazing.

I saw this recipe from Mom on Timeout the other day while googling around for muffin recipes (as you do, right?). We are a peanut butter loving family and jelly seemed like a great thing to add to muffins in lieu of chocolate chips. I had all the stuff on hand, so I whipped up a batch with the help of my son.

jelly

They sure did look delicious and they smelled even better once they came out of the oven. Jelly is delicous–but warm jelly? yes, please. We each grabbed one as soon as they were cool enough to eat.

cutmuffin

In the end, they were just ok. The jelly ends up centralized in a single bite or two on the top of the muffin. This left the peanut butter only section a little dry and sad compared to the amazingness of the jelly-soaked top. I have some ideas to improve these muffins–swirling the jelly throughout the entire muffin batter, subbing brown sugar for white to add some more moisture…. The upside of a peanut butter and jelly muffin is so promising that its worth it to work on.

I’ll be making another batch of these soon and post an updated recipe!

Do you usually work with a recipe that doesn’t turn out as tasty as you had hoped? Or do you abandon it and find a new one? I love seeing the process of adjustment so if you have gone through this, share your secrets with me!

Mint and Honey Tea

tea1

As much as I would like to be, I’m not really a tea drinker. I love the idea of tea but my life never really lives up to the dream of a lazy morning spent relaxing in a spotless home reading a book while drinking tea. My reality of tea is more like “DONT TOUCH MOMMY’S HOT MUG!”

That being said, everyone in my house is sick right now. I will spare you the details but nobody feels like eating anything. Well, thats not exactly true–my son was asking for pancakes with ice cream and sprinkles at 3:30 am but, considering that request was bookended by tylenol and doing yet another load of dirty sheets and blankets, I didn’t give it much weight.

Mint tea is one of my go-to things while I’m sick. It calms an upset tummy and helps me feel a little more human. Plus, its dead easy to make which is a serious bonus when I’m feeling generally like crap. I keep a pot of mint in my yard and I highly recommend it to everyone. It is pretty much impossible to kill, comes back every year, and looks lush and green for the majority of the year. Keep it in a pot rather than planting it in the ground though. Mint spreads and propagates by sending out runners beneath the surface of the soil and can take over a garden pretty quickly.

mint

This pot used to be two varieties of mint–a chocolate mint and spearmint but mint crossbreeds and now it all pretty much tastes the same. If you find a mint you love, keep it in its own pot away from other varieties.

I cut off two tops–about 8-10 largish leaves. Microwave a mug of water for about 2 minutes, squirt some honey in and then drop in the leaves. Stir with a spoon, kind of smooshing the mint leaves. Let it sit for a while to steep and then drink.

tea

I’ll be on the couch with tea and knitting until a kid calls me again. Then I’ll probably be doing more laundry.

Chocolate Peppermint Balls

Peppermint Balls

It is no secret that I love cookies. Chocolate, peanut butter, oatmeal, butter–I’ll eat any kind of cookie. You can’t go wrong with a classic chewy chocolate chip or a peanut butter with the little fork crosses but you can get those anywhere. The best cookies are those family treasures that seem to only come out and make the rounds at holidays and family events.

I have a few from both sides of my family but Chocolate Peppermint Balls is my clear favorite. They are chewy, chocolaty, fudgey, and totally indulgent–the forbidden child of a brownie and cookie. Perhaps best of all, they are fast, easy, and use a cake mix! Talk about easy! You can make them in a single bowl and, even better, the kids can help form the cookies.

CPB Dough

I have no idea where this recipe originated in my Mom’s side of the family. My Mom and her sister often talk about the days before “super moist deluxe” cake mixes when the cookies would be hard to form and crumble before they got to the oven. Thankfully, we live in the future these days and moist cake mixes are easy to find.

CPB Baking

The name must come from the forming stage since the finished cookies have zero resemblance to a “ball” of any sort. The pre-baking stage though…well…its an unfortunate color and shape combo.

After baking, these cookies are dredged in powdered sugar with sanding sugar mixed in for festiveness. Since these were often only a holiday thing when I was growing up, the colors were always red and green but I make these all year long so I mix up the colors. Blue is my personal favorite but if you must do another color, I won’t judge you.

Sugaring

Voila. Amazingly chocolaty cookies with a fun peppermint twist. They freeze really well (and are delicious straight from the freezer if you have a chocolate cookie emergency to satisfy). Since they are soft, they also ship well. I put them back to back and wrap the two cookies in cling film. Layer with bubble wrap and ship priority to someone deserving.

Chocolate Peppermint Balls

1 package devils food cake mix (look for one that says something like
“extra moist”)
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1 egg
2-4 egg yolks

1 cup powdered sugar
sugar crystals (optional)

Mix butter, extract and 2 yolks until smooth. Stir in cake mix. If the mix doesn’t come together into a thick frosting like texture, add egg yolks one at a time. It depends on the size of your eggs as well as the brand of cake mix you have. I ended up using 4 yolks and a whole egg. Form into 1 inch balls (your hands work best). Bake 15 minutes at 300 or until just set. Move to a cooling rack and allow to mostly cool.

In a shallow container, combine powdered sugar and crystals (just enough to make them festive). While the cookies are still slightly warm, coat with powdered sugar mix.

CPB inside