Battle Pizza Crust: No Knead Bread Dough

I usually have a bucket of the basic no-knead recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day in my fridge. It is super easy to mix up, lasts a long time, and is my back up bread dough for those days when the fancy bread is stale and I need to make sandwiches for school lunches. Its a good, solid bread dough and really helped launch me into a love of bread baking.

  
Could it be a decent pizza crust?

I have tried this a few times now and come to the conclusion that its “pretty ok” It is better than a frozen pizza or most chain pizza delivery places. I’d put it solidly above the dominoes/papa johns type delivery but below a really great local pizza place. What it lacks in amazingness, it sure does make up for in speed. I had a pizza assembled and ready to cook before my oven was even preheated!

This isn’t my favorite pizza dough by any means but, if you already have some in the fridge, it makes a great speedy dinner option. Its a little bland and could probably greatly benefit by either brushing some melted butter on the edge or sprinkling some Parmesan cheese on it before baking. It was a little hard to get it stretched into a thin enough crust so mine was extra thick. This dough doesn’t have the same elasticity as a good pizza crust has so you have to kind of mush it and stretch it into shape rather than stretch it in the air. This inconsistency in thickness also meant there were some bulges and bubbles in the crust as it baked, so my toppings slid around a little.

  
Overall, I’d give it a B-. Its ok for a quick meal during a football game but its not a crust I’d break out if I had company over.

No Knead Bread Dough

24 ounces lukewarm water
2 pounds AP Flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

Combine all ingredients in a large (very large) bowl. I use a 6 quart dough bucket. Mix until the flour is all incorporated, then allow to rise for 2 hours. Either bake from it then, or refrigerate until ready to use.

To use, lightly flour the surface of the dough. Grab a large handful (about a grapefruit size makes a nice loaf) and lop off or tear it. Gently shape into a loaf and allow to rise on the counter for 40 minutes. About halfway through the rise time, heat the oven to 450. Slash the top of the loaf and put it in the oven on a baking stone, if you have one. Bake until golden brown (time will depend on size of loaf).

To use as pizza crust: lop off a similar amount and shape into a circle on a piece of parchment paper. Gently stretch and work the dough into a vaguely pizza like shape, trying to maintain an even thickness. Top and bake immediately for a thinner crust or allow to rise for 40 minutes before topping for a thicker crust.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Craziness: One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you bake with kids, you know the deep pain of a child waiting for butter to soften. It takes FOREVER–especially in the cooler months when you really want to be baking cookies. I feel your pain and this recipe is here to rescue us both. It has just the basic ingredients and–to make it EXTRA easy–it uses butter softened in the microwave. And, if that wasn’t enough to tempt you–it also only takes one bowl.

After you soften your butter in the microwave, you hand mix the sugars in, followed by the rest of the ingredients. The softened butter makes it easy to get everything combined without having to lug out a heavy stand mixer. Add in the chocolate chips at the end and you are ready to bake!

As I always do, I use a cookie disher to portion my cookies. My favorite for cookies with chocolate chips or other chunky stuff is the 1.5 Tablespoon size.

I baked them until the centers were just set and non glossy. I like a nice chewy cookie and, much like eggs, if you bake them until they are done in the oven, they’ll be overcooked when you want to eat them.

In my continuing adventures in freezing, I froze about half of my dough by plopping it onto a sheet of parchment paper and shaping it into a log with my pastry scraper: Then I wrapped the parchment log into cling film and put it in the freezer. I’m hoping for easy slice and bakes in my future!

In the end, these cookies are pure classic perfection. Simple ingredients, lots of chocolate chips, and a buttery softness to the dough. Since the butter and sugar weren’t creamed together, these cookies stayed nice and dense and decidedly cookie-ish rather than any cakey qualities. I don’t know if this cookie could really be improved on.

One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
generous 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
One bag (10-11 oz) of chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Put the butter in a large (microwave safe) bowl. Heat the butter in small increments (10 seconds or so), stirring in between each. You want the butter to be nicely softened but not melted or runny. Add the sugars and vigorously stir them into the butter until well blended. Stir in the egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda thoroughly. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Then fold in the chips.

If the dough is very soft, you can add a few more tablespoons of flour to stiffen it up (or just put it in the fridge for a few minutes while you clean up).

Use a disher to portion the cookies onto the sheet pans and bake until set (start checking at 8-10 minutes but use your own discretion based on the size of cookies you end up with).

Buttermilk biscuits: The Smitten Kitchen Recipe

biscuit

After having Alton Brown’s Biscuits a few mornings ago, I was on a biscuit roll. Alton’s recipe came together easily but I wanted to try my hand at an all-butter recipe and Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue.

butter

The batter came together similarly to Alton’s but the butter took longer to incorporate into the flour mixture. I took a little extra insurance against butter meltage by sticking the entire bowl in the freezer while I cleaned up the first set of ingredients and measuring cups. It was probably only 2-3 minutes but it did feel a little firmer and colder when I took it out.

batter

I added the buttermilk and plowed ahead. I still don’t have a “proper” biscuit cutter so I used the same straight-sided glass I used for the Alton recipe. I kind of love the charm of the messy last biscuit made from all the scraps.

last biscuit

In the end, these were delicious. More than delicious–buttery, soft, high-rising, and perfect. I have to admit that I am an all-butter biscuit convert. While the half butter/half shortening was easier to bring together as a batter, the difference in flavor was significant.

baked

I finally broke down and bought some cake flour (sadly, White Lily Flour–the southern staple for biscuits–isn’t available where I live. After we move this month, I’ll stock up from amazon). I can’t wait to try the biscuits with the softer flour.

Smitten Kitchen’s All Butter Biscuits

2 1/4 cups (280 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons (10 to 20 grams) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
9 tablespoons (125 grams) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
3/4 cup (175 ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400. Combine dry ingredients and work butter in as quickly as possible with your fingers. Stir buttermilk in until just combined. Turn onto a floured surfaced and fold dough back on itself a few times. Pat into a circle 1 inch thick and cut out biscuits. Reform scraps and repeat.

I placed mine shoulder to shoulder on the pan so they could lend each other support while baking. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until golden, turning pan halfway if needed.

These are best fresh from the oven (and then to snack on the rest throughout the day. I had one leftover for breakfast the next day and it had dried significantly.

Buttermilk Biscuits: The Alton Brown Recipe

biscuits

I remember my first biscuit. I was around 15 and was working at that amazing icon of fine southern fare: McDonalds. It is really no wonder that I thought biscuits were pretty terrible, right?

dough

Thankfully, I’ve come around to appreciate the southern biscuit. They are so different than the flaky, buttery biscuits I grew up eating and they are also so much more versatile: breakfast, dinner, snack. They can do it all. I made this batch and left it on the counter where we all snacked on them throughout the day.

cutting

I’m certainly no expert on biscuits but I’m working on it. I am starting here with Alton Brown’s recipe. I’ll admit that I didn’t use the White Lily Flour that he talked about on the biscuit episode but I will next time. Mine were clearly flatter than his and I’m guessing the flour makes a substantial difference. I just hated to buy yet another bag of flour so close to an across the country move.

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Alton Brown’s Biscuits

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons shortening
1 cup buttermilk, chilled

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingertips, rub butter and shortening into dry ingredients until mixture looks like crumbs. (The faster the better, you don’t want the fats to melt.) Make a well in the center and pour in the chilled buttermilk. Stir just until the dough comes together. The dough will be very sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Press into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter, being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)

Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.

baked

Project Cornbread: The Alex Guarnaschelli Recipe

slice

I grew up in the mitten-state of Michigan and, therefore, had little exposure to the wonders of cornbread for many years. Even after we moved to the south, I still wasn’t convinced since most of the cornbread I had was terribly dry and grainy stuff from restaurants. It wasn’t until a friend invited me over to her very southern grandmother’s house for a very southern meal that I had amazing cornbread. Moist, just sweet enough, buttery, and perfect for soaking up everything else on the plate.

batter

I’ve made do with just so-so cornbread since but another perfect recipe quest is about to begin: Project Cornbread. I chose to start with Alex Guarnaschelli’s skillet cornbread recipe. I had everything on hand, so off we went!

crust

In all honesty, I should have let the pan heat up longer than I did. I didn’t get the amazingly golden crust I was hoping for. In the end, this cornbread was just ok. For one, it was far too buttery. I love a butter flavor but this had so much butter that, after it cooled, there was solidified butter sitting on top of the bread. Not so good for eating cold out of the fridge (you do that, right?).

Alex’s Cornbread

1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup whole milk
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside to preheat.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In another bowl, combine the wet team: milk, buttermilk, and eggs. Whisk in almost all of the melted butter, reserving about 1 tablespoon for the skillet later on.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Coat the bottom and sides of the hot skillet with the remaining butter. Pour the batter into the skillet and place it in the center of the oven. Bake until the center is firm and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes and serve.

Whew–an entire stick of butter. I will try this recipe again but I will dial the butter back to 6 tablespoons.