Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Signature Pizza Crust from All Recipes

I like - I find good things there sometimes.  This is an instance where I found something awesome on  I am always on the hunt for an awesome pizza dough recipe.  I love the recipes I make, but I always love to try new ones.  It's just like how I love to go to different pizza restaurants to try different pizzas.

My first hint that this was going to make for some awesome pizza was that over 2000 people rated this recipe.  Seriously.  That's a lot in my book.  Over 37,000 people favorited this recipe.  That's pretty awe-inspiring.  Given that I have a stand mixer, this recipe was very easy to put together, but even if you don't have a stand mixer, you should be able to accomplish this recipe using a big bowl and a strong wooden spoon (and the necessary elbow grease to go with it).

My second hint was how amazing the house smelled while the dough rose.  I love the smell of yeasty bread doughs.  There's something so homey about that smell.  It just makes you feel good.  This dough was no exception - the only problem was that it smelled even better while it was baking.  So good that when it came out and I put it on the table, I burned my mouth a little, so excited to try it.  It was worth the pain.  Really.  I will definitely make this pizza crust again.  Soon.

Signature Pizza Crust from All Recipes
Printer-friendly recipe

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110 degrees)
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl (preferably your mixing bowl for your stand mixer), dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the warm water, and let sit for 10 minutes.
2. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution. Mix in the flour using the dough hook attachment for your stand mixer.
3. Turn the dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour (if needed) until the dough is no longer sticky.  Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth.  Let the dough rise until doubled - this will take at least one hour, sometimes more depending on how humid and warm your kitchen is.  Punch down the dough, and form a tight ball with the dough.  Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out.  Use for your favorite pizza recipe.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  If you are baking the dough on a pizza stone, you may place your toppings on the dough, and bake immediately.  If you are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15 or 20 minutes before topping and baking it.  Personally, I split my pizza dough in half and rolled it out, then gently placed it into two 9-inch cake pans that I doused with olive oil.  Make sure to place your baking pans on the lowest shelf in your oven to ensure that the crust fully bakes.  This recipe makes an awesome pan pizza crust.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust and cheese are fully browned.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oreo Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I love Oreos.  So much so that I've even baked my own home-baked version of Oreos, which are mighty good. These cookies, though, are a good marriage of a chocolate shortbread kind of cookie with creamy white chocolate chunks throughout, heralding back to the creamy white center of an Oreo.  Yum.  My mouth practically waters at the thought of them, they're so good.  There is very little that a good chocolate cookie can't make better.  Like when your husband is going away for a week, and you feel like your To Do list grows exponentially every day.  Like now.  So I'm going to curl up with some nice warm cookies and a nice big glass of milk and it will all be better in the morning.  Phew. 

Oreo Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chunks or chips

1. Preheat the oven to 325 and prepare a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or Silpat.
2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa together, and set aside.
3. Beat butter on medium-high speed until light, then add sugars, creaming well.  Add the vanilla and beat until smooth.
4. Add the flour mixture in 2 batches, alternately with the milk, mixing well.  Chill the dough for at least 15 minutes.
5. I used a smaller cookie scoop with these cookies, about a heaping tablespoon per cookie.  Scoop the dough your prepared cookie sheet and bake.  For smaller cookies like what I made, bake for approximately 10-14 minutes.  If you prefer a larger, bakery-style cookie, go for about 3 tbsp per scoop, and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until just set.  Cookies will look underdone - don't be alarmed!  Allow cookies to cool fully on the cookie sheet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mrs. Field's Snickerdoodles

I didn't grow up with snickerdoodles.  I had my first snickerdoodle as an adult at a cookie exchange, and it was awesome, and I was mildly horrified that I'd lived my life for so long without snickerdoodles.  I vowed that they would be something my kids would grow up with.

Toddler had his first snickerdoodle at Fresh Market not too long after he turned one.  He devoured it.  Just loved the darn thing.  Since then, I've been trying to find the most awesome snickerdoodle recipe, one that's big and chewy, soft in the middle, with awesome cinnamon flavor.  I've found it!  This recipe is nice and small, though easy to double, and makes about 15-18 cookies, depending on the size of your scooper.  These cookies come highly recommended from my whole family.

Mrs. Fields's Snickerdoodles
Printer-friendly recipe

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

2. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.

3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

4. Preheat oven to 300 degrees while you let the dough rest for 30 to 60 minutes in the refrigerator.

5. In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the cinnamon for the topping.

6. Take about 2 1/2 tablespoons of the dough and roll it into a ball. Roll this dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Take a drinking glass, grease it with a little bit of Crisco and press down on cookie to flatten.  Repeat for the remaining cookies.

7. Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes and no more. The cookies may seem undercooked, but will continue to develop after they are removed from the oven. When the cookies have cooled they should be soft and chewy in the middle.

Makes 15 to 18 cookies.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Super Yummy Vanilla Waffles

Okay, okay, I admit it.  I don't use pure maple syrup on my pancakes and waffles.  Oh, the sacrilege!  I know, I know, pure maple syrup is supposed to be like the nectar of gods...but I grew up on Karo Pancake syrup.  Green label Karo, which is becoming harder and harder to find where I live.  It doesn't even call itself maple syrup.  That's how far removed it is from maple syrup.  But darn it, it tastes like home.

Growing up, my mom and I had waffles for dinner when my dad worked nights sometimes, when she had a long day or when she just didn't feel like cooking anything complicated.  She always used Jiffy Biscuit Mix for the waffles and we doused them in Karo.  I still sometimes make my waffles with Jiffy, and every bite makes me feel like a kid again.  Most often, though, I try to make my waffles from scratch.  In part, because cooking from scratch is important to me and also because I love trying new recipes and experimenting.  This recipe is an amalgam of three or four different ones, and it came out super yummy.  Nice and light, with a nice vanilla flavor to them, which of course complimented the Karo syrup just right.  This recipe doubles nicely, and freezes beautifully - just lay your cooked waffles out on cooling racks until fully cooled, and then pack up into large freezer bags.  Pop them in the toaster to reheat, and voila, it's like fresh waffles all over again!

Yummy Vanilla Waffles 
Printer-friendly recipe

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat your waffle iron.  Beat eggs in a large bowl until fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and beat until just smooth.  Do not overmix!
2. Cook according to your waffle iron's instructions.  Beware, this batter does spread well when you close your waffle iron!

Friday, March 19, 2010

BBQ Chicken Bacon Wraps

Bacon really does make just about anything better, doesn't it?  It sure does, in my book.  Apparently, not so much to Toddler, though.  He was not a fan of this dish.  In the interests of full disclosure, though, he's not particularly interested in any food that's not yogurt, applesauce, fruit, pancakes, waffles, or cheese at the moment.  I try not to take it personally.

Sometimes my creativity in the kitchen pays off.  Not so much when I was a kid and attempting to create things that logically seemed like a good idea (hello, chocolate water, anyone?), but this time, creativity paid off in a big way.  I had some chicken breasts lying around, a bottle of barbecue sauce and some bacon, and I needed to come up with an idea for dinner, as it was already 5 o'clock.  I thought quickly, and tossed this dish together.

This a great dish to make on a night where time isn't on your side, or as an appetizer for your next party.  Stick some toothpicks in your chicken bacon wraps, and voila, an easy appetizer!  I served these for dinner, alongside some garlic roasted potato wedges and broccoli.  The dish took no more than 5 minutes to prepare and toss in the oven, another 25 to cook, and then dinner was ready.  It was awesome!  I will definitely be making these again.

BBQ Chicken Bacon Wraps
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (or make your own!)
20-30 strips of bacon

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Find a 13x9 baking pan and set out on counter.
2. Cut chicken into strips.  Not too thin, you don't want the chicken to dry out.  But not too thick either, because you want to make sure the bacon and chicken cook at the same speed.  Aim for whatever length you like, but no more than 1/2" thick.
3. Wrap one slice of bacon around each chicken strip, and lay in your baking pan.  Do this to each chicken strip, and don't worry if they're all touching, it's okay.
4. Brush each wrap well with BBQ sauce.  Put pan in the oven, and bake for 13-15 minutes.
5. Take pan out of oven and flip each wrap over.  Brush each wrap again with BBQ sauce, then return to the oven for another 13-15 minutes.
6. Remove pan from the oven and immediately move wraps to a serving plate or platter.  You can brush again with BBQ sauce, or serve sauce on the side with your wraps.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Warning: Before you read any further, make sure you've got a gallon of milk on hand.

I love chocolate.  This is no secret.  I would wager to guess that at least 75% of the dessert recipes I've posted here have chocolate as a key ingredient.  These cookies are the perfect thing to have after a long day, especially with a glass of ice cold milk.  These cookies are wonderfully chewy, bursting with chocolate flavor, but very different from the brownie cookies I've seen floating around on the web lately.  Those are mostly brownie, just shaped like a cookie.  These are mostly cookie, with the flavors of a brownie.

These cookies are the kind of recipe my dad would have made - he was always the cookie baker when I was growing up, thanks to his arm of steel.  His beating arm made a stand mixer totally unnecessary.  This recipe is really just a good chocolate chip cookie recipe with some cocoa powder thrown in and the quantity of flour reduced as a result.  The only challenge with this recipe is letting the cookies cool - because they will be somewhat fragile until you have let them sit on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes after baking.  Just go do something else, preferably in another room of your home, where the lovely smell of the cookies doesn't force you to eat a cookie before it's fully set.  It will crumble all over you.  I promise.  It will taste wonderful, but it will make a huge mess.  Trust me.  I speak from experience.

Triple Chocolate Cookies
Printer-friendly recipe

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (or dark chocolate cocoa powder)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I recommend Hershey's Special Dark!)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In large bowl, beat butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the butter mixture until well blended. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or just until set. Cool slightly on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

MSC: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Megan from My Baking Adventures, one of my personal favorite bloggers, selected the cupcake recipe for the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club this month, Martha's Lemon Meringue Cupcakes.  As you may recall, we present our cupcakes on the 15th of each month and swap notes on what we thought of the cupcakes and the process of making them, and somehow, this month, the 15th appeared out of nowhere.  Maybe it was that darn Daylight Savings Time garbage this weekend that threw me off...

Husband was positively stoked when I told him about this recipe a while back.  Unfortunately for him, this spring forward weekend has been a bit of a mess, so I had to resort to a few shortcuts to manage to get these cupcakes made.  I have promised him an I.O.U. for a future making of these cupcakes, complete with seven-minute frosting and lemon curd. These cupcakes are really lemon meringue imposters.  I did manage to make the lemon cupcakes...but time was working against me when it came to making the lemon curd.  And well, I was already cutting corners, so I decided to make a simple vanilla buttercream frosting for the cupcakes rather than the seven-minute frosting.

What's cooking in Toddler's kitchen?  Could it be?  Has he mastered Martha's cupcakes?

These were a great treat for Husband.  We had a rough weekend, between having some serious computer challenges and Toddler becoming the pickiest eater on the planet, throwing tantrums left and right at the dinner table.  I think he really enjoyed sitting down to watch "The Amazing Race" with a yummy lemon cupcake.  And these sure were yummy.  They might not be beautiful, but they did taste good.

They may not appear on Tastespotting, but they were still tasty in their own right.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Drizzle Topped Brownies

I'm pulling out an oldie but a goodie this morning, from the depths of my worn and tattered cookbook, and I'll tell you why.  My household has been fighting off an evil stomach bug which seems to now be morphing into a dreadful cold and/or ear infection, depending on which household member we're talking about.  Food has been the farthest thing from my mind for the last several days, and my kitchen has collected a good bit of dust as a result.

However, I know that you people are still hungry out there!  I certainly don't want your sweet tooth to go unsatisfied!  And trust me, if I could manage to, I would positively make some of these brownies right now and scarf them down.

Mmm, drizzle topped brownies.  I can't quite recall what magazine my mother cut this recipe out of when I was a child, but my mother wasn't much for baking adventures.  Where I try 15 different chocolate chip cookie recipes, she has only ever baked one, so the fact that she even cut the recipe out at all was kind of a big deal.  She put it at the back of the little green metal box that she used to hold her recipe cards, and promptly forgot about it.

My dad was the first one to make these brownies, actually.  He skipped the glaze, because my dad was the kind of baker improvised in the kitchen rather than baking a recipe as written, and added more chocolate chips than were called for, because you just can't go wrong with chocolate chips.  They were delicious, and best of all, they were quick and easy to make.  Enjoy, just make sure you've got a tall glass of milk handy!

Drizzle Topped Brownies
Printer-friendly recipe

1 1/4 cup buttermilk baking mix (I've always used Jiffy Baking Mix)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder (natural works too, just not quite as rich)
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips of your choosing - white, milk, semisweet, dark, whatever you like

1/2 cup 10x sugar
1 tsp water
1/2 tsp vanilla

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 or 9x9 pan, or make a foil sling, if you want to cut and wrap your brownies individually, and grease it well.
2. In a medium bowl, mix baking mix, sugar, and cocoa well. Add melted butter, eggs and vanilla, mixing well. Stir in chocolate chips gently.
3. Spread batter in pan. Bake 22-28 minutes, checking with a toothpick inserted in the center to make sure they are done. Toothpick should come out mostly clean with a moist crumb two attached. Cool brownies completely.
4. Mix glaze ingredients and pour into a Ziploc baggie. Cut small (and I do mean small) hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle the glaze over the cooled brownies. Cut into bars and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce

I like balsamic vinegar. I didn't always know this about myself, but since I've been cooking more in the last two years, I've learned that I really do like the tangy flavor that balsamic vinegar tastes (though I can't stand the way it smells). It was just the right ingredient to make some boring old chicken breasts taste a heck of a lot more exciting.

Picture it: I was in my kitchen, staring at a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trying to figure out what to do with them. I drew a blank.  I went to Food Network's website, and searched through over 20 packages of chicken recipes before I came across something that sounded good that I had all the ingredients for...until I found this recipe from Giada de Laurentiis. All the while, Toddler was tugging on my leg, begging for dinner, so I was super relieved when I found this recipe. I am happy to report that even Toddler ate a good portion of this chicken, even though he's barely touched meat of any kind lately. Thank you, Giada!!

Pardon the total lack of artistic merit in this photo - it was one of those moments where the kid's screaming for dinner and you're rushing to get everything on the table, so I'm lucky to have gotten a picture at all!

Giada's Chicken with Balsamic BBQ Sauce
adapted from

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and ground pepper
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

1. Combine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, Worcestershire, Dijon, salt, and ground pepper in a small saucepan and stir until all ingredients are well blended and the mixture is smooth. Simmer over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until reduced by about 1/3.
2. Place a grill pan over medium heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brush lightly with BBQ sauce with a pastry brush. Place the meat on the grill. Place remaining BBQ sauce, still in the saucepan, over low heat to warm.
3. Cook the chicken for 6-8 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Continually brush the meat with BBQ sauce during cooking. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.
4. Alternately, you can cook the chicken in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375, and place the chicken in a baking dish, spoon some barbecue sauce over them and cook for 25 minutes. Take the chicken out of the oven and spoon some more barbecue sauce on them and put them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the chicken is 180 degrees.

Birthday Appetizers: Cheesy Italian Pinwheels

I probably went overboard with Toddler's party.  I tend to do that.  For his first birthday, I used an Elmo mold and made an Elmo cake, when he was barely even familiar with the red, furry guy.  This year was a bit different, though.  The area where I went overboard was on appetizers.  This, from a person who never makes appetizers.  I guess it was time to branch out.

Here's another super easy appetizer to put together, and these were also quite a crowd pleaser, especially amongst the kids at Toddler's party. They were a super cute version of a garlic cheese bread. I used Muir Glen tomato sauce and added some Italian seasoning and garlic powder, which gave it some great flavor (not to mention made it easy!).  I love the Muir Glen tomato products, they are so much more flavorful than some others I've tried.

Every last one of these were scarfed down, so I'd have to say that they were good, though I didn't manage to get a hold of one myself. I doubled the recipe, in fact, and they still vanished pretty quickly! I will definitely be making these little guys for my next party!  They were so quick and easy!  

Cheesy Italian Pinwheels
adapted from Pillsbury
Printer-friendly recipe

1 can Crescent rolls
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 cup tomato sauce (for dipping)

1. Heat oven to 350.
2. Unroll dough, separate into 2 long rectangles. Press perforations together to seal.
3. Sprinkle garlic powder and cheese over rectangles; gently press into dough.
4. Starting with 1 short side, roll up each triangle and press ends to seal. Cut into 8 pieces with a serrated knife. Place cut sides down on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with beaten egg, then sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
5. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet. Heat up tomato sauce, either in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Serve warm.

Wonton Churros

For Toddler's birthday party last weekend, there was one heck of a spread. I had hot food, I had cold food, I had a ton of cupcakes, and I had these churro wontons. Churros are totally on my list of things to bake (and this alternate version does not exempt me from trying them!).

Never heard of churros?  Oh, I'm so sorry.  Churros are a delicious Spanish-style donut that is tossed in cinnamon sugar after frying.  Best of all, they're usually served with a delicious chocolate dipping sauce...unless your only source of churros is your local skating rink or county fair, like me, in which case, you just get the yummy, fried goodness of a churro.  Ah, memories.  Just the thought of churros makes me think of the skating rink where I grew up and spent so much time as a kid.  Fall down out on the rink?  A churro will make it better.  The boy you like didn't ask you to do the couples skate?  A churro won't let you down like that!

I spotted these on Tastespotting just before Valentine's Day and knew I wanted to try These were a challenge to twist and turn, but the step-by-step pictures posted on La Fuji Mama really help out a lot. These were light and tasty, and darn near addictive! Also, if you visit La Fuji Mama, she also has a recipe for some awesome salted caramel dipping sauce!

Churro Wontons
Makes 45 pieces
Printer-friendly recipe
30 wonton wrappers
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Oil for deep frying

1. Cut the wonton wrappers into thirds. Stack 2 pieces on top of each other and cut a slit (about 1-inch in length) down the center of the pieces. Pull one end through the slit in the pieces to make a bow shape. Repeat the process with the rest of the wrappers.
2. Mix the granulated sugar and ground cinnamon together and put in a sifter.
3. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until it registers 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add six to eight wontons at a time; cook until golden and crisp on one side, and then flip them over and cook them until they are golden and crisp on the other side. Carefully remove them from the oil (take care not to splatter hot oil on yourself!) and set them on paper towels to drain. Give them a shower of cinnamon and sugar. Repeat with the remaining wontons.
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