Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers October Challenge is PIZZA!

Pizza dough from Peter Reinhart's Baker's Apprentice book was the recipe for this month. You can see a modified copy of the recipe at this month's host's site. The recipe requires making a little bit of dough, letting it sit overnight and then incorporating it into the dough you make the second day.

We were excited to make some pizza, as pizza was Kevin's summer grilling experiment. He's quite the conceptual cook. That is, he thinks up stuff and I do most of the execution. For the pizzas this summer, I was his prep cook and he worked the grill and did a terrific job. We used a recipe right from the King Arthur flour website, and we didn't notice a flavor difference between the KA recipe and the Reinhart recipe. In fact, the KA recipe was nicer to handle and didn't need to rest so much, held it's shape, etc.

For our DB pizzas we were to toss the dough as part of the challenge. That's a challenge indeed- how do you take a picture while tossing?? You get help, that's how. Kevin was willing to fling the dough in the air and wasn't so sure he could take a good picture, so he is pictured with the dough almost in the ceiling fan. What a tosser!

We made a traditional mushroom and black olive pizza, and a plain cheese with LOTS of cheese. They were both yummy.

We also made one of the stars of the summer grilled pizza line up, a "southwestern" pizza. It has some marinated and grilled chicken, a corn relish (from Trader Joe's), and a mild cheese blend (mozzarella, jack), and it's topped with a squeeze of lime, sour cream and cilantro. The corn relish really makes it- the stuff is awesome right from the jar.

The pizza that Kevin has been dying to make, it's the one that actually got him interested in trying out pizzas in the first place... drumroll jambalaya pizza! We finally gave it a try. I made some jambalaya from a really good recipe from a cool place in New Orleans. Kevin put a little cheese on the dough, topped it with jambalaya and baked it. I assembled the one pictured below with a little sauce, jambalaya, then topped with cheese. He was pleased with the outcome. I was a little put off by having rice on pizza, but maybe I'm just being narrowminded. This is one pizza that we haven't seen the last of, I am sure.

Another fun challenge- thank you Daring Bakers!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Birthday... another Cake? No, it's Time for Pie!

Yes, another birthday!!
This one was September 23, and the celebration lasted for what seemed like weeks. The deception certainly did! There were a couple of small celebrations to throw Stefan off the scent of the surprise party for his 40th. It was a lot of fun helping Greer put it together. We were prepared for an army of people, and about 3/4 of an army was in attendance. They still have a couple of spare pies in their freezer- lucky ducks.

Stefan and I, it turns out, have a similar dessert preference. Neither of us is really into sweets too much. If given the choice between something with some bite like a dark gingerbread or a tart lemon bar and a fluffy sweet frosted cake, we'd both choose the former.

So, what do you do for a man who isn't going to have a birthday cake at his birthday party?? You make pies, naturally! He likes berries, so there was a lattice topped mixed berry pie.

And I made what some have referred to as the best apple pie ever. It's the Silver Palate sour cream apple pie recipe, so I can't take all the credit. It is darn good. In fact, click the link and buy the book. It is a terrific cook book, many of my "go to" recipes are directly from those pages- pate brisee, quiche, ceviche, carrot ginger soup, lobster with tarragon sauce, gravlax, and I could go on and on. The 25th anniversary edition added color photos and kept many of the cool illustrations from the original 1982 publication.

To go with the pies, we enjoyed some ice creams. The berry pie was especially delicious with a cinnamon basil ice cream. And a burnt sugar ice cream, which could have gone by the name of creme brulee ice cream just fine, paired very nicely with the apple.

Well, I think birthday season is over. Or, at least my tardy reporting of recent birthday baking is finally complete.


Pie Crust for the berry pie From Fine Cooking issue #65 in July 2004
Rose Levy Beranbaum, author - Yes, she's The Cake Bible author - so you know her recipe is meticulously described, and in this case highly recommended also. The crust was super. If you can get a chance to read the article from that 2004 issue, it is well worth it. She describes the reason for every ingredient and step she takes.

6 oz. cold butter
6-1/2 oz. (1-1/2 cups) bleached all-purpose flour
3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) cake flour
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
4-1/2 oz. (1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs.) cold cream cheese
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1 Tbs. cider vinegar

Cut the butter into 3/4-inch cubes. Wrap them in plastic and freeze until hard, at least 30 minutes. Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, salt, and baking powder in a metal bowl and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Put the cold flour mixture in a food processor and process for a few seconds to combine.

Cut the cold cream cheese into three or four pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Process for 20 seconds (the mixture should resemble fine meal). Add the frozen butter cubes and pulse until none of the butter pieces is larger than a pea, about five 3-second pulses. (Toss with a fork to see it better.)

Add the cream and vinegar and pulse in short bursts until the dough starts to come together (which will take a minute or two); the dough will still look crumbly but if you press it between your fingers, it should become smooth. Turn it out onto a clean work surface. Gather and press the dough together to form a unified mass.

Cut the dough in half and put each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Loosely cover the dough with the plastic. Using the wrap as an aid (to avoid warming the dough with your bare hands), shape one half of the dough into a flat disk and the other into a flat rectangle. Wrap each tightly in the plastic and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Remove the disk of dough from the fridge (keep the rectangle refrigerated); if it’s very firm, let it sit at room temperature until it’s pliable enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes.

Set the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap sprinkled lightly with flour. Roll it out to a 13-inch round that’s 1/8 inch thick, occasionally loosening and reapplying the plastic wrap.

Remove one piece of plastic and flip the dough into a standard metal 9-inch pie pan (it should be 1-1/4 inches deep and hold 4 cups of liquid). Fit the dough into the pan and carefully peel off the plastic. Trim the dough so there’s a 3/4-inch overhang. Fold the overhang underneath itself to create an edge that extends about 1/4 inch beyond the rim of the pie pan. Cover the dough-lined pie plate with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the rectangle of dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature until it’s pliable enough to roll, 10 to 15 minutes. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to an 11x14-inch or larger rectangle (if it becomes an oval, that’s fine); it should be no more than 1/8 inch thick.

Cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips lengthwise down the rectangle, using a ruler to measure and mark 3/4-inch intervals and to cut a straight edge. If you want a crimped edge on the strips, use a fluted pastry wheel

Stir the fruit filling a few times and scrape it into the pie shell. Arrange five strips of dough evenly over the filling, starting with a long strip for the center. Gently fold back every other strip (the second and the fourth) to a little past the center. Choose another long strip of dough, hold it perpendicular to the other strips, and set it across the center of the pie.

Unfold the two folded strips so they lie flat on top of the perpendicular strip. Now fold back the strips that weren't folded back last time (the first, third, and fifth ones).

Lay a second perpendicular strip of dough about 3/4 inch away from the last one. Unfold the three folded strips. Fold back the original two strips, set a third perpendicular strip of dough 3/4 inch from the last one, and unfold the two strips.

Repeat on the other side with the two remaining strips: fold back alternating strips, lay a strip of dough on top, and unfold. Remember to alternate the strips that are folded back to create a woven effect. Trim the strips to a 1/2-inch overhang. Moisten the underside of each one with water and tuck it under the bottom crust, pressing to make it adhere. Crimp or flute the edges, if you like.

Lightly cover the assembled pie with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. After 30 minutes of chilling, set an oven rack on the lowest rung and put a foil-lined baking stone or baking sheet on it. Heat the oven to 425°F.

When the pie has chilled for 1 hour, brush the lattice with the milk and sprinkle on the sugar.

Set the pie directly on the baking stone or sheet. Bake until the juices are bubbling all over (the bubbles should be thick and slow near the pan edges), 40 to 55 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, cover the rim with foil or a pie shield. If the lattice starts to darken too much in the last 10 minutes of baking, cover it loosely with a piece of foil that has a vent hole poked in the center.

Let the pie cool on a rack until the juices have thickened, 4 hours.

FILLING: I don't have a recipe exactly. I used frozen berries- mostly blackberry with some blueberry, strawberry, raspberry. I thawed them and collected the juice. I added sugar and cornstarch and salt to the juice and cooked it until it was a little thick, and it finished thickening in the oven.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Birthday... another Cake!

It is long past time to tell you about this birthday cake. Remember Robb's birthday? Way back in August? Well, on the SAME day, dear Greer enjoyed her birthday, too! Yeah, they share the same birthday. Even weirder is that they have the exact same couch. That might be where the similarities end, but no, there's at least one more thing they have in common... a birthday cake made by me this year!

Greer's husband Stefan (who also had a birthday recently... more to come on that) snuck around and planned a surprise party for a week after the big day. He requested a lemon coconut cake for her. I even knew that she likes tropical flavors, but instead of listening to him, I spent a bunch of time imagining all kinds of other flavors and really spinning my wheels. Finally, (duh) I landed on a lemon cake and a coconut custard filling with a vanilla buttercream with shredded coconut on the sides. I am very glad I listened, she loved it. A lot.

Here she is blowing out candles. Her helper may look familiar- that's Lila who had her own pretty pink birthday cake last December. Here she is helping Robb enjoy his birthday cake, too.

Boy, it was a darn fine cake. The lemon cake recipe is one I found in a cake decorating book. I wasn't expecting it to be quite so spectacular given the source, but WOW it was fantastic. If you'd like the recipe, just shoot me an email.

I had some fun with fondant and made pretty little daisies. They didn't dry before the humidity took hold. They were still pretty, even if flat like starfish by the time Greer got to see her cake. We also enjoyed some smokey pineapple jalapeno sorbet, and a cool creamy mango ice cream. It was a lot of fun to make all these goodies, and super fun to surprise Greer!

Here is the last hunk before it was all greedily eaten up, even Stefan had 2nds. That's saying something when a guy who claims not to give a darn about sweets goes back for more!

Happy birthday Greer!

- Janet

Friday, October 10, 2008

Double Daring Bakers

Red Velvet Cake!!

And, it's not disgusting. Ok, many of you weren't expecting it to be vile... but, I was. The whole idea of eating that much food dye is just foul. The one other time I made a red velvet cake (cup cakes), I spit out the bite I tried to taste. I couldn't get past the knowledge that there was so much "fake" in the food, and it's all I could taste.

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! This one was good, and there really wasn't that much dye. At least, not so much that it tasted like chemical.

The DBers were free to choose their own recipe for this challenge, and as we are following in their footsteps, we (the double DBers who are completing all the past challenge recipes) did the same.

Robb found many recipes on the magical interweb, and the one we chose came from Epicurious.
We didn't add the berries called for, and we did add some coconut and pecans to the middle and top of the cake, but all else was as written. It was a tasty cake. The texture was very nice and moist, with a suggestion of chocolate. With only 1 tablespoon of red food color, it wasn't as neon red as some, and frankly, we liked that very much.