Come on in! Let's talk FOOD!

"Bacon grease makes pretty much anything taste better!" is the local philosophy and I grew up on good, down home country cookin'! Although I've ventured into a healthier way of eating (some of the time) I still enjoy many of the favorites of my childhood. I also have a passion for Italian food and I'm slowly but surely learning the pleasures of cooking with fresh herbs. Here I'll share with you a broad spectrum of recipes...some healthier than others, but all of them guaranteed DELICIOUS! : )

*I have imported posts from my other blog. These posts may involve topics other than food, but they do include recipes or food related information at some point in the post. Future posts to this blog will be more strictly food-related but I did want to include these recipes here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Homemade Pizza

[This is a very long post, but it is the only way I know to communicate all those little details that make this easier and more delicious.]

Until just a few years ago, the closest I had ever come to making homemade pizza was when I tore into a box of Chef Boyardee. Nowadays I have a son-in-law who begs for my stone-baked pizzas on a regular basis. : ) I'm actually getting much better at handling the crust (see here) so I don't mind making them a little more often nowadays. But not TOO often. I need to have something to bribe him with when it's time to hang them Christmas lights. ; )

To really enjoy this recipe, you need a pizza stone and a pizza peel. Really. You can pat it into a pan and bake it but it just isn't the same and not nearly as delicious.

Today I'll give you the recipe for my crust, an almost recipe for my sauce (you know what this means...I don't measure anything! Just have to wing it.) and complete instructions for putting it all together. However there will be no pics of the mixing process because I had no one here to operate the camera at 6:30 this morning when I was preparing the dough and I confess...I just can't do it all! ; ) Dough is messy business. Didn't think it was a good idea to coat my camera in all it's gooey stickiness. But I do promise to give thorough instructions. And one of these days when my daughter is here I'll see if she would be willing to photograph or maybe even *I shudder at the very thought* video the process for you. One of these days.

Before you get going allow me to give you a little advice, please. FOLLOW THESE DIRECTIONS TO THE LETTER. This isn't the time to attempt shortcuts or give it your own twist. It has taken me a very long time to get this down to a science and I had to deal with many, many failures along the way. That's no fun, it's wasteful, and trust me when I tell you it makes you very angry when you have to toss all that hard work into the trash. :( So try it my way first, see if it works for you, and then make any adjustments you feel necessary. It'll save you lots of headaches. ; )

Homemade Pizza

For one crust:
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
corn meal for baking

For two crusts:
Simply double everything. : )

For three crusts:
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 3/4 to 4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
corn meal for baking

In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Stir in sugar, salt, 1/2 the flour and the olive oil. Add enough of the remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Use additional olive oil to generously grease a large bowl and place dough in bowl. Turn dough over so greased side is up and then place bowl in a warm place for 20 minutes. (I set my oven to 100* and place the bowl in it. Works beautifully.) Punch down dough and cover bowl loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours and no more than 48 hours. You will need to punch down dough from time to time, and at least once during that first two hours.

When you're ready to bake off the dough, place your pizza stone in the oven and heat to 500*.

Now here comes the fun part. : )

{The instructions I'm about to give you are for small (roughly 6-8") individual pizzas. I never make family sized pizzas because everyone likes different toppings and this just makes it simple.}

Pull off a small ball of dough, about like this:

Work it in your hands until you have a smooth, elastic ball. Like these:

Continue making these little balls until you've run out of dough. Then cover them with the oiled plastic wrap you used to cover the bowl of dough.

Now, the hard part.

Walk away.

Leave it alone for a little while. Like, 20 minutes or so. It'll rise just a little but you're gonna work that out of it as you shape it for baking. And while I don't know the science behind it, I do know that I've learned that this resting period helps me IMMENSELY when it comes to handling the dough. Trust me. This took a looooooooong time to learn. No recipe that I had found called for this resting period but THIS DUDE did. :) It's one of the reasons I love him so.

Now twiddle your thumbs for a bit, or you could do something useful like chop some veggies for topping these masterpieces you're creating. Or you could mix this sauce:

1 large can tomato sauce
Italian seasoning
Sea Salt

Add about a tablespoon of the Italian seasoning and maybe a teaspoon of the salt. Mix it well and taste it. Add some garlic powder, if you like. Fresh basil is good, too. Or just add more of the Italian seasoning or salt. Experiment a little and see if you don't come up with a combination you really love.

*TIME LAPSE OF 20 MINUTES.....or so* ; )

Let's get to baking! I prefer to prebake my crusts. This makes me happy when the whole family is here and I can just grab a crust, spoon on some sauce, throw on the toppings to please each individual palate, and stick it in the oven. You can prebake them as much as a day ahead of time if you choose, but I typically just bake them a few hours ahead of time. You can also prebake them and immediately add sauce and toppings, pop them back onto the stone and bake for another 5 minutes.

Now bear in mind that it is extremely difficult to photograph the process I go through working the dough. VERY difficult. But I'll give you the best explanation I can.

Take a ball of dough and on a lightly floured surface, roll the ball around to coat it. Press it down and then start working it into a disc. Leave a little thickness around the edges and in the very center of the disc. If you toss the crust, the thicker edge helps pull it out evenly from the center. Even if you don't toss it, this little lip around the edge will help contain your sauce and toppings.

I know this is a really bad pic, but notice how my knuckles are spread apart under the dough. You begin with the fingers together then spread the knuckles to stretch the dough, turning the entire disc as you go. Eventually you'll have this:Tossing is the ultimate trick, but I doubt I can explain the process with words.
That video might end up being a necessary evil.
Place the crust on the lightly floured or corn meal coated peel. Flouring or sprinkling with corn meal is what keeps the dough from sticking and allows it to slide off the peel and onto the stone.

Then slide it onto the hot stone...

(Yes, the stone looks yucky. That's just a sign that it's well loved. :) )

Bake for 3 minutes. If it begins to puff, simply press it down with a spatula (don't keep the oven door open any longer than is absolutely necessary) and allow it to continue to bake. Remove to a wire rack. Continue this process until all crusts are ready for toppings. Store any unused crusts in gallon Ziploc bags until ready to use.

Now add the sauce, spreading almost to the edge of crust with the back of spoon or ladle.

Add desired toppings.

Finish up with shredded cheese.

Return it to the oven for 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Plate it.

Serve it.

Watch 'em smile.

But don't expect too many compliments right up front.

Be patient until they're done eating 'cause they won't take a minute to speak until they're done.

: )

Printable version here.

Tips and Tricks

This was one of those recipes where I needed to give you most of the tips and tricks in the body of the recipe, but let me add just a couple of things.

*We all love the corn meal coated crust except for Brie. I bake her crusts first using flour because once you use the corn meal, it gets on EVERYTHING. So if you have a picky eater, I suggest baking off the flour ones first.

*Coarse corn meal is difficult to find. Most of it is milled to such a fine consistency these days and you really need a coarser texture for this. If you are unable to purchase locally milled corn meal (which is usually not as fine) then I suggest Aunt Jemima Yellow Corn Meal. I've tried every brand available around here and it is by far the best. And whatever you do, don't try to use corn meal mix for this.

*When you put corn meal into a 500* oven, you can expect some smoke.
All of the corn meal doesn't stick to the crust and ends up staying on the hot stone.
The Hubster is always on standby with a towel for fanning the smoke detector.
Keep this in mind. ; )

*The best spatula EVER MADE for lifting these pizza crusts from the hot stone is one intended for use on a grill. The handle is a little longer and it is overall a little stronger than most.
I have one of these

and it is perfect for the job.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Jelly Roll

So many things remind me of my Mama Jones. She absolutely loved red currant jelly rolls and I used to make them for her, starting when I was still a teenager. My little Tucker Man had his first jelly roll last year and I suppose he got to thinking about them again recently because he put in a request for one. So today I made this one and I thought I'd share the recipe with my favorite folks in Blogland. : )

*I copied this recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook (at least I think it was Betty Crocker) many, many years ago. I know that sometimes recipes get altered over the years and I have no idea if this is how it appears in the latest edition, but I tend to stick with the tried and true anyway. ;)

Jelly Roll

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup jelly (any flavor you like), beaten with a fork
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375*. Lightly grease a 15"x10"x1" pan. Line with waxed paper and lightly grease waxed paper, too.

With a hand mixer beat the eggs until light and lemony in color, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar. Mix in vanilla and water on low speed. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix in by hand. Pour into waxed paper lined pan and spread evenly. Bake at 375* for 12-15 minutes. (Bake only until you see no wet spots in cake. It will still be very light in color.)

While cake is baking, sprinkle a light kitchen towel or cheesecloth generously with powdered sugar. When cake comes out of oven, immediately invert onto towel. Remove pan and then gently peel waxed paper off of cake. Roll up with towel and place on cooling rack until cooled. (App. 30 minutes.) Unroll, spread with jelly and re-roll without towel. Place on serving plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cover and chill if not serving immediately.

And seriously, please pardon these pitiful pics. They were taken with my phone and they stink.

For illustrations as to how to handle the rolling and unrolling of this cake, please refer to this pumpkin log recipe. It uses the same technique.

Tips and Tricks

*Red currant jelly is a favorite with old timers.
It is very tart and is balanced nicely by the sweetness of the powdered sugar.

*Jams and preserves work for this recipe as well. I've used them all at one time or another. But do take into consideration the fact that preserves (such as the raspberry I used here) contain seeds and may not please some palates.
*Typical favorites are strawberry, raspberry, red currant,
and I'd love to try peach but never have. : )

*This is basically a sponge cake baked thinly enough to allow for rolling. While you don't have to handle it as if it is fragile, you also don't want to be overly rough with it. It will crack. (Which won't hurt the flavor but it won't be as pretty.)