Olive Oil Focaccia

 

I love making up names for recipes. It is so easy to make it sound fancy and gourmet. Olive oil focaccia sounds so much better than leftover pizza dough flatbread. Gourmet name aside, this recipe couldn’t be easier. I took half of my recipe of no-knead whole wheat pizza dough and made a killer loaf of bread, if I say so myself– slightly crispy on top, soft in the middle and fragrant with olive oil.

In case you missed the description of this dough in my original pizza post – this dough is truly no-knead, plus you can mix it up in about five minutes, and it can rise for anywhere from two hours to twenty-four. Make the dough fit into your schedule, instead of changing yours to fit the dough’s.

I mixed this up in the early afternoon and left it on the counter for about four hours before I used it. I meant to let it rise in the pan for about half an hour, while I made pizza with the other half of the dough. I ended up getting distracted and it rose for more than an hour. It worked beautifully.

Even if you have never made bread or worked with yeast before, you can make this bread. Buy some yeast, get out the flour and start baking. And please post in the comments to let me know how it worked for you or if you have any questions.

Olive Oil Focaccia
From The Cook’s Life
Makes 2 9 or 10-inch loaves

You can let this rise for up to twenty-four hours before you shape it and bake it. Let it rise in the fridge if you are letting it rise for more than four hours.

3 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ cup all-purpose flour (unbleached preferred)
1 package yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1 ½ cups water, approximately
Olive oil for drizzling and serving

Put all ingredients except water in your largest bowl. Add 1 cup water and stir to combine. If there is still dry flour, add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until a very wet dough forms. You aren’t looking for batter here, but a dough. It will be too soft to knead and look quite wet. Once everything is well combined, beat and mix the dough with your spoon or spatula for a minute or so. Cover dough with plastic wrap and put in the fridge or leave on the counter. If it is rising on the counter, you might need to stir the dough down every couple of hours if it is filling the bowl. Stir it a few times and re-cover. If it is in the fridge, just leave it to do its thing.

Lightly grease 2 10-inch cast iron skillets, round cake pans or a baking sheet. Use the pans you have – if you only have 8-inch round pans, your loaves will just be a little taller.  If you use the baking sheet, your loaves might be a little more freeform, and not perfectly round – which is fine.

Sprinkle the dough with flour and work the flour down around the edge of the bowl with a spatula. Divide the dough in half with a spatula or dough scraper. Scrape half of the dough into each pan. Sprinkle the top with flour and pat it to the edges of the pans, or to about 1 ½ inches thick, if you are using a baking sheet. Add more flour if the dough sticks to your hands. Flour your fingertips and poke holes into the surface of the dough. Drizzle the top with olive oil. Set dough aside, uncovered, to rise for anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees about 15 minutes before you want to bake. Sprinkle the loaves lightly with salt and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Serve hot, with extra olive oil for dipping. Store any leftovers for a day or two at room temperature, in a plastic bag. The crust will soften, but it will re-crisp if you heat the bread in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, loosely covered with foil. Freeze for longer storage.

Download the recipe here.

One Zucchini and Three Tomatoes Lead to Pizza

 

Last Saturday we were trying to decide what we wanted to make for dinner. We didn’t really want to go to the store, and we wanted to make something new and different. We decided on pizza, but we wanted to change up the toppings to make something more interesting than our usual pepperoni or pesto pizza.

Part of cooking, and coming up with new recipes, is thinking about what you know how to do and how you can change it. This doesn’t always work if you are trying to change a baking recipe, since the ratios and chemistry matter – but with pizza or most dinner recipes, you don’t have to be as careful. Start by looking through pantry and fridge to see what you have on hand.

Our kitchen search uncovered one zucchini, a few small garden tomatoes, garlic paste, part of a container of fresh mozzarella pearls, a small chunk of part-skim mozzarella and a big chunk of Parmesan (Sam’s is a great place to get this for a great price).

The garlic paste was left over from our anniversary dinner at a tapas restaurant (Modesto for you St. Louis readers – definitely worth a trip). One of the dishes we ordered was fried garlic. We had expected to get a plate of chopped garlic that had been cooked with oil. We were surprised when we got several skewers filled with deep fried whole garlic cloves. They were sweet and nutty, but with a definite garlic kick when smeared on bread. We ate about three cloves each and had at least 20 to take home. I mashed them with a fork, and froze the resulting paste to use later – tripled bagged to keep the aromas from invading the freezer.

The paste was too thick to spread on our soft dough, so I mixed it with a little olive oil, but it was still too stiff. I didn’t want to add more oil, so I added a bit of white wine. Then I added some grated Parmesan for flavor, which made it too thick again. More wine and it was ready to spread.

We topped the garlic paste with thin slices of the zucchini and tomatoes. I wanted to avoid any possibility of crunchy zucchini, so after I sliced it, I spread it in a single layer on a plate and microwaved it for a couple of minutes, until the slices were starting to soften. We topped the veggies with a scattering of mozzarella pearls and a thin layer of grated part-skim mozzarella. A dusting of Parmesan and it was ready for the oven.

 

The pizza surpassed our expectations by a mile. The edges of each zucchini slice crisped, and the cheese on top of them browned – resulting in zucchini chips right on top of our pizza. The garlic sauce was the star of the show, though. Even after baking at high heat we could taste the wine, which added a nice flavor dimension. The garlic was a definite presence, but not overpowering. I am definitely going to experiment with roasting a head of garlic or sautéing minced garlic in olive oil to try to recreate the garlic paste without having to deep fry it.

The next time you are looking for ways to bring some interest to your meals, let the inner adventurer free. Think about dishes you have had in restaurants, or recipes you have read. Use the contents of your fridge, pantry and freezer for inspiration. You never know what new favorites you might create.

Pesto Three Cheese Pizza

 

The basil in the garden is still flourishing, happy as can be, even though it is now pretty much smothered by the out-of-control tomato vines. It is a little bit of a treasure hunt to harvest, but one that I am willing to undertake. The basil bounty leads to pesto, of course. I made a batch last week and used it to make a different twist on pizza.

Even if you have never made your own pizza dough, you should try it. It is so much better than any pizza crust you can buy, and it isn’t hard. I came up with a no-knead pizza dough recipe over a year ago. If you have a big bowl and a wooden spoon, you can make it. One trip the store will get you any ingredients you need. The recipe looks long – but I tried to include lots of directions for first-timers.

Pesto, olive oil, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese come together in a pizza that celebrates basil and cheese. Feel free to add chopped, cooked chicken, a few thin slices of fresh tomato or whatever else you think goes with the green herbiness of the basil.

Pesto Three Cheese Pizza
From the Cook’s Life
Makes 2 14-inch round pizzas

The dough recipe makes enough pizza for two pizzas. If you would rather not make two pesto pizzas, use only half of the topping ingredients for your pizza and use the other half of the dough to make another kind of pizza. Or store the other half of the dough in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week and make pizza another night.

Dough:
3 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ cup all-purpose flour (unbleached preferred)
1 package yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1 ½ cups water, approximately

Put all ingredients except water in your largest bowl. Add 1 cup water and stir to combine.

 

If there is still dry flour, add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until a very wet dough forms. You aren’t looking for batter here, but a dough. It will be too soft to knead and look quite wet.

Once everything is well combined, beat and mix the dough with your spoon or spatula for a minute or so. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 2-24 hours. If you are making the dough much more than 4 hours in advance, store it in the fridge while it rises. If it is rising on the counter, you might need to stir the dough down every couple of hours if it is filling the bowl. Stir it a few times and re-cover. If it is in the fridge, just leave it to do its thing.

If your dough is in the refrigerator, remove it from the fridge and let it sit on the counter 30-60 minutes before you want to use it to make it easier to handle.

Pizza:
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup pesto, homemade or purchased (more or less, to taste)
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ pound part skim mozzarella, grated
½ cup Parmesan cheese, approximately

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease pizza pans. Sprinkle the surface of your dough heavily with flour, work a rubber spatula around the edges of the dough and try to work some flour down the sides of the bowl.

Divide the dough in half with a spatula and scrape half on to each pan. Sprinkle each dough portion with flour and begin to press it out with your fingertips to cover the pan. Add more flour if it sticks to your hands. If one piece bounces back, move to the other pan and come back the first after the dough has a minute to relax. Try to get the dough to the outside edges of the pan, but you don’t have to be perfect.

Drizzle each pizza with a little olive oil and spread to cover the dough.

Add small dollops of pesto to each crust, spreading them out slightly with the back of a spoon. Don’t try to cover the entire crust with pesto, unless you really like basil. You might not use all the pesto.

Dollop ricotta cheese between the spots of pesto. Use the back of a spoon to spread the ricotta cheese out a bit. Again, you aren’t trying to cover the entire surface with ricotta, but just spread it a little thinner so you don’t have huge globs of cheese on the dough.

Sprinkle each pizza with mozzarella cheese, then Parmesan cheese.

Bake pizzas for 12-15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for 5-10 minutes more, or until the cheese is golden brown and the bottom crust is lightly browned. Cut each pizza into slices and serve immediately. Pizza reheats well, either in microwave or in a skillet on low heat.

Download the recipe here.

The Bread that Ate My Kitchen

I almost forgot that I promised a post on the bread that I made for my recent family reunion. I made Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread, which is great for sandwiches or toast. It is full of whole grains without that “sticks and twigs” texture. This is the bread that rose so well that it popped the top off its rising container and almost overflowed onto the counter.

Don’t let this scare you off making it – just make sure you have a big enough container for rising. The original recipe makes four loaves of bread, which is a huge amount of dough. And I didn’t have a big enough container. I am posting a reduced recipe that will only make two loaves and will be much more manageable. Even if you have never made bread before, you can do this.

Unfortunately I forgot to take many pictures of the process. I will do a post sometime soon on bread making, with exhaustive pictures, to help you gain confidence if you are thinking of taking the leap into yeast baking.

Feel free to post in the comments if you have any questions at all about baking with yeast. I made my first yeast bread when I was in college, from an illustrated Time Life yeast baking book. I have learned a lot by trial and error, and I am happy to share my tips and hints. If you are in the St. Louis area, I do also offer cooking and baking classes. Contact me and we will talk!

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
Adapted by the Cook’s Life
From “Country Baking” by Ken Haedrich
Makes 2 large loaves

The original recipe was called “Grainy Bread for the Whole Week” but I thought it needed a better name. And it made four huge loaves of bread, so I cut the recipe in half. Feel free to double the recipe if you are an experienced baker, but be aware it makes a lot of dough.

3 cups warm milk or water*
¾ cup rolled oats, old-fashioned or quick
1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
¼ cup honey
5 ½ cups white whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
¼ cup canola or vegetable oil
1 ½ to 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, approximately

*Milk will make a softer bread than water. I prefer using milk.

Pour the water or milk into a large mixing bowl or mixer bowl. Add the oats, yeast and honey. Stir in 4 cups of the white whole wheat flour. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

After the rest, add the salt, oil and the remaining 1½ cups white whole wheat flour. Mix well. Cover the dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

After the rest, add about 1 cup of the all-purpose flour. When dough gets hard to stir, turn out onto a floured surface to knead, or leave in the mixer and use the dough hook to knead. Knead the dough until it is fairly stiff, smooth and elastic. Add flour if the dough sticks to your hands or the sides of the bowl.

Place the dough in a large greased bowl or container that has enough room for the dough to double in size. Cover with plastic wrap or the lid and let rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled.

Grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment, if you are making freeform loaves. Or grease two 9 by 5 inch loaf pans.

Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, for about 30 seconds. Divide dough into 2 pieces and form each into an oblong, football-shaped ball. Place loaves on prepared baking sheet, leaving room between them, or in loaf pans. If using loaf pans, press dough firmly into corners. Cover loosely with parchment or waxed paper and allow to rise until doubled. This should take 20-30 minutes, or about half the time the dough took to double the first time.

About 15 minutes before the bread is risen, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the loaves 30-45 minutes, or until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Freeform loaves on a baking sheet will take slightly less time to bake than those in loaf pans.

Remove bread from the pans and let cool on wire racks. When completely cool, store leftovers in an airtight container or plastic bag. Freeze if not eating within a few days. Homemade bread dries out faster than commercial bread, but if you slice it before freezing, you can remove slices as you need them. They thaw in a few minutes, or you can toast them.

 Download the recipe here.

Flatbread that isn’t so flat

One of our favorite bread recipes is Middle Eastern Flatbread. This bread isn’t flat like a pita, but it is flatter than a loaf of sandwich bread. And it tastes absolutely fabulous, warm out of the oven, with a nice saucy pasta or soup. We sometimes split small loaves horizontally and make sandwiches or panini with them. They are also good sliced and toasted, with butter and jam. Can you tell we like this bread?

This is truly an easy and fast recipe – I can start it at 5:00 and have fresh bread for dinner. Of course, we eat late because of our schedules, but my point is you can have fresh bread in a little more than an hour. And it rivals any bakery bread, hands down.

The original recipe is from Bernard Clayton’s “New Complete Book of Breads.” This was one of my better purchases – $11 for the hardback at an outlet mall because it had a stain along the edge of the pages. Of course, that was almost 20 years ago, so I have gotten my money’s worth out of it! I have tinkered with the recipe just a bit, and simplified the directions, but it all started with Bernard Clayton.

I find that I use almost two cups more flour than the original recipe calls for. The more I think about it, I use more flour than Bernard Clayton calls for in almost all of his recipes. Either he plans on using a lot of flour for kneading, and lets “approximately” cover it, or he measures his flour differently than I do. Check out A Word on Measuring Flour for the sprinkle and sweep method I use. It is always a good idea to check out the introductory notes in a cookbook to see how the author measures the flour, but they don’t always tell you. Anyway, you can benefit from my trial and error with this recipe and hopefully will get good results.

As always, I have made this into a whole wheat recipe. I am always touting white whole wheat flour, and I make no promises to stop. It really is a great way to get whole grains into your diet. If you haven’t already, buy a bag and see how you like it. If you absolutely can’t stand the thought, you can always make this with all-purpose flour, as originally written.

The original recipe calls for either butter or olive oil. And this is one case where I don’t think butter makes it better. It makes good bread, but the texture and flavor really are better with olive oil. Now butter on the finished bread is another story…

Middle Eastern Flatbread
adapted by The Cook’s Life
from “New Complete Book of Breads” by Bernard Clayton
makes 3-10 small loaves

3 cups white whole wheat flour*
1 package active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups very warm water
3-4 cups all-purpose flour, approximately

Seed topping:
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water (optional)
Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)**

Place 3 cups of white whole wheat flour in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast, salt and sugar and stir to combine. Add olive oil and water and mix vigorously until well combined. Let dough rest for 5-10 minutes. Whole grains are slower to absorb moisture than white flours, so this will give the whole wheat the time it needs. The rest will help you avoid adding too much flour and ending up with dry, heavy bread. After the rest, start adding the all-purpose flour gradually, until a soft ball of dough forms. Be sure to add enough flour that the dough is not too sticky to knead.

Heavily flour your kneading surface. Scrape dough from bowl to floured surface. Sprinkle dough with flour and begin kneading, gently at first: pull the far side of dough toward you and fold over, pressing it away from you with the heels of your hands. Turn dough a quarter turn and repeat. When dough is less sticky, you can be less gentle. At first, scrape your kneading surface with a rubber spatula if dough sticks. Add flour as necessary to the dough and your hands to prevent sticking. Knead 6-8 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic.

Grease a large bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn over to coat top with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled – about 30 minutes.

When dough has doubled, turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut into 3-10 pieces, depending on size desired. Ten pieces make small loaves, perfect for making sandwiches.

Grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment paper. Place dough pieces on baking sheet, leaving space between them. Flour hands and flatten dough pieces as much as possible, to around an inch thick. It is fine if they touch at the edges, or you can use two baking sheets.

Flour the handle of a wooden spoon and press holes in tops of loaves, to make dimples that cover the surface. You can also press the handle of the spoon, or the side of your hand, in lengthwise, to make furrows instead of dimples. Cover loosely with waxed paper or parchment and leave to rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees while bread is rising. After 20 minutes, loaves will be puffy, but not necessarily doubled. Gently redefine dimples or furrows.

It is hard to tell, but these are risen and ready for the oven. They are definitely puffier than they were right after shaping.

If using seed topping, brush dough gently with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake 10-20 minutes depending on size. When they are done, loaves will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Cool on racks or serve warm. These freeze well.

*You can use all-purpose flour instead of white whole wheat, if you prefer. You can then skip the rest after adding the first 3 cups of flour.

**Toasting your seeds gives them a nuttier flavor. Use a small, ungreased skillet, over low to medium heat, and toast the seeds for about 10 minutes, or until they smell nutty. Watch the seeds and stir them often to avoid scorching them. Let them cool before using them on top of the dough.

Download the recipe here.

Have a pizza-making party!

We have good friends we get together with every month or so. With various allergies and picky eaters among the kids, we usually have trouble coming up with something everyone can eat. The last few times we have seen them, we have taken the easy way out and gone out to eat. This time we felt like having a more relaxed evening and staying in to eat. There was still the food conundrum, though. Rich and I came up with homemade pizza as an easy thing to customize, since everyone could have his or her own pizza, or we could divide up bigger pizzas to suit everyone’s tastes.

We started early enough in the afternoon that it worked out well to have everyone in on the cooking. The kids were playing, so the adults made the dough and the sauce and got in some visiting time while the dough was rising. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of that part of the fun, but check out this post on pizza for dough pictures and a recipe. If you are doing your own party and don’t want to start in the middle of the afternoon, you can time your dough to be ready when your guests arrive and then you can start building pizzas right away.

When the dough had risen, we pulled out the toppings and called the kids to do their own individual pizzas. With minimal mess and frustrations they each got their own pizzas ready for the oven.

Lesson 1: Flour is your friend when making pizza, as the kids found out.

Three different pizzas ready for the oven: one with no cheese, one with no sauce, and one with no veggies.

The parents had to make do with bigger, communal pizzas since the cast iron skillets were in the oven with the kids’ pizzas. We managed to share just fine!

Lesson 2: You can have too much flour.

Restaurant-worthy pizzas!

A kids vs. dads patio basketball game to work off the pizza before homemade chocolate chip cookies and coffee. Somehow that meant the moms did the dishes. Hmmm, next time I think the moms should take on the kids and let the dads clean up. Or better yet, the kids can do the dishes while the parents relax!

The next time you are having friends over, whether they have kids or not, make it a hands-on pizza party. Everyone ends up in the kitchen anyway – you might as well put them to work let them in on the fun.

Bread for everyone

Cinnamon rolls made with this recipe. I will take a picture of the bread and post it soon.

I haven’t done a post on yeast bread because I didn’t want to scare off any novice bakers. But I think it is time to bring on the yeast.

I taught a bread baking class this week, and while everyone there had baked at least something with yeast in it, they were eager to learn more about the process. I talked about the science of yeast, different flours, how various ingredients affect yeast growth and a host of other things.

I think the most important thing the students took from the class was that yeast bread is very forgiving – we didn’t exactly follow the recipe, the dough rose really quickly because the kitchen was warm, no one wanted to stop having fun long enough to pay attention and everyone had different ways of measuring, mixing, stirring and kneading. But in the end, we had beautiful baked goods and everyone learned a little more about yeast baking.

In the class, I used a recipe that I originally got from a Farm Journal bread book I found on the bargain table at a bookstore. I have adapted it a bit, and changed the directions to make it easier for the novice baker. I like the recipe because it is quick (which makes it ideal for a class), it teaches all the steps of yeast bread, and you can make so many things out of it. I have included directions for braided loaves, dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls.

Enjoy, and please comment if you try the recipe, or if you have any questions at all. I’ll end with the “blessing” that Rich and Calvin gave me when I left to teach the class last night – May your dough rise and may your loaves bake up golden brown.

Shortcut Sweet Dough
Adapted by The Cook’s Life
from “Farm Journal’s Homemade Breads”

 This recipe has a lot of yeast for the amount of flour, but you need this much for it to rise quickly. Experienced bakers, feel free to reduce the yeast, but you will probably lose the “shortcut” part of the recipe.

1 cup milk
2 packages active dry yeast (1½ tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 3/4-4 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, approximately*

Heat milk until almost boiling, either in microwave or on the stove. Pour milk in a large mixing bowl and let cool until warm, no more than 115 degrees. Sprinkle dry yeast and sugar over warm milk. Stir until dissolved. Add oil, salt, egg and 2 cups flour. Stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. You may not use all of the flour, but the dough should not look wet. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about one minute. Lift dough and flour surface. Cover with the upside down mixing bowl and let rest for 15 minutes. Proceed with your choice of following recipes.

*For whole wheat dough, substitute up to 2 cups whole wheat or white whole wheat flour for the same amount of all-purpose flour. Add the whole wheat flour first, as the first 2 cups of flour. Mix in other ingredients and then cover and let rest for 5-10 minutes before adding more flour and kneading. This allows the bran in the whole wheat flour to soften and absorb liquid.

Braided Loaves
Divide dough in half. Set one half aside. Divide the other half into 3 or 4 pieces and shape each into a fat rope 12-15 inches long. Put side by side on counter and braid loosely. Pinch ends tightly and place on lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with other half of dough. Be sure to leave room between the braids for them to rise.

Cover loaves loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes into the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with a finger. Cover with a tent of aluminum foil after 15 minutes if the tops are browning too rapidly.

Using a spatula, carefully lift the loaves onto a rack for cooling. They will be fragile while hot. Cool completely before wrapping tightly in plastic wrap or a zip top bag. Makes 2 loaves.

Dinner Rolls
Divide dough in half. Roll one half into a log and cut log in half and then into quarters. Cut each quarter into three pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place 1-2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with second half of dough. Cover balls and let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fifteen minutes into the rising time. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. If rolls rose to touch each other, they might need an extra 5 minutes to bake. Cool on racks or serve warm. Makes 24 small rolls.

Cinnamon Rolls
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons butter, melted

In a small bowl, mix sugars and cinnamon together. Set aside. After the 15-minute rest, divide dough in half on a lightly floured surface. Flatten one half of the dough with your lightly floured hands to make a rough square. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about ½ inch thick. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Roll up loosely from the long side and cut into 8-12 pieces. Place the pieces cut side up on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with other half. Let rise 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fifteen minutes into the rising time. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm or room temperature, glazed or plain. Makes 16-24 cinnamon rolls.

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk, approximately

Mix powdered sugar, vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk together in a bowl. Gradually add more milk until the glaze is the desired consistency. Add milk very gradually to avoid lumps.

Download recipe here.

Pizza Night

Homemade pizza is part of our regular menu, appearing at least every couple of weeks. I know most people don’t think of making homemade pizza, but it is easier than you think. And you can make it exactly how you like it, and be positive that you know exactly what is going into it.

Pizza when I was growing up was usually homemade. Our recipe came from the pizza my dad’s family made when he was growing up, inviting friends over and making a big party of it. Sounds like the idyllic 50’s, but you can do it, too.

I don’t claim to have any Italian background, or have any sort of ties to “authentic” pizza. Dad’s family is Irish American, via Mississippi, Arkansas and southeastern Missouri. And I have changed the recipe to be almost 100% whole wheat (though you can make it with white flour) and about as easy as possible to make. My pizza doesn’t taste like my mom’s, which doesn’t taste like what my dad’s family made when he was growing up. And yours won’t taste like mine. It will be yours. And that’s the way it should be.

I have been tinkering with this recipe for at least 15 years. I have now come up with a no-knead crust that you can make anywhere from an hour to 18-24 hours before you make dinner. You can mix up the dough the night before, or in the morning before work, store it in the fridge and be ready to make pizza in about the same time you can bake a frozen pizza or place an order for delivery. Or, if you are going to be home, you can stir it up after lunch, and let it rise on the counter until it’s time to make dinner. You will probably need to stir it down at least once, unless you have a huge bowl, if you are leaving it on the counter. The longer you let it rise, the more time it has to develop a more complex flavor, but a couple of hours is certainly sufficient.

Don’t be turned off by the length of the recipe. I tried to include lots of directions and pictures so you will feel comfortable trying this, even if you have never made yeast dough before. Be sure to post in the comments and let me know how it worked for you.

Homemade Pizza

If you don’t have round pizza pans, you can certainly use rectangular baking sheets. Growing up, my mom didn’t get round pizza pans until I was in my teens. To me, homemade pizza always came in square slices. She also used Kraft parmesan cheese, in the green can. Now I usually use freshly grated Parmesan, but every so often a sprinkle of the canned powdered cheese brings back a taste of childhood. I like to make my own sauce so I can control the salt and spices, but jarred sauce works just fine.

Dough:
Makes enough dough for 2 14-inch pizzas with medium thick crusts

3 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
½ cup all-purpose flour (unbleached preferred)
1 package yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1 ½ cups water, approximately

Beginning to mix dough

Put all ingredients except water in your largest bowl. Add 1 cup water and stir to combine. If there is still dry flour, add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until a very wet dough forms. You aren’t looking for batter here, but a dough. It will be too soft to knead and look quite wet. Once everything is well combined, beat and mix the dough with your spoon or spatula for a minute or so. Cover dough with

Mixed and ready to rest – see how it still looks pretty wet.

plastic wrap and put in the fridge or leave on the counter. If it is rising on the counter, you might need to stir the dough down every couple of hours if it is filling the bowl. Stir it a few times and re-cover. If it is in the fridge, just leave it to do its thing.

After 2 hours rising at room temperature

If your dough is in the refrigerator, remove it from the fridge and let it sit on the counter 30-60 minutes before you want to use it.

Pizza:
Sauce:
1-2 cups crushed tomatoes, low-sodium or no salt added, if possible
1-4 cloves garlic, diced
1-2 teaspoons brown sugar, packed
1-2 teaspoons dried basil
½-1 teaspoon dried oregano
paprika, few dashes
cayenne, few dashes
salt
pepper

Toppings:
½-3/4 pound part skim mozzarella, grated
Pepperoni, green or red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, black olives, etc.
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated or in a can

You can see how I worked the flour down along the sides of the bowl to make the dough easier to work with.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease your pans fairly heavily. Sprinkle the surface of your dough heavily with flour, work a rubber spatula around the edges of the dough and try to work some flour down the sides of the bowl. Divide the dough in half with a spatula and scrape half on to each pan. Sprinkle each dough portion with flour and begin to press it out with your fingertips to cover the pan. Add more flour if it sticks to

I didn't get all the way to the edge – it will be fine.

your hands. If one piece bounces back, move to the other pan and come back the first after the dough has a minute to relax. Try to get the dough to the outside edges of the pan, but you don’t have to be perfect.

Mix together the sauce ingredients or use already prepared, jarred sauce. Spoon sauce on pressed out dough, using ½-1 cup per pizza. I don’t usually measure it, but just dollop it on and then spread it gently with the back of the spoon.

Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese all over the pizzas. Add your toppings of choice. Sprinkle pizzas with the Parmesan cheese.

Pepperoni pizza ready for the oven

Place pans in oven, staggering them so they aren’t right on top of each other, if they won’t fit on one shelf. Bake for 12-15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking another 10-12 minutes, until cheese is browned and bottom of crusts are lightly browned (carefully lift up the edge of one with a spatula to see). If you are baking on two shelves, switch pizzas from top to bottom when you turn the temperature down.

Remove pizzas from oven and let rest for about 5 minutes so they can firm up. Cut and serve while hot.

Download the recipe here.