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Posts Tagged ‘baking’


At my house, we love pizza.  I mean, we LOVE pizza.  And the best pizza is always homemade.  That way you have the perfect thickness of crust, the exact amount of sauce, and the perfect combination of toppings.  I even have individual deep dish pans and three different sizes of pizza pans.  Did I mention that we LOVE pizza?

A size for any appetite!

Over the years I have tried a LOT of different pizza crust recipes.  The sourdough crust is good, but I have found the hands down, go-to pizza crust.  And it’s not even a crust recipe.  It’s a bread recipe.  Shocking.  I know, right?  Who uses a bread recipe for pizza crust?  Well, uuhhmm, I do…and it makes the most amazing pizza crust you’ve ever eaten.  It’s a recipe that I got a few years ago from my sister.  In the beginning, I made bread with it (like I was supposed to), and then I got a little crazy and I made some bread sticks to go with spaghetti one night.  Then I had the brilliant idea (yes I did say brilliant, because that’s what it was; brilliant) to make pizza crust out of it.  It was love at first bite.  I’ve never looked at another pizza crust the same way again.  I have gone so far as to make the pizza crust in the mini pans and freeze it so that we can have pizza whenever we want without having to wait for the dough to rise.  I have even, at times, used half the dough for a free form loaf of bread and the other half for pizza crust.  All at the same time.  What can I say, I live on the edge.

So in an effort to spread the love, I am about to share with you the Best. Pizza. Crust.  Ever.  (It’s really good for bread too.  :))

Italian Herb and Cheese Bread Recipe (AKA The Best. Pizza. Crust. Ever.)

1 Tbsp yeast

2 c. warm water

2 Tbsp dehydrated sugar cane juice, Sucanat, or Rapadura

1/4 c. olive oil

1 Tbsp sea salt

2 Tbsp dried basil

2 Tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 c. romano cheese, grated

5-7 c. flour of your choice

Put water and yeast in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve.  Add all the other ingredients except flour and combine thoroughly.  Add 2 cups of flour and mix well.  Continue adding flour a cup at a time until dough becomes shaggy and leaves the sides of the bowl.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 8 minutes until the dough is smooth and not sticky.

Clean out mixing bowl and oil with olive oil.  Place dough in bowl and turn to grease top.  Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel.  Let dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled.  After dough has risen, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured board.

For Crust:

Cut off a portion of the dough and roll it to fit your pizza pan.  You can also make a freeform crust and bake it on a cookie sheet.  How much dough you need will depend entirely on how big your pans are and how thick you like your crust.  Heat your oven to 450 F.  If you are using a pizza stone, put it in the oven before heating and let preheat for at least 20 minutes.  While your oven heats, get out your pizza ingredients (or not if you are going to be freezing them :)).

When your oven is heated up, re-roll or re-press the dough to fit the pans.  It tends to shrink a little.  Use a fork to prick holes all over so that the dough doesn’t puff up.  Place in oven.  The crusts need to bake for about 15 minutes.  I like to take them out after 7ish minutes and remove them from the pans and put them back in directly on the pizza stone.  That makes the bottom crust crisper.  After 15 minutes remove them from the oven and top with your favorite fixins.  Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has browned to your liking.  Sit back, relax, and receive the praises from your family for making them The. Best. Pizza. Ever!

Uuuuummmm, can you smell it?

And if you want to actually make bread with it, here’s what you do:

After the first rise, divide dough in half and form into two loaves.  This works equally will with loaf pans, round free form loaves, or french style loaves.  I have made four thinner baguette style loaves for brushetta or toasted rounds.  Let the loaves rise 1/2 hour or until doubled again.  Brush with egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tbsp water beaten together) and sprinkle with a little romano cheese.  This isn’t necessary, but it gives the loaves a pretty color.  Slash the loaves.  If using loaf pans, bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.  If free form or french style loaves, bake at 450 F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.  For an artisan crispy crust, throw a cup of hot water into a heated pan in the bottom of the oven when you put the bread in.  This bread is good anyway you want to eat it:  still warm from the oven, toasted, cold.  I’ve even made croutons out of it for salads.

So go whip up a batch and let me know your favorite way to eat it!

I shared this at Fight Back Fridays and

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English muffins, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Ahhh, English muffins.  There is nothing I love more to pair with my morning cup of tea than a freshly baked sourdough English muffin.  Sometimes I eat them with just buttery goodness oozing into all the little holes in their golden toasted interiors.  Occasionally I will throw caution to the wind and slather a spoonful of blackberry jelly across their nooks and crannies.  And when I’m in a particularly wild mood, I will add a fried egg, a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and some bacon or a sausage patty.  I know, right?  Just call me wild and crazy!  But no matter how I choose to “dress” them, I enjoy them thoroughly.

As you can imagine, I worked diligently to come up with my own recipe for these little beauties as soon as my starter could be called “started”.  I am happy to report I was successful in my endeavor.  Not only are they a staple at my house, but I have a friend who lamented that I have “spoiled her for store-bought ones.”  They are probably my most popular baked good among my friends and family and I get many requests for them.

In the interests of others of you helping to supply the general populace with amazing English muffins (that will spoil them all for store-bought ones), I am sharing my recipe with you here.

These work best with starter that has been fed within the past eight to twelve hours, although they will be fine if it hasn’t been, they just won’t rise as high.  There is a “secret” ingredient in these that helps to give them a stronger sourdough “tang” without having to wait all day.  It is citric acid, sometimes called sour salt, and it is available to most health food and natural food stores.  I usually have some in my pantry because I use it in cheese making as well as my homemade dish washer powder which you can find here.  If you don’t have any citric acid that’s perfectly ok, the muffins will still be wonderful. 

So let’s go to the kitchen and get started!

Sourdough English Muffins

4 Tbsp honey

2 cups warm water

1 Tbsp yeast

2 cups sourdough starter

7 to 10 cups unbleached all purpose flour

¾ cup non-fat dry milk

½ cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature

1 ½ Tbsp Kosher salt

¾ tsp citric acid (optional)

cornmeal or semolina to sprinkle on pans and on top of muffins

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water. Stir in and dissolve the yeast, and then mix in the sourdough starter and 1 cup of flour. Let this sit for a few minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble.

Mixture is bubbling

Add the dry milk, butter, salt, citric acid (if using) and a second cup of flour, and beat well.

Add the rest of the ingredients

Add 5 to 8 cups of flour, one cup at a time, to form a dough that holds together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Holds together well

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it’s smooth and springy, but slightly on the slack side, about 8 minutes.  This dough is supposed to be slightly sticky.  Add flour only as necessary to prevent sticking.

Dough after kneading

Clean out and grease your bowl and place the dough in the greased bowl, turning it so that a thin film of oil coats all sides.

Dough in the oiled bowl before rising

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel, let it stand until it has doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Dough after rising

Punch down dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, cover it and let it sit for a few minutes. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out separately to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut the dough into rounds; re-roll and cut any remaining scraps. I use a large cutter for my English muffins that makes them larger than the ones you would get at the store.  My cutter makes 24.  The number you get will be dependent on how big your cutter is. 

Rounds on cornmeal covered baking sheet

Place the rounds onto cornmeal- or semolina-sprinkled baking sheets, sprinkle them with additional cornmeal or semolina, cover with a damp towel, and let them rise until light and puffy, about 1 hour.

Rounds after rising

Transfer the rounds to an electric griddle preheated to 275°F. If you don’t have an electric griddle, you can use a non-electric one on your stove top, or you can use a big skillet on the stove top. 

Rounds on griddle

Cook for 10 to 12 minutes on each side, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of a muffin registers 190°F. Remove them from the griddle and cool on a rack.

Finished muffins cooling on a rack

You may have to play with your griddle to find the right temperature for the muffins.  I have more than one griddle and I have to set them on different temperatures.  They need to be nicely browned and crispy on the bottoms before you flip them.  If they cook faster than 10 minutes, you need to lower the temperature to make sure that they cook all the way through. 

And just in case you didn’t know, English muffins are not just for breakfast anymore.  These are also really good for sandwiches at lunchtime or a late night snack.  They are basically just pretty good at any time!

So what are you waiting for?  They don’t make themselves, ya know.

Why don’t you share your favorite thing to put on an English muffin?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Yummy!

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a little bit of heaven

Well, OK, not really fat.  But Big.  And Greek.  And Baklava.

This stuff is amazing.  Really.  It’s quite time intensive if you don’t have a food processor.  Which I don’t.  But worth it.  And I just happened to be home all alone so I decided to go play in the kitchen.  I love being home all alone.  I can crank up my music as loud as I want and don’t have to see anyone stomp into the kitchen, roll their eyes at me and say, “Mo-ther!  Turn your music down!  You’re not the only one who lives here ya know!”  Not that that has anything to do with Greece.  Or Baklava.  It just makes me giggle.

But back to the Baklava.  I looked at many different recipes and combined several to make this.  It uses several different spices, but no worries if you don’t have them all.  Some of the recipes I looked at only called for cinnamon.  So just use what you have on hand.

Baklava Recipe

1 pound of nuts (I used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans because that’s what I happened to have in my kitchen.  You can use any kind as long as they are raw and unsalted.)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp ground cardoman

1/2 tsp allspice

1 16oz package phyllo dough

1 cup melted butter

Syrup

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon juice

peel from 1 orange, washed, cut in strips, and pith removed

2 cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.  Chop the nuts very fine.  You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

Chopped nuts are so fine! Or is that finely chopped nuts?

After the nuts are fine, mix the ground spices into them.

Don't the spices look pretty?

Ok, now comes the tricky bit.  Unroll the phyllo and place it on a cookie sheet (or your counter top if it’s clean enough).  Mine measured 9×14 so I had to cut an inch off of one end so it would fit my baking dish.  Now, cover the phyllo with plastic wrap and then with a damp cloth.  Some people say to just cover it with the damp cloth, but mine made the phyllo kinda soggy and it stuck together.  So now I cover it with the plastic wrap first.  Place 4 to 6 sheets of phyllo in the bottom of your baking dish.  Brush generously with butter.

Phyllo brushed with butter

 Sprinkle 5 to 6 tablespoons of the nut mixture evenly over the phyllo.  You can put more than that if you want, just keep in mind that too much at a time will make the Baklava not stick together as well.

 

First layer of nuts

Now, add 2 more sheets of phyllo dough and brush with butter.

Second layer of phyllo

Continue to layer the nuts and phyllo sheets, brushing the sheets with butter as you go, until you have used all of the nut mixture.  For the top layer of phyllo, use 6 to 8 sheets, buttering each one.

Last layer of phyllo

Now, using a very sharp knife, cut the Baklava all the way through, into 4 long rows.  Then cut diagonally to make diamond shapes.

Cut and ready for the oven!

Confession time.  I didn’t cut mine in small enough pieces before I baked it.  So, after it cooled, I cut the pieces smaller.

Bake the Baklava for 40 to 50 minutes until golden brown.

Golden loveliness!

While the oven is doing its thing, it’s time to make the syrup to pour over the golden loveliness.

To make the syrup, combine the brown sugar and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Brown sugar and water

After that comes to a boil, add the honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and orange peel.  Again, if you don’t have add of these things, it’s ok.  Just use what you have.

All the good stuff added to the pan

Let that come back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Simmer, simmer...

After the simmering, the syrup will be reduced and nicely thick.  Remove and discard the cloves and cinnamon sticks.  The orange peel is now “candied” orange peel and can be used in other recipes.  Or, you can discard that as well if you want.  Add the lemon juice and the vanilla and mix well.  Remove the syrup from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  After removing the Baklava from the oven, immediately spoon the syrup over the top.

Ta da!

Let the Baklava cool completely before serving.  I like to put it in cupcake papers to serve it.  That makes it easier to handle and looks pretty.

Isn't it pretty?

Here’s a close up.

See all the layers?

This is wonderful served as a dessert, or for a mid afternoon snack.  Or you can take it to a party and really impress your friends!  For best results, store your Baklava uncovered.  That way it stays crispy.

Enjoy!

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This is a great recipe to use up the cup of discarded starter from when you feed your sourdough.  It’s a very easy recipe that does not call for boiling soda water.  I like that very much because last time I made pretzels I found out that the bubbles that form on top of the boiling soda water can burn your hands when you are dropping the pretzels into the boiling soda water.  Which made me very sad and made dropping the rest of the pretzels into the boiling soda water extremely very not fun!  So, if you are a diehard pretzel fan and insist on dropping them into boiling soda water (or lye water), you may not like this recipe.  But some of you might enjoy it even more.  Like I do.  And I suppose that if you really really want to, you can go ahead and drop them into boiling soda water.  I really don’t mind.

Sourdough Pretzel Recipe

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp yeast

1 Tbsp melted butter

1 Tbsp honey

1/4 cup nonfat dry milk

3/4 cup lukewarm water

1 cup unfed sourdough starter (can come straight out of the fridge)

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For Topping Pretzels

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp hot water

pretzel salt, sea salt, or kosher salt

2 Tbsp melted butter

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Mix all ingredients and knead until you get a dough that is fairly smooth, but slightly sticky.  Cover the dough and let it rise for about 45 minutes.  It is not going to rise very much so don’t get worried when it doesn’t.

Punch the dough down to deflate it and turn it out onto a lightly greased (not floured) work surface.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces.  Roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long and fold and twist into the classic pretzel shape.  Or any other shape that happens to catch your fancy.  Place the pretzels on a buttered or parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Dissolve the sugar into the hot water and brush over the tops of the pretzels.  Sprinkle with salt.  Here’s the best part:  the pretzels don’t have to rise and they don’t take a dip in the boiling soda water!  Yay!

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until they are lightly browned.  Remove the pretzels from the oven and brush with the melted butter.  The butter will keep them from getting hard.

So tell me, what is your favorite pretzel shape?

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I have been having so much fun experimenting with new sourdough recipes, that I forgot to post the one for the biscuits that I promised!  These biscuits are a great way to use starter that you might be discarding when it is sourdough feeding time.  Of course, you don’t have to be throwing out starter to make these, you could just make them because you want to!  I have made different variations of these: cinnamon raisin and cheddar garlic, and they are really good.  Course, the plain ones are really good, too.  But I just can’t seem to not experiment with recipes!  I’ll probably have to experiment with chocolate chips next.  Because you know as well as I do that anything good is going to be better with chocolate!

Here’s the recipe.

Sourdough Biscuits

Sourdough Biscuits 

 2 cups flour

1 cup sourdough starter

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup cold butter, cut into chunks

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

additional butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs.  Add sourdough starter and buttermilk to the flour mixture; stir with a fork until the dough forms a ball.  You may need to adjust the flour or milk depending on how thin your starter is.

Turn dough onto a well floured surface; knead 5-10 times.  Roll or pat out to 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut with a floured biscuit cutter.  Place 2 inches apart on a buttered baking sheet.  Brush with melted butter.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm with more butter and the jam or jelly of your choice!

Yield is 1 dozen with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter.

I did an experiment on how these would do if I froze them and then baked them.  Here are the results:

   I used the cinnamon raisin biscuits for this experiment.  The ones on the far right of the pan I let thaw for 30 minutes, the ones in the middle thawed for 10 minutes, and the ones on the left I put straight into the oven.  There did not seem to be much of a difference in the way they turned out.  So, if you are going to be freezing them, you can just cook them straight out of the freezer.  I have to say though, that after freezing they did not rise as high as the ones that I didn’t freeze.

The moral of the story is: fresh is better if you have the time!  And, really, it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to mix, pat, and cut out the biscuits.  If you pre-heat the oven at the same time, you can have fresh, yummy biscuits in 25 minutes start to finish.  I usually scramble the eggs and fix the bacon while the biscuits are cooking.  Or sometimes we just have biscuits and jelly for supper, in which case I make a double batch.  My kids love having breakfast for supper and so do I.  I wonder what that says about us…?

I saw a recipe for ham and cheese biscuits the other day, so I will probably try those out soon.  What kinds of additions do you like in your biscuits?

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I did it!

Oh.  My.  Gosh.  These are amazing!  That is what my daughter said when she tested the last batch of sourdough cinnamon rolls.  And I must say, I have to agree with her.  I told you that I had a little more tweaking to do on the recipe before I shared.  The tweaking has come to an end, and I am pleased to share the “fixed” recipe with you.  It actually doesn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to the one I started with, but that’s ok.  Drum roll please!  I now give you the recipe for OMG Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls.

OMG Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup sourdough starter

1 cup milk

1 stick of butter

3 eggs

1 tsp yeast

5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup instant potato flakes

melted butter for brushing on rolls after baking (optional)

Heat milk and butter just until butter is melted.  Sprinkle yeast over milk mixture and stir to dissolve.

Put flour, sugar, salt, and potato flakes in large mixing bowl and stir to mix.  Add starter, eggs, and milk mixture and mix until combined.  Dough should be fairly stiff.  If too dry add milk 1 Tbsp at a time; if too wet, add flour 1 Tbsp at a time.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for 5 to 8 minutes without adding too much extra flour.  Dough should be slightly sticky.  Form dough into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap.  Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the dough is resting, butter 2 9 x 13 baking pans, and prepare filling.

Filling 

4 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup cinnamon

In small mixing bowl melt butter.  Add sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  Mix well.  I have found that when you mix it into a paste like this, it stays put better when you are rolling the dough up.

After dough has rested, cut into 2 equal pieces.  Roll out 1/2 the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 15 x 24 ish rectangle.  Spread with half of the filling mixture, making sure to spread to the edges on the shorter sides and one of the long edges.  That is so the end pieces have plenty of filling in them. 🙂  Roll up the dough starting on the long side that has the filling all the way to the edge.  Cut into 12 equal pieces and place in the buttered pan.  Flatten slightly.  Rolls should not be touching.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Do the same with the second piece of dough.  Let the rolls rise for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled.  When the rolls have doubled in size, bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Brush the rolls with melted butter.  This keeps the rolls from getting hard.  Place pans on cooling rack and let cool slightly before spreading with icing.

While rolls are cooling, prepare icing.

Icing

6 oz cream cheese

3 cup powdered sugar

2 Tbsp milk

2 tsp vanilla

dash of salt

cinnamon to sprinkle over top

Soften cream cheese in the microwave.  (You can skip that step if you happen to remember to take the cream cheese out of the fridge early enough so that it is soft enough to work with).  With a whisk, stir until smooth.  Add milk, vanilla, and salt and mix well.  Add powdered sugar and whisk until smooth.  Spread icing over the cooled rolls.  If the rolls are too hot, the icing will just melt and run off.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.

This recipe makes 2 dozen rolls that are light and fluffy, with just the right amount of cinnamon filling yummyness and icing that is not too sweet.  You can even make the rolls ahead and refrigerate overnight before baking if you want to.  Just let them come to room temperature and make sure they have doubled in size before putting them in the oven.  These are really easy to make and I have the feeling that I will be making them often.  Enjoy!

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After a week or so of amazing mid-70’s springish weather, yesterday was cold and thunderstormy and today we’ve had snow flurries.  You can’t get bored with the weather in Oklahoma!  So, I thought today would be a good day to perfect my sourdough cinnamon rolls.  Especially since tomorrow is going to be almost 80 and I won’t want to be in the kitchen then!  And I kinda promised some to a friend for Saturday morning.  So today’s the day.

I found a wonderful recipe for bread machine cinnamon rolls and then adapted it to use my sourdough starter and to make by hand.  Since I don’t have a bread machine.  I probably wouldn’t use one even if I did.  It’s not that I’m a bread machine snob or anything.  Really.  It’s that bread making is kinda therapeutic for me.   Some days I just need to knead.

Well, I was going to post this yesterday.  Oops!  But, since I didn’t, I’ll just update you on the cinnamon rolls.  They turned out pretty good.  Not, Oh my gosh those are amazing, but pretty good.  My friend seemed pretty happy about homemade cinnamon rolls that she didn’t have to make.   I’ll tweek it a little more this week and see what happens.  If they turn out better than pretty good I’ll share the recipe with you.

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