Friday, August 15, 2008

Pizza on the Grill

One of the things I like most about the summer is grilling! We actually grill all year round even if it means digging through the snow and ice. But in the summer it is easier not to mention that it keeps the house from heating up! This season we were both craving pizza, the home made kind. While dreading to put the oven on I thought, why not just put the baking stone right on the grill! What's the worst that could happen? The stone could break or the pizza could be inedible, right? So, I took the plunge and guess what.....SUCCESS!
Below is my easy pizza dough recipe. As far as the sauce goes well, you have a good one I'm sure. Toppings, the sky's the limit on that subject. I heated the grill with the top down for about 10 minutes so as to heat the stone thoroughly. After the pie was assembled I placed it on the hot stone and closed the grill top allowing it to cook. The cooking time depends on how thick you make your crust and the amount of toppings. Mine took about 12 minutes and it was wonderful.
Pizza Dough
1 pkg dry Yeast
1 cup warm (110 degrees) Water
2 1/2 cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Olive Oil
1/2 tsp Sugar
In a large bowl, combine yeast with water, olive oil and sugar to proof (about 5 minutes). Add half the flour and all the salt; mix well. Add remaining flour (a little more if needed). The dough should not be sticky. Knead with the dough hook in a mixer bowl 5-7 minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until double in size, about 1 hour. Divide the dough in half for a small pizza or keep whole for a larger pie. Place on lightly oiled sheet pan, cover. Let rest for 15 minutes. It's now ready to shape and top as desired.
Let me know how you make out. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

I'm back!! I've been on a bit of a hiatus due to a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Mostly I will blame the hectic schedule of summer traveling. Anyway enough excuses.
The lack luster result from some of my past challenges has lead me to a great group called "The Daring Bakers". This months challenge is very much a challenge for me. Which is exactly the type of excitment I have been looking for. As it turned out we were going to be with family this past weekend and they just love when I test out new sweets.
The Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream from Great Cakes by Carol Walter is one of the most involved cakes I have ever attempted. And was such fun too and oh yes, extremely yummy!!! The gateau ( "cake" in french) is made using ground, toasted hazelnuts. I used pecans since hazelnuts are a bit pricey in my neck of the woods right now. The recipe calls for a small amount of cake flour and a good amount of eggs. So the nut flavor is front and center.
The praline paste needed for the buttercream (again I used pecans) was very easy to make as was the orange scented sugar syrup. The butter cream however, gave me a bit of a problem. This portion of the process I had to do at another location since we were traveling. So, after packing up half the kitchen and dealing with hot and humid conditions I wasn't too happy with the results. Ah, but I continued on with the assembly and chocolate ganache glaze. The results, although I know was not nearly as perfect as I would have liked was still delicious. The family uttered not a word of complaint. Great challenge and lots of fun!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mixed Berry Cobbler

This week's assignment from the TWD group is a Mixed Berry Cobbler found on page 416 of "baking from My Home to Yours" by none other than Dorie Greenspan. This is an easy, quick, fruity dessert. And so many possible variations that this is surely a keeper.
The instructions call for a slightly sweetened biscuit dough as a topping. The butter is worked into a mixture of flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. The technique is the same used for a flaky pie or tart crust. I prefer to work the mixture with my fingers so that the butter is similar to oatmeal flakes; small but flat pieces. Then heavy cream is added to bring the dry ingredients together into a soft and slightly sticky mass. The heavy cream gives the biscuit a rich and wonderful texture.
Now on to the filling. In a large bowl mixed berries and any other fruit you might wish to add is mixed gently with sugar, corn starch, lemon zest, and a bit of fresh ground pepper. The dough is gently patted down and placed over the fruit in a deep dish pie plate. Baked until golden in color and yup, that's it! Simple and oh so tasty. Nor a complaint in this house. Hope you enjoy it as well.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Anyone who knows me in the physcial world knows that I like "crunch" Anything the has bite or snap calls my name. This was the reason I started a quest for the perfect biscotti. On this journey, which went on for years and included a stint at the local market, I found what I believe to be the perfect biscotti along with endless variations. For a time there I was known as the "Biscotti Lady". So when I stumbled upon "Waiter There's Something In My..." who is hosting a dried fruit and nuts theme this month I knew I just had to make some biscotti's. Since today is the first day of spring and a good friend's birthday this was going to be easy. The recipe I began with all those years ago is listed below. I have since tweaked it for texture and firmness. I hope you will tweak it as well and make your perfect biscotti.
Blueberry Almond Biscotti
1/2 cup Butter
2/3 cups Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup chopped Almonds
1/2 cup dried Blueberries
1 tsp Lemon zest
Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl: set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat the eggs, vanilla, and zest. Add the dry ingredients, almonds, and blueberries mixing until just incorporated. Divide dough in half. Form two logs about 10-12 inches long; flatten slightly. Wrap in plastic and chill several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the logs 30 minutes or until slightly golden on a parchment lined sheet pan. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes. On a cutting board with a serrated knife slice diagonally on a 45 degree angle 1/2 inch thick. Place slices upright on sheet pan and bake again for 15 minutes (thus "biscotti"- twice baked). Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Peppermint Cream Puff Ring

This week's mission from TWD, should we choose to accept it, is a Peppermint Cream Puff Ring. Found on page 290 of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking from My Home to Yours". Hmmmm let's see; light, airy, minty, refreshing......I think I'll accept!
Cream puffs, eclairs, Croquembouche, Profiteroles, and Gougeres, are just a few of the pastries that begin with Pate a Choux. Pate a Choux is a dough, or batter that is first made on the stove top then spooned or piped and baked in the oven. As it bakes it puffs into a golden, light pastry that is airy and moist on the inside and nearly hollow. When cooled, the space inside can be filled with any number of fillings, such as whipped cream, pastry cream, ice cream, or even savory salads and cheese.
To make this wonderful dough first; water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar is heated and stirred until it comes to a rolling boil. A single addition of flour is added, and mixed until the lumpy, pasty mass turns into a smooth dough. Off the heat in a mixer bowl eggs are added one at a time. The eggs provide moisture and together with the butter in the oven will convert to steam and cause the pastry to rise (approximately three times its original size). In this recipe Dorie instructs us to pipe the dough into an 8" ring and bake. I have chosen to do two 4" rings just in case I decide to share. This means we eat only half the calories, right? (Yay for sharing!!)
After the rings are cooled completely the filling for this project is going to be a minty cream with the addition of sour cream or creme fraiche. I admit the addition of sour cream sounds a bit foreign to me, but I am always willing to try something new. First things first, back to the cream. Heavy cream and mint leaves are brought to a boil and allowed to steep about 3 hours then chilled. The cold cream is strained and is now ready for sweetening and whipping. Sweetened sour cream is gently folded into the whipped cream. Time to taste (oh, how I love to sample!), the mint flavor can be made stronger with the addition of extract.
The rings are sliced horizontally using a serrated knife and the space is filled with piped rosettes of the mint cream. Now if that is not enough... a chocolate glaze is spooned over the top and a sprinkle of toasted, sliced almonds for a little touch of class. Phew!
Mission results: While the mint cream was very refreshing the addition of sour cream was not as appealing. My tasters preferred the simply sweetened whipped cream on the second ring and happily polished it off! No sharing this time but, all's well that ends well.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Red Jewels

Well, its' Tuesday again and the assignment this week from the "Tuesdays with Dorie" (forever to be known as "TWD") group was a beautiful, jewel like and refreshing summer tart. The La Palette's Strawberry Tart is on page 374 in "Baking From My Home To Yours" by Dorie Greenspan.
The sweet dough or pate sable in this case, was buttery, tender, and sandy just as it should be. Since this dough tends to crumble easily I chose to make single serving tartlets (3 3/4 inches) instead of the 9 inch tart. However, I can easily imagine this dessert even smaller, perhaps a single bite size (2 1/4 inch) as well. What a nice presentation that would make on any dessert platter. I made the dough two days earlier since I never know how the work week will go and stored it in the refrigerator. This also gave the dough plenty of time to rest and firm up since the weather in this neck of the woods was sweltering all week.
The dough is pressed into the tartlet pans and docked, to help prevent shrinkage and puffing. I then pre-baked half the batch until they were golden. The other half I just had to play around with! I took a tablespoon of Creme d'amandes (almond cream) and spread it over the pate sable (heavenly all on it's own). Then I baked it in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
The shells without the almond cream are spread with a layer of a good quality strawberry jam. Now the shells are ready for assembly. I tossed cut up strawberries with cherry brandy and spooned them over the shells. A little sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and viola! I'm sure some sweetened whipped cream or fresh churned icecream would be a perfect side.
Simply sublime!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Brioche finally!!!!

Two weeks ago my very first baking challenge/project with the "Tuesday with Dorie" group was frustrating to say the least. The pastry portion of the Sticky Buns was brioche. As I mentioned in that post, yeast usually intimidates me but I was determined. After my second attempt was less than perfect I was certain I would try brioche again very soon. I could think of nothing else, I was sure it was something I did wrong. I referred to my favorite bread book, Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno and set out to do it again.
Brioche should have a very tight crumb with no large holes, the color should be even throughout. The smell and taste should be slightly sweet and neither yeasty nor sour. The crust should be soft but not wet or soggy.
2 1/2 tsp dry Yeast
2 tbs Water
2 3/4 (375g) unbleached Flour
2 tbs Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Salt
5 medium Eggs, beaten
1 tbs butter, melted ( to brush bowl)
3/4 cup Butter, softened
Egg Glaze
1.- Sprinkle the yeast into the water (95 -105 degrees) in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to disolve. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
2.- Make a well in the center and add the dissolved yeast and beaten eggs. Mix in the flour to form a soft, moist but manageable dough.
3.- Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Or place in the mixer with a dough hook attachment. Knead until elastic, about 10 minutes.
4.- Grease a bowl with the melted butter. Place the dough in the bowl; turn to coat evenly. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap; let rise until double in size (1-1 1/2 hrs). Punch down and let rest for 10 minutes.
5.- Place dough back in the mixer bowl and add the butter using the dough hook attachment. Kneading until the butter is distributed throughout (about 5 minutes). Let rest for 5 minutes.
6.- Butter a loaf pan (9"x5"x3"). Divide the dough into 8 pieces. Use cupped hands to roll each piece into a ball. Pul the 8 rolls of dough into the loaf pan (four to a row, two across). Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let proof until the dough fills the pan, about 45 minutes.
7.- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush with the egg glaze. Bake for 35 minutes, until shiny, golden, and hollow sounding when tapped. Turn out of the pan to cool. This dear reader, is brioche and it is wonderful! Now that I was feeling successful I went back to Dorie's book and decided to try the Bostock on page 50. I took a slice of brioche spread 3 tbs of almond cream on the top. Then I sprinkled sliced almonds over the cream. It then baked in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. This was heaven! Now I suppose I really should share this with my official tasters. Maybe after one more piece (so much for dieting!).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

French Chocolate Brownies

Ah, another baking challenge from the "Tuesdays with Dorie" group chosen by Madame Chow's Kitchen. This time it is French Chocolate Brownies on page 92-93. I have decided not to include the project recipes so that I do not deter from the sale of the book by Dorie Greenspan.
Her intension with these brownies was to maintain a soft moist texture, and powerful chocolate flavor of a French fondant cake. As is goes I'm not a chocoholic and definitely not a brownie person. But that just makes it easier for me not to succumb to those voices that usually lure me to dessert. Luckily my official tasters do not share my tastes.
The brownie batter is quick and easy to make so I figured I had the time to do a little twist on Dorie's twist. The little treasures in this batter are rum soaked raisins. Now what would a project be if I didn't tweek it just a little. So I added walnuts for "J" and soaked the raisins in Vanilla Schnapps (yes, very conservative tweeks but, I just love the fragrance of vanilla).
There is no chemical leavening added to this recipe either so beating the eggs as instructed, until they are light and fluffy is essential. It is the reason these brownies are so light and cake-like. It is also the reason the top cracks into a million pieces and is difficult to cut into neat squares. Although I would probably never serve these to guests I gave them a taste (afterall someone had to be first). My conclusion: the raisins and light texture are what makes these brownies a bit above average. My official tasters were very pleased to have something out of the ordinary to test. So, thank you Dorie.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie

One of the reasons I set up this blog was to share my baking adventures; good and bad. Another reason was so that I could participate in the weekly challenges set forth by the members of the "Tuesday's with Dorie" blog. All recipes from this blog come from "Baking From My Home To Yours" by Dorie Greenspan. This week's challenge is "Pecan Honey Sticky Buns" and has a May 27th deadline.
Although I was excited to begin my first ever challenge I was equally hesitant due to the use of yeast. I tend to avoid the "Y" ingredient but, that is the purpose of challenges, isn't it?
Pecan Honey Sticky Buns: (Adapted version)
For the Buns: 1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves
For the Glaze:
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick (8oz) unsalted, butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbs light brown sugar
3 tbs unsalted butter, at room temp
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tbs Vanilla Schnapps
Deep can do it!
Golden Brioche Dough:
2 packets of active dry yeast
1/3 c water (warmed to 105 degrees)
1/3 cup milk (warmed to 105 degrees)
3 3/4 cups ap flour
2 tsp salt
3 eggs, @ room temp
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12oz) butter @ room temp but slightly firm
To make the dough: Put the yeast, water, and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour, salt, and sugar and fit the mixer with the dough hook. Stand back or cover the bowl with a towl to keep the flour from showering you and the kitchen. Turn the mixer on slow just to dampen the flour, increase mixer speed to medium-low, just until the flour is moistened (you now have a shaggy mass).
Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time. Increase the mixer speed and beat for 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2 tbs-sized chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have dough that is very soft, almost batter like. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean, buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 40-60 minutes. Deflate the dough, recover it with plastic wrap and put it in the frigerator. Deflate the dough every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours. (After my first unsuccessful attempt at this dough I make a slight deviation from the original recipe at this point). While the dough is rising make the filling and glaze.
To make the filling:
Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. Put the cranberries and vanilla schnapps in a small bowl. Put in the microwave for 15 seconds just to warm; set aside to plump for about 15 minutes. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft and spreadable.
To make the glaze:
Generously butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
In a heavy- bottomed sauce pan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heat proof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.
After two hours the dough should be firm. If not leave it in the refrigerator for another 1-2 hours or overnight as Dorie says. On a flour-dusted work surface (or parchment paper), roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Sprinkle the cranberries over the dough. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can.
With a chefs knife (I use dental floss), using a gentle sawing motion, trim the ends, then cut the log into 1-inch-thick buns (you will get 15). Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap. To continue my method: proof in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning place the pan in a warm spot and allow to come to room temperature and contine its final proof about 2 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the plastic wrap and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after the come out of the oven. Use a rimmed platter or baking sheet lined or buttered. Be careful- the glaze is molten hot.
My official tasters all agree it was worth my efforts. The buns are sweet, sticky and taste heavenly. The pairing of pecans and cranberries compliment each other nicely. My conclusion: I must overcome my fears and work with yeast more often! Enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bananas, bananas and more bananas

Banana bread and banana cake was one of many quests from my earlier days of random experimentation. All recipes at that time came from my one and only cookbook. Yes, it was the bridal shower gift, the BC Cookbook of course! It wasn't until years later that I discovered there were hundreds of great Cookbooks and yes, baking books one better than the other. Although I am desperately trying to contain myself these days, it seems I have a "collection". Ah, but that is another story now back to bananas.

My earliest experience with one of natures most perfect food was a cake that always seemed to be a bit on the rubbery side. After several unsuccessful tries with many alterations I decided to move on, not looking back until now. I unexpectedly found myself with 18 perfectly ripe bananas and not a clue what to do with them. Pudding was out of the question, it just didn't use enough of the yellow things to put a dent in the supply. So, I went searching through my "collection" (did I admit to having a "collection" again?) of baking books. Much to my surprise I found an interesting recipe in "Tartine" by Elisabeth Prueitt & Chad Robertson which called for not one but 4 bananas per loaf. I simply had to try it. I am happy to report the texture is cake-like, very moist, very flavorful, and it freezes well. My usual array of tasters all love it, so it is a must try. Thank you "Tartine"!!!

Banana-Date Tea Cake

  • 1 c + 2tbs Flour
  • 2 tbs Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 3 medium Bananas, ripe
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 6 tbs Butter, at room temp
  • 3/4 c + 2tbs Sugar
  • 1 c Walnuts, coarse chopped
  • 1 3/4 c Dates, pitted, coarse chopped


  • 1 medium Banana
  • 2 tbs Sugar

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of 9x5" loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda; stir to mix and set aside. Peel bananas and in a second bowl mash with fork until you have chunky puree. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt to the bananas and mix well; set aside. In a third mixing bowl, beat the butter until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the banana mixture and beat until incorporated scraping down the sides. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the banana mixture. Then fold in the nuts and the dates. Scrape down the sides of the bowl making sure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and smooth the surface. To top the cake, peel the last banana and cut lengthwise into 4 long slices. Lay the slices on the top of the batter. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then invert pan onto rack. Turn right side up and let cool completely. Serve cake at room temperature.

Enjoy, I know we did!