Monday, October 18, 2010

Making pies for 20 isn't like making them for 4

As you all know I have been working hard to make some great pizza at home. But when it comes to making it for the family, 3 or 4 pies, versus making it for a crowd it is a totally different game. For our daughters first birthday, we served pizza, what else?

First you have to have everything ready... all the toppings prepared, all the cheese shredded, the oil and salt and flour right in hands reach. This is how restaurants are able to crank out so much food. Its much faster (and easier) if i dont have to look for anything. As you can see, I have my toppings all together, my sauces all together and my cheeses all together. That made it easy to stretch out the dough, top the pies and pop them in the oven.

Second, you have to have way more pies going at a time. This makes it a bit trickier as you have to move them around the oven and every time you open the door the oven cools off.

I recently picked up these dough boxes. They allow me to make my dough and pop them in the refrigerator for a few days and not loose an entire shelf because I can put stuff on top. Then its easy to take them out to proof a couple hours before using them. Its much easier then my old system of each dough in a separate container.

After experimenting with different broiler / pan methods, I used a hybrid one here. Just for the record, my oven sucks. The broiler cycle was too short to use and every time I tried the oven cooled down too much. Some of the pies came out good, others a bit too well done on top (with the broiler cranking) but not enough on the bottom (because the oven had cooled).

Here was the run down:
Spinach and mushroom

Even the decorations were enjoying the pizza. (It was an Itsy Bitsy Spider Theme)

Giardinera and garlic

Caramelized onion and blue cheese

Truffle with arugula

Grilled eggplant and sliced tomato

Potato rosemary

Oven roasted tomatoes

And another Margherita

I think all in all they were good but not great. I really do need to do more pizza parties....anyone interested in being my Guinea Pigs??

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mushroom and Squash Empanadas

The other night I was looking for something to make with squash and/or mushrooms and came across this recipe. Other than the time to let the dough rest this was a easy and fairly quick recipe. I omitted the hot peppers, and added some cumin and chili powder to add extra flavor. The kids loved it. We didn't finish them all, so I par cooked the extra, let them cook then frozen them. Now when I want one I can pot it in the oven and when its hot it will be done without drying out.

Mushroom and Squash Empanada
1 cup diced (1/4-inch) butternut squash
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
6 small garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper
1/3 cup broth or water

egg wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 Tsp water

Dough (I used this dough recipe)

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

In a separate bowl mix the egg, water, and vinegar.

Add this to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated.

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently once or twice to bring the dough together, but do not over mix, it will firm up. Form a ball and flatten into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

To make the filling, bowl the squash in salted water for a few minutes until firm and slightly cooked but still holding there shape. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in a large skillet, saute the onion and garlic in oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat until softened.

Add the mushrooms, stock and cumin and chili. Cook over medium about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are cooked though. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the squash and let cool completely before filling the empanadas.

To make the empanadas, cut the dough into 8 pieces, roll out the dough to form a circle about 6 inches in diameter. Spoon some of the filling in the middle and brush around half the edge with egg wash. Fold over to form a half moon and crimp the edge with a fork. I have a little press that pinches the edges for me.

Brush with more egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake in 350 oven for about 25 to 30 minutes until golden.

I served these with some salsa verde, corn with tomatoes and refried black beans.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Squash Pie

OK, so its a pizza pie...Its been a couple days so time for a few more pizzas. I wanted to experiment with some new toppings, I'm generally not one for crazy stuff on my pizza (don't ever give me pineapple), but sometimes with a subtle hand new flavors can do well... remember that pizza is just bread with stuff on it.

We picked up a butternut squash at the market this weekend and had some leftover blue cheese, what a great combo.

Slice a couple of pieces of the squash and roast in the oven with a drizzle of oil, salt and pepper and a touch of thyme. Cook in a 400 deg oven about 45 minutes, unit cooked and nicely browned.

Mash the squash up with a touch of oil, I used garlic oil, and season with salt and pepper and more thyme to taste.

Spread this on the dough and top with a sprinkle of blue cheese and Parmigiana.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've been experimenting with the broiler method to varying success. I wanted to find out why the broiler was acting the way it was, that is turning off after only a short time. In my case not long enough to finish the top of my pies.

I did a few experiments, but the oven was cold. With the oven hot (550 deg for an hour) the broil cycles on and off, which led me to call GE, turns out they want it that way. Bummer for me... I guess I have to finish my grill-turned-pizza-oven project.

As you can see the top is nice, but the bottom need a touch more time, with the crazy broiler I need to maybe cook it more first then finish it under the broiler, which goes against everything I know.

The second pie was a slice tomato and basil. The basil was chopped and had been used as a dip for a thin pesto with chunky basil

As you can see from the crust, I am getting the cornicone to form great bubbles, with a great structure, I just need to get the bottom a touch more done. I guess its more practice. Good thing I will be making pizza for 20 this weekend.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Caramelized Onion Apple Mac-n-Cheese

Remember all those apples I picked up over the weekend? What better way to use them then to add to this rich pasta. I used my basic mac-n-cheese recipe with the addition of the onions and apple.

Slice the apples thin, I used a mandoline.

Caramelize the onions and add the apples for the last few minutes to slightly cook and combine the flavors. Make the cheese sauce then add the pasta and onions and apple before adding to the pan.

Top with some extra cheese, and enjoy.

Marinated Eggplant

Since Jim Lahey is a bread making genius, i figured he might know a thing or two about other cooking. This recipe looked good and I was looking for something to do with some eggplant.

This is adapted from his book My Bread.

Marinated Eggplant
1 eggplant sliced
2 - 3 cloves garlic
red pepper flakes
red wine vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 500 deg.
Drizzle eggplant with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until slightly browned and cooked but not mushy.

In a dish place one layer of eggplant, top with garlic and cilantro, season with salt and pepper and splash with vinegar.

Repeat this layering until the container is full, then cover with oil. Refrigerate over night.

It makes a great sandwich filling, here I made one with the eggplant, fresh mozzarella and basil on the Ciabatta from the same book.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cooking with Auden: Birthday Cupcakes

We were looking for a yummy and easy recipe to make cupcakes for Liev's birthday. As always, Joy of Baking came through. We halved this and added some chocolate chips to make them extra chocolaty. Rather than a chocolate frosting, we made a vanilla butter cream that we tinted pink.

Chocolate Cupcakes
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling hot water
2/3 cups (87 grams) all purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375.
In a small bowl, dissolve the cocao in the water. And let cool to room temperature.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

In another bowl, measure the sugar and add the soft butter.

Cream these until smooth and fluffy.

Add the egg, then vanilla. Mix until blended.

Add the flour mixture, blending until fully combined.

Then add the cooled cocoa. Then the chips.

Scoop into lined or buttered muffin tins.

Bake for about 20 minutes.

1/4 cup soft butter
1 cup confectionery sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs milk
food coloring

Cream the butter until smooth, then add the vanilla.

Add the sugar and mix on low until combined, then add the milk. Mix until smooth and fluffy. Add food color to the desired color.

Ice the cooled cupcakes. Store in the refrigerator to set the frosting, but remove about 15 - 20 before serving to soften.

And, yes it was a huge hit!