Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese Pizza

Pizza Dough:

(Please make it yourself! In the long run it's a lot cheaper and it tastes SO much better. Besides, it only takes an hour, and only 6 minutes of  that involves you doing something).

1-1/2 cups very warm water (not hot, not warm...about 110 degrees) 
1 tsp. sugar
1 package dry active yeast (*not quick rise*)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. salt
4 cups of  flour

Dissolve the sugar in the hot water, and then stir in your package of yeast (it should look like the picture on the top left). Leave it alone for about 10 minutes, until the yeast starts to froth up (like the top right picture). If it doesn't froth, your yeast was bad so dump it out and start over!

Next, stir in your olive oil. In a separate, large and wide-mouthed bowl (so it's easy to knead) or your  stand mixer, add in 4 cups of flour and your salt. Stir to combine. Create a well in the center of the flour and pour in your yeast mixture--make sure you scrape out all of the yeast!

By hand:
Using your hands, carefully begin incorporating the flour around the rim of  the bowl into the yeast mixture. Once you have formed a doughy mixture, begin to knead it together. Add in up to another 1/4 cup of  flour if it gets too sticky to handle. Knead for approximately 6-10 minutes, until it forms a nice, soft, elastic dough that no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl or to your fingers.

With a stand mixer:
With the dough hook attachment on low speed, pour in your yeast mixture. When it is combined, turn up the speed to medium and let it go for about 3 minutes, until the dough has an elastic texture.

Form the dough into a ball with your hands, and rub it with a little olive oil to keep it moist. Place it in a clean bowl, cover with a cotton towel, and let it sit for an hour. It should about double in size and when you press it with your thumb, there should be an indent.

At this point you can either store it in a covered container, large zip-lock bag, or even cling wrap (just make sure its not too tight because the dough will expand again in the fridge), or you can go ahead and use it for your pizza!

Big M.A.C. Pizza (makes one 14 inch pizza):

1/2 pizza dough recipe
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh thyme 
parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tbsp. Butter
1 1/2 tbsp. Flour
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
 8 oz. cheddar cheese (used a blend of shredded Colby, Jack, and cheddar--you could also use sharp cheddar but then omit the salt)
8 oz. ribbed macaroni pasta (yes, get out your measuring scale and measure!!)

6 slices of bacon, cooked until crispy, cooled and crumbled to bits
1/2 a tomato, diced and patted dry with a paper towel

Preheat your oven to 450F. Grease a pizza pan/upside down cookie sheet and set aside (or if you own one, put your pizza stone in the oven to preheat). Pull off half of your pizza dough and shape it into a small circle. Using your rolling pin interchangeably with  your hands, stretch out the dough into a (approximately) 14 inch circle. Try to make it as even as possible. It will stretch out to about 1/8 to 1/4 inch in thickness. Place on your pizza pan (or dust a wooden pizza turner with some corn starch and place your dough on that).

Next, mix together your olive oil, garlic, basil, and salt. Using a brush, spread the mixture over the entire crust. Sprinkle on some fresh thyme sprigs, and grate a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese over the whole surface. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and starting to turn a pale golden color. Take it out of the oven, and set it aside.

Meanwhile, start working on your Mac and Cheese!! Set your water to boil for the 8 ounces of pasta. Cook until it's just al-dente--NOT MUSHY!!!--and strain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Place a medium-sized pot over medium heat. When it's hot, add in your butter. When it's entirely melted, add in your flour and whisk until  combined. Cook over medium heat for about 1-2 minutes, until it starts to turn golden and smells good. Add in your mustard powder, onion powder, pepper (and salt if you aren't using sharp cheddar). Whisk in the milk, and keep whisking over medium-high heat until the milk starts to bubble. Bring the heat back down to medium and keep on whisking until the liquid starts getting a little thicker (Hint: it will adhere to the spoon and the sides of the pan). Add in your 8 ounces of shredded cheese. Take the pan off of the heat and stir until all of the cheese is melted. Taste. If it doesn't taste cheesy enough add some more salt.

Stir  the pasta into your sauce when its all thick and creamy. Then, spread your Mac and Cheese over the  precooked pizza crust. Leave a 1 inch border free. Finally, sprinkle over your bacon bits and diced tomato. Finish it with a final grating of Parmesan cheese over the top. Set it back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until bubbly and brown...but not too brown because you don't want your pasta to get crunchy!

VOILA!!!! Oh, and I paired mine with a salad....just to make us feel better about the carbs :P

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mission: Wedding Cake

They all said it was impossible...They all said it was insane....They all said I was suicidal...

But I don't CARE!

I made my own wedding cake! It was a two-tiered two-flavored masterpiece. The bottom was chocolate mint and the top was almond-raspberry, and both were draped in beautiful, Swiss buttercream frosting (none o' that fondant jank). My trial run went smoothly, but took me 4 pounds of butter, 24 eggs, and 7 hours of my day. It was exhausting, but worth it.

So I bet you want to know the non-wedding-cake-sized version. It's a DREAM. I've spent 6 months perfecting my recipe and it is very precious indeed. I hate recipes...but in this case I made an exception and ACTUALLY wrote it all down!

Here are the two separate cake recipes, followed by my frosting recipe.

Chocolate Mint Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Chocolate Butter Cake):
Makes one 3 layered 9 inch cake

3 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups of  cooled coffee, minus 2 teaspoons
2 tsp. peppermint extract
1 package of Andes Mints, crushed into small pieces

-1/3 recipe of Swiss Buttercream frosting with 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract and green food coloring to make a light green/minty color.

-2/3 (the rest of the recipe) of Swiss Buttercream frosting with 2 squares of Baker's dark chocolate (melted and cooled slightly).

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 9 inch, round cake pans (or 3 8 inch square pans). Line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and buttermilk and blend on low until moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Whisk the eggs, coffee, and peppermint, and add to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating only until blended after each addition. Stir in the Andes Mint pieces. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans; each pan will take about 3 1/4 cups of batter.

4. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Carefully turn them out onto wire racks and allow to cool completely. Remove the paper liners only when they are cool.

5. When cool--absolutely room temperature, it's time to put the layers together. Set your first layer of cake on your cake stand--if you've got rounded tops, you may want to even those out with a good bread knife. Spread your mint Swiss Buttercream filling onto the first layer, being sure to keep a half inch border around the cake free of frosting. This way, when you press the layers down, icing won't spill out the sides. place on your second layer of cake and press down. Make sure it's even on top. Fill this layer and add on the final layer of  cake and press down to make the top as even as possible.

6. Finally, it is time to frost the cake using your Chocolate Swiss Buttercream Frosting. Here is a video that explains the best way to frost a cake. It would be too difficult for me to describe in writing. You don't have to make your cake super smooth, like this person does, but the basic method of frosting the cake is really easy to follow.

 There were my sheetcakes for the  wedding guests. This just gives you an idea of what the filling should look like. This was a SUPER thick cake :)

Almond Raspberry Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Vanilla Butterrmilk Cake): Makes one 3 layer 9 inch cake, or a really thick 3 layer 8 inch cake!

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 package almond paste crumbled into food processor with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or 1/4 cup of Amaretto), 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, 1/4-1/3 cup of heavy cream. Add first three ingredients, blend until smooth. Drizzle in heavy cream a little at a time until the marzipan filling is light and fluffy--and most importantly--easily spreadable. Taste it. If you want it sweeter, add a couple more teaspoons of powdered sugar. If you want more flavor, add more Amaretto or almond extract.

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam

1 recipe Swiss Buttercream Frosting with 2 teaspoons of almond extract added

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.

4. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely.

6. To frost the cake, place the first layer on your cake stand, and spread your marzipan filling--keeping a 1/2 inch border free. Take a large spoon of jam and spread it over the layer of filling. Press  on the next layer of cake.Repeat the layer of filling and of  jam. Add on the top layer, making sure it is  as even as possible. Then frost the cake with the rest of the frosting. Here is a good example of how to frost a cake (you can skip the extra-smooth part at the end...rustic  looks better anyway :P).

These are my huge bowls of  frosting to cover all of the wedding cakes. 

Swiss Buttercream Frosting Recipe:
Base to which you add the ingredients listed on the cake recipe of  your choice

2 cups sugar
8 large egg whites
52 tablespoons butter, softened (6 sticks plus 4 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip. It will take a good few minutes of whipping for it  to start looking like frosting. At first it will look  curdled, once you have added in all of the butter, but never fear!!! Keep on whipping for a good 5-7 minutes and it should all come together looking the texture of whipped butter or mayonnaise.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Curry Chicken with Mint Tabbouleh and Labneh Sauce

So, married life has brought on an assortment of cooking challenges...Cooking for two, cooking when I don't feel like  it (aka cooking breakfast!), and cooking in spite of the lapse of our poor dishwasher. It also means that I have to grocery shop on a budget, and meal plan for the week.

The first meal I planned for this week was a pseudo-Lebanese dish. The rest of my dishes for this week have a Middle-Eastern flair (except the quiche, I guess). It's not really authentic, but it uses the ingredients I selected for the week, and I am overjoyed to say that I had one VERY pleased husband!

 First, I started with the couscous.

*I used Israeli couscous for this dish*--It's more like a pasta, made into tiny balls. It is significantly larger than Moroccan couscous. You can normally find it in the Jewish food section of the grocery store (or you could just use normal couscous, or even quinoa if you want!)

Just follow the directions for  cooking 1 cup of couscous. As it sits to cook, start on the chicken. 

Curry Chicken:

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
curry powder
salt and pepper
olive oil
chili powder

Preheat a large pan to medium heat. Beat your chicken with a meat mallet until about 3/4 inch thick (not too much, just to even it out a little). Sprinkle both sides of the chicken breasts with curry powder, salt and pepper (be liberal, make sure they are evenly covered!). Add a tablespoon of butter and one of olive oil to your pan, let it spread all around, and then lay in your seasoned chicken pieces skin side down. It should sizzle like mad--however it should not spit and spew--if it does, just turn down the heat a little and duck.

Now let them cook! Don't touch! Next we turn back to the couscous, which should be done by now. Take it off of the heat and let it cool for a bit while you chop your veg...

Couscous Ingredients:

1/4 cup of chopped cucumber
1/4 cup of chopped tomato
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Add these ingredients to a bowl, and stir in the cooled couscous--you should be serving it room temperature.

FLIP YOUR CHICKEN when you see the white (aka cooked part) creeping up the sides, and it looks like the bottom half it done cooking--about 5-8 minutes.

Now the last step: making your Labneh. This is a smooth, tart sauce that really balances out the spicy curry and the tangy garlic of the meal. It's amazingly cooling, and it also really good on pita bread! It is served at Lebanese restaurants. This recipe is adapted for quick use, the original recipe takes a bit 24 hours longer...

Labneh Sauce:

1 cup of plain, full fat yogurt (NOT Greek)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mayonaise

Mix these ingredients together. BOOM. That's it.

Now for your assembly. When the  chicken is done, let it cool on a plate for a few minutes, and sprinkle over a pinch of chili powder. Then shred it with a fork and knife.

To serve, place some couscous on a plate, rest a bundle of chicken on top, and drizzle Labneh around it in a circle. Garnish with mint.