Monday, October 26, 2009

What's for Dinner? Pizza! (Homemade, of course)

Oh, the fun of thinking, "What am I gonna make for dinner, tonight?". I had decided on homemade pizza early in the day, only to discover when I started cooking that my shredded mozzarella cheese had molded. In a panic, I reached for the kid's string cheese that I usually put in their lunches. So, I peeled and chopped 6 sticks of string cheese and put them on the pizza. The pizza turned out great!

We never strive for a perfectly round pizza. The utter beauty of this pizza is not in the shape, nor in the taste (which is quite good), but in the pennies this dinner costs. I think I make 2 whole pizzas for my family for less than $3! Add a salad and it's a perfect meal!

Now, if you haven't made your own pizza before, you're in for a treat. I use the recipe that came with my food processor, and it couldn't be easier (see below). After rolling the dough out, I brush it with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, add tomato paste, right out of the can, add some oregano, basil, or other herbs, and spread with mozzarella cheese (my children only like plain cheese pizza). For me, I add all kinds of toppings (my favorite is fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes and torn basil leaves) - experiment, I'm sure you'll be glad you did. I then fold over the outer edge for the crust.

Then bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes and you're ready to eat! I use either a baking sheet with cornmeal spread on it, or I use a pizza stone that's been in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Here's the Pizza Dough Recipe:
Prepare the dough, and while it rises, use your Food Processor to chop, slice and shred the toppings for your pizza.

Servings - Makes 1-1/2 pounds dough (two 14-inch crusts) / 8 servings

1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105?F) water
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cold water
flour for dusting


In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 3 - 5 minutes. Insert dough blade in work bowl and add flour, salt and olive oil. Add cold water to yeast mixture.With machine running, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour absorbs it. Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball. Then process for 45 seconds to knead dough. Dough may be slightly sticky. Dust dough lightly with flour; transfer to a plastic food storage bag, squeeze out air and seal top. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down, let rest 5 - 10 minutes. Roll into desired crust sizes and follow pizza recipe.

Note: If you only wish to make one pizza, you may freeze half the dough before it rises. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. When ready to use, remove in the morning, unwrap, rub with olive oil and place in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to thaw and rise during the day. It will be ready punch down and roll out in about 8 hours.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Cake for Brenda

It was the birthday of R's teacher's assistant. So, I thought I would make a cake. I came across a fabulous recipe for marshmallow fondant (see below) and made it. Cut out butterflies for the cake, but they didn't harden and I wanted the butterflies posed with their wings bent upwards. So, I used a bit of gumpaste from our local bakery supply. I used a few of the marshmallow fondant butterflies, anyway, and a cream cheese frosting over a vanilla cake.

I made some gumpaste flowers by using flower cookie cutter, scoring lines on the petals, and letting the flowers harden in a mini muffin tin. And, I tried my hand at roses, pitiful effort, I know, but I'm intrigued enough to find a flower-making class.

Now, even though the marshmallow fondant butterflies didn't harden, the recipe was so easy to make and tasty that I'll be using it to cover cakes with in the future.
Marshmallow Fondant Recipe:
1 bag of mini-marshmallows (brand name works best)
3 Tbsp water
2 lbs powdered sugar
Put marshmallows & water together in microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Take out this "soupy" mixture & use spoon (mixture will be hot enough to burn) to mix. Gradually add half of powdered sugar & mix with spoon. Put rest of powdered sugar on heavily-greased counter, dump marshmallow mixture on top of powdered sugar and gently knead with greased hands all sugar into mixture (should take about 5 minutes).
Now it's ready to roll, or you can let it rest overnight in fridge. If you want to add color, you can during the "soupy" phase, or at the end.
The best thing about this fondant is if it gets a bit hard, you can stick it back in the microwave for 5 - 10 seconds. Here's a link to a great page with recipes and video. If you've been waiting to make fondant, I hope you "go for it" and give this easy recipe a try.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Witch & Cauldron Cake

My daughter's school has a fall event with children's games and lots of fun things for the kids to do. They also host a cake auction, and while I had been going to the event for many years, I hadn't baked anything. This year, I decided to try. I found a photo on flickr that I just loved (sorry, I don't know the baker's name), and modeled my cake after it. Here it is:

I used a round sports ball mold for the cauldron and a wondermold (barbie cakes) for the witch base. Buttercream frosting and fondant cover the cakes. Rice kr*spy treat belly for the witch and gumpaste head, hands, skull and frog. Fondant clothing. Cookie crumb dirt. I used Cadb*ry Flake chocolates for the logs. Using a pearl luster dust on the cauldron made all those fondant wrinkles look awesome - the cauldron looked authentic. My children clustered around me for the day it took to make the cake. And, what took me by surprise is that I won the cake decorating contest (Whoo Hoo!) and then the cake was auctioned off to make money for the school. This cake was a blast to make, and I hope some of you try it, too.