Homemade Pizza Dough

I know this might be a bit polarizing, but I’m going out on a limb here: thin crust is the best kind of pizza. Don’t get me wrong; I love soft, puffy pizza crusts piled with toppings, and I’ll even tolerate deep dish from time to time. But my favorite kind of pizza crust is the kind baked in a blazing hot wood-burning oven that snaps like a cracker when you bite into it. (The crust, not the oven.) Magic.

I don’t have a blazing hot wood-burning oven, but I do have a pizza stone, a peel, and a kickin’ recipe for pizza dough.

This is one of those recipes that I have memorized. 3 cups flour, 2 tsp. yeast, 2 tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 cup water. That’s it. I’ll often mix up the types of flours I use, but the rest stays the same. Roll it out nice and thin, and you have delightfully crispy pizza crust. And no worries, I’ll be sharing a recipe for the delicious pizza you see below soon!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (may also swap in up to 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour for a nuttier, healthier crust)
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low while gradually pouring in the olive oil. Slowly add the water until the dough comes together. Knead for a couple minutes. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. (You can also mix and knead everything by hand.) Add more water or flour, a tablespoon at a time, if necessary to get the right consistency.

Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover, and let stand until puffy, about 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone in the oven on the lowest rack and heat to the highest heat possible. (Mine only gets to about 450°F.)

Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll it out on a floured surface. Transfer to a pizza peel that has been heavily sprinkled with cornmeal. Jiggle the peel back and forth a bit to make sure the pizza slides instead of getting stuck. Cover your dough with the toppings of your choice and slide the pizza onto the pizza stone in the preheated oven. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until crust is golden brown and crispy.

Source: “How to Cook Everything” by Mark Bittman.

Blood Orange Margarita

Happy Pi Day everyone! Unfortunately, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, I’m not here to share a pie recipe with you. I am in fact in the middle of making this delightful-looking pie from Smitten Kitchen, but I’ll just link to that recipe in case you’re feeling particularly pie-ish.

Nope, I’m here to share a different recipe with you. Because not only is it Pi Day, it is an incredibly, unseasonably warm 60+ degrees in Minneapolis right now. I’m celebrating the fact that all our windows are open and I just finished cleaning off our patio furniture. In March. Awesome.

How am I celebrating, might you ask? With a blood orange margarita. Bright, tangy citrus fruits are one of the things that cheer me up in the middle of winter, and blood oranges are one of my favorites. Their growing season is slowly tapering off right now, so making a summery margarita seemed to be the perfect way to say goodbye to winter and hello to this early spring. And, since people are thinking a lot about math today, margaritas also have one of the easiest drink ratios ever– 3:2:1. Cheers!

Blood orange margarita

Blood Orange Margarita

  • 3 oz. freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from 1-2 blood oranges)
  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. triple sec
  • kosher or coarse sea salt, for the rim

Rub the rim of a glass with the cut half of a blood orange. Sprinkle some salt on a plate and gently dip the rim of the glass in the salt. Place a handful of ice in the glass and set aside.

Combine blood orange juice, tequila, and triple sec with additional ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain over the ice in your glass. Serve.

Yield: One delicious margarita.

Source: White on Rice Couple

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

I first tried this hummus recipe from the Jerusalem cookbook a few months ago, and it was delicious. Then I remembered seeing Smitten Kitchen‘s quirky take on the recipe, which involved peeling the skin off each chickpea to achieve a super creamy consistency.

Say what? Sure, it seemed slightly crazy, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time shelling pistachios or trying (with much angst) to remove hazelnut skins for homemade nutella. (So sorry to disappoint you; that recipe is still in the works.) So popping the skins off a few chickpeas didn’t seem like that big a deal. And truly, it wasn’t. It took about 10 minutes, and the only side effect was that my fingers felt a little starchy at the end.

So if you’re crunched for time, this recipe is just fine with the chickpea skins included. But if you have a few more minutes, try removing them. The results are truly worth it. As Gabe told me between bites this afternoon, “This hummus is unbe-(expletive)-lievable.” That good.

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and creamy hummus

Smooth and Creamy Hummus

  • 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas (from one 15-oz. can)
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 tsp. kosher flake salt (plus more, if desired)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • garnishes (optional): pine nuts, olive oil, dried sumac or paprika

Rinse and drain chickpeas. Carefully remove the skins by holding a chickpea between your thumb, index, and middle fingers and gently squeezing until the skin pops off. Discard skins.

Place chickpeas in a food processor and blend for about one minute. Scrape down the sides and add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Blend again until well combined. Slowly add the water and puree until very smooth. Taste and add more lemon juice (I added an additional 2 tsp.) and/or salt as needed.

Let stand for about 30 minutes and then serve, or refrigerate if you’re not going to serve right away. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sumac or paprika. If using pine nuts as garnish, first sauté them in a bit of unsalted butter until lightly browned. Serve hummus with pita, tortilla chips, carrot sticks, or whatever you like!

Source: Slightly adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, via Smitten Kitchen.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Yesterday was a chilly Sunday. Like -28° windchill. So after a brief run to the grocery store to stock up for the week, I spent the rest of the day hunkered down in our apartment. But it sure didn’t feel that cold.

Sunlight streamed through our windows and heated up the place to a balmy 76°. I sat at the dining room table, soaking up the sunshine and trying out new stitches on my sewing machine. At the other end of the table, Gabe diligently studied his law books, stopping every so often to read me something he found absurd or funny or infuriating. The cat sprawled languidly at our feet, basking in the sunshine.

And in the oven, two loaves of cinnamon swirl bread rose over the tops of their pans and turned golden brown, sending a sweet aroma cascading through our tiny apartment. I paused for a moment to reflect on the scene in front of me. As much as I dream of the day Gabe and I buy a house together, I know I’ll look back on our 600 square feet of living space with poignant nostalgia. It may be small, but it sure is cozy. And the oven makes great bread.

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

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Whole Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Bread

  • 1 1/4 cups warm milk
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. honey
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. instant yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 5 cups (635 grams) white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (160 grams) mixed whole grains*
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt

Filling

  • 1/2 cup unpacked brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbs. water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together milk, water, honey, and yeast. Whisk in egg and butter. Meanwhile, stir together flour, whole grains, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Stir the flour mixture into the milk mixture just until combined. The dough will be wet and lumpy. Let stand for five minutes.

Fit the dough hook attachment to the stand mixer, and knead the dough on low speed for six minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead a couple times by hand. The dough will be very sticky, but you can add a little more flour if it’s impossible to work with. Form the dough into a ball, cover with a bowl, and let stand for ten minutes.

Knead a couple times by hand, and let stand for ten minutes, covered with the bowl. Repeat one more time. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 60-70 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together brown sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Make an egg wash by whisking together egg and water. Lightly butter two loaf pans. Set aside.

When the dough has risen, place it back onto a floured surface and divide into two pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough into a rectangle about 8 x 16 inches. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with half the cinnamon mixture. Working from a short end, roll the dough up into a loaf. Pinch the ends together to seal in the cinnamon sugar. Place the loaf into one of the buttered loaf pans. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Cover the two loaf pans lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough has risen over the edge of the pans by about one inch, about 45-60 minutes. Halfway through the rise, preheat oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 40 minutes, or until golden brown on top. The loaves should sound hollow when tapped, and the inside temperature should reach 190° F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the loaves from the oven and let stand, in their pans, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the loaf pans to loosen the bread, and gently turn the loaves out onto the cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing.

Makes two loaves.

* For the whole grains mixture, you can use any of the following: rye flour, rye meal, rye flakes, cornmeal, cooked grits or polenta, rolled oats or oat flour, amaranth, uncooked ground quinoa, cooked whole quinoa, quinoa flakes, or cooked brown rice. Measure by weight to get the best results. I used 70 grams of Bob’s Red Mill seven grain cereal and 90 grams rolled oats, both uncooked.

Source: Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart via Smitten Kitchen.

Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Hi friends. Hello again. Sorry for the radio silence. I can blame my lengthy absence from this blog on being very busy and important, but that’s a pretty lame excuse. We’re all busy.  Truth is, with Gabe gone last summer, most of my meals consisted of summer vegetables, baguettes, and cheese, so there wasn’t much to post about. And then after we got married and he was home with me again, I was more interested in cooking and eating food than making my poor husband wait while I photographed our supper in just the perfect light.

But guess what? I missed this space. I’ve still been cooking and recipe tweaking like crazy, but I really missed the creative challenge of food photography. So I’m back. Even though it’s February in Minnesota and the light is mostly gray and the produce is uninspiring. I’m back, and I’m hoping to be seen a little more frequently around here.

Along those lines, here’s an unorthodox recipe for February: ice cream. Cookie dough ice cream, to be exact. I have fourteen ice cream recipes on this blog, so adding one more seems like just the ticket for getting back in the blogging game. Consider it a thank-you from me to you. Thanks for still being here!

Cookie dough ice cream

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Cookie Dough Ice Cream

ICE CREAM

  • 1 cup whole milk*
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

COOKIE DOUGH

  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs. milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Make ice cream: Whisk together milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. Warm over medium heat until steamy, stirring occasionally and being careful not to scorch the bottom. Remove from heat and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the saucepan. Place the pod in the mixture as well, cover, and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1 cup cream and 3/4 tsp. vanilla into a large bowl. Set a mesh strainer on top. Whisk together the egg yolks in a separate medium bowl. Slowly and carefully pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat again. Heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. (If you’re using an instant read thermometer, it should read between 170° and 175° F.)

Immediately pour the egg yolk mixture through the mesh strainer and into the cream. Stir and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

Meanwhile, make the cookie dough: Cream together sugars and butter in a medium bowl. Stir in vanilla, milk, flour, and salt until well combined. Stir in mini chocolate chips. Scoop into balls and place on a cutting board or cookie sheet. Freeze for a couple hours, then chop into smaller pieces. Keep frozen until ready to use.

Freeze ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Once the ice cream is done churning, stir in remaining 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips and cookie dough chunks. Store the ice cream in the freezer.

Source: Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop, cookie dough adapted from Allrecipes.com, following some of the modifications posted by someone named giggletush (seriously). 

* As always, I use equal amounts of lactose-free half-and-half in place of the milk and cream in this recipe.

Piña Colada Sherbet

You guys have probably noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet lately. Um… I haven’t actually posted since May. Uffda. Starting a new job and planning a wedding has kept me pretty busy, but I also just haven’t been cooking very many new, exciting, “blog-worthy” things.

You’d think that joining a CSA for the first time would lead to a lot of new recipes, but most days I just come home and eat vegetables for supper. One night I just had half a cabbage. It was deliciously braised in olive oil and butter with new potatoes and fresh onions, but still, cabbage. Definitely getting in touch with my Polish ancestors. ;)

All these local, organic vegetables that I pick up every week are gloriously fresh and don’t need much more than a quick sauté, so that’s been my summer. Simple, easy, instinctive cooking rather than meal-planning and poring over new recipes. It’s kind of refreshing. I’m sure once fall starts up again and Gabe is home, I’ll happily jump right back into more ambitious meals. But for now, I’m enjoying the simplicity of summer.

Here’s an easy recipe in honor of yesterday’s National Ice Cream Day: piña colada sherbet that comes together in seconds. (Well, seconds in the food processor and about 30 minutes in your ice cream maker.) With just a handful of ingredients, it epitomizes the simple, laid-back pleasures of summer.

Piña colada sherbet

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Piña Colada Sherbet

  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened Thai coconut milk
  • 1 Tbs. dark rum
  • juice of one lime

In a food processor or blender, purée together all ingredients until smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly in a refrigerator (at least 8 hours), then churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately or transfer to a freezer-safe container and let “ripen” in the freezer for a few hours.

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts.

Source: Very slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.

A “Grown-up” Airplane Birthday Party

Last week Gabe and I hosted a dozen friends to celebrate his 27th birthday. A few years ago I threw him a Star Wars-themed birthday party, and this year I went with another one of his favorite things: airplanes. This guy of mine has loved airplanes since he was little, so it was a fun opportunity for us all to goof off and act like kids again.

Decor was super simple. Silly signs welcomed guests past the “security checkpoint” and guided them to the baggage claim (front hall closet), lavatory (bathroom), and flight deck (balcony).

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

Upon entering, everyone had to grab two name tags at random: their pilot name and their vehicle. Gabe had lots of fun brainstorming names from movies, video games, and real life. My favorite was when a pregnant friend got to be Han Solo flying a big balloon, which worked well with her adorable protruding belly.

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

I used the silhouettes and names of WWII airplanes to make little food signs. The food was pretty low-key, since I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks and didn’t have hours to spend in the kitchen. We interspersed homemade goodies with store-bought snacks, and everything was a recipe I’d made before so I wasn’t too stressed.

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

Here’s the menu:

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

For drinks we did a DIY beverage station with little recipe cards for each cocktail:

  • Dauntless dark and stormies (2 oz. dark rum + 6 oz. ginger beer)
  • Engine and tonic (1 oz. Tomr’s tonic syrup + 2 oz. Prairie gin + 3 oz. soda water)
  • We also had a crazy assortment of beer. I couldn’t find any beers with airplanes on the labels so I was thrilled when friends managed to do it for me, showing up with Schell Shocked Grapefruit Radler and Alaskan ESB, among many others.

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

For entertainment, I printed off paper airplane templates for people to construct, but the big hit of the night was a whole bunch of foam airplane gliders from Oriental Trading Company. Forty-eight gliders, to be exact. It was a mad melee of flying airplanes soaring every which way, and then a remote control helicopter somehow got in the mix and was bombarded with planes. So ridiculous and silly, but so much fun.

Thanks to all our party-goers for making the night a blast!

A "grown-up" airplane birthday party

(P.S. While planning this fun birthday bash, I was inspired by several other blogs, including two parties from Hostess with the Mostess here and here, and the blog I’m Topsy Turvy.)