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Breads and muffins Food photography Pasta/Pizza Photography Recipes

Best Thin Pizza/Flatbread Dough

Pizza Oven
Pizza Oven

No news here, I still love pizza and having recently spent some time with my brother and sister-in-law who have a real outside wood fired pizza oven I just had to do one more pizza post (not the last I’m sure).  Getting the oven ready is quite a process involving several hours of loving attention, special wood and lots and lots of smoke, but the result was worth it – especially since I wasn’t the one providing the loving attention!

Smokey Pizza Oven
Chef Tom hard at work

I like thin crust, thick crust and everything in between and have found this recipe to be even better than my original favorite (recipe here).  The main difference is the high gluten flour that I don’t always have on hand so I still use the other recipe as an alternate.  This dough is simple to make, easy to shape and can be rolled very thin almost like a cracker (popular with the designated taste tester – Husband).
Printable Recipe Pizza Dough

  • 3 3/4 cups Hi-Gluten Four
  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, enough to make a smooth, soft dough
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning (optional)
Mix together all the ingredients except the water in a food processor, mixer or bread machine (or of course you could do it by hand) add water and process until it is well mixed and smooth (you may need a little more or less).
Allow to rise in a covered, oiled bowl for 1 hour or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  If refrigerated, let it come to room temperature when you’re ready to use.
Shape the dough to the thickness you like.  It makes a great thin, almost cracker like crust or flatbread.
Cover the dough while you preheat the oven and a pizza stone if you have one to the highest setting your oven allows.
Add your pizza toppings, or if making flatbread, brush it with plain, garlic or herb flavored oil and seeds or shredded cheese.
Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the crust is crisp and the toppings (for pizza) are cooked.
Breads and muffins Main Dishes Recipes Tested Recipes

The Daring Cooks' Challenge: Char Sui and Char Sui Bao (charred BBQ Pork plain and in buns)

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2011 hostess is Sara from Belly Rumbles! Sara chose awesome Char Sui Bao as our challenge, where we made the buns, Char Sui, and filling from scratch – delicious! This challenge was a resounding success receiving the highest award from the taste testers at each step …

Breads and muffins Breakfast/Brunch Dessert Recipes

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Nutella, chocolate, honey caramel, almond and blueberry croissant

This is a challenge I could really appreciate!  Freshly baked croissants, using Julia Child’s recipe.  What could be better?  Although I love them I’ve never attempted these before and I have to admit it takes a while, mostly just waiting for them to rise though so the actual work wasn’t …

Breads and muffins Dessert Quick and Simple Recipes

Banana muffins: a classic must have recipe

Banana Muffins

Sometimes you just have to go with the classics – a great banana muffin recipe perfect for those last few (too) ripe bananas.  This recipe is basic, moist and quick.  I made a double batch because I had lots of ready bananas – one batch was regular muffins with no topping and one was minis with the brown sugar/cinnamon topping.
Mini Banana Muffins

Printable Recipe for Banana Muffins
Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (split in half)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray muffin tin (24 minis or 12 regular size) with vegetable spray or line with papers.
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, mix bananas, sugar, ¼ cup brown sugar, egg and vegetable oil. Add the dry ingredients and nuts if used just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups – an ice cream scoop works great.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
  5. While still warm in the pan, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with brown sugar/cinnamon mixture, then set aside to cool.
Banana muffins cooling
Breads and muffins Dessert gifts Recipes Tested Recipes

The Daring Baker's Challenge: Baklava with homemade dough

BaklavaBaklava

This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was one I was looking forward to but unfortunately, due to an unexpected but exciting event (my sliders were chosen as one of the top 5 in the LA Times Battle of the Burgers so I was invited for photos and a visit to the test kitchen in Los Angeles) I was only able to do it at the last-minute and wasn’t able to put in the effort I would have liked. Then, rushing and suffering from a clear lack of concentration, I stopped to make dinner and set the dough aside without flouring it enough and it promptly stuck back together after being so nicely made.
In the late 1970’s, I was privileged to know Baba, an 80 something woman from Yugoslavia who was an amazing cook and who was gracious enough to teach me some of her recipes, even giving me an ethnic recipe book her church put out that I still use.  She took a lump of dough and using only her fingers, made it into a piece the size of a tablecloth, perfect with no holes or thick spots and so thin you could easily see through it.  I have tried a couple of times, but really didn’t have the patience to perfect it (and of course it was much easier to just buy it) so I haven’t done it in years.  Since I was too tired to remake the dough after dinner, I separated it as best I could and in the end it was edible, but not spectacular.  The dough recipe is wonderful and easy to work with, stretching nicely without breaking and I was so proud of how it turned out . . . before dinner!  I will definitely make this one again.
Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.
Here is the recipe, just as given by Erica who did such a wonderful job (the only change I made was to use pizza flour as suggested by Audax)!

Phyllo Dough:

*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)

Directions:

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)

Rolling your Phyllo



** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**

Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.

Baklava Recipe

Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
Ingredients
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
Directions
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks

Ingredients for the Filling:

1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.
Additional Information: I have included some videos and links to help you through the process

How to roll the phyllo dough – 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvNzAi9w6TU&feature=related
Excellent 3 part video showing the whole process – 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLV7W-KUME8&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8pzyKgxuF4&feature=related
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJgotI69pXY&feature=related
Making Hollow Baklava Rolls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvM8cWzjKI
Making Baklava Rolls – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H51egHWv0sQ
Nut Free Baklava – 
http://hubpages.com/hub/nut-free-baklava-recipe
http://tzk-design.com/recipe/nut-free-baklava
Gluten Free Baklava
http://glutenfreepastry.org/gluten-free-baklava-recipe-demonstration/
http://gluten-free.mobi/gluten-free-baklava.php
Vegan Baklava
http://www.veganchef.com/baklava.htm
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/nutty-vegan-baklava.html#

Breads and muffins Breakfast/Brunch Dessert Food photography Pasta/Pizza Photography Recipes

Daring Baker’s Challenge – Coffee Cake – Lime Cream with Coconut and Pizza

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.  Since the recipe conveniently makes enough for two coffee cakes, I made a sweet (lime cream and …

Breads and muffins Breakfast/Brunch Food photography Photography Recipes

Lemon Basil Olive Oil Muffins – taste great and relatively healthy

Lemon Olive Oil Basil Muffins

So far I’ve been dismal in my attempts to be more healthy but today I made progress and it wasn’t even painful.   Don’t worry, I’m not up to tofu yet and my “no carb left behind” lifestyle will surely take time to reform but I’m making baby steps.  These muffins are really good and an improvement over my usual; by my standards these are positively healthy with eggs for protein, olive oil not butter, not too much sugar (which you could replace with Splenda) and whole wheat flour.  Of course, nobody can expect miracles overnight so I stuck with real sugar and a “white whole wheat” from King Arthur Flour.  According to the package it is “100% of the wheat germ and bran” with a “lighter color and milder flavor” which seemed like a good thing for a lemon theme.  They are not “cakey” but more dense, like the texture of a corn muffin but without the corn flavor.  They are sweet enough to eat for breakfast, but not so sweet you couldn’t serve with a meal, especially if you leave off the glaze.

Ingredients

The ingredients are:

  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar (or Splenda)
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil chopped finely
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

1.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Use zester - bigger strips
Use microplane for finer zest
Juice

2.  Zest and juice the lemons.  Use the zester for one lemon and the microplane for three.  Reserve the juice and zest (fine) of one lemon for the glaze.

Sugar and lemon zest (strips and fine)

3.  In the mixing bowl add the sugar and lemon zest and add the olive oil mixing on high speed.

Sugar, lemon zest and eggs

4.  Add the eggs one at a time.

5.  Add 1/2 the flour mixture, then half the lemon juice mixing on low speed.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and juice.

Batter

6.  Add the basil and mix well.  Of course you could leave this out, but it is surprisingly good, just enough to taste but not overpowering.  You may have to scrape some lemon zest off the beaters, I find it best to use a spatula to do a final mix to make sure everything is well-distributed.

Muffins ready to bake

7.  Place the batter in the muffin tins.  I used mini-muffins and muffin top pans because I like the crispy outside.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Mini's baked
Muffin tops baked

Cool

 

Glaze

 

To make the glaze, in a small bowl add lemon juice to the powdered sugar until it forms a fairly thin glaze.  Either use a pastry brush or dip the tops of the muffins into the bowl to coat the tops of each muffin.

 

Glazed

 

Let them sit uncovered for about 1/2 hour and the glaze will soak in and form a thin crust.

 

Served