RUSTIC PIZZA DOUGH (thin crust)

Who doesn’t love pizza? I personally don’t know anybody that doesn’t like it. For me it’s all about the crust. Don’t get me wrong, if you don’t have quality cheese and other toppings it’s not going to cut it. However, to paint a good picture, you need a good canvas. Don’t you agree?

Twice now,  we have been invited to friends and have had homemade pizzas. I sort of lost hope that I could ever duplicate a good crust.  But after the last invite I decided to give it another try. What you see here my friends is one of the best crusts I have ever had; including those fancy wood fired restaurants. I think I may have come up with the one that will make you stay home.

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There was another motive for this last attempt. We have a ton of tomatoes. As per usual, they all come off at the same time. My husband loves goat cheese pizza. PHILADELPIA, SHAKESPEARE, and GOAT CHEESE PIZZAS I like it too but there are other flavor sensations I also enjoy. My pizza was a ramp pesto, chopped calamata olives, and burrata. Hot off the grill and topped with fresh basil. Totally AMAZING!!!

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I cut my dough into 4 pieces because I wanted two larger pies. It worked out beautifully. I had two left over, so I froze one, and gave the other to my daughter. Mine was actually cooked on the grill. A thin crust with a major crunch factor and dough as light as air. I even impressed myself with this one.

If you’ve never worked with dough, don’t be intimidated. You really need to give this a try. Mine came out perfect the first time. I did have to add a little more water during the kneading process. I noticed some dry crumbs that weren’t mixing in. If you have to make additions do it sparingly and with patience. Using your Kitchen Aide is pure genius.

RUSTIC PIZZA DOUGH

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 C bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp French grey sea salt
  • 2 1/4 C cold water
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • Olive Oil

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aide mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix all the dry ingredients on low until incorporated.
  2. Switch to the dough hook, add the cold water and the honey. Mix on low for 10 minutes.
  3. The dough should be smooth and elastic, it should not stick to the bowl. If it sticks to the sides of the bow sprinkle a little more flour. If it is too dry and the dry ingredients are still not mixing in, add a little more water.
  4. After 10 minutes, remove the dough from the bowl and cut into 4 or 6 pieces and form into rounds. Place the rounds on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and drizzle olive oil on top of each round spreading gently with your hand over the top.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a cold oven with the door closed for 2 hours to rise.
  6. On a work surface sprinkle some flour and remove one piece of dough and flatten into a disc. Using your hands or a rolling-pin spread the dough out into a disc or oval 10-12 inches in diameter (if you cut the dough into 4 pieces your discs will have a larger surface area)
  7. Dust a pizza peel (you can also use some sturdy cardboard) with cornmeal and place your dough on top making sure it slides around easily.
  8. ON THE GRILL: pre-heat and oil you grill generously. Slide the dough from the peel onto the grill and lightly brown on both sides turning gently as it cooks. Remove and top with your favorite toppings. Be careful not to overload as this is a thin crust. Return to the grill and cook to desired doneness.
  9. IN THE OVEN: place a pizza stone in the oven and pre-heat the oven to the highest temp (most ovens will go 500-550. Slide the dough from the peel onto the stone and repeat the steps as for the grill. Finish by placing it under the broiler for a nice charred effect.

* After the dough has risen you can easily freeze it. Just place the dough into a lightly oiled Ziploc or plastic bag and place in the freezer. When ready to use remove it from the freezer and let it thaw overnight in your refrigerator.

* Cutting: I have recently been taught by two friends to use a pair of scissors when cutting my pies. It works really well. Give it a try!!!!

Original recipe found at: https://ciaoflorentina.com

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

 

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BAKED EGGPLANT STACKS

Everybody in my household loves eggplant Parmigiano. Our local farm stand had some beautiful specimens so I brought one home. While I like Parmigiano, I wanted to do something a little different. Baked eggplant stacks became my focus.

These stacks are stuffed with a whipped goat cheese and topped with a smoky tomato chutney and caramelized onions. I plan on making a tarragon vinaigrette and having a nice bibb lettuce salad to go with it. TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE

I sliced the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. I then set up my dipping stations. One bowl was all-purpose flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Next I took two jumbo eggs and some buttermilk and whisked them together. The third bowl was a combination of Italian bread crumbs, panko, and grated parmesan cheese.

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Beginning with the flour I coated both sides of the eggplant slices. Then dipped them into the egg-wash and gently shook off the excess. Last, they were dipped and coated in the crumb mixture. I painted the bottom of a foil lined sheet pan with olive oil, using a brush. The slices were placed on the sheet pan and lightly brushed with olive oil on the top. Baked at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes on each side or until they come out a golden brown on both sides. I set them aside to cool.

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While they were cooling I made my whipped goat cheese. Using a combination of soft goat cheese, 1/3 less fat cream cheese and buttermilk. It was whipped until light and fluffy. I stirred in some chives for extra flavor. Then it was put it in the fridge until time to assemble.

The tomato chutney is cooked on the stove top using a cast iron skillet. When finished cooking I allow it to cool. It then gets stored in a mason jar in the fridge for future use. This chutney is exceptional on lamb burgers and also with eggs.

The caramelized onions were done ahead of time too. Once you have everything prepped the assembly is a piece of cake…..or should I say stack!

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Now all you do is assemble and bake as directed. My mouth is watering just smelling them!

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This might look like a lot of steps but it goes quickly. It is well worth the effort too. One stack is one serving. Have a simple green salad alongside. It’s an excellent meal.

BAKED EGGPLANT STACKS

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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FOR THE WHIPPED GOAT CHEESE:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 oz softened goat cheese
  • 4 oz cream cheese softened, I use 1/3 less fat
  • 1/4 C non-fat buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp chopped chives

DIRECTIONS:

With a hand mixer, blend the cheeses together with the buttermilk. Stir in the chives. Put in a container and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

FOR THE CARAMELIZED ONION:

Slice one large onion into half moons. Place in a large skillet over medium-low heat and cover with a lid. DO NOT SEASON THEM YET! Check in 10 minutes and turn. Continue to cover and cook checking often. Once they are golden brown, season with  kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Set aside.

FOR THE CHUTNEY:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of grated garlic
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t Cajun seasoning
  • 3 oz tomato paste
  • 1 chipotle chili, diced
  • 1 can, fire roasted tomatoes, undrained
  • Kosher salt to taste

DIRECTIONS: In a Cast Iron skillet

  1. Heat the skillet over medium-low heat and saute the onion til soft, stir in the grated garlic, do not allow it to burn.
  2. Add smoked paprika, Cajun spice, and the tomato paste. Cook on low until the paste begins to darken, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chipotle chili and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 30 minutes stirring frequently.
  4. Remove the cover and simmer until thickened.
  5. Season with salt to taste. Allow to cool. Any unused portion can be put in a jar and kept in the refrigerator up to one month. Set aside.

FOR THE BAKED EGGPLANT:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1/4 C non-fat buttermilk,
  • 1 C Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 C panko
  • 1/2 C freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
  • olive oil in a small dish with a pastry brush

DIRECTIONS:

Set up dredging stations:

Bowl 1: Mix the flour and salt and pepper.

Bowl 2: Beat the eggs together with the buttermilk until light and fluffy.

Bowl 3: Combine the bread crumbs, panko, and the grated Parmigiano.

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil and brush over the surface with olive oil.
  3. Beginning with the flour dredge both sides of the eggplant slice.
  4. Dip in the egg mixture to coat both sides, shake lightly to remove excess.
  5. Dredge in the crumb mixture, shake lightly to remove excess.
  6. Place the slice on the greased pan and continue with the rest of the slices.
  7. Using a brush lightly dab the top of the slices with olive oil to assist in browning.
  8. Once complete, place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, remove and turn to the other side and continue to bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

ASSEMBLY:

  1. Starting with a larger slice, place on a baking sheet, put a dollop of whipped goat cheese on top. Using a slightly smaller slice place on top of the first slice and dollop with another layer of goat cheese. Using a slightly smaller slice than the last, top with a dollop of chutney, and a few of the caramelized onions.  Continue with the rest of your eggplant until all of it is stacked.
  2. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot!

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Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

LET THEM EAT CAKE

Poor Marie Antoinette! She denies having said, “Let them eat cake!” to a starving French nation. She was very extravagant in all things. In her defense, she was barely a teenager. Imagine all that wealth and power. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have lost my head over it either.

Anyway, I love cake; I love to bake. There’s only one problem with baking a cake. There are only two of us!  When the kids were home it was perfect. I got a piece and they ate the rest. So what’s a cake lover to do?

I had an “aha” moment. Why not make a mini cake?  I have a 6×3 pan that I used for a topper on a wedding cake. All I had to do was decide what kind of cake I wanted to bake. I’ve seen them in the bakeries and grocery stores. Why haven’t I thought of this before? Would you believe me if I told you I actually had a dream about this? It’s true!

I learned a while ago to bake my cakes and freeze them. Prior to freezing them I brush them with a mixture of simple syrup. It makes them so moist you won’t believe it. You can freeze most cakes up to 2 months. When you make a small cake, like this one, you end up with 2 cakes. That means you will always have one in the freezer ready to frost and serve, or give as a gift. Winner, winner!!

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So my first mini is a  Raspberry Cake with Buttercream Icing. Buttercream and raspberries, how can that not be good?  It just screams summer. It turned out great and how adorable is this???? I am already thinking of my next creation.

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MINI PARTY CAKE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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This cake is an adaptation from Dorie Greenspans “Perfect Party Cake”

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:  (this makes (2) 6×3 inch cakes. Slice in layers, wrap, freeze, and store one for later use.)

  • 2 1/2 C cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/ 1/4 C buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 C granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

For  the Buttercream: (this recipe makes enough for 2 small cakes or 1 large cake)

  • 1 C granulated sugar
  •  4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For Finishing:

  • 1/3 C seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously until spreadable
  • Simple syrup (1 C sugar and 1 C water boiled to dissolve sugar) cooled

 

DIRECTIONS: Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use the Magic Release (see directions below) to prepare two 6×3 cake pans. (you can butter, flour, and line with parchment paper if desired).
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and lemon zest and sugar until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
  4. Add the lemon juice beat til incorporated
  5. Beginning and ending with the flour mixture add 1/3, then half of the egg mixture. Repeat ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture until all is incorporated. Stir to bottom of bowl well with a spatula. Beat for an additional 2 minutes to make sure everything is mixed together thoroughly. Stop occasionally and stir with spatula.
  6. Place 3 cups of batter into each pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, when tested with a wooden skewer into the center it should come out clean and should spring back to the touch. Check at 35-40 minutes. Oven temps will vary.
  8. Let rest for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.  Unmold, and invert onto the cooking rack, right side up, cool completely.
  9. Slice both cakes into 3 layers. Brush all 3 of the cut sides with the simple syrup. Place the layers on an aluminum lined baking pan and freeze. Once frozen place each layer in individual freezer safe bags. Cakes can be frozen for up to 2 months.

DIRECTIONS: Buttercream

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, put the sugar and egg whites and fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisking constantly. Continue until it feels hot, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
  2. Remove from the heat, and put in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat for about 5 minutes or until cooled.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one stick at a time and beat each until smooth. Once all the butter is incorporated, beat for 6-10 minutes on medium high-speed. If it separates, keep beating, it will come together again.
  4. On medium speed add the vanilla.
  5. It should be shiny smooth, velvety, and white. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and set aside.

ASSEMBLY:

I made the cake the day before to ensure it was frozen. The buttercream was made the day of assembly.

  1. Remove and unwrap cake layers from the freezer.
  2. Place the first layer, cut side up on your cake board.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the buttercream, then 1/3 of the preserves.
  4. Top with another layer and repeat until the last layer.
  5. Place the last layer “cut side” down.
  6. Ice the top and sides of the cake with buttercream and decorate with fresh raspberries.

TIPS:

  1. You can vary the berries and jams.
  2. You could also use lemon curd as a filling.
  3. A whipped cream icing on the outside would also be a good variation.

**** Do you have difficulty getting your cakes to release from the pan? Fear no more! I came across this one some years ago. Try this simple concoction; you can thank me later.

Miracle Pan Release

  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C all purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Whisk thoroughly until everything is incorporated and smooth.
  2. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature.
  3. To use, dip a pastry brush (or use a piece of crunched up wax paper/parchment) into the mixture and spread a thin layer over the bottom and sides of pan(s). Use this for any recipe that calls for “greasing” and “flouring” your pans.
  4. This can be made into any size batch you want. Just make sure the proportions are equal in amount to each other as above.

* Wilton also sells this pre-made.

Since I have buttercream icing left over I plan on making a mini fresh peach cake. I’ll use fresh peaches and peach jam. I am also going to put a whipped cream icing on the outside with this one and add some toasted almonds to the top. Cake and coffee anyone??

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D