Friday, June 25, 2010

Classic Homemade Pizza

(above) Homemade Pizza - featuring Easy Pizza Sauce and Basic Pizza Dough

I can't say this enough, but one thing that this blog has made me do is to try out new things all the time. So, today I made my very first entirely homemade pizza. This meant no 1. ordering out for delivery (which has become a rather bad habit for, well lets admit it... all of us), 2. using frozen pizza dough, and 3. using jarred tomato sauce. The pizza sauce seems too easy to be true. Practically all you have to do is mix some ingredients which you probably already have laying around the house together and let them sit for a while. The sauce was pretty tasty, and lets not forget, oh so simple. One thing I didn't like too much though was that the oil in the sauce separated a little on the pizza and bled into the crust, leaving orange oil-stains on the crust.
Lets talk about dough - pizza dough. I added in half a teaspoon of sugar to the dough just to give the yeast a little boost. It probably didn't make much of a difference but it sure didn't hurt either. The dough created a solid, standard pizza - definitely a keeper. I didn't have a pizza stone so I just slid my pizza onto a hot cookie sheet in the oven. This resulted in a crust that wasn't as crispy as I would have liked. However, this pizza is perfect when re-heated as leftovers, when the pizza can crisp up nicely as it warms in the toaster oven.
I topped the pizzas with some shredded cheese. I will definitely try this recipe again with toppings such as sliced bell peppers and onion, but under no circumstances pineapple. Many, I know, will disagree, but pineapple does not belong on pizza.

(above) So the above + a cup of water is really all you need to make pizza sauce. You don't even have to cook it over the stove. Amazing.

(above) The finished pizza sauce! You may want to beat the sauce with a spoon or fork (in the same motion as you would when beating an egg) if you are having trouble combining the oil into the sauce.

(above) I divided the dough I made into two balls in order to create two 9 inch pizzas. You will want to roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface.

(above) Pizza dough rolled out.

(above) You are going to want to grate up some mozzarella cheese.

(above) The pizza topped with pizza sauce and shredded cheese.
(above) The pizza, all baked up!

Basic Pizza Dough
Makes 2 large pizzas
Recipe from Annie's Eats
½ cup warm water (about 110°)
1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 ½ tsp. salt
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

  1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
  2. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.
  3. To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
  4. Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Top as desired. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

Notes: I halved the entire recipe. This created two 9 inch pizzas. I added in half a teaspoon of sugar to the yeast/ warm water mixture. I did not have a pizza stone so I slid my pizza onto a hot cookie sheet.

Easy Pizza Sauce

Adapted from Allrecipes

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

  1. Mix together the tomato paste, water, and olive oil. Mix well. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Mix well.
  2. Let stand several hours to let flavors blend. No cooking necessary, just spread on dough.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Chiffon Cupcakes

(above) Chiffon Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

My obsession with cupcakes continues as I venture into a new type of cake - the chiffon cake. Up to this point I have never made chiffon cake. In fact, I'm not quite sure if I had ever even tried it. Anyway, chiffon cake is unique in the sense that it uses beaten egg whites for leavening and oil instead of the traditional butter. This results in a fragrant vanilla-scented cake that is spongy and light in texture. It is very similar (if not the same!) to the cakes seen in many Asian bakeries. I chose to top these chiffon cupcakes with my favorite chocolate frosting. I wanted to try a new chocolate butter cream recipe, but I felt that the heaviness of a sugary chocolate butter cream just wouldn't pair up with the light cake. I can't wait to use this cake recipe (which I highly recommend!) with different combinations of flavors and frostings. I can imagine that a lemon-scented chiffon cake (with lemon zest mixed into the cake batter!) and a cream cheese frosting would go together brilliantly. Or perhaps sliced strawberries and some fresh whipped cream? Yum.

(above) The beaten egg yolks at the "ribbon" stage.

(above) 1/3 of the beaten egg white ready to be folded in.

(above) The folding in of the egg whites.

(above) You can see how much the egg white lightens up the batter!

(above) The batter is divided into paper cups. [Not shown: I smoothed the tops of the cupcakes before putting it in the oven. I don't know if this made a difference in the outcome]

(above) I recently bought these mini cupcake baking cups and I wanted to test them out! Aren't they cute?

(above) The chiffon cupcakes baked! They took around 11 minutes. The cakes rise in the oven and fall a bit during the cooling process. Just thought you should know.

(above) I guess I was a little skimpy with the batter with the first tray of cupcakes. This is the shortest cupcake. Look at the texture! It is light and spongy.

(above) The cupcakes baked up and cooled.

(above) The mini cupcakes, frosted.

(above) Cupcakes - frosted and sprinkled.

(above) More cupcakes.
Side note: Last week I received a lovely award from the very sweet Adriana from Bittersweet Baker. Thank you for thinking of me!

I'm sharing the love with 10 other food bloggers:
10 things that make me happy:
  1. Running
  2. Chick flicks
  3. Accomplishing new things
  4. Pad Thai
  5. Frosting cupcakes
  6. Listening to Owl City or Taylor Swift
  7. Hot chocolate
  8. Toothpaste that makes your teeth feel all clean and polished
  9. Kind words
  10. Long, rambley chats with friends during sleepovers
The rules are: Copy and paste the award on your blog. List who gave the award to you and use a link to their blog. List 10 things that make you happy. Pass the award on to 10 other bloggers and visit their blog to let them know!
Chiffon Cupcakes
Recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network, with slight adaptations
Makes 24 cupcakes
5 1/4 ounces cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
5 large eggs, separated
6 ounces sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place paper liners into 2 (12-cup) muffin tins and set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
    Place the egg yolks and 5 ounces of the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk on high for 2 minutes or until the mixture becomes pale yellow and 'ribbons' when lifted. Add the water, vegetable oil and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients and whisk just to combine. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl while you whisk the egg whites.
  3. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar into a clean bowl and whisk on high using the whisk attachment, until it becomes foamy. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the remaining ounce of sugar. Increase speed to high and continue whisking until stiff peaks form, approximately 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer 1/3 of the egg whites to the batter and whisk until well combined. Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Transfer batter into prepared muffin tins, evenly dividing the batter between the cups. Place both muffin tins on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes reach an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Piece of Cake!

(above) Frosted Yellow Layer Cake with Strawberry Jam Filling
Sunday was my sister's 20th birthday and a brilliant excuse to make a layer cake. While I strongly believe that cakes should be an equally everyday sort of thing as well as celebratory, for some reason I find myself making layer cakes only during celebrations. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it has to do with my cupcake obsession. I mean, cupcakes are cute, portable, delicious, and easy to share, so it makes sense why I like to make cake in cupcake form. Nonetheless, I rarely make layer cakes and in fact, this time was the first time I had ever made a cake with 1. a shell border and 2. a filling. Since my sister doesn't like chocolate (weird, I know, but more chocolate for me!), I made a yellow cake with vanilla frosting and a strawberry jam filling. I used a cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen.The taste and appearance were both acceptable but I think it could have been a tad moister. Then again, I baked the cake two days in advance and wrapped it in plastic wrap to store it in the fridge, so I can't exactly give an accurate review. After making Our Best Bite's delicious chocolate frosting, I decided to use the vanilla version of it. I have to say, I think that the chocolate version was better. However, that could just be because of the fact I like chocolate more than vanilla in general anyway. With the vanilla version, you really have to make sure that you use high quality butter or else it will taste really cheap. In addition, you may not want to dump the whole teaspoon of vanilla extract in all at once like I did because it changes the color of the frosting to an off-white. Other than that, the frosting had a wonderful texture and a not-too-sweet flavor.

Side note: Thank you all for your wonderful comments! I really appreciate all of them and keep them coming!

(above) Buttermilk is pretty much nonexistent where I live so improvising was nessasary. I used Joy the Baker's tip of mixing 1 cup of milk with 1 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Taking Joy's advice, I mixed the cream of tartar with 2 tablespoons of the milk before dumping the rest in to avoid lumps.

(above) Cake pan ready to go! Give it a couple of taps against the counter to get rid of air bubbles.

(above) The cake, all baked up! I was glad that the cake didn't dome too much.

(above) I halved the recipe and only made one layer. I leveled the top of the cake using a long, serrated knife. I put 4 toothpicks around the cake to help 'guide' me so that I could split the cake in half relatively evenly.

(above) Cooking the flour base of the frosting.

(above) Pipe a ring of frosting around the first layer of cake so that the filling will not squish out.

(above) The cake is filled with strawberry jam. If the jam is too hard to spread, you can pop it in the microwave for a couple of seconds.

(above) On goes the top layer!

(above) So you want to frost on a 'crumb coat' or thin layer of frosting first. It should look messy and highly unattractive. This is ok. We will cover it up later. Pop the cake in the freezer or fridge for a couple minutes so the frosting can harden a little bit.

(above) Using a spatula, spread on the rest of the frosting (unless you want to make a piped border).
(above) This was my first time making a shell border! I practiced on parchment paper before I decorated the cake. Comment if you would like me to post a how-to or demonstration.

(above) I didn't have enough frosting (even though I tried to save some!) so I added in some butter and icing sugar to create a butter cream. I added in some blue food coloring as well and gave it a mix.
(above) The cake all frosted and decorated! I used a homemade parchment paper icing bag to do the lettering.

(above) A cross section of the cake. You can see the jam filling and the blue shell border.
(above) A close-up of the shell border. I think I did a pretty good job considering it was my first time.

(above) A piece of cake! (pun intended) At least I think I'm funny =D

Best Yellow Layer Cake
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Makes two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, and, in theory, 22 to 24 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper, then butter parchment.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  3. Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely, about 1 hour.
Perfect Cupcake Frosting and Filling
Recipe from Our Best Bites
Generously frosts 12 cupcakes
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 C real butter
1/2 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or other flavor if you wish
  1. Whisk together the flour and the milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring, until it looks like pudding. Strain and then let it cool completely to room temperature or chill it in the fridge.
  2. In an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy.
  3. Then while beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat on the highest speed for around 7 minutes or until light and fluffy. Use it to fill cupcakes or other pastries, or as a frosting on top.
Notes: For the frosting, add the vanilla extract a little at a time (maybe in 1/4 teaspoon intervals). You may not wish to dump the entire teaspoon of vanilla extract in because it changes the color of the frosting slightly. In addition, this recipe makes just enough to frost a one-layer round nine inch cake.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Chewy

(above) Alton Brown's "The Chewy" Chocolate Chip Cookies

See the cookies? They are delicious. Definitely the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever made. This, Alton Brown, is now my go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies (CCCs). I don't think I can rave enough about these. Where should I start? Well, for one, I think these are the most attractive CCCs I've ever made, not to mention the best tasting. The batter smells reminiscent of butterscotch and the cookies are excellent. They are just the right combination of soft and chewy, and pretty much sum up anything you could ever ask for out of a cookie. I guess its a little weird that I'm spending the first week of my summer vacation raving about cookies, but hey, that's what I do - I'm a food blogger (...and a baker ..and a girl who eats copious amounts of baked goods... you get the picture?). I did follow the recipe (almost) to the T, even buying a bag of bread flour just to make these. However, I didn't have kosher salt so I used a scant half teaspoon of regular table salt.

(above) The melting your butter. Heat it up and stir it until it just melts and the chunks disappear.

(above) "Creaming" (its not really creaming, more like mixing it until it resembles sludge) the butter and sugars.

(above) I made my cookies smaller than Alton's. I let my dough chill for one hour and scooped it out by rounded tablespoonfuls.

(above) Slightly undercooked cookies.
Since I made my cookies smaller, the baking time also had to be adjusted. I baked then for around 7 and a half minutes. One pan of my first batch came out a little undone, but the other pan was perfect. One pan always seems to cook things just a smidgen faster than the other, which can be really annoying. It took me a while to figure out how long to bake it on each pan (it really depends on how temperamental your pan is). By the way, the cookie was still tasty nonetheless.

(above) The most amazing CCCs. I commend you, Alton Brown.

The Chewy (Chocolate Chip Cookies)
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  2. Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Recipe from Alton Brown on Food Network. The recipe can also be found here.
Notes: I substituted the kosher salt with a scant half teaspoon of table salt. I made smaller cookies (rounded tablespoonfuls of dough) and baked them for approximately 7 - 9 minutes, depending on the pan. The recipe made a little over 3 dozen of these cookies.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Double Dose of Chocolate

(above) Vegan Chocolate Mini-Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
"I'll probably never meet another girl who will be able to [bake] a cupcake and read a textbook at the same time, all while running a 5K. Don't lie, you know you can do that with one hand tied behind your back" - this wonderful little quote was left in my yearbook by my friend, Tara. In order to celebrate the last day of junior year, I made cupcakes with the best frosting ever. This frosting is awesome. Unlike its traditional butter cream counterparts, it isn't overly sweet, so you can pipe copious amounts of the stuff on cupcakes. Its creamy with a good dose of chocolate infused in it (this is probably due to the fact that actual melted chocolate is also beaten in!). The recipe is from Our Best Bites. And guess what? There is a vanilla version of this frosting too, which I will definitely try soon.

(above) I baked up a half recipe (enough to make 12 standard size cupcakes) of Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes. I made 6 standard size cupcakes and around 36 mini ones (cute!).

(above) So first things first, you're going to want to melt some chocolate. 30 minutes on High in the microwave should do the trick.

(above) Ok, so I didn't have any milk. I mixed water with coffee creamer until it looked (and tasted!) kind of like milk.

(above) In the pot: Sugar, flour, cocoa powder.

(above) Milk, or in my case diluted coffee creamer is mixed in with the other ingredients and cooks until it is thickened. There weren't any visible lumps so I didn't bother straining the mixture. Let the mixture chill in the fridge.

(above) Beat the butter until creamy

(above) ...add in the chilled chocolate mixture.

(above) ...and add in the cooled melted chocolate.
(above) After all of that, you are left with a creamy, luscious chocolate frosting ready to be piped. Yum.

(above) I had a difficult time deciding which sprinkles to use. I can be quite indecisive.

(above) I settled with these colorful flower sprinkles.

(above) A frosted mini cupcake!

Chocolate Frosting
Recipe adapted by Our Best Bites from Sugar Plum
Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1 cup real butter, softened
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Optional: Additional cocoa powder as needed

  1. Melt your chocolate chips if you haven't already and set aside to cool. You obviously don't want it so cool that it hardens, but you can get it close to room temperature and still have it be soft and stir-able.
  2. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, and milk; bring to a boil, whisking frequently. Boil 1-3 minutes or until thickened like a thinned pudding. Remove pan from heat and strain mixture into a small bowl. Cool completely in the refrigerator or freezer.
  3. When chocolate flour mixture is cooled, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in the cooled chocolate mixture until well combined fluffy, about 1 minute. Finally add in melted chocolate and beat again until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. If desired, add additional cocoa powder to taste, up to 4 tablespoons more.
  4. Spread or pipe frosting on to cupcakes or cake.