Monday, June 13, 2011

Sour Cream Citrus Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze

Now I apologize profusely right away by saying I do NOT have a photograph of this poundcake. You will have to use your imagination to envision one of the best quick breads, desserts, and poundcakes you will have ever had the privilege of tasting. I cannot rave enough about this recipe.  Trust me, if you make anything next- make this dessert.

I had the privilege of getting a hold of this dessert when I took a Baking Class at the Cambridge Culinary School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This school is great because it offers a TON of recreational courses that usually professional students enrolled in culinary school to take.  The Introduction to Baking course was a 4-week course that I took over a year ago.  Let's just say I did not stop there. I have since taken more courses and if I could would enroll as a full-time student.  I love being in a real commercial-style kitchen and getting to learn hands-on with professional chef instructors.  The first time I took this course I walked out beaming pastry in hand.

Part of the 4-week course involved a Cake class.  I had taken a cake decorating class, so I was familiar with some of the basic concepts, but still enjoyed learning some different techniques from the instructors.  The class is designed like your typical science class- lecture than lab. Once you learn the basic techniques, you get to choose and make a cake from the list of recipes they give you.  I had chosen a carrot cake with cream cheese icing.  The people next to me chose to make this sour cream poundcake.  They let me try a piece at the end and one bite made me wish I had chosen that recipe!  Let's just say it didn't take a week for me to make it at home.

It also make great mini-loaves and I gave these away at Christmas presents to co-workers this year.  It's a delicous cheap Christmas present that everyone was  happy to get. 

Sour Cream Citrus Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze
From Cambridge School of Culinary Arts

1 cup unsalted butter
2 1/4  cups sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Grated zest of 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1 lime

1. Sift dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
2.  In another bowl, combine grated orange, lemon, and lime zests, vanilla extract and sour cream.
3. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.   Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the mixing bowl well after each addition and mix until blended.  Add dry and wet ingredients alternately to butter-sugar-egg mixture until uniformly incorporated- do not overmix.
4. Grease and flour one bundt cake pan (or 2 large loaf pans- or 6-7 mini loaf pans).  Pour batter into pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for approximately 50 minutes (be sure to lower the baking time if you are making things smaller).  The cake is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool before glazing.

Lemon Glaze

1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon zest

Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Pour over top of cake and serve.  For a thicker glaze use less lemon juice.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Operation: Baking Gals

As part of starting this blog, I wanted to get more involved in things.  So when I saw that one of my favorite blogs, Beantown Baker, was asking for volunteers to send care packages full of delicious baked goodies to her friend Nate who is stationed in Afghanistan I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do.  I loved the idea and immediately joined her team, Team Beantown Baker, on the Operation Baking Gals Site.

So this post is all about what I sent to her friend Nate. I spent A LOT of time trying to decide what to send to her friend Nate. I knew right away I wanted to send these Rasberry Streusel Bars I saw in a Cook's Illustrated magazine recently.  I have been wanting to make these bars for awhile now, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity.  I also thought that they would ship very well. 

I admit after making them and tasting them it was extremely hard to package them up and ship them off! I trimmed the edges of the bars before cutting them, and none of the crispy edges went to waste.  I will admit I did steal one bar (chef's right to taste test) and had a hard time stopping there. I will definitely be making them again.

 I knew I also wanted to make another delicious treat to ship off.  I finally settled on a recipe from Curtis Stone, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I had all the ingredients except the chocolate chips (I know what you're thinking..out of chocolate chips?) I had cinnamon, milk chocolate, some white chocolate, but no semi-sweet! I had used them up recently making a chocolate ganache recipe, so with only one ingredient missing I figured this would be easy enough and would make a great cookie to ship with the raspberry streusel bars.

These cookies were very peanut buttery.  Not for the faint of peanut butter hearts. I did like how well they baked up.  I just hope that the soldiers enjoyed them.  Of course I guess I'll never know.

After reading through Jen (from Beantown Baker's) previous blogs on Operation Baking Gals I decided I would follow her advice and freeze the goodies for at least 48 hours to ensure freshness when the package arrived. I packaged each goodie in its own plastic container.  But the two containers still left some room for something else.  I really wanted to balance the sweet tooth with something salty.  Not wanting to bake for the third time that day (and do another round of dishes!-my least favorite) I remembered back to when my cousin David was deployed.  All he asked for was- PICKLES! The Mt. Olive pickle company makes these great little portable containers of pickles in plastic containers perfect for shipping overseas! Two packages of these little gherkins fit perfectly in the large flat rate box from the post office.  My Operation Baking Gals package was complete.  I hope Nate and his friends enjoy my baked treats.

 Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies (from Curtis Stone)
Makes about 20 cookies (as usual, I only got 13- I always end up making mine too big- oh well)


1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural chunky peanut butter (about 9 ounces / 280 grams)
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated / caster sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces / 155 grams semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used chocolate chips to save a little money!)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
  2. Line 3 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Mix the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the peanut butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, honey, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.
  5. Stir the dry ingredients into the peanut butter mixture in 2 additions.
  6. Stir in the chopped chocolate
  7. Scoop about 3 tablespoonfuls of dough for each cookie onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the cookies puff and begin to brown on top but are still very soft to the touch.
  9. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
  10. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a rack and eat warm or cool completely.

Raspberry Streusel Bars (A Cook's Illustrated Recipe)
Note from Cook's Illustrated: This recipe can be done in a food processor or stand mixer. (I made mine in a food processor.)  Frozen raspberries can be substituted for fresh (I had some fresh leftover in my fridges so I used those). If you use frozen be sure to defrost those first befor adding them to your raspberry jam.  If your raspberries are a little tart, add only 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the filling. The bars are best eaten the day they are baked but can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days (the crust will soften slightly with storage).

21/2 cups (121/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (about 4 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
16 Tablespoons  (2 sticks) plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 ounces) light or dark brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar because that is what I had on hand)
1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup (2 ounces) pecans, chopped fine
3/4 cup (8 1/2 ounces) raspberry perserves
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) fresh raspberries
1 Tablespoon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust to oven rack to middle position, heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width.  Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing into corners and up sides of pan allow excess to overhang pan edges.  Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet.  Spray foil-lined pan with cooking spray.
2.  In bowl of stand mixer fitter with paddle attachment, mix flour granulated sugar, and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds.  With machine on low, add 16 Tablespoons butter 1 piece at a time, then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  (If using, food processor, process flour, granulated sugar, and salt until combined, about 5 seconds.  Scatter 16 tablespoon butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles damp sand, about twenty 1-second pulses.
3. Measure 1 1/4 cups flour mixture medium bowl and set aside; distribute remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking pan.   Following illustration 1 above, use hands or flat-bottomed measuring cup to firmly press mixture into even layer to form bottom crust.  Bake until edges begin to brown, 14 to 18 minutes
4.  While crust is baking, add brown sugar oats, and pecans to reserved flour mixture; toss to combine.  Work in remaining 2 tablespoons butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated.  Pinch mixture with fingers to create hazelnut-size clumps; set streusel aside.
5. Combine preserves, raspberries and lemon juice in small bowl; mash with fork until combined but some berry pieces remain.
6. Following illustrations 2 and 3, spread filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping evenly over filling (do not press streusel into filling). Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling, 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 1 to 2 minutes; remove from baking pan by lifting foil extensions. Using chef's knife cut into squares and serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Red Wine Sangria with Agave Nectar

When trying to decide what to bring to a beach party a couple days ago, Sangria immediately came to the forefront of my brain. What is it about this beverage that A) never gets old B) screams SUMMER and is C) something that everyone likes.  If Sangria is on the menu at a resturant I always get it. I've only ever made it once, so I figured I'd give it a try again.

The Best Red Wine Sangria recipe seems to pop up everywhere when I started looking online. One that seeemed to repeat again and again was Cook's Illustrated's recipe.  I love and wholeheartedly trust Cook's Illustrated and stopped looking when I came upon their recipe.   The recipe was simple, but I decided to change it just a little.  One, I wanted to make a little healthier by cutting out the sugar and try making it with agave nectar.  I've been wanting to try agave nectar for awhile so I figured this would why not.  I also wanted to add more fruit then what the recipe called for. the recipe calls for citrus only (a trio of orange, limes, and lemons). Taking a trip to the grocery store I found strawberries and watermelon on sale so I decided on those.  I also grabbed a Granny Smith apple. I figured the tart colorful fruit would make a nice addition. Also most recipes called for brandy, so I figured what the heck. Let's throw a little of that in, too. Ok, so maybe I deviated quite a bit from the original recipe, but it all ended up tasting delicious. 
What I love about Sangria is that it can turn an very inexpensive bottle of wine (as cheap as $6 for one of large 750 mL bottles) into something extraordinary.  Reading what Cook's Illustrated had to say, they agreed that people who tried their recipe (who gets to do this for them and how do I get this job?) actually preferred the cheap over the expensive wine. Woo hoo!

The recipe calls for letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator for a proper marriage of fruit and wine. I personally had only 4 hours.  Oh well- I plunged on anyway.  Making it was extremely easy (why don't I do this more often?). I poured the wine in a large container and then added the citrus.  I cut up each orange, lime, and lemon in half.  I squeezed the juice from half of each into the wine, and cut up the other half into wedges and added those to the wine.  I decided the half that I squeezed into the wine, I would just add as well and remove later. I added the rest of the fruit, triple sec, and brandy to the mix.  Then it came for the agave nectar. On the bottle it reads 1.4 times as sweeter.  Recipes I looked at online called for 2/3 cup, which seemed excessive to me.  I started with 3 Tbs. and worked my way up from there.  I eventually settled on 6 Tbs. and then (yes I admit it) added a little sugar. 2-3 Tbs. to be exact. 

The last thing it called for was some sort of carbonated or sparkling beverage.  Ginger ale, club soda, sparkling water. I opted for a cheap flavored bottle of seltzer water.  Cranberry-lime to be exact.  I really think your choice here is your preference.  Sangria just want some bubbles.

In the end, the 4 hour marriage of my sangria still resulted in a happy one.  So go make some sangria and get summer started.

Sangria Recipe with Agave Nectar
(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

1 750- mL bottle of red wine (the cheaper the better)
1/4 cup triple sec
1/2 cup brandy
1 orange (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges)
1 lime (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges)
1 lemon (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges)
1 cup strawberries,  cut into quarters
1 cup watermelon, cubed
1 Granny Smith Apple,  sliced
6 Tbs. Agave Nectar (adjust to your liking- I started with 3 Tbs)
2-3 Tbs. of Granulated Sugar (optional- again taste as you go with this)
2 cups of sparkling water, giner ale,  or club soda (I used a Cranberry Lime seltezer water)

1. Combine all but the sparkling water into large pitcher and refrigerate.  Add the sparkling water just before serving with ice. Stir, enjoy. Relax.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Brown sugar cream cheese frosting

I made these awhile a back and just found the photo of the cupcakes on my camera so I thought I'd share.  I was watching Food Network (surprise, surprise if you know me) and twice in one day (yes I watch a lot of it) these were mentioned.  I take that as a culinary sign if there was one. I love making cupcakes and I thought this one would be fun.  I found many similar cupcake recipes for this one, but most called for a basic cream cheese (or mascarpone frosting).  Mascarpone being well not cheap, I decided to stick to the cream cheese frosting but change it up a little bit.  I had seen recently on Beantown Baker's (a blog I am a huge fan of and that also was a inspiration behind my own) a post she had done about red velved cupcakes with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting recipe.  I decided to use this to top my cupcakes with. 

 The frosting did not dissapoint.  It did make quite a bit, as Beantown Baker's blog warned but I always seem to run out of frosting mid-way through icing them finding myself in an extremely frustrated spot that requies a second trip to the grocery store. This time though, I actually ended up having extra (as warned) so froze the leftover frosting to be used at a later date (you can't go wrong with extra frosting laying around in your fridge).

These cupcakes had a wonderful spice cake resemblance.  Everyone who tasted one of these cupcakes said they were delicious. I also refused to tell them what was in it until after they tasted it.  Some swore AFTER I told them the cupcakes were made with tomato soup that they thought they could taste it.  The mind is a powerful thing. Either way, they really were delicious.

Tomato Soup Cupcakes
Makes 24

2 (10¾ oz.) cans condensed tomato soup, preferably low sodium
1 tsp. baking soda
3½ c. all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. cinnamon*
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg*
½ tsp. ground allspice*
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ c. (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line two twelve-cup cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In a large bowl, sprinkle baking soda over the tomato soup and stir well. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, salt and baking powder.
4. Beat butter and sugars together on medium speed until fluffy, three to four minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat for a few seconds. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with tomato soup, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl again, and mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
5. Fill the prepared cupcake pan about three-quarters full. Bake the cupcakes 25-28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
6. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 30 minutes in the pan, then turn them out onto wire racks to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting (from Beantown Baker- originally from Joy the Baker)
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
8oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4-6 cups powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons milk
depending on desired consistency

Cream the cream cheese in an electric mixer for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and add the butter, beating for 1-2 minutes, or until incorporated. Be sure that the two are at room temperature. Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy

Add the brown sugar, pinch of salt and vanilla extract, and beat until incorporated.

Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar. Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl. Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Peach Muffins with a Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel Topping

Peaches...round 2! I had made a peach summer cake the other day and had about a cup or so of leftover peaches.  I immediately started looking around for a recipe for peach muffins.  I stumbled on a few, one from Emeril.  I didn't have all the ingredients and not wanting to make a trip to the grocery store I decided to keep looking.  After a few minutes I stumbled on a site, Ezra Pound Cake, and her recipe of Sweet Peach Muffins with Brown Sugar Walnut Streusel Topping.  I had pecans and figured this would make an perfect substitution. This recipe made a great muffin.  I was visiting my parents in New York, and I love my mother to pieces but a well-stocked kitchen she has not. She had a 6-cup muffin pan (I was thankful to find that!) Love you mother. I filled up those six, put the rest in a loaf pan and called it done. Both were great. Baking is my passion, my love, my refuge. I believe it should be fun- not stressful. Having a 6 cup muffin pan? No worries...improvise..and keep going. Let's just say these were delicious (muffin and bread form) and did not last long!

Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake (whom she adapted from Sarah Foster's The Foster's Market Cookbook)
Makes large 12 muffins (or 6 muffins, and a 9-inch quick peach bread)
Brown Sugar-Pecan Streusel Topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Muffin Batter:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (I didn't have it..and just put in a little extra cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum or pure vanilla extract (I used vanilla)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, pitted, chopped peaches
1. For the Topping: In a small bowl, combine the pecans (walnuts, what have you), flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the butter, and mix until well blended.
2. For the Muffins: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 large muffin cups with paper liners, and spray the top of the pan lightly with nonstick spray.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients, from flour to salt, and set aside.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, butter, sour cream and rum or vanilla. Fold in the peaches.
5. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir until just moist and blended. Do not overmix.
6. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pan with a large ice cream scoop (1/3-cup scoop). The batter should come to the top of the paper liner or pan. Sprinkle with the Brown Sugar-Walnut Streusel Topping, and lightly press the topping into the muffin batter.
7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes clean. Remove from the oven, and cool for 5 minutes. Turn the muffins out of the pan, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Peach Summer Cake

Peaches were on sale this week, so I had to make something with them.  I also was home visiting my family, and peaches just happen to my dad's favorite so it seemed only fitting to do a peach dessert for Memorial Day.

I saw recently posted on the Smitten Kitchen blog (can you tell I'm a huge fan of this blog site?) a strawberry summer cake.  I originally had that recipe in mind when I went to the store, but when I saw all the beautiful juicy ripe peaches on sale I decided they would work just fine.  I have to admit I have in the last year or so I'm getting much better at detouring from original recipes by adapting here and there. Now I know swapping out one fruit for another is pretty low on the kitchen adventure scale, but a person who never diverted even a little bit when it came to a new recipe this is pretty big. 

Ok I have to admit though I think my swap of fruit may have lead for it to be a bit laden with all the extra juice that peaches provide (oh well).  I blanched the peaches first to easily remove the skins, which may have been my fatal mistake there.  I believe that blanching the fruit may have resulted in bringing out all the juice.  Next time, I believe I will painstakingly peel them.  Because it was Memorial Day I had better things to do besides sit in the kitchen and peel peaches.

The cake batter itself turned out lovely and took all my self-restraint not to continually "taste-test" the batter.  I have no self-control when it comes to cake batter.  I did not measure the amount of peaches and just literally stuck them into the uncooked batter until I thought there was enough.  What I found in the could have used more.  A whole lot more.  I ended saving the cup of leftover peaches and turned them into peach muffins, which I'll post later, (so at least I got another dessert out this!). So either measure first, or if you're an anti-measure person (as much as you can get away with while baking) then keep putting more peaches in.  And when you think you're done, put a few more in for good measure.  Trust me, you won't regret it.    Overall, delicious.  A perfect summer treat.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Summer Cake

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour (can swap 3/4 cup or 94 grams all-purpose flour with 3/4 cup or 75 grams of barley flour, see Note)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (200 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup (118 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 pound (450 grams) peaches, peeled and sliced
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 10-inch pie pan or 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. This cake would also work in a 9- or 10-inch springform or cake pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg, milk and vanilla until just combined. Add dry mixture gradually, mixing until just smooth.
Pour into prepared pie plate. Arrange peaches on top of batter, as closely as possible in a single layer. (Feel free to overlap if needed. You won't be disappointed.)  Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.
Bake cake for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 325°F and bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 50 minutes to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack. Cut into wedges. Serve with lightly whipped cream.
Do ahead: Cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, loosely covered.

Cheap Eats of the Week: Pizza Dough!

 Yesterday I decided to make homemade pizza dough.  I got out one of my (ahem) many many cookbooks I own and found this recipe. I have decided recently that buying cookbooks is a bit of an expensive hobby to have. I seem to just love collecting them more often then I use them since I generally find most of my inspiration and recipes online! So I decided this time I would actually get one out.  This cookbook in general I feel could get used quite often. It is titled, "BAKING", by James Peterson and it has very detailed photographs for each recipe.  I generally judge how well a cookbook is buy how many photographs it has. And this one doesn't disappoint.  It is an extremely large cookbook, boasting over 300 recipes and nearly 2,000 photographs! (I told you it had a lot).  I really do suggest you check it out.

But anyway back to my pizza dough.  If there is anything as cheap or as versatile as pizza dough please someone let me know.  It is extremely cheap to make- it's more of the time commitment one has to put into it.  But when you do the results are amazing! I had recently gone out and purchased new yeast packages. I had an old one sitting around since (well, since I can't remember that should tell you something).  I still gave the old yeast a go, but with no bubbles produced my assumption was confirmed. Time to buy new. At about $2.00 a package for three, thats a good amount of yeast. 

I first started by "activating the yeast" in a small bowl, basically waking the little guys up.  I put the 1/2 teaspoon in, about a tablespoon of flour, and a tablespoon of barely warm water.  I let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. I then determined there weren't enough bubbles and a little bit more yeast. I have no idea if I really needed to do this, (as I feel I'm still "green" when it comes to using yeast), but I figured why not.  Yeast , in case you're curious is the smallest eukaryotic organism, belongs in the fungi kingdom because it can't make its own food, and is the most widely researched eukaryotic organism due to its ability to replicate so quickly. It is able to convert starch into alcohols (beer makers rejoice!) and carbon dioxide (hello bread!). Ok sorry the science teacher felt I need to divulge a little about yeast. Perhaps I should have called this blog, "The Dorky Baker". Anyways back to the dough...

I added my activated yeast to my flour and water and put my mixer on medium speed. It wasn't coming together as much as I would have liked, so I added a little bit more water and my salt. Not sure if this was due to the first nice hot day we had in Boston all May.  I added my extra virgin olive oil and continued mixing. At this point it started to look like dough!

After 7 minutes no high speed with my dough hook attached, I let it rise on the counter top for about 4 hours in a well-oiled bowl. Although like I said it's cheap, it is a bit time consuming. Don't plan on coming home and having pizza on the table in about an hour! This would be a good recipe to do the day before and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight or even while you're at work!  When I came back from the gym (yes I need to have balance in my life with all the baking I love to do) I was so excited to see that it had risen! (It's these little things in my life that I get most excited about).
Tonight I plan to use the dough-so I'll post my finished pizza recipe tomorrow and let you know how it turned out!  Next I'd like to try Smitten Kitchen's "Really Simple Homemade Pizza Dough. An amazing food blog I can only inspire to (I suggest you check it out)

Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from Baking, by James Peterson

Makes 1 ½ lbs. dough enough for two 11- inch thin pizza crusts
3 cups flour
¾ cup barely warm water
½ tsp. active dry yeast proofed in 1 Tbs. barely warm water
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
Before beginning, proof yeast in the barely warm water.
(I let sit for a couple minutes and then give it a stir.  Then I let it sit for another 5 minutes or so). **If of course you don't see immediate bubbles being produced, admit defeat and get new yeast!
Mix the flour, water, and yeast in a bowl. Add the salt and mix, then add the oil.  Knead the dough with a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook on medium speed for about 7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and passes the windowpane test. Turn the mixer to high speed if needed to get the dough to slap against the sides of the bowl.   You may also, during this time, pull the dough is mixed evenly.  Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. (I put mine in a well-oiled bowl and then covered it. Allow to double in volume, at room temperature for about 4 hours or at room temperature for 1 hour and then overnight in the refrigerator.
I saved the dough to the next day...and then of course roll and top with whatever you want

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baking on a Budget!

Hi everyone! Welcome! So this is my first blog. My name is Heather and I currently live and work in Boston- a wonderful but very expensive city to live in! As much as I would love to eat out whenever I wanted to, since there are so many fabulous restaurants out there, it is just too expensive. The reason I've started this blog, is one I LOVE to bake. If anyone has met me or knows me I love to be in the kitchen baking up something tasty and it's time I start sharing!  But I'm also a teacher, and let's face it: we don't make much money! And baking can be an expensive hobby to have! So this blog is dedicated to me baking my way through life but on a budget.  Recipes I will choose, will generally be chosen with my small pursestrings in mind.  So follow me as I get creative and bake. (and cook!)..on a budget!