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Buttermilk Clouds

Pizza Margherita

Years ago I bought a cooking CD from Williams-Sonoma. This pizza recipe from that CD has become a family favorite. It is far better than any pizza you find eating out. I especially love the simplicity of it.

Pizza Margherita
•For the pizza dough•
1 Tbs. (1 package) active dry yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. lukewarm water (105°F)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
•For the topping•
7 oz. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
8 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped,
or canned plum tomatoes, drained and
1 handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
•To make the pizza dough, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until slightly foamy on top, about 10 minutes.
•In a large bowl, stir together the 2 3/4 cups flour and the salt and form into a mound. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture to the well. Using a fork and stirring in a circular motion, gradually pull the flour into the yeast mixture. Continue stirring until a dough forms.
•Lightly flour a work surface with some of the 1/2 cup flour and transfer the dough to it. Using the heel of your hand, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.
•Brush a large bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hour
•Preheat an oven to 450°F. If using a baking stone or tiles, place in the oven now.
•Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with the remaining flour. Punch the dough down and, using your hand, begin to press it out gently into the desired shape. (If you want to make individual pizzas, divide the dough into four equal-size pieces and shape each one.) Place one hand in the center of the dough and, with the other hand, pull, lift and stretch the dough, gradually working your way all around the edge, until it is the desired thickness, about 1/4 inch thick for a crusty pizza base and 1/2 inch thick for a softer one. Flip the dough over from time to time as you work with it. (Or roll out the dough with a rolling pin.) The dough should be slightly thinner in the middle than at the edge. Lift the edge of the pizza to form a slight rim.
•Transfer the dough to a pizza peel or baking sheet, cover with a cotton towel and let rise again until almost doubled in size, about 20 minutes.
•Cover the dough with the cheese and then the tomatoes. Scatter the basil over the top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 3 Tbs. of the olive oil over the top. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes more. Drizzle the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over the top and serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Pizza, by Lorenza de' Medici (Time-Life Books, 1993).

I have experimented with different pizza pans, stones or whatever. The type of pan that I seem to have the most luck with is the kind with holes. It is a little heavier than most pizza pans. When baking the bottom of the crust does not get soggy and it bakes more evenly.

Occasionally I don't want two pizzas, and try other things with the extra dough. One option is making Sticky Buns with the other half of the dough.

Sticky Buns
Take half of the pizza dough, and after the 2 1/2 hour rise, roll out int a in a big square. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar and cinammon. Roll and cut into 16 pieces. Place in a 9x13 inch baking pan that has 1/2 - 1 stick butter cut up, brown sugar and pecans sprinkled on bottom. Let rise again for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Bake at 400° about 20 minutes or until done.

If, by chance, you don't have the time for the 2 1/2 hour rise, this dough recipe will work nicely. As a matter of fact, this is the dough recipe I followed yesterday.

Rapid Rise Pizza Crust
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pkg. yeast
1 cup water
2 tablespoons oil
•In a large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Heat water and oil until very warm (120° to 130° F - can be done by placing in microwave for 1 minute). Gradually stir water into dry ingredients. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Diveide dough in half. Shape each half into a ball. Roll each into a 12-inch circle. Place on 2 baking sheets. Add toppings and bake in preheated 450° oven for 10 minutes; turn down heat to 400° and bake another 10 minutes.

Let the pizza baking begin!!

UPDATE: 02/07/07 - If the dough seems a little too elastic when trying to roll it into circles, don't fight it. Simply cover the dough balls with a towel and let it rest another 10-20 minutes. That usually does the trick!


By: Sharon Pickering | 1/28/2007 at 8:00 AM | | If you want, you can leave a comment by clicking here.

No-Knead Bread

The lure of the No-Knead Bread has finally gotten to me. As I type, I have a bowl of dough on my kitchen island in the first phase...the long rest of 12 to 18 hours. That is what the recipe recommends, but on blogs across the world, the times have varied.

So far it has been a simple process, only 4 ingredients! I mixed the dough according to the following recipe, but added 1 3/4 teaspoons of salt due to blog peer pressure. It seems the amount in the recipe (1 1/4 teaspoons) just wasn't enough. That is the only modification I made. This is the bread after mixing:

The recipe also recommends a room temperature of 70°. Well, it is winter in Illinois and pretty chilly. As much as I would love it, the temperature in our home is not that high. So, I rigged up a little bread warming station. This consists of a heating pad, a wire rack, four ramekins and a towel.

I thought that the dough would get too warm if the bowl was left directly on top of the heating pad, so I placed a ramekin on each corner of the heating pad and placed the wire rack on them. I then placed the bowl of dough on the wire rack which is suspended over the heating pad and covered the bowl (first with plastic wrap as directed in the recipe) with the towel to keep it warm. Hopefully it will keep the dough at the correct temperature. Here is the dough on the bread warming station with the plastic wrap in place.

Apparently the warming station was a success; this is what my dough looked like after the 20 hour rise:

I scraped/poured the dough onto a floured board to get ready for the 15 minute rise:

Then the dough was folded a couple of times, with the help of my metal dough scraper, and ended up looking like this:

After that I covered it with a plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes. Using the metal dough scraper, I transferred it to a floured parchment paper and covered it with a floured towel and let on my warming station (with a board this time on the rack) for 2 hours.

The pan was a dilemma for me. (I had 18 hours to obsess think it over.) I didn't have the pan used in the video. (But, oh, do I wish!) A side note: I do have a smaller oval 2 quart one made by 'Well Equipped Kitchen' that I found out will work perfectly for half a recipe!!!! JOY JOY. I didn't even think about it, but read this post by Rose Levy Beranbaum Baby Bread--A Great New Technique. I will be trying that one next time. Does anyone else love 'Well Equipped Kitchen' products? I can only find them at TJ Maxx, but they are awesome! Anyway, back to my dilemma. I needed a pan for my full size recipe. I decided on my clay baker. Just for good measure, I put the clay baker on my pizza stone in the oven.

I was a little concerned because of the indentation on the bottom of the pot, but I went ahead. As it turns out, it worked wonderfully!


No-Knead Bread
Originally published by Mark Bittman in the New York Times
Additions by annie noted with an asterisk
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours rising
Yields one 1 1/2 pound loaf

3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour (more for dusting) (I used bread flour)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast *
1 1/4 teaspoons salt **
1 5/8 cups water ***

*Instant yeast is also known as Rapid Rise, Bread Machine, SAF, QuickRise, Instant Active Dry, and Gourmet Perfect Rise (I don't know what I used. Pitiful, I know, but I have a huge container of yeast in my freezer that is not in it's original yeast bag. I do know that it was purchased at Sam's. Whatever it is, I used 1/4 tsp.)
**or 1 3/4 tsp salt
***or 1 1/2 cups water (the debate goes on) 1 5/8 cups was in the NYT recipe

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (or 1 1/2 cups water), and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) or parchment paper with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

The bread is now out of the oven and cooling on a wire rack. It is true...it crackles!! It sings the bread song! And it is beautiful. By far the prettiest loaf I have ever made. I'm waiting for it to cool before I slice it. That is the hardest part about the whole thing.

Just looking at the loaf, I think I may have overdone the sprinkling of flour on the parchment paper and the towel that covered the bread. I was a little apprehensive about the dough sticking to all surfaces after reading about others' experiences. I didn't experience the overly wet dough. Mine was soft, very soft, but with floured hands I was able to maneuver it to the hot pan in the oven.

A couple of pointers. I used a little rubber pot scraper to remove the dough from the bowl after the first long rest. (Am I the only woman in the world to get a pot scraper for Christmas? I really want to know.) I used a metal dough scraper (I have a scraper for every occasion it seems) to fold it over on itself for the 15 minute rest.

I also used the metal dough scraper after the 15 minute rest to get the dough up off the floured resting board.

I will be making this bread over and over again! So easy. And I forgot to mention the most important part...it tastes like bread heaven! Look at that crumb! The big holes! The soft inside! The crisp chewy crust! And if you noticed the jar of home-made jelly (blackberry compliments from my Mom!) in the first picture? A perfect topping for a perfect bread.


Here are the links to the New York Times article and follow up article:

New York Times Video: No-Knead Bread

THE MINIMALIST; No Kneading, but Some Fine-Tuning


By: Sharon Pickering | 1/20/2007 at 8:04 PM | | If you want, you can leave a comment by clicking here.

Winter Squash Gratin

Winter Squash Gratin
I made this tonight for the first time. Looking for something different and healthy to do with squash. It was a perfect savory dish on a cold rainy winter's night. A great accompaniment for a roast pork loin. But, you have my apologies for the picture because it is not a good one. When the casserole came out of the oven, it was beautiful! A sight to behold. Warm and golden. But, I forgot to take a picture...and we started to eat dinner. When I realized I forgot to take a picture, it was already half way gone. So, this is just a little corner of what was left.

Winter Squash Gratin
Nonstick cooking spray
2 Tbls olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbls minced)
1 Tbls chopped fresh sage or 1 tsp dried sage
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 lbs butternut squash-peeled, halved, seeded and sliced 1/4" thick
1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat bread crumbs (2 slices)
1 Tbls parsley
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, part-skim, shredded
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Coat a 9x13 casserole with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook about 6 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally Remove from heat. Stir in sage, thyme, salt and pepper.
3. Place half of the squash slices in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the onion mixture and half of the bread crumbs. Top with remaining squash slices. Cover with foil, bake 45 minutes or until squash is nearly tender.
4. Meanwhile, combine the remaining bread crumbs, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the parsley. Mix well.
5. Remove foil from baking dish; sprinkle squash with mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and bread crumb mixture. Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes more or until crumbs are golden brown and squash is tender. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
From The Sonoma Diet Recipes

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to a tasty lunch of a pork loin sandwich on whole wheat bread with horseradish sauce and a helping of left-over Winter Squash Gratin!

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By: Sharon Pickering | 1/15/2007 at 5:16 PM | | If you want, you can leave a comment by clicking here.

Banana Pineapple Bread

Banana bread
I made this banana bread for my brand new son-in-law, Robert! He married my daughter, Nikki, on New Year's Eve in our home. Very special wedding. But, sadly, he is leaving today to go back to Bermuda. Nikki has to stay behind until all paper work is finished. So, to ease the pain, I packed two loaves for him.

This recipe is a bit unusual. It is made with buttermilk, bananas and pineapple. It makes a great bread!

Banana Pineapple Bread
1 (8oz) can crushed pineapple with juice
3 bananas, mashed
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
sprinkle of allspice
Using my KitchenAid mixer*:
Place oil and sugar in mixer bowl. Attach the flat beater. Turn to Speed 6 and beat about 1 minute. Stop and scrape bowl. Continue on speed 6 about 1 minute longer. Add eggs. Turn to Speed 4 and beat 30 seconds. Stop and scrape bowl, Add buttermilk and vanilla, turn to Speed 6 and beat 1 1/2 minutes more.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine the bananas and pineapple in another bowl. To the large mixer bowl add 1/2 of the flour mixture and 1/2 of the banana/pineapple mixture. Using Stir speed, mix about 30 seconds. Add the remaining four and banana/pineapple mixture and beat for another 30 seconds.
Pour into loaf pans (greased on the bottom) and bake at 350° for about 1 1/2 hours. Cool 5 minutes then remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
*Instructions for hand mixing:
Blend ingredients in large bowl until completely moistened. Pour into pans and bake as directed above.

Robert use to take a bunch of bananas to his mother's house and he said by some miracle they would turn into bread and muffins! Since his mother is no longer with us, perhaps I can continue the miracle.

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By: Sharon Pickering | 1/06/2007 at 11:49 AM | | If you want, you can leave a comment by clicking here.