There’s nothing better then homemade pizza and this crust is simple and delicious. If you need sourdough starter, check out my bread post from last week, where you’ll find a link to get FREE sourdough starter. I prefer thin crust pizzas (being from the New York area…where we make REAL pizza), but if you prefer a thicker crust, it’s all here in the printable recipe. This is one of those recipes that appears to be a little vague at first, but once you try it and get the feel for how the dough should come together, it’s simple and quick to replicate whenever you get the urge…which for me, seems to happen about 3-4 times a week lately. And since the recipe makes 3 crusts which freeze incredibly well, you actually don’t have it make it that often. Just take one out of the freezer, and in about 3 hours, it’s ready to roll. The crust is also very versatile and can be used in dozens of different ways. Just the other day, I topped one with just caramelized onions, crumbled goat cheese and drizzled some olive oil on it and it was amazing.
If you crave fresh hot-out-of-the-oven baguettes, but you didn’t think it was possible to make them at home, here is the proof (see what I did there?) that not only can it be done, but it can be done relatively quickly and easily and can rival those found at the best bakeries. It’s from a great book, Local Breads, by Dan Leader. It only takes about 4 hours (much of which is just waiting around) and doesn’t require any special equipment. Give it a try when you have a little time…you won’t regret it..and as an added bonus, it makes your house smell great!
The best way to keep bread is at room temperature. After 2-3 days, you should wrap the bread well, put it in a freezer bag and freeze it. Never store any bread in the refrigerator, because the cold temperature (38º-40º) accelerates the crystallization of the starches, causing the bread to stale much faster. When I bake a bread, as soon as it cools completely, I cut it, freeze half immediately and keep the other half cut-side down on a cutting board covered with a clean cloth. When that’s consumed, I take out the frozen half, defrost it at room temperature or wrap it in foil and bake in a 450º oven for 10 minutes and it tastes just as good as the day it was baked.
Awhile back I wrote about how important it is to have a great scale, like the OXO Good Grips Scale, and to weigh ingredients for consistent results. As you’ve probably experienced, Americans seldom give weights in recipes, but in the UK, they almost always do. Well, over at Lifehacker, someone named Jesseg came up with an amazingly simple, yet inciteful, idea…when looking for recipes, search using google.co.uk, rather than google.com and the recipes you find will almost always have weights…just make sure you remember to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, or your stuff may never get done!
When a recipe calls for a cup of flour, most people just scoop out a “cup” and then level it off with a knife…easy and fast but, unfortunately, not very accurate or consistent. A little too much flour here or sugar there, and instead of a delicious chewy cookie you could end up with rockhard paperweight better suited for self-defense then dessert. That’s why weighing ingredients, especially when baking, is essential. A great scale, like the OXO Good Grips Scale, is an important tool for success in the kitchen. I try to give ingredients in my recipes by both weight and volume, but if you encounter a recipe that doesn’t, King Arthur Flour has a really helpful Master weight chart for just about every commonly used ingredient in baking. If you need to convert to metric or vice-versa, just click here for some charts to help with converting metric equivalents or try this interactive Online Cooking Converter that converts cooking units instantly…it’s amazing! Once you start weighing ingredients, you’ll see an incredible improvement in outcomes and consistency.
Everyone loves these cookies…that’s because they can be made to everyone’s taste. The basic recipe is really simple, but the beauty of it is that you can add any filling you like, so everyone gets what they want. From raspberry jam to cinnamon and sugar to chocolatey goodness, no one goes away disappointed…and they not only taste great, but they look incredible. The secret to slicing them into neat, perfectly round cookies before baking is to use dental floss (unwaxed and unflavored…although I guess you could go for a minty floss to accent the chocolate cookies…or not!). Just wrap it around the cookie logs and tighten it as if tying a knot to make a perfect, round cookie.
The Super-Fast Thermapen is, without a doubt, the best food thermometer available and an essential really cool kitchen tool. Sure, it’s way expensive, but sometimes it makes sense to just buy the best. The thing that sets this apart from all other kitchen thermometers (and there are some pretty good ones out there) is its speed, accuracy and ease of use…it takes just 3 seconds to register an amazingly accurate reading. Another great feature is that the Thermapen is splash-proof, with molded-in seals that protect the thermometer from wet hands and kitchen splashes. I also love the way it operates…just open it and it turns on and close it and it turns off…no buttons, cables, slides or switches (and it comes in some really great colors!). When buying things for the kitchen, I always take pricing into account, but I believe that in this case, because a great thermometer invariably leads to great results when cooking, if you can afford it, it pays to go with the best. This also is absolutely one of the coolest gifts you can buy for someone who cooks…they’ll use it and love you forever!
If you bake your own bread and love to eat it straight out of the oven, you know how hard it is to get a good, even slice from fresh-out-of-the-oven, warm bread. This Oregon Bread and Bagel Slicer (another non-essential but really cool kitchen tool) bow knife, made of Red Alder, a sustainable hardwood, has a beveled, scalloped edge (it never needs sharpening) that works like a super-sharp saw to cut a neat, uniform width slice of that crusty, aromatic freshly baked no-knead sourdough whole wheat pumpkin seed encrusted loaf that you can then slather in butter and watch as it melts into the nooks and crannies…ok, I’m getting a little carried away here, but there really is nothing better then homemade bread.
This knife is also perfect for cutting bagels, ripe tomatoes and just about anything else that you may have trouble slicing with a conventional knife…and, with the beautiful Red Alder handle, it looks really great just sitting there on the kitchen counter.
This also makes a great gift for the cook who has everything…that’s how I got it (thanks Ned and Debi)!
For those of you that are freaking out over the news that the Girl Scouts are cutting their cookie line-up down to six varieties because of the stale economy (this is huge national news…just check out The Wall Street Journal), there is help online. One of my favorite blogs, Baking Bites, has a great post on how to make your own. And if your favorite cookie isn’t covered in that post, check out Chow. Fijis, Slim Mints, Do-Si-Dos, Samoas, Tagalongs…they’re all there for the making. Even if your favorite isn’t being scratched from the line-up, you should give these recipes a shot. Like most things, they really taste better when you make them yourself.
This is, without a doubt, the best chocolate chip cookie I (or anyone else) ever tasted! The recipe has been around for awhile…I believe it was originally printed in The Frog Commissary Cookbook, published in 1985, and named for a restaurant in Philadelphia that was popular in the 1970’s. It has just the right balance of flavors and textures. I don’t love most oatmeal chocolate chip cookies because it seems the oatmeal flavor is usually overwhelming and the texture is dry, but not with these cookies. They’re crispy on the edges and moist and chocolatey in the center…the perfect accompaniment to a cold glass of milk. One of the best things about this recipe is how well the dough freezes. I chill the dough a little and roll it into 1½” diameter logs (like the ones you can buy in the supermarket), wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze them. Then, when the urge strikes, I just slice off a few 1″ pieces and pop them right in a 350˚ oven, and you have fresh, hot homemade cookies in about 12 minutes. You can also roll them into 1″ balls, freeze them and stick them right in the oven when you absolutely, positively immediately need a hot, homemade killer chocolate chip cookie.