Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Pizza!

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
Who has blessed us in the heavenly realms 
with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Ephesians 1:3

This months Daring Baker project is pizza, brought to us by Rosa of Rosa's Yummy Yums and Sheri of What Did I Eat. The recipe is “Pizza Napoletana” from Peter Reinhart's “The Bread Baker's Apprentice.” I've read this book, but I can't find it in my collection, which would indicate to me that either I lost it, or aI got it from the library because it was a bit expensive. It's a puzzle to me.

Well at this point I have my pizza doughs in the refrigerator just waiting their turn in the oven. Tonight we are maybe having some young couples over and we are all going to toss pizzas. And if no one shows up, Riley and I will toss them ourselves. Actually I think that our grandson Christian will also toss a pizza, as he loves pizza.

I've decided to make Jamie Oliver's tomato sauce for the sauce of my pizzas.

Jamie's Tomato Sauce

olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and torn
3 x 400g tins of good-quality, whole plum tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large non-stick frying pan on the heat and pour in 4 generous glugs of olive oil. Add the garlic, shake the pan around a bit and, once the garlic begins to colour lightly, add the basil and the tomatoes. Using the back of a wooden spoon, mush and squash the tomatoes as much as you can.

Season the sauce with salt and pepper. As soon as it comes to the boil, remove the pan from the heat. Strain the sauce through a coarse sieve into a bowl, using your wooden spoon to push any larger bits of tomato through. Discard the basil and garlic that will be left in the sieve, but make sure you scrape any of the tomatoey goodness off the back of the sieve into the bowl.

Pour the sauce back into the pan, bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 5 minutes to concentrate the flavours. It will be ready when it’s the perfect consistency for spreading on your pizza.

Store the sauce in a clean jar in the fridge – it’ll keep for a week or so. Also great to freeze in batches or even in an ice cube tray, so you can defrost exactly the amount you need. But to be honest, it’s so quick to make, you might as well make it on the day you need it.

The sauce turned out great. Because I have just been making the applesauce, I had my food mill handy and I used that instead of a strainer, and I think it was even better. The sauce took longer to reduce than five minutes though. I say maybe 20 to 30 minutes. I really liked the flavor.

By seven o'clock we were ready. The pizza balls had been sitting out for about 2 hours, and the pizza stone had been in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Our guests arrived at about 7:10. It was only one young couple - Jake and Merideth - but they were just the right number of people for the evening. We promptly set about tossing pizza.

Riley got his all tossed and round in no time. He claims it's because he watch the pizza thrower at the Old Towne Pizza for quite a while the other day. Whatever it was, he did a great job.

Merideth was next. She wanted a heart shaped pizza, and that's just what she got. I was struggling with the whole tossing thing, even dropping it on the floor once - I picked it up really fast, so that didn't count.

And Jake was just having a good time throwing pizza dough.

He finally settled on an alien shaped pizza, and adorned it accordingly.

All in all the pizzas were a big hit, and the tasted quite good. I'm keen to try on with anchovies, just like at Ken's Artisan Pizza, my favorite pizza restaurant. It was really very easy to do, except for the tossing, but then, I can get Riley to do that. I showed Merideth how to make the dough, and sent her home with two balls of dough, and a jar of the sauce.

“Be who you are and say what you feel 
because those who mind don't matter 
and those who matter don't mind.” 
Dr Seuss

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TWD - Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes - can I make it!?

"The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts 
and the hearts of your descendants, 
so that you may love Him with all your heart 
and with all your soul, and live." 
Deuteronomy 30:6

This week TWD is chocolate chocolate cupcakes, page 215 of Dorie Greenspans book Baking:from my house to yours. As usual, I'm behind.  And then to add to that I looked around to see what the TWDers were doing, and they were all so impressive, what with their halloween decorations and all.  So now I'm wondering - what will I do?

Well I showed daughter #3 the cupcakes and she said that she had the kind of decorations that I needed, but that they were at the house of daughters #1 and #2.  So we went for a walk and passed by their house and got the stuff.  And now we have made the cakes, but I think that we will have to decorate them tomorrow.  

So here it is, Wednesday. I had told Corey that we would frost the cupcakes this morning, and she could take some to work. And that's just what we did. The frosting went together like a breeze. And went on easily also.

Then Corey was my main helper. Actually, I had to do so much chasing after Emily, and changing her pants, that pretty much she frosted and decorated the cupcakes.

And here is the finished product.

But because Corey helped with frosting the cupcakes, she was a bit late for work. So when I saw her bolt out the door, I went to the door and asked if she would like a ride. She was glad to get a ride, so I dashed back into the house to get Emily, my purse, and my keys. The first two items went fine, but my keys were no where to be found. I looked everywhere, but to no avail, so I told Corey she better walk to work. I felt really bad about it, but I could do nothing. After she was gone I searched and searched. I was beginning to be desperate. I remembered that I had set my keys down somewhere, not putting them in my purse as I should have, but I knew that it was someplace on the first floor and I certainly wasn't finding them. So then I thought that maybe Emily had found them and done something with them, but what? ....... Maybe she put them into a purse. After a bit of searching I found in the front hall and empty purse of mine, and low and behold, there were my keys.

But then I felt really bad about making Corey late, after trying really to get her to work on time. So I took nine of the cup cakes that we'd made and put them in a lovely Whitman's Sampler tin, and Emily and I took them over to Corey's work. Not only was Corey delighted, but so was her assistant manager, who gave me a hug, and thanked me several times. I hope she liked the cupcakes as much as she appreciated them.

"Not everything that counts can be counted, 
and not everything that can be counted counts."  
Albert Einstein

Monday, October 27, 2008

How to make and can Applesauce

"Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings."
Psalm 17:8

I've been making applesauce each year for I don't know how long. Where I live there are plenty of apples every fall. Just about any kind you could want. I always mix apples for my applesauce because they each have their own quality. Now some apples I never use, like red or yellow delicious, or Rome apples. It's not that I have anything against them, they just seem more like eating apples than cooking apples. I have an absolute passion for a good yellow delicious with cheese, and they make a nice tart tatin also. But anyway, I always include either gravenstiens, or newtons, or granny smiths. The rest that I include are usually very red, because those add sweetness and color.

Obviously one doesn't need a real recipe for making applesauce, and it's all about taste. But for what it's worth here's the ratio I used.

25 pounds of apples, about 5 pounds each of 5 different kinds, some green, some red

2-3 cups of white sugar, you can use brown sugar if you like
1 tablespoon cinnamon, whatever kind you have
5 cups of good natural apple cider

equipment needed:

good paring knife
a large bowl, I use a McCoy bowl

two large pots with lids and a heavy bottom, like a brazier or a rondeau - if you use a pot with a thin bottom you will likely burn some apples

a large slotted spoon, or just a large spoon
a food mill

a smaller sturdy bowl for setting the food mill over, I use a smaller McCoy with a spout and a handle

a large roasting oven - they've been making the same thing for decades, mine holds 20 quarts and I can use it just like any oven.

20 pint size jars, preferably wide mouth, with matching rings and lids

clean tea towels for wiping off the rings and lids and jar rims, and for setting the jars on
a large ladle for scooping the hot applesauce into the jars
a large pot with water to put on the stove with the lids and rings in it to sterilize them
a canning funnel

a canning pot, filled with water

a jar lifter - essential for getting the jars out of the boiling water

twongs or a magnetic stick for getting the lids and rings out of the boiling water

Now you must admit that's an awful lot of things, just to can up some applesauce. But that's the way it is.

Day One:

The first thing to do is get the apples all cooked up.
Fill the sink with cold water and put in a load of apples.

Taking the paring knife and the apples one at a time, quarter the apple, and for each quarter remove the stemy bits and the seeds, and cut it in half the long ways. So what you have is that each apple is cut into eight wedges. When you've got that batch cut and trimmed, put into a big pot, add a cup of apple cider, put on the lid and cook on medium to low heat until the apples are all nice a mushy. While the first batch is cooking, cut and trim the next patch. If the first batch is done cooking (check every so often) before you are ready to cook the second batch, just turn the heat off and leave for a bit.

Then, when you have the second batch cooking, start to process the first cooked batch in the food mill. Place the food mill over the smaller McCoy bowl, then fill the mill with mooshed apples and grind away, putting the applesauce into the roasting oven when the bowl fills. When you are done mooshing the whole batch, clean the food mill so it's ready for the next batch.

Notice the different colors of sauce from the different apples?

Continue like this until all the apples are cooked. Then add the sugar and the cinnamon. Give the mixture a good stir to get everything intermingled, and turn on the roasting oven. Cook at about 300 degrees, until all the applesauce is nice and hot, and the sugar is clearly melted. Taste it and see how you like it. You can add more sugar or more cinnamon if you like. But remember, these things can be added later when you are serving the applesauce, as long as you heat it up a bit to melt the sugar.

At this point I turn off the roaster, put on the lid, and leave over night. This is because I am a bit weary and need a break. The applesauce will be just fine like this. Just don't leave it for days.

Next Day:

Heat the applesauce back up to a nice heat, but be careful not to over cook and scorch the applesauce. At the same time, put all the jars and rings into the dishwasher and run it. Then, when the sauce is nice and hot, and the jars are washed, prepare to put the sauce in jars and can it.

First, it's good to tie some twine onto the jar holder handles in the canner. This is so you can lift it out of the water without a major disaster. Get the canner about 2/3rds full of water and place on the stove and bring to a boil.

Put the jar lids and rings in a large pot (large enough to hold the rings and lids), cover with water and heat up on the stove to sterilize. Leave them in the water and just pull out as needed, so they stay sterilized.

Then set a folded in half tea towel near the roaster, place the jars on the tea towel. Get the funnel and set on to a jar. Using the big ladle, scoop applesauce into the jar. Now hopefully your applesauce is nice and hot, so don't hold on to the jar, as it will heat right up. When the applesauce is to a 1/2 to a 1/4 inch from the top, remove the funnel and carefully place it on the next empty jar. The reason for carefulness is so that you don't get applesauce on the rim of the jar. This is why the wide mouth jars, they're easier to avoid hitting the rim (as well as easier for kids to scoop out applesauce later). Then take the clean tea towel, dip the tip of the edge into the very hot water, then touch the wet edge to a dry spot to make sure it's not dripping, and then use this hot wet edge to wipe around the edge of the filled jar to make sure that there is nothing on it. Then remove a lid from the water, carefully dry it off, and place on the filled jar. Next, remove a ring from the water, carefully dry it off, and screw onto the jar, and make sure it's on tight. This is tricky, as the jar is hot. Move onto the next jar, until all the jars are filled, or all the applesauce is canned up.

Then, when the water in the big canning pot is very very hot, and you have at least seven jars done, put the jars into the canner, lower them into the water. Make sure that the "not too long"
pieces of twine tied to the handles on the jar holding rack are sticking out of the pot. If there is not enough water to cover the jars, add water to about 1 inch above the jars. Bring to a boil, cover, and boil the jars for 12 to 15 minutes. The point is to get everything in the jars very very hot. When the time is up, using the twine, firmly grabbed onto, lift up the jars. Using the jar holder, remove the jars to a tea towel. Leave them there until they are cool.

Now the final thing is to be sure that the jars are sealed. The lids will make a click sound when they shrink into place. This can take a while, as it happens as the jars cool a bit. But the ultimate test to see that the lids have sunk down is to you tap your finger on the top of the jar. It should make a dull thud sound, and there is no movement of the lid.

There you have it - a whole years supply of applesauce.

My husband wants me to tell you that the applesauce warm on ice cream is very delicious. We also just eat it, or put it on toast, or pancakes, or French toast, or waffles, or crepes, or yogurt, or pork chops, or sausages, or ..... bon appétit.

p.s. At the rate my family is eating up the applesauce I think maybe it's maybe 9 months supply of applesauce, and I actually ended up canning 60 pounds of apples.

"Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness."
Jane Austen

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ta-Dah! TWD on time Pumpkin Muffins

"When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, 
how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" 
"Twelve," they replied." Mark 8:19

Well I managed to do my baking on time this week. Luckily I had just about everything I needed, and what I didn't I improvised. And of course as you can see I made mini loaves instead of muffins - that way one can have some, and it's any amount they want.

And of course, as usual, I had my little helper. She was thrilled to participate. "Baby do it!"

Todays recipe is Pumpkin Muffins from page 13 of Baking. I just put the batter into mini-loaf tins instead of muffin tins. They cooked up very nicely in the same amount of time. I let Emily grease the pans, and when she was done she hurried over to "help" assemble the dry ingredients. She started by wanting to put in the baking powder. She was a rather exuberant, but I think it went all right - after I removed a little of her baking powder from the bowl.

She then chose to add the nutmeg, a task I felt that she couldn't mess up.

I had been mixing the wet ingredients, adding a bit of brandy for spunk, and when Em was done I mixed the two, and spooned the batter into the mini-loaf pans. It was a perfect fit.

Not having any pumpkin seeds, I found a small amount of cashews, chopped them, and sprinkled them on top. Then to zip that up a bit, I sprinkled on some demerara sugar.

After taking them out of the oven and setting them to cool, we went our for a few hours. We had some when we got back, and the first thing Emily said, after spotting the raison and taking a bite, was "delicious!" That's quite a big word for some one who is just two. But then, the other day I asked her what she was doing, and she said "thinking."

The pumpkin muffin loaves are delicious. And I'm thinking making muffins in the mini-loaf pans is a great idea, if I say so myself.

“I wish to do something Great and Wonderful, 
but I must start by doing the little things 
like they were Great and Wonderful”
~ Albert Einstein