Saturday, July 19, 2008

Traveling Sugar

We made a batch of sugar cookies to take on the beach vacation last week.

Classic Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 scant cups sifted flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
dash salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy.

Add vanilla, sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
Cover and refrigerate. (Dough can be refrigerated for several days. In this case, I froze the dough for about a week.)

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour various colored sugars or sprinkles or what have you in bowls.

Pinch off dough and roll into balls. Roll in the colored sugar and place on a baking sheet.

The Child, who is six, enjoyed that part. Really enjoyed it.

Using a glass, smoosh the cookie dough down a bit to form disks.

Bake until done, about 9 to 11 minutes. Cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

This was easy-peasy. When we finished and the cookies turned out so pretty and we all had such fun making them, I knew we'd employ this method again. So much so that when we visited the shops at Foley, we got an assortment of sprinkles with these very cookies in mind.
Can't you JUST SEE the autumn cookies - the sugar cookies rolled in sparkling pumpkin orange sugar and assorted fall-shaped sprinkles? Can't you?? BECAUSE I TOTALLY CAN.

Not that I didn't already have an abundance of assorted, seasonal sprinkles in the cabinet.
Now that I think about it that looks like an intervention waiting to happen.

Don't mind me and my obsessive tendency toward sprinkles. Enjoy the sugar cookies.

You can also roll out, cut out, bake, and decorate these cookies:

Working with a small portion of dough at a time, roll out on floured board until about 1/4-inch thick. Dip cutter in flour and cut out shapes. Place on ungreased baking sheets and refrigerate while working on the next batch; this will keep cookies from spreading, making their shapes more defined. (For best results, put cookies of the same size on each sheet.)

Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges.

Cool on pan for a minute or two then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Completely cooled cookies can be wrapped and frozen for weeks. Thaw cookies in packaging at room temperature before decorating.

Like these at Christmas.

Or these that made great Easter happies.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Again With Pizza

We eat pizza more often than I mention it here because I figure how many different ways can I write the same thing over and over? This time it is a little different in that it starts with homemade pizza dough.

I love homemade pizza dough. Love. It. It's not much trouble; I don't know why I don't make it more often. I think it's the idea of the homemade dough -- the kneading, the rising, the waiting, and whatnot.

This particular recipe is one of my favorites.

It's made in the food processor so the hand kneading is kept to a bare minimum (big plus). The dough is a joy to work with, too, nice and elastic and smooth - not sticky at all.

(One trick I learned from a bread baking class taught by Betsy Oppenneer is to use a bit of oil, such as olive or vegetable, rather than flour, when rolling out dough. Dough won't stick to the oiled surface and you don't run the risk of incorporating too much flour in the dough, as I almost always did when I'd use flour. The dough would stick to the surface, stick to my hands, stick to everything so I'd dust it with flour and more flour and even more flour, and the end result was often packy and heavy.)

Caveat: This recipe is from, um, Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook. I know. I'm generally not a fan of her recipes as they tend to involve ten steps too many, and obscure, often expensive ingredients and specialty equipment. Howevah, this book I really like. The handful of recipes I've tried in it have all turned out very well. I especially like this pizza dough because it can be made anywhere from 12 hours to three weeks ahead of time.

Pizza Dough
Makes enough for three 10-inch pizzas or four 14-inch pizzas.

1 cup warm water (110 degrees) - You may want to invest in a good instant read thermometer to be sure.
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4-ounce (about 2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl

1. Pour the warm water into a small bowl. Add the sugar and sprinkle in the yeast. Using a fork, stir the mixture until the yeast has dissolved and the water has turned putty colored. Let the yeast stand until becomes creamy and foamy, about 5 minutes.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 3/4 cups flour and the salt, pulsing 3 to 4 times.

Add the yeast mixture and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Pulse until the dough comes together, adding more flour as needed until the dough is smooth,not tacky, when pinched between two fingers. Transfer to a clean surface. Knead the dough 4 or 5 turns and shape it into a ball.

3. Brush the inside of a medium bowl with olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl, smooth-side up.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap, and push your fist into the center of the dough to punch it down. Working in the bowl, fold the dough back onto itself 4 or 5 times. Turn the dough over, folded side down, cover with plastic wrap,and return to the warm spot to rise again until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

4. Punch down the dough again, and transfer it to a clean surface. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough evenly into three or four pieces, kneading each piece four or five times.

TO MAKE AHEAD: Follow the recipe through Step 3, tightly cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. When ready to use, remove the plastic wrap, punch the dough down with your fist, and let it sit at room temperature until ready to soft and pliable, about 30 minutes. Which is what I did last Sunday afternoon when we made pizza.

TO FREEZE: Punch the dough down after it first rises in Step 3. Fold it back onto itself 4 or 5 times as instructed. Divide the dough and roll it out to the desired-size rounds. Stack the rounds, separated by parchment paper, then double-wrap the stack tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. To use,m unwrap frozen dough and thaw slightly until the rounds are easily separated. Place each round in a lightly oiled bowl and thaw at room temperature for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until each is completely thawed and the dough has doubled in size. Proceed as in Step 4 of the recipe.

About an hour and a half before we planned to eat, we began caramelizing a yellow onion in olive oil and butter.

We preheated the pizza stone, along with the oven, to 450 degrees. After rolling out the dough, I plopped it on the hot pizza stone and topped it with our usual: pesto, shredded rotisserie chicken, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and mozzarella.

The pizza baked until the cheese was melted and the crust nicely browned.