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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 52

I have yet to find the perfect pizza dough recipe so it was definitely something I wanted to try during 68 Days of Gourmet. And unfortunately, I will be continuing the search for the perfect pizza dough because this was not it. This dough wasn’t bad just average. It was pretty difficult to work with – sticky and tore easily. There was pretty much no way I was going to get it into a circle when I was shaping the dough so we ended up with very strangely shaped pizza. Luckily, things looked up once I topped it with all the fixings for barbecue chicken pizza and baked it on a hot baking stone. The dough was crispy and chewy (good for thinner-crust pizzas) and the flavor was nice. Barbecue chicken pizza is a great flavor variation from your typical pizza. If you’ve never tried it you must!

I’m blogging from Atlanta. I’ve spent the weekend here visiting my parents while Brandon has been in New Orleans for a bachelor party. He’s flying back to Atlanta tonight and then we’re making a late night drive to Charlotte. His flight has been delayed and he’s not getting in until 11 so we won’t get back to Charlotte until 3 a.m. at the earliest. Tomorrow is going to be a long day at work!

It’s been a nice and relaxing weekend hanging out in Atlanta with my parents. When I arrived late Friday a yummy pizza from Grant Central Pizza in East Atlanta Village was awaiting…along with some strawberry shortcake (one of my favorite desserts!). Saturday morning I visited a yoga class at Yoga Samadhi in Inman Park. Since the weather was so beautiful, there ended up only being one other guy in the class. It was pretty nice having a semi-private lesson and the instructor, Stephanie, was great! Saturday night we had reservations at Nino’s. It’s a family owned Italian place that’s been open since 1968. It was old-school Italian and really delicious. I believe that there is infinite value in keeping things simple and traditional.

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend!

One Year Ago: Banana Nutella Muffins

Pizza Dough
(Recipe source Gourmet, June 2003)

Ingredients:

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 3/4 to 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading, divided
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees), divided
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Stir together yeast, 1 tablespoon flour and 1/4 cup warm water in a measuring cup and let stand until mixture appears creamy on surface, about 5 minutes. (If it doesn’t, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Stir together 1 1/4 cups flour and salt in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture, oil and remaining 1/2 cup warm water and stir until smooth. Stir in enough of remaining flour (1/4 to 1/2 cup) for dough to come away from side of bowl. (It is normal for this dough to be stickier than other doughs you have made.)

Working with floured hands, knead dough on a work surface until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Relflour hands and work surface when necessary. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook and knead on low speed for 8 minutes.

Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls. Generously dust balls all over with flour and put each in a medium bowl. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.

To bake, preheat pizza stone in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes. Add whatever toppings you would like and use a pizza peel or well floured baking sheet to slide pizza onto baking stone. Bake for 18-20 minutes, start checking pizza for doneness after about 15 minutes.

Or try our favorite Barbecue Chicken Pizza!

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 50

This was my first time making pita bread and it was a huge success. I followed the recipe directions exactly and the dough was a breeze to work with. I can’t even explain to you how much better this is than any store bought pita bread. It’s so soft and has that delicious homemade bread flavor.

Brandon asked if it would have a pocket and honestly, I had no clue. But while it was baking it puffed up and we were excited to cut into it and see that the pocket had “magically” appeared. I served this with kefta, homemade taziki and zucchini. I’ll be sharing that recipe tomorrow!

We’ve really enjoyed the leftovers for sandwiches this week and I’m already planning on adding this to the regular rotation. It would be so easy to make a big batch on Sundays and use if for the week. Also, The Gourmet Cookbook says they freeze well.

The only complaint I have is that Gourmet calls these whole wheat. But with only 1-cup of whole wheat flour and 2-cups of white flour, I didn’t feel like I could really call it whole wheat. I’m going to experiment next time with increasing the wheat to white ratio.

If you’re a pita lover this is a must try! :)

One year ago: Grilled Chicken Salad

Whole Wheat(ish) Pita Bread
(Recipe source The Gourmet Cookbook, published in Gourmet May 2003)
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon honey
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115 degrees F), divided
2 cups bread flour or high-gluten flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal for sprinkling baking sheets

Directions:

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer if using), stir together yeast, honey and 1/2 cup warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. If mixture does not foam, start over with new yeast.

While yeast mixture stands, stir together flours in another bowl. Whisk 1/2 cup flour mixture into yeast mixture until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a draft-free/warm place (I like to use my oven – I turn it on for about a minute to get it warm – about 80-82 degrees and then turn it off and place dough in oven) until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Stir in oil, salt, remaining 3/4 cup warm water and remaining 2 1/2 cups flour mixture until a dough forms. Either turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead, working in just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, or use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and on low speed to knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.

Form dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in draft-free/warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Prepare 2 baking sheets by sprinkling with cornmeal. Punch down dough and cut into 8 pieces. Form each piece into a ball, flatten the ball and then roll out into a 7-inch round on floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer round to prepared baking sheet. Make 7 more rounds in same manner, arranging them on baking sheets. Loosely cover pitas  with clean kitchen towels (not terry cloth) and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to the lower third of oven and remove other racks (I left the other racks). Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, directly onto oven rack (alternatively, I think you could bake these on a preheated baking stone so they don’t get wire marks from the oven). Bake until puffed and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Turn over with tongs and bake 1 minute more.

Cool pitas on a cooling rack 2 minutes, then stack and wrap loosely in a kitchen towel to keep pitas warm. Bake remaining 4 pitas in same manner. Serve warm.

Yield: 8 pitas

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 43

It’s funny how certain recipes get really popular in the food blogging world. I saw these Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites on Pink Parsley a couple months ago and thought they looked fun. Then I noticed the original recipe was from Gourmet – even better! I thought these would be a kid and adult friendly snack at my niece’s second birthday party a couple weeks ago. Since seeing the recipe on Josie’s blog, they’ve been popping up everywhere. So for my food blogger readers – I apologize if you’ve seen this one several times already.

I am sorry that I’ve been so slack with the blog this week. I’ve had a lot going on and no time to sit down at night to update. We have friends coming to stay with us tonight so I’ve been a busy bee trying to get our tiny apartment presentable and ready for guests. Also, we’ve been dealing with house hunting drama. Thought we finally found something we were excited about making an offer on this week but it didn’t work out. I am seriously sick of looking at houses! It’s been a long process.

It’s been a pretty lackluster week on the fitness front too. More rest days than I’ve had in a long time – which maybe isn’t a bad thing considering the injury and general soreness I’ve had the last several weeks. I taught BodyPump Monday, hot vinyasa yoga Tuesday, rest day Wednesday and taught BodyPump last night. Today is looking like a rest day too. I set my alarm to go to yoga this morning but we didn’t make it to bed until midnight last night (so late for us) so I was not ready to get up at 5:45 a.m. Hoping to get some good yoga classes in this weekend and test my leg out with an easy run.

Update on 68 Days of Gourmet: I’m on day 43 and ready to get this project wrapped up. I did some work this week planning out the rest of the recipes that I’m going to make. Trying to look back to make sure that I have a good balance of all the different recipe categories and a good mix of old and new. I still have a few recipes left to pick so let me know if there’s something you really want to see. I’m happy to take requests. :)

These Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites were a good snack for the birthday party but not something I think I will make again. This was my first time making soft pretzels and I enjoyed the process of making them. It was fun and different. But in the end I didn’t think these were worth all of the work. There just wasn’t enough ham and cheddar flavor to them and I think the dough itself could have used a little salt. I even added more ham and cheddar than the original recipe called for.  Also, I will say that they were much better warm out of the oven than served room temperature.  I’m really surprised that I didn’t love these because they did receive great reviews from the other bloggers who made them?

Promise more updates over the weekend and next week! I’ve got some good stuff planned!

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
(Recipe source Gourmet, October 2009)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 ounces) finely chopped country ham or regular ham, divided
1/2 cup finely grated sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt

Directions:

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar and warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes (if mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for the following steps but you can definitely just follow these directions: add 2 1/2 cups flour and the milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Add up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary (which it probably will be – this is an extremely sticky dough). Turn out dough onto a floured surface and gently knead with floured hands a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room (ideally around 80 degrees) until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours. Tip – I like to let my bread rise in the oven. I turn it on for a minute or two then switch it off and place the bread in there to rise.

Turn out dough onto a floured surface and cut into four equal pieces. Working with floured hands, gently roll and stretch one piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you. Roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Make three more ropes using the same method. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds total. Transfer with a slotted spoon to baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if cheese oozes out a bit.

When you remove pretzels from oven, brush with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with a honey mustard dipping sauce, if desired. (See original Jalepeno Honey Mustard in original recipe or see my favorite honey mustard here).

Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites

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Naan (Indian Flatbread)

naan1

Freshly baked naan is the perfect accompaniment to Indian dishes. Over the last few months I’ve been trying out new Indian recipes and this naan from Joy of Cooking has been a staple side item. It has a great texture, crispy and chewy at the same time (I almost liken it to a good pizza dough) and it’s very simple to make – you just have to build in the rising time. If you’ve never experienced freshly baked flatbread you’re missing out! You won’t go back to store bought!

Naan
(Recipe source Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

2 c bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast or rapid rise yeast
3/4 c plain yogurt or buttermilk, at room temperature (I always use yogurt)
2 tbsp butter, melted or vegetable oil, plus 2 tbsp extra melted butter
1 tsp to 1 tbsp water, as needed
2 tbsp sesame or poppy seeds, optional

Directions:

Combine flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the yogurt, butter and water as needed. Mix on low speed until a soft ball of dough is formed. Knead for about 10 minutes with the dough hook on low to medium speed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours.

Arrange a rack in the lowest level of the oven and place a pizza or baking stone on the rack. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees for 45 minutes.  (If you do not have a pizza or baking stone, preheat the oven, place an inverted baking sheet, preferably heavy-gauge, on the rack, and heat the baking sheet for 5 minutes.)

Meanwhile, punch down the dough and divide equally into 4 pieces. Roll into balls, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out each ball of dough on a floured surface to an oval about 8 to 10 inches long and 1/4 inch thick.

Brush the tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired. Place as many dough ovals as will fit without touching each other directly on the baking stone or sheet and bake until each oval is puffy and just beginning to turn golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the oven. Bake the remaning dough, if necessary. Serve warm.

Yield: 4 ovals

naanclose

Looking for a way to use your naan? Try these Indian Spiced Chicken Burgers.

indianchickenburgersday

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