Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Royal Icing

I can't remember where I got this recipe.
2 cups powdered sugar
4 tsp meringue powder
3 Tbsp cold water
2-3 drops almond or vanilla extract (optional) [we haven't used any extract, and like the flavor]
Sift the powdered sugar into mixer bowl.  Combine sugar with meringue powder until well mixed, stir in water.  Beat on low speed until ingredients are moistened, about 30 seconds.  Increase mixer speed to med/high and beat for 5-8 minutes until icing is stiff.
I separated the icing into two bags and colored them yellow and red.
I drew lines of different colors.
Then spread the frosting around, mixing the colors, or not mixing them.  Each leaf was different.
Then I used the edge of the froster to make the vein lines.


 
Finished leaf.

 Each leaf is unique, just like real leaves.  It took some experimenting, but the final product turned out great!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gingerbread Cookies

We had huge compliments on these cookies.  They are full of Christmas spice flavor are the perfect combination of crunchy and moist.  They are easy to use with cookie cutters, and keep very well for at least a week.  Tabitha preferred them with frosting on top, and Gibson like them with or without frosting.  I love the Triple Ginger Snaps from Trader Joe's - these have the same kick as those cookies do (while being completely different).

This recipe is from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.  We have loved every single recipe we've made out of this book, with NO modifications (and that's really saying something for me!).  
Cookies:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup (8 oz) packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp allspice
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon [we used Vietnamese cinnamon, which is stronger than the normal stuff.  Usually you would use less, but we used the full 2 tsp because we like spice!]
1 cup molasses
1 large egg
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda dissolved in
1/4 cup water
Cream the butter, brown sugar, salt, and spices together.  Add the molasses and egg and mix well.  Stir in half of the flour and the soda dissolved in water, mixing until well combined.  Add the remaining flour.  Depending on the power of your mixer, you may need to add the last bit of flour by hand and knead it in.  Divide the dough in half and wrap well.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  The dough changes over the resting period, making it easier to work with and adding flavor to the cookies.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Work with half the dough at a time on a well floured surface.  Roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Use cookie cutters to cut the cookies into shapes.  [If the dough starts to stick, put it back in the refrigerator for a while to harden up.]  Transfer the cookies to ungreased baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch between them. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, being careful not to over bake.  The cookies will still be soft when done.  Let them rest on baking sheet to firm before transferring to a rack to cool.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pizza Dough

A few months ago we decided to start making our pizzas from scratch to save money.  It turns out that not only are we saving money, but home-made pizza is WAY better than 10968318_10206147660232830_9070452317044119695_nfrozen or take-out.  After experimenting with about seven or eight different recipes, we discovered that this was, by far, the absolute best recipe for crust.  We try to make our crust the night before, that way it has the most flavor.
Pizza Dough from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion (a book James and I highly recommend, and I'm not a person who bakes!)
3 c unbleached all purpose flour*
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c water [we've found it helpful if the water is lukewarm]
*The recipe calls for 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour and 1 1/4 cup semolina, but says it is optional.   We've done both, and find that the semolina doesn't make much of a difference, especially given the price. Also optional, 2 Tbsp dough relaxer, which we've never used.
Mix and knead together all the dough ingredients - by hand or mixer - until you've created a smooth, soft dough.  Don't over knead the dough; it should hold together but look fairly rough on the surface.
Cover and let the dough rise for 45 minutes [I just use a dishcloth to cover it], the refrigerate it for 4 hours, or up to 36 hours; this step will develop the crust's flavor. [We usually try to make it the night before, and it's best that way, but we have made it three hours before, and it is still fine, but better if it can sit]
Divide the dough in half.  Shape each half into 9- to 12-inch round (thicker or thinner crust), and place each on a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. [tip: cut the paper after you've put the dough on it!]  Cover the dough and let it rest while you heat the oven (and baking stone) to 500 degrees. [We never cover the dough during this step.  I highly recommend using a pizza stone, just make sure you place it in the oven BEFORE you turn the heat on.  Place the stone on the bottom rack of the oven.]
After about 30 minutes, use a giant spatula or pizza peel to transfer the pizzas and parchment to your hot oven stone; or place the pizzas and parchment on a pan and place on the middle rack of the oven. [We cook one pizza at a time, and use a cookie sheet to place it on the stone.  While the next one is cooking, we prepare the toppings of the first one]
Bake for 4 minutes and remove from the oven.
Top the pizza with your favorite toppings and place directly on the lowest rack of the oven (not the stone or pan) for 8 minutes, until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
My favorite toppings - all amounts vary as to the size of the pizza, and the amounts we have on hand, so use what you are comfortable with.
BBQ Pizza
barbecue sauce
grilled chicken, shredded
cilantro
smoked Gouda cheese slices
a little Parmesan cheese
onion and pepper mix sauteed until browned (I buy a frozen mix and always have at least one bag on hand)
mozzarella cheese
Chicken Alfredo (my absolute fave!!)
Alfredo sauce, topped with fresh ground pepper medley and crumbled dried tarragon
grilled chicken, shredded
Parmesan cheese
onion and pepper mix sauteed until browned
2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
mozzarella cheese