Go-To Pizza Dough

Go-To Pizza Dough coming out of a brick ovenPizza Pizza
Tonight is make your own pizza night, a family favorite. There’s a twist, though. Normally I will heat up a pizza stone in my oven or sometimes on my grill to cook the pizzas. Tonight, we are doing it at my sister’s house because she’s the one with a pizza oven.

All of the dudes in our lives are either on business trips or off at school. So, my daughter, sister, and I are having a girls’ night. We are making our own pizza because I want to see if I need a backyard pizza oven like my sister has.

For years my husband and I have dreamed that it would be great if we had a wood-fired oven in our backyard. We could make bread, roast meats, and, yes, make fantastic pizzas. My husband would love to build it, as he is always up for a project.

But, here’s the thing. Making pizza, or anything else in a wood-fired oven is a process. As awesome and beautiful as a brick oven would be, you have to be the kind of person who will really use it. You must have an hours-long plan not only for getting it hot but also for when the pizza making is over and you let the oven cool.

It would be a waste of time, energy, and resources not to throw other things in there like some gorgeous sourdough bread or some succulent roasted chicken and potatoes. It’s potentially a two-day process at least. Which, if you have the time, is a great way to spend your days. But, it’s just not practical for most of us. And now that my household is rapidly shrinking, I don’t have the mouths required to consume all the oven-roasted bounty.

My sister has a gas-fired tabletop pizza oven that I am thinking is the better solution. So, tonight I’m going to test drive it. Below is the recipe for my Go-To Pizza Dough. (Can’t go wrong with Bobby Flay!) I am curious to see how the pizzas turn out and what the flavor is like without the smoke of the wood. Though, you can get ovens that will use both.

Go-To Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from Bobby Flay and the Food Network
Yields 2 14-inch pizza crusts Read more…

Cheese Bread

Photo of sliced Cheese Bread on a cutting boardKneady and Cheesy
With the weather getting somewhat cooler recently, I have been more inclined to turn on my oven. I made some granola over the weekend. It disappeared rapidly—mainly because I sent most of it to my kids who are living in dorms. The rest was inhaled by my husband who has no self-control. That activity, plus the scent of pumpkin spice floating in the afternoon breeze, has me wanting to do a little more baking.

Since the number of people in my household has decreased by two, I have to be more discerning when it comes to the recipes I choose to make. I no longer have teenage boys to finish off 3 dozen cookies overnight. Add to that the fact, that my husband is trying to lose a few pounds (the granola incident notwithstanding). If I want to bake, I have figured it’s better to go savory than sweet to give him a fighting chance.

My daughter has a cheddar biscuit recipe that she likes to use to make tasty ham and cheddar biscuit sandwiches. They are really good but I can’t eat biscuits for lunch every day. Not to mention biscuits go stale pretty quickly. This cheese bread is a great alternative and will be my plan for baking this weekend. Though, I might whip up a secret batch of chocolate chip cookies too because it’s always nice to have a cookie with your sandwich at lunch…

Cheese Bread Recipe
Adapted from King Arthur Baking Company
Yields 1 loaf

We incorporate three different types of cheese (cheddar, cottage, and Parmasean) to make this loaf that is great for toasting and sandwiches. If you wish, you can also divide it into 12 pieces and make dinner rolls. Read more…

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Photo of three Red Velvet Cupcakes with sprinklesGrand Old Flag
I think it’s fair to say that most people will be celebrating the Fourth of July next Monday. How they are celebrating is a totally different question. Some will have backyard BBQs with family and friends. Some will watch parades and wait for the fireworks in the evening. Others will look forward to some downtime in the pool and a day of doing nothing. If they happen to catch a few fireworks in the sky, so much the better.

Not sure which camp I fall into. All of them sound good. But, I can’t deny the appeal of the latter. The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy. As of this moment, there are no set-in-stone plans. We may go to our local parade if only to absorb a little small town Americana. Or not. There might be a BBQ with friends. There may also just be my husband and me sharing a rack of ribs al fresco. What I do know for certain is that there will be a flag cake. It might be small. It might be big. But, there will be a flag cake.

In my family, it’s not Fourth of July without a flag cake. The type of cake varies from year-to-year. But, the frosting on the top is always cream cheese. And, there are always berries—raspberries and/or blueberries.

Because plans are sort of up in the air this year, I might go with red velvet cupcakes instead of a sheet cake and arrange them to look like a flag. The recipe is the same, but the cooking time changes a bit. This way if it just ends up being the two of us, I can make a smaller batch and finish them with a couple of blueberries on top so the red, white, and blue is covered.

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Yields about 24 cupcakes Read more…

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake

Image of piece of Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel CakeBerry Corn-ucopia
I like cake. I like dessert in general, but I can definitely assert that I like cake. That being said, I have noticed that my cake tastes have changed in recent years. It used to be that if I went out to eat and a dessert menu was placed in front of me, my eyes would immediately be drawn to whatever was the most decadent, usually chocolate, option.

Not the case anymore. Nowadays if I am out on the town and it is time for dessert, nine times out of ten I will choose the fruity option over the chocolate. Unless it involves coffee or any mention of mocha…that’s a game-changer.

I have also noticed that I prefer less sweet offerings which is probably why a “Death By Chocolate” cake, while potentially fantastic and perfect in the right moment, is skipped over for something with lemon or berries. I find that I only eat what I call the birthday-style cakes for birthdays. (I know…birthday cake for a birthday?? I’m such a rebel.) I don’t make three-layer chocolate devil’s food cakes for a random Sunday night dinner. I will, however, make something like this apricot cake, which was amazing with the apricots from my brother-in-law’s tree.

Fruity cakes are great because it’s easier to justify eating them at all times of the day and not just for dessert. A slice of my Lemon Pound Cake Bliss with some coffee or tea in the afternoon can be just what you need to get you through the rest of your day. During the summer months, making a cake with any of the wide variety of fresh berries in the market can easily fill in as breakfast. I mean a muffin is just a smaller version of a cake, am I right?

A number of my favorite eat-all-day cakes include the use of corn or corn meal. I really like the flavor combination as well as the texture that corn can add to a cake. This is a great one for snacking but I also like cakes where the berries are baked in and not just spooned on top.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is blueberries and cornmeal. My recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake is an excellent example. The streusel on top suggests that this cake would work well for breakfast…or brunch…or lunch…or tea…or a midnight snack!

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake Recipe
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Yields 16 small squares Read more…