You wanna pizza me?!

Over the weekend, I was in Saratoga Springs, NY for the my first comic convention of the year with my group The Hero Army. That’s a link to their facebook page. You can check out some of our pictures, where we’ll be next, which charity events we’ll be popping up at, and other fun things. We were at the CT Children’s Hospital yesterday, and this coming weekend, we’ll be at the Southington Public Library for Free Comic Book Day! If you’re around, come check us out!hero armyCan you guess which CLOWN I am? That’s right. Harley Quinn. :)

Whenever we do events, we have tons of fun, but people forget that we are in fact working. e look like we’re having a blast, bouncing and bopping around (and we ARE), but we are also on the floor, entertaining, for about 6 to 8 hours at a time. And breaks are infrequent at best. And the only thing worse than a hero with sore feet is a HUNGRY hero. Think Hulk level anger. At least I know that is my part. Other people react differently–they get grumpy, or tired.

That’s where I come in. Part of my duties, in addition of being a character, is to make sure my fellow heroes are well nourished. That means snacks. And to me, snacks do NOT mean chips or cookies or ‘quick’ junk food. I like to make something that has a bit of good, a bit of bad, and a lot of fun.

Enter Pizza Bread. What can make (almost) everyone happy. Pizza. Always pizza. Cheese, and a good dough and some kind of topping. Fabulous. But not always practical. I mean, I can’t just whip out a pizza. So, I found a recipe for pizza bread. What better way to make a great snack even better? I mean, a very convenient and portable meal. Without the mess of hot cheese and drippy sauce–we do have complicated costumes to work with, you recall.

I had some left over roasted red peppers from my last recipe, and thought they would make a fabulous edition to the bread. I kept it veggie, since I wasn’t sure about the refrigeration situation at the con. But it was delicious. The bread was flavorful, the veggies perfectly cooked and dispersed. Just yum.

We ate it the day after I had baked it. It wasn’t as crispy as the day of, but that was still wonderful soft. It would make a GREAT sandwich bread. Just saying.

It is simple to make, it is tasty, and satisfying.

One small thing…after writing my entire post, I realized that I have NO pictures of the process to show you how tasty and tantalizing the bread was. However, I am still posting the recipe because it is WONDERFUL and easy and needs to be shared.

So I apologize for the lack of pictures. Instead I include a pizza pun instead. Because…pizza my heartAnd I promise pictures next post. Honest.

Veggie Pizza Bread
Adapted from Inspired by Charm

Ingredients
2 tsp yeast
1 ½ c warm water
3-4 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tbsp sugar
2 ½ c favorite toppings, diced (I used jarred sun-dried tomatoes, homemade roasted red peppers, roasted garlic, and diced onion. Other options are limitless!)
2 c shredded mozzarella
1 tbsp olive oil

Method

  1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a large bowl. Let it sit for 3 minutes.
  2. Start by adding in 3 1/3 cups of flour, the salt salt, and the sugar. Mix using a spoon just until it comes together. (There’s no need for a big stand mixer here.)
  3. Add in the toppings and combine well. The dough will be tacky. Dust with a bit more flour if it feels too tacky.
  4. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour in a warm place, then put it in the refrigerator to continue rising for another hour.
  5. After that hour, take the dough out of the refrigerator. Flour your counter top, and roll the dough into a rectangle about 11×17”.
  6. Sprinkle mozzarella over top. Then, fold along the long side, like an envelope.
  7. Seal sides so cheese is not exposed. Let your loaf rest while you preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  8. Bake the bread, either on a pizza stone or baking sheet, for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. The original recipe suggests placing a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the loaf about halfway through to prevent it from getting too dark. I didn’t do this, and mine came out perfectly brown.
  9. Another option would be a about 3 minutes before taking the bread out of the oven, lightly brush the top with olive oil and let it finish baking.
  10. Once done baking, let the loaf rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing.
  11. It’s delicious on it’s own, or dipped in marinara sauce.

Stop loafing around!

This recipe is kneed to know!

bread 3It’s snowy and cold and most-definitely winter in New England. And what does that mean? It means that all I want to do is snuggle down in about 1 million layers and eat carbs and stay warm.

I’m not talking about just any boring carbs. I’m talking about those recipes that you don’t feel bad indulging in, because they are just. So. Good. Be it an exceptional bowl of mac n’ cheese, or mom’s best yeast rolls, or maybe something completely new that skyrockets to the top of the charts.

Today’s recipe is the latter. As I’ve mentioned over the months, I have a friend who is an exceptional bread baker. I admire her tenacity, the foresight and planning it takes to start bread and have it be done by they time she might actually want it, and her sheer skill in making almost stereotypically perfect, crusty loaves.

I don’t normally have the patience. When I make something, I usually want it immediately, or at least within a 6-12 hour time frame. You know?

But, I ended up with a fair amount of time on my hands, since I had a snow day from work. So, I decided to make some bread. Some real, proper, takes-over-24-hours bread.

It was glorious. Unless I am making yeast rolls…I might not ever make any kind of bread again. Yes it takes a while, but it is so worth it.

And it’s not even a lot of work. The recipe I use is from King Arthur Flour. It’s No Kneed. It does it’s own thing. And the longer it sits, the better it tastes. Yes, this recipe can give you bread the same day you make it, but it tastes so much better if you leave it to sit and develop. When you bake it, it gets that perfect french bread crust. Wonderful.

When you look at the ingredient list, you will see many cups of flour. Yes, it makes a lot of bread, but don’t try to reduce the amounts. It won’t come out right.

Also, turns out I didn’t document my steps through pictures as much as I thought I did. So, you will only really get final product, which really isn’t too sad. I mean, the final product is lovely. And who really wants to see super bubbly/shaggy dough anyway?

Easy, No Muss, No Fuss Crusty Bread

Ingredients

3 cups lukewarm water
6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour*
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

*The flour/liquid ratio is important in this recipe. If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure flour by weight, use 32 ounces.

Method

1) Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, or a large (6-quart), food-safe plastic bucket. (Remember, when using lukewarm water, comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely. Your bread and belly will thank you.)

2) Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk till everything is combined.

3) Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. There’s no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake bread.

4) Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.

5) When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.

6) Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log. Don’t bother trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.

7) Place the dough on a piece of parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.

8) Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you’re using one) to 450°F while the dough rests. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.

9) When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2″ deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick right up in the hot oven.

10) Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.

11) Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.bread 2

12) Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

13) I got about 6-7 small loaves. I would say they were personal sized…but they should be split in half. If you’re feeling generous, maybe 3 ways. Or, if you slice them, like a normal person, you will probably get enough more sharing potential out of them. Anyway you slice it….it’s delicious and meant to be shared.bread

 

 

If you work in a bakery you may have to take on many rolls.

Sometimes, you come across a recipe that is so delicious, you have to just stop everything. This is one of those recipes.

I took out the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman, from my library and I have to say…I firmly believe everyone needs this book. It is awesome. Every recipe that I’ve made has been beyond wonderful. They are easy; they are tasty; they make the cook look amazing.

This bread is no exception.bread 8

Look at it! It’s beautiful! All golden and pretty. So professional. It’s almost like I’ve been doing this for years…as opposed to days.

I have always been fascinated by bread making. There is something so comforting and soothing about biting into a soft, light roll; crunching through the crust of a good French bread; sopping up pasta sauce with thick-cut Italian bread; sinking your teeth into a hearty french toast.

So wonderful.

Since I don’t have a dough hook any more, and I don’t always like using the bread machine, I have been making this bread by hand. I knead it, and knead it, and knead it. It’s a great stress reliever and really connects me with the whole process. It almost feels primal. Well, at least olde worlde, if not primal.  And it’s a good arm workout. And when you make this bread…you are going to want to eat all of it. In one sitting. Therefore, you best believe you need that arm workout. (If, like me, you measure your nomming tendencies with amount of physical activity required.)

The deliciousness factor of this bread is amplified by the fact that you can put almost anything in it. The first time I made it was the traditional recipe, with figs. Ridiculously delicious. The next time? A paste of cinnamon sugar, pecans, and raisins.

Today’s mouth-watering filling? Whiskey-soaked dates.

bread 9As you might have guessed by the title of this little blog, I love whiskey. I also love dates–In this case I mean the fruit, rather than the activity. The whiskey-date filling is sweet, smoky, oaky, and complex. It’s surrounded by the soft, slightly sweet and light bread. Mmmmm.

Whiskey-soaked Date Challah bread

Ingredients

Bread
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 packet)  active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey
2/3 cup warm water (110 to 116 degrees F)
1/3 cup  olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt, or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
4 cups  all-purpose flour

Whiskey-date Filling
1 cup seeded and roughly chopped dates
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest, or more as desired
1-1 1/2 cup(s) whiskey
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Egg wash
1 large egg
Coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling (You could also use large crystal sugar for a more dessert like finish)

Method

  1. To make the dough by hand: Whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey into warm water, and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy.
    bread 1
  2. Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk, then add the salt and flour. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together. It will look shaggy, and a bit like it won’t ever be cohesive. Don’t worry. bread 2
  3. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed. bread 3
  4. Transfer the dough to an olive-oil coated bowl (or rest the dough briefly on the counter and oil your mixer bowl to use for rising, so that you’ll use fewer dishes), cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, make fig paste: In a small saucepan, combine the dates, zest, whiskey, juice, salt, and a few grinds of black peper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the dates are soft and tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm. Process the whiskey-date mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.
  7. Insert Whiskey-Date Paste: After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it into quarters.
  8. Roll the first quarter of the dough into a wide and totally imperfect rectangle (really, the shape doesn’t matter). Spread 1/4 the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge. bread 5
  9. Roll the dough into a long, tight log, trapping the filling within. Then gently stretch the log as wide as feels comfortable.
  10. Repeat with remaining dough and date filling.bread 4
  11. Weave your challah: Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. Continue weaving, over and under (left to right), until you run out of dough rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form something roundish.bread 6It is ok if it’s not perfect. It will still look impressive.
  12. Transfer the dough to a parchment-cover heavy baking sheet.
  13. Beat egg until smooth, and brush over challah.
  14. Let challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375°F.bread 7
  15. Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt (or sugar.)
  16. Bake in middle of oven for 35 to 40 minutes. It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer — the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees. (I highly recommend this trick!)bread 8
  17.  Cool loaf on a rack before serving.