new & improved pizza crust

i had been using the same pizza crust recipe or years.  it was good, don’t get me wrong.  plus it didn’t take long to make and was super easy.  but then my life changed when i finally gave this recipe a try.  i pinned it a long time ago and just last month tried it for the first time.  then last weekend i made it again and chris proclaimed it the best pizza i ever made!

there are quite a few differences between this recipe and the one i used to use.  first this one uses bread flour instead of all purpose which makes the crust crispy and chewy.  perfect!  you also bake this pizza at a much higher temperature – 500 degrees f and on a pizza stone which also improves the texture of the crust.

using this crust recipe, i made a broccoli pesto pizza and an italian meat pizza.  they were both awesome!  but the star of the pizza wasn’t the toppings, it was definitely the crust.  so without further ado, here’s how to make this amazing pizza crust.

first start by blooming the yeast in a bit of warm water.  the recipe calls for instant yeast, but i just have dry active yeast.  so i followed the instructions on this site on how to substitute dry active for instant yeast: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/faqs/baking/yeast

then measure out the bread flour.  it’s important that you use a kitchen scale to weigh the flour.  the first time, i just followed the cup estimation and it ended up being too little flour.  the dough was sticky and very hard to work with.  this time, i weighed the flour and the dough was perfect.

add the bread flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment.  now add more room temperature water to the yeast/warm water mixture then pour it all into the flour.  also add the olive oil.

mix until the dough starts to come together…

and then switch the paddle attachment out for the dough hook.

knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is nice and smooth.

transfer the dough into a lightly oiled large bowl.  turn the dough over once so that both sides are covered in oil.

cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to proof for 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until doubled in size.

punch the dough down and divide into 2.  cover both balls of dough and allow them to rest for 10-30 minutes (no more than 30 minutes).

now it’s time to form the crust.   lightly dust a pizza peel (or if you don’t have one, just lay a sheet of parchment paper onto a cutting board or flipped over baking sheet) with cornmeal.

stretch and form the dough out into a large circle.  i lightly oil my hands but you could instead lightly flour them so that the dough doesn’t stick.

start preheating the oven – it takes a while for mine to heat to 500 degrees f.  don’t forget to put the pizza stone in the oven too.  it needs to get nice and hot so that it’s ready when it’s time to bake the pizzas.

now for the toppings – for the broccoli pesto one, i spread a layer of pesto right on to the crust.  then sprinkled on some shredded mozzarella cheese.  next a ton of steamed broccoli and finally a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

the italian meats one has a layers of marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, italian meats, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and italian seasoning.

once your oven and pizza stone are preheated, slide the pizza – parchment paper and all on to the pizza stone.  bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes.  first the broccoli pizza…

and the italian meats.

allow the pizzas to cool slightly, then cut them into slices and enjoy!

though this recipe takes a bit more time and effort, it is so worth it!  i can’t wait to use this pizza crust with all of the other pizzas i’ve made from bbq chicken & bacon and pear & gorgonzola to roasted garlic & asparagus and fig & prosciutto.

for the recipe, please visit annie’s eats.

Advertisements

baked ziti

this baked ziti is most definitely, hands down one of my favorite pasta dishes.  quite a statement right?  but it’s true.  there is just too much to love about this pasta – from all of the cheesiness goodness to the flavorful sausage and fresh basil to the combination of the cream and tomato sauces  and of course you can’t forget the crunchy edges, there is nothing wrong about this baked ziti.

a few months ago, i started doing majority of the week’s cooking on sunday.  i make 2-3 dishes and then we split them up into several servings and we have lunch and dinner ready to go.  although it is a lot of work that day, it makes the rest of the week soooooo much easier.  after a long day at work, walking pua, going to the gym, etc. we don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what to make for dinner or lunch for the next day.  amazing.

i made this baked ziti quite a while ago and i think i need to make it again soon because looking at these pictures is making me crave some more.  it was one of the few dishes i didn’t mind eating multiple times in a week – often we end up freezing the last one or two servings of a dish because chris and i just can’t stand to eat it any longer (this isn’t a terrible thing though, because we have lots of homemade lunches and dinners ready to eat in the freezer).

first mix together the cottage (i used ricotta) cheese, eggs, and some of the parmesan cheese.  set aside.

p.s. grating your own parmesan cheese instead of buying the already grated cheese in the green container (you know which one i’m talking about ;-)) makes a huge difference!  so if you can, buy a wedge of parmesan cheese and grate your own fresh.  you’ll be glad you did.

then boil up the pasta.  i used medium shells because i didn’t have any ziti on hand.  it worked fine.

now time to make the sausage tomato sauce.  first brown the turkey sweet italian sausage in a medium skillet.

then add the onion and garlic.  cook until the onion is nice and tender and the sausage is fully cooked.

now pour in the diced tomatoes (including the juice), tomato sauce, and oregano.

the sauce needs to simmer for about 10 minutes.  then turn the heat off and add the fresh chopped basil, sugar, salt, and pepper.

the sauce is ready!

moving on to the cream sauce…  add the cream and cornstarch to the pot you cooked the pasta in.  yay for not dirtying up more pots!

mix well then over medium heat, simmer the cream mixture until it’s thickened up a little – approximately 3-4 minutes.  turn off the heat and add some of the sausage tomato sauce, a bit of the cubed mozzarella cheese, and the cottage (or ricotta) cheese mixture.

stir to combine…

and then add the pasta and mix to coat all of the pasta with the creamy tomato sauce.

pour the pasta into a 9×13 baking pan (i split up the pasta into 2 racheal ray’s bubble and brown baking dishes instead).

next pour the remaining tomato sausage sauce over the pasta.

finally sprinkle on the remaining parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

cover the baking dish with foil,

and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  remove the foil and then bake for another 30 minutes.

although you’ll want to dig right in, allow it to cool for 20 minutes.  then sprinkle the rest of the chopped basil over the baked ziti and serve hot/warm.

for the recipe visit one of my favorite blogs, annie’s eats.

quinoa pizza bites

sorry i haven’t been posting as regularly as i have in the past.  things have been busy – work has been full of orientation for our new students and outside of work chris and i have been busy wedding planning and getting ready to move (just down the street).  so it’s left little time to write blog posts.  but don’t worry, i haven’t forgotten about you and i hope to get back to posting more often.

until then, please enjoy these quinoa pizza bites.  remember a while back i made buffalo chicken quinoa bites?  well these are very similar to those except with the wonderful flavors of pizza instead of buffalo chicken.

there are a ton of different herbs and spices in these little bites plus a bit of mozzarella cheese and turkey pepperoni which make them incredibly flavorful.  i also dipped the bites in some marinara sauce and all together they definitely had all the flavors of pepperoni pizza.

but the great thing is these quinoa pizza bites are much more healthy than regular pizza – you get all of the wonderful nutritional benefits of quinoa like fiber and protein but they just taste like pepperoni pizza!  awesome!

to start just put everything in a medium bowl…

then mix it all together.

now scoop a bit of the mixture into each cup of a mini muffin tin.  press down on each one so that it’s nicely packed in.

bake the quinoa pizza bites for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

let them cool for a little bit to allow the bites to set.  this makes it a bit easier to get out of the muffin tin.  serve the quinoa bites warm with some marinara sauce.

for the recipe for these delicious quinoa pizza bites, visit so very blessed.

asparagus flatbread, two ways

so today’s post is a twofer!  do you know what a twofer is?  well until recently i had no idea.  and then i watched fashion star and good ol’ jessica simpson mentioned the word twofer (one of the designer’s skirts could be worn in two different ways).  at first i was confused but once she explained the meaning of the word, i was sold.  what a great little way to say “two for one.”  i’m sure jessica simpson didn’t come up with the word, but i’m glad she introduced me to it.  also, i’m pretty confident of the fact that you are judging me right now because i totally admitted that i watch fashion star, but hey don’t hate.  i love me some quality reality television. 😉

so anyway, back to the twofer recipe – i made asparagus flatbread, two different ways.  one is a roasted garlic and asparagus flatbread and the other is a ham, asparagus, and gruyere flatbread.  both varieties of flatbread are chock full of beautiful sliced asparagus lightly dressed in olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  i just love how the asparagus gets nicely roasted and toasted as the flatbread bakes.

they are also both made on my go to whole wheat pizza dough.  but that’s about where the similarities between these two flatbreads end.  they taste drastically different but both are full of flavor and absolutely delightful.

the roasted garlic and asparagus flatbread starts with a scrumptious roasted garlic and basil cream cheese spread (you make it yourself!) and then mozzarella cheese and asparagus are piled on top.

the other one, ham, asparagus, and gruyere flatbread has of course ham and asapargus plus lovely dose of salty, nutty, melty gruyere cheese.

chris and i both couldn’t decide which we liked best because they were each so different than the other.  but we both agreed that you can’t go wrong with either.  so make one or the other or maybe even both!  hope you enjoyed this twofer!

to start, make a batch of pizza dough – i made mine whole wheat, but you definitely don’t need to.   both dough recipes make enough for 2 flatbreads so it’s the perfect recipe if you are planning on trying out both recipes.  also get the asparagus ready for both flatbreads.  just slice about 1/2 lb of asparagus per a flatbread.  then dress it with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

  

first up the roasted garlic and asparagus flatbread.  to start, make the roasted garlic and basil cream cheese.  all you need is 4 oz. of cream cheese, about 7-8 cloves of roasted garlic, and some fresh basil.  first mash together the cream cheese, roasted garlic, and a little salt and pepper. then gently mix in the fresh basil.

  

once it’s all mixed together, set aside.  a quick tip, be sure to make this at the beginning of the flatbread making process because it gives the flavors of the roasted garlic and basil to better blend together with the cream cheese.

now on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, press or roll out the dough (1/2 the dough if you’re using my dough recipe) into a large rectangle.  spread the roasted garlic and basil cream cheese over the dough, making sure to leave about an inch border along the edges.

  

next sprinkle on about a cup of mozzarella cheese and a 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.

now comes the asparagus and just a little more cheese and it’s ready to bake!

  

bake for 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees F.

the ham, asparagus, and gruyere flatbread starts of the same.  roll out the dough into a large rectangle, but then put a cup of the mozzarella cheese right on to the dough.  then add about a 1/2 cup of gruyere cheese.  next, sprinkle on some diced ham.  we made this soon after easter and it was a great way to use up some of the leftover ham we had.

  

pile on the asparagus and spread it out in an even layer over the ham and cheese.

finally, one last sprinkling of mozzarella cheese and in the oven it goes.  bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes.

all done!

(more…)

chicago style deep dish pizza 2.0

a couple years ago, chris and i went to chicago.  he was attending a conference and i just went to hang out and see the city for the weekend.  it is an amazing city.  but of course what stood out was the food.  from the deep dish pizza to the chicago style hot dogs and garrett’s chicago mix popcorn (cheddar cheese and caramel popcorn mixed togther) everything was to die for.

since we’ve been to chicago i’ve wanted to make homemade chicago style deep dish pizza.  i made some deep dish pizza a while ago and it was good, but certainly not great.  so i was super excited when i saw a recipe for deep dish pizza on one of my favorite blogs, brown eyed baker.  it looked amazing and when we made it last weekend, we confirmed that this recipe absolutely is amazing.

the crust is beautifully buttery and flaky, with ooey gooey mozzarella cheese, toppings, finally topped with homemade tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.  the only thing is beware that this recipe makes 2 pizzas.  i supposed you could freeze one of the crusts and save it for later, but i decided to make both – one with sweet italian sausage and one turkey pepperoni.  chris and i preferred the sausage one but agreed both were delicious.

also, making this pizza takes some time since you’re going to make your own crust which proofs two times and your own sauce, so i think it’s best to make this one the weekends.  i couldn’t imagine making it after a long day of work.  no siree!

to start, make the crust dough, then place it in an oiled bowl and allow it to rise for about 1 hour.

  

while the dough is rising, make the tomato sauce.  it’s a beautifully simple sauce full of tomato flavor accented with garlic, fresh basil, oregano, and more.

once the dough is done rising, you need to laminate the dough.  this is what creates the awesome flakiness of the crust.  roll out the dough in to a big rectangle, then spread on some softened butter.

starting at the long edge, roll the dough into a tight log.  then press down on the log to flatten it out a bit.

  

cut the dough in half.  can you see all of the butter swirled into the dough.  a to the mazing!

then fold one half into thirds kind of like a business letter.

now pinch the seams of the dough together and shape the dough into a ball.  repeat these last couple steps with the other half of the dough.  put each dough ball into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  allow the dough to rise for another 45 minutes in the refrigerator.

  

once the dough has finished rising, roll it out into a medium sized circle, about 13 inches in diameter.

transfer the dough to a greased cake pan.  press the dough into the corners and up the edge of the pan.

sprinkle a bunch of shredded mozzarella cheese on the bottom of the pizza.

next comes the toppings.  i used sweet italian sausage and turkey pepperoni.  oh and on the sausage one, make sure the sausage is a relatively thin layer – you don’t want a super thick disk of sausage on your pizza.

  

then we added sauteed onions and green peppers on both.  i suppose you could use fresh onions and peppers but i decided to cook them first so that we wouldn’t have watery pizza from the excess water that tends to come out of fresh vegetables when you cook them.

spread half the tomato sauce onto each pizza and sprinkle with some parmesan cheese.

  

bake the pizza for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is nice and golden brown.

allow the pizza to cool for a little bit before cutting it into the slices.  finally, enjoy your homemade chicago style deep dish pizza!

please visit brown eyed baker for this wonderful recipe.