Friday, August 29, 2008

Garlic Herb Chicken

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone

Do you ever have trouble coming up with something witty to say? I just feel at a loss for words tonight. Maybe it was the migraine that caused me to leave work early, or the 3 hour nap that finally helped the migraine go away or maybe it's the "Olympic brain" I've come down with or even better, maybe it's the start of Bengals preseason (WHO DEY!), I don't know. I just feel in the clouds. I guess all I can really say is I wanted to make home made pizza for dinner tonight but I didn't want to use red sauce. That idea evolved into the bacon ranch idea and then that idea evolved into a calzone. It turned out great. I was happy with the dough I used (a recipe I haven't used before) and I loved being able to use the fresh tomatoes from my garden.

There, did I say enough? Good. Onto the recipe.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Calzone
My own recipe

1 recipe pizza dough (see recipe below)
2 chicken breasts
3 slices of center cut bacon
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
2 tsp fresh parsley finely chopped
~1/2 cup cheese (I used monterey jack and cheddar)
Salt and pepper to taste
Ranch for dipping

Start by cooking the bacon in a skillet over medium high heat, careful not to burn it! When the bacon is crisp set aside between 2 pieces of paper towel.
Drain all but 1 tbsp bacon grease from skillet (if your super health conscious just drain it all and use cooking spray).
Brown both sides of the chicken breast in the bacon grease then cover the skillet and continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink. When the chicken is done shred with forks and season with salt and pepper.
Then crumble the bacon and add to the chicken.
Roll out the pizza dough in 2 circles. Fill one side of each circle with chicken and bacon mixture, then diced tomatoes, then chopped parsley, and finally cheese. Fold the other half of the circle over the top of the filling and pinch to seal the edges. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve with ranch dipping sauce

**Cooks notes***

- As an after though, I think it would also be good to toss the chicken and bacon in ranch before stuffing the calzone.
- This really should make 3 large calzones. The 2 I made were monster sized. Next time I will cut the dough recipe in half or make 3 calzones.

Pizza Dough:
(Source: King Arthur Flour recipes)

* 2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
* 7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water*
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

* 2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
* 7 to 9 ounces lukewarm water*
* 7/8 ounce olive oil
* 12 3/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
* *Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.


1) If you're using active dry yeast, dissolve it, with a pinch of sugar, in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.

2) Combine the dissolved yeast (or the instant yeast) with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a soft, smooth dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 4 to 5 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. Don't over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

3) To make pizza up to 24 hours later, skip to step 5.

4) To make pizza now: Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise till it's very puffy. This will take about an hour using instant yeast, or 90 minutes using active dry. If it takes longer, that's OK; just give it some extra time.

5) To make pizza later: Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate the dough for 4 hours (or for up to 24 hours); it will rise slowly as it chills. This step allows you more schedule flexibility; it also develops the crust's flavor. About 2 to 3 hours before you want to serve pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator.

6) Decide what size, shape, and thickness of pizza you want to make. This recipe will make one of the following choices:
Two 1/2"-thick 14" round pizzas (pictured);
Two 3/4"-thick 12" round pizzas;
One 3/4" to 1"-thick 13" x 18" rectangular (Sicilian-style) pizza (pictured);
One 1 1/2"-thick 9" x 13" rectangular pizza;
One 1"-thick 14" round pizza.

7) Divide the dough in half, for two pizzas; or leave it whole for one pizza.

****I did not do the following steps because I can not read directions and I was impatient. After the first I shaped my dough and filled the calzones and immediately baked****

8) If you're making a rectangular pizza, shape the dough into a rough oval. For a round pizza, shape it into a rough circle. In either case, don't pat it flat; just stretch it briefly into shape. Allow the dough to rest, covered with an overturned bowl or lightly greased plastic wrap, for 15 minutes.

9) Use vegetable oil pan spray to lightly grease the pan(s) of your choice. Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of the pan(s). The pan spray keeps the pizza from sticking; the olive oil gives the crust great flavor and crunch.

10) Place the dough in the prepared pan(s). Press it over the bottom of the pan, stretching it towards the edges. You'll probably get about two-thirds of the way there before the dough starts shrinking back; walk away for 15 minutes. Cover the dough while you're away, so it doesn't dry out.

11) When you come back, you should be able to pat the dough closer to the corners of the pan. Repeat the rest and dough-stretch one more time, if necessary; your goal is to get the dough to fill the pan as fully as possible.

12) Allow the dough to rise, covered, till it's noticeably puffy, about 90 minutes (if it hasn't been refrigerated); or 2 to 2 1/2 hours (if it's been refrigerated). Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450°F.

13) Bake the pizza on the lower oven rack till it looks and feels set on top, and is just beginning to brown around the edge of the crust, but is still pale on top. This will take about 8 minutes for thinner crust pizza; about 10 to 12 minutes for medium thickness; and 12 to 14 minutes for thick-crust pizza. If you're baking two pizzas, reverse them in the oven (top to bottom, bottom to top) midway through the baking period.

14) To serve pizza immediately: Remove it from the oven, and arrange your toppings of choice on top. Return to the oven, and bake on the upper oven rack for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned, both top and bottom, and the cheese is melted. Check it midway through, and move it to the bottom rack if the top is browning too much, or the bottom not enough.

15) To serve pizza up to 2 days later: Remove the untopped, partially baked crust from the oven, cool completely on a rack, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature. When ready to serve, top and bake in a preheated 450°F oven, adding a couple of minutes to the baking times noted above. Your goal is a pizza whose crust is browned, and whose toppings are hot/melted.

16) Remove the pizza from the oven, and transfer it from the pan to a rack to cool slightly before serving. For easiest serving, cut with a pair of scissors.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

German Chocolate Cake

At work when some one has a birthday I make a cake for them. For Linda's birthday she requested a German Chocolate Cake. I took this as a challenge for 2 reasons. First, I've never made it before. Second, I have this huge fear of making really ugly baked goods and it just seems like ALL German Chocolate cakes are ugly. But that was what she requested so off I went. First I had to find a recipe. I picked a recipe that had the prettiest picture (haha) and then set about making the cake. It turned out really well. Everyone loved it. I even got a few "best cake ever" comment. I still think the cake could have been prettier but it was a hit.

Of course, after all of my talk about a "pretty cake" my picture is awful, so please ignore it. It was almost 11 pm when I finished and my natural lighting was shot.

German Chocolate Cake
(source: Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen 2006, as seen on Leite's Culinaria)

For the filling

4 large egg yolks
One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans, toasted

For the cake

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa, sifted
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus more for dusting the pans
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Make the filling
1. Whisk the yolks in a medium saucepan; gradually whisk in the evaporated milk. Add the sugars, butter, and salt and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is boiling, frothy, and slightly thickened, about 6 minutes.

2. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, whisk in the vanilla, then stir in the coconut. Cool until just warm, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cool or cold, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. (The pecans are stirred in just before cake assembly.)

Make the cake
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position; heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Combine the chocolate and cocoa in a small bowl; pour the boiling water over and let stand to melt the chocolate, about 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth; set aside until cooled to room temperature.

2. Meanwhile, spray two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high straight-sided cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and knock out the excess. Sift the flour and baking soda into a medium bowl or onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter, sugars, and salt at medium-low speed until the sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula halfway through. With the mixer running at medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl halfway through. Beat in the vanilla; increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds. With the mixer running at low speed, add the chocolate, then increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl once (the batter may appear broken). With the mixer running at low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and beating in each addition until barely combined. After the final flour addition, beat on low until just combined, then stir the batter by hand with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, to ensure that the batter is homogenous (the batter will be thick). Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans; spread the batter to the edges of the pans with the rubber spatula and smooth the surfaces.

4. Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pans 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a greased wire rack; peel off and discard the paper rounds. Cool the cakes to room temperature before filling, about 1 hour. (The cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.)

To Assemble
1. Stir the toasted pecans into the chilled filling. Set one cake on a serving platter or cardboard round cut slightly smaller than the cake, and the second cake on a work surface (or leave it on the wire rack). With a serrated knife held so that the blade is parallel with the work surface, use a sawing motion to cut each cake into two even layers. Starting with the first cake, carefully lift off the top layer and set aside.

2. Using an icing spatula, distribute about 1 cup filling evenly on the cake, spreading the filling to the very edge of the cake and leveling the surface. Carefully place the upper cake layer on top of the filling; repeat using the remaining filling and cake layers. If necessary, dust the crumbs off the platter; serve.

Note: The cake may be refrigerated, covered loosely with foil, up to 4 hours (if refrigerated longer than 2 hours, let the cake stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes before serving).

Sugar and Spice Muffins

Once again it has been way to long since I've updated! For the first time in a couple weeks I have no plans for today so I'm going back and adding all of the stuff that I have been compiling over the last few months.

I'll start with these muffins. I actually made these back in JUNE! I haven't made them again yet but I plan to, maybe even today! These had a great texture and wonderful flavor. I was worried that they might be too sweet, but that wasn't the case at all. They almost have the flavor of a cake doughnut, mmmmm.....

Sugar and Spice muffins

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 1 egg
* 3/4 cup milk
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 cup butter, melted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat together oil, 3/4 cup sugar, egg and milk. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture, just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

While muffins are baking, mix together 3/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

While muffins are still hot, dip tops in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar mixture.