I decided to venture into some long forgotten territory and throw together a few homemade pizza’s for my little brother’s birthday bash! The last time I made pizzas from scratch was for a house of 36. The pizzas were so large that each took up an industrial size baking sheet! This time, I definitely had to scale down my operation and made only seven, 12-inch pizzas.
The dough recipe I used is a combination from those I found at SimplyRecipes and YumSugar, and advice from past pizza making excursions of Ammi and Abba (Mom and Dad). The sauce is a recipe I’ve been perfecting for nearly three years now, first taught to me by a very close Italian friend, and I use it for many of my pasta dishes. Finally, the suggested toppings are some pairings I’ve experimented with or tasted in the past. Try it out on your next pizza night and let me know what you think! 🙂
Dough (makes two 12-inch pizzas)
- 1 1/2 c warm water (105°F-115°F)
- 2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
- 3 1/2 c bread flour (you can use all-purpose flour, but bread flour will give you a crisper crust)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 (28 oz) can whole, peeled tomatoes, with juice
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp black pepper
- salt to taste
Toppings (some suggestions)
- shredded mozzarella
- pineapple and black olives
- fresh tomato chunks and fresh basil leaves
- thinly sliced potatoes and corn
- artichoke hearts and spinach
- eggplant chunks and summer squash
- In a large bowl, add warm water. Sprinkle in yeast and sugar and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Stir to dissolve completely if needed after 5 minutes. You want to be sure that the water is not too hot, or else you will kill the yeast, but you want it warm enough that they are activated. Adding the sugar also makes sure they have yummy things to eat when they awaken! If you can smell the fermentation and see bubbles in the mixture after 5 minutes, you know your yeast are alive and ready to make some dough!
- Add in olive oil, bread flour, and salt until throughly mixed. (You can also use an electric mixer to do this).
- Kneed the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle in more flour as needed so the dough is not too wet or sticky. (Again, you can also use an electric mixer with a dough hook for this, on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes).
- Lightly coat the dough with olive oil and place it in a large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit refrigerated overnight. Many recipes say to let the dough rise for 1 1/2-2 hours in a warm place, but I every time I’ve made pizza dough I’ve always let it rise overnight in the fridge. I recently stumbled upon a New York Times article that also describes the benefits of an overnight rise.
- Using a food processor (or a knife), shred the can of whole tomatoes so that only a few, small chunks remain.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until they are golden brown, about 5-10 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and cook for another 2-5 minutes.
- Add tomato mixture, basil, oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste. Let simmer on low heat for 45 minutes – 1 hour, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened. The key to this sauce is really the time. The longer the simmer, the more fully the flavors combine. If you have fresh basil, add 1 tsp fresh chopped basil for a really nice kick.
Finally, making the pizzas (without a pizza stone)!
- Preheat the oven to 450°F for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
- Remove the plastic cover for the dough and punch it so it deflates a bit. Divide the dough in half. Form two round balls and place each in its own bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes while the dough “proofs.”
- Take one ball of dough and flatten it with your hands on a slightly floured work surface. Starting at the center and working outwards, use your fingertips to press the dough to 1/2-inch thick. Turn and stretch the dough until it will not stretch further. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes and then continue to stretch it until it reaches the desired shape (in this case, 12-inches in diameter). Use your palm to flatten the edge of the dough where it is thicker. Pinch the edges of the dough to form a lip.
- Place the pizza pan or large baking sheet in the oven for at least 15 minutes. Remove with a pot holder and drizzle with olive oil, turning to coat the whole pan/sheet.
- Transfer the dough upside-down onto the prepared sheet and bake for approximately 2-5 minutes. Remove with a pot holder and carefully flip over the slightly cooked dough.
- Cover with tomato sauce, cheese, and desired toppings. Try not to load up each pizza with a lot of toppings if you want a really crispy crust.
- Bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-12 minutes.
- Repeat for the second ball of dough.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes, cut into slices, and dig in!
Black Forest Cake is probably my all-time favorite type of cake. I stumbled upon this AllRecipes.com recipe over 3 years ago and I’ve been working with it ever since. I’ve made this cake at least once a year, but this was the first time I actually tried to make the full 3 layer version. And it turned out beautiful! I must say, this cake is definitely a half-day ordeal. Many of the ingredients must be cooled before the entire cake can be assembled, but trust me, this decadent desert is well worth the wait. Check out my adapted, tried and true recipe below!
Ingredients (makes 3 layer cake)
- 2 1/8 c all-purpose flour
2 c white sugar
- 3/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 c milk
- 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
Cherry Filling and Topping
- 3 (14.5 oz) cans pitted sour/tart cherries
1 c white sugar
- 1/4 c cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 c heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans and cover bottoms with waxed or parchment paper.
- In large bowl, combine flour, 2 c sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 Tbsp vanilla extract. Beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean.
- Cool layers in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove to racks to cool completely.
- While cake layers are cooling, drain cherries, reserving 1/2 c juice. Combine cherries, reserved juice, 1 c sugar, and cornstarch in 2 quart saucepan.
- Cook over low heat until thickened (about 1 hour), stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract. Cool completely before using.
- After cake layers have cooled, with a long serrated knife, cut each layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs and set aside. Gently brush loose crumbs off top and side of each cake layer with pasty brush or hands.
- Combine whipping cream, confectioners’ sugar, and 2 tsp vanilla extract in a chilled medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. (Stiff peaks means peaks that hold their shape when you pull out the beater. First you will start to see soft peaks, peaks that fall down under their own weight. You’re almost there! Keep beating on high speed for about 20-30 more seconds and you will have stiff peaks! Be careful not to over beat because then you’ll find yourself halfway to butter…)
- Set aside 1 1/2 c whipped cream frosting for decorating the cake.
- Now comes the fun part: building the cake! To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate or platter. Evenly spread 1 c of whipped cream frosting over the layer. Cover with 3/4 c cherry topping. Top with the second cake layer and again repeat layers of whipped cream frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer.
- Frost side of cake with whipped cream frosting. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake.
- Spoon reserved 1 1/2 c frosting into pastry bag fitted with star decorator tip. Pipe around top and bottom edges of cake.
- Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake.
- Devour in sinful pleasure! 🙂
I made this cake for my brother’s birthday, so I went ahead and did a bit of improvisation and attempted frosting some lettering on the cherry topping. As luck would have it, the words held up great! 😀
Oreos are my favorite type of cookies (not counting the classic chocolate chip, of course). I discovered this homemade Oreo recipe about 4 years ago and it’s been one of my most requested deserts ever since! In times of extremely stress, instead of studying, I often find myself in the kitchen cooking up a storm. One winter finals season, I made nearly 100 of these delicious delicacies as stress relief presents for friends. I’m happy to say that I wasn’t procrastinating when I made Oreo cookies today. What better way to celebrate the winter solstice than with some of these babies! Over the years I’ve made a few adaptations to the recipe and have finally settled on something I’m happy with. This recipe uses vanilla extract for the frosting, but I have tried it with peppermint extract for an even more festive treat. Add in a cup of milk and you’ve got yourself a fixing for some blissful tastebuds.
Ingredients (makes ~18 cookie sandwiches)
- 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 c sugar
- 1/2 c and 2 Tbsp room-temperature, unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 c room-temperature, unsalted butter
- 1/4 vegetable shortening
- 2 c sifted confectioners’ sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (or whatever flavored filling you’re feeling like)
- Preheat to oven to 375°F.
- Mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
- Beat in the butter and egg. Continue mixing until dough becomes a solid mass.
- Place rounded tablespoons of dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Slightly flatten the dough.
- Bake for 9 minutes. Set on a rack to cool.
- To make the cream filling, mix the butter and shortening at low speed.
- Gradually beat in the sugar and extract. Mix on high speed for about 2-3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.
- Using a knife, spread the cream evenly on one chocolate wafer. Place another cookie, equal in size, on top of the cream. Continue this process until all the cookies have been paired. (Sometimes you get luckily and there will be a lone chocolate wafer with no pair which means you get an extra treat!)
- Pour a glass of milk and enjoy!
One of my all-time favorite dishes and one of my first original recipes (original in that I tried out many a recipe before settling on some sort of frankenstein of them all that made my tastebuds jump for joy). The key to this dish is patience. Patience to let the marinade infuse its magic into the chicken/tofu and patience for the create and tomato sauce to fuse harmoniously. But all that patience is worth the delicious creation at the end!
- 1 c yogurt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite size pieces
- Or: instead of chicken, one package of extra firm tofu cut into large cubes
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1 c heavy cream
- 1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
- In a large bowl combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 tsp cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger and salt.
- Stir in chicken/tofu. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat grill to high heat.
- Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread the chicken on skewers and discard the marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side. If using tofu, do not use skewers and grill for about 6-7 minutes on each side. Instead of grilling, you can also pan fry the chicken/tofu until cooked, discarding the marinade.
- Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.
- Sauté garlic for 1 minute. Add 2 tsp cumin, paprika, and salt and sauté for another minute.
- Stir in tomato sauce and heavy cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes.
- Add grilled chicken/tofu and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve with naan.
My first experiment in the ways of coconut cakes. Made it for my father’s birthday and the whole family kept begging for more! Turned out soft, moist, and with the right amount of sweetness to make it a great pairing for any cup of tea. Adapted from an AllRecipes.com chocolate coconut cake recipe.
- 3/4 c unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 c white sugar
- 2 c all-purpose flour
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 6 egg whites
- 3/4 c milk
- 2 tsps coconut extract
- 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/4 c heavy whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 c sweetened flaked coconut
- 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
- 8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 c sweetened flaked coconut
- 3-4 drops food coloring
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Butter the sides of two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with 9-inch parchment paper.
- Beat unsalted butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Stir flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside.
- Whisk egg whites, milk, and coconut extract in a separate bowl.
- Thoroughly mix about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the creamed butter and sugar; stir in half the egg white-milk mixture. Repeat twice more, ending with final 1/3 of flour mixture; stir to make a smooth batter.
- Pour batter into prepared cake pans and smooth tops with a spatula.
- Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Cool cakes in pans on racks for about 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely.
- Peel parchment paper from cakes.
- Stir sweetened condensed milk, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and vanilla extract together in a bowl; stir in 3/4 cup flaked coconut. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
- Bring 1/2 cup heavy cream to a simmer over low heat; gradually stir in chocolate until thoroughly melted and the mixture is thick and smooth. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
- Place a cake layer onto a serving platter; top with the condensed milk-coconut mixture. Place second cake layer over the coconut filling. Spread warm chocolate mixture evenly over top and sides of cake with a thin spatula.
- Toss 1 cup flaked coconut in a bowl with food coloring until coconut is evenly colored; sprinkle coconut over chocolate topping to serve.