Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Very Favorite (Easy!) Pizza Crust

I will make almost any kind of food at home because I'm stubborn like that, but secretly, I do think some food is best made by the professionals.  They've got special equipment or ingredients or knowledge that I would prefer to leave with them.  I'm thinking of sushi, macarons, artisan sourdough bread, croissants, and yes, pizza.

I have blogged about homemade pizza a lot over the life of this blog, but it was always second-best to the pizza shop a few blocks away.  This revelation might hurt my thrifty cred, I know, but it's the truth.

But I have a new truth!

In the past, I saw two routes for homemade pizza dough:  a yeast dough that is like bread, or an artisan dough that requires pizza peels and baking stones. I adore homemade bread, but I don't like that flavor and texture under pizza sauce and cheese.  And I'm not willing to store big single-use items (the peel and stones) for the occasional pizza.

My new truth, my third route, is this crust from Smitten Kitchen that I've been making for at least 2 months.  I like that it's not fussy and  I can slap it together in minutes with pantry staples.  When it's time to make pizza, I just have to stretch the dough out into the pans; this stretching does take some getting used to, but it is totally worth it to me when I consider the alternatives.  And the flavor and texture of this crust is amazing!

naked dough
If you recall the phenomenon of the no-knead bread from Jim Lahey, this pizza dough borrows his technique of a pinch of yeast and a long setting time (it doesn't rise in the true yeast-bread manner).  Then it is baked in a super-hot oven to give a chewy, non-yeasty crust that definitely reminds me of a pizza shop. . . made homemade with love and whole-wheat flour.  Yesssss!

Lazy Pizza Dough, slightly tweaked from Smitten Kitchen

Mix in large lidded bowl:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp. yeast for a 22 hour rise-time (use 1/4 tsp. for 12 hours and 1/2 tsp. for 6 hours)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups water

Mix until craggy dough forms.  May add another Tbsp. water.  Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for the time you chose with the amount of yeast you chose.  Grease two 11x14 rimmed baking sheets (or equivalent) and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Divide dough in half.  Flour it lightly so it doesn't cling so much to your fingers.  Pat/stretch/dangle dough to fill each pan.  I find it helps to "play piano" with my fingertips to push it out.  Put on toppings.  Bake in lower racks of oven at 500F for 13-16 minutes.

Note:  May refrigerate dough once it has risen.  It can hold this way for 3 days, but set it out at room temperature for 2-3 hours before using.  I have also successfully frozen the dough.

Breakfast one morning: spinach and brie and pizza crust.  Amazing.
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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Someone is Done with Her Christmas Shopping

I wish it was me, but it's my friend from church.  She bought 10 picnic napkins out of my shop in September and ordered 10 more.

Given that she didn't need the napkins until Christmas, I took my sweet time as I worked on other projects.  My friend wanted bright or dark colors that would not show dirt easily, with patterned pockets.  I had fun!  The napkins are finally done and photographed.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Home Canned Baked Beans

These beans are "baked" only in the sense of their flavor.  We love them.  My favorite baked beans are my mother's - she buys Bush's Baked Beans and then doctors them up.  Well, I think these baked beans are equally delicious and I can make them with local, organic ingredients if I choose.  I love to take a jar of these on vacation for a British breakfast or beans and weenies.

Home Canned Baked Beans - originally from Mennonite Country Style with tweaks by me

4 cups dry navy beans
1/4 lb. chopped bacon
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
dash cayenne

Soak the navy beans for at least 8 hours in water to cover by two inches.  Cook 1 hour in the same water.  Reserve 2 1/2 cups bean liquid and drain the rest off.  Mix  rest of ingredients into drained beans along with bean liquid.  Place in quart or pint jars, leaving 2" headspace.  Process in pressure canner at 10 lbs. pressure, 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.  Yields about 8 pints.

These beans really siphon during canning.  "Siphoning" is when the liquid is forced out of the jars during processing, which results in a mess in the canning kettle and jars that don't seal as particles come between the seal on the lid and the jar rim.  Not good!  Whole tomatoes and salsa are also bad for siphoning.

To prevent siphoning, underfill jars and allow plenty of headspace.  In this batch of baked beans, I filled my jars too full because I didn't want to have 8 jars when my pressure canner only holds 7 quarts at a time - however, my effort was wasted because one jar didn't seal anyway due to siphoning, and it had to go into the freezer.  I need my freezer space for the eighth of beef we're getting this week!

I think I'm finally done with my canning, although I'll can stock occasionally as we eat turkey and chicken.  My next posts will be about other things, sewing, and. . . . news. Pin It

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Knitted Cloths for the Laundry Room

I had a terrible assortment of old baby washcloths and random washcloths that I kept hanging in the laundry room.  These were for dirty kid mouths, dining room table wiping, and other general wiping (hopefully not the floor).

I knitted three washcloths from pink yarn, shooting some thin, irregular stripes through them.  It is such a tiny project in the scheme of my homemaking, but I love the happy colors.  The previous, terrible assortment went into the rag stash.

The pink is a marker for me and my laundry sorters that these are the laundry room cloths, not the kitchen sink dishcloths.  Small details that I love.

And then I lifted the camera and took a picture of the little amber bottle of pretty berries that Genevieve put together this fall and set on the table. We have any number of strange weeds trying to grow up in our fences.

Another detail of our household, captured by the camera.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blackstrap Balsamic Apple Butter

Isn't that a fancy recipe name?  I'm quite proud of it.  It's almost as good as the apple butter, and boy, isn't this a good year for apples!  Our favorite snack right now is an apple out of hand.

When I buy apples to make applesauce, I buy seconds and I set aside two quarts of fresh applesauce to make apple butter with.  I use my slow cooker because it's so easy and the apple butter won't scorch.

I would say I like a medium-strong apple butter with subtle spice and deep flavor.  I've had some apple butter that was more like applesauce because it wasn't cooked down very long - thin and light brown in color - and I've had some apple butter that was so syrupy and black it looked like tar.  I like something in the middle.

The blackstrap molasses and balsamic vinegar at the end do not really reveal their presence, but rather amplify and deepen the flavors.  Some apples might have enough complexity on their own and won't need the touch of blackstrap or balsamic at the end. 

My very favorite way to eat apple butter is dolloped on top of cottage cheese.  Another favorite is on top of sweet potato biscuits.  And then we just use it as a toast spread for any old breakfast because we all love it.

Blackstrap Balsamic Apple Butter

2 quarts unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses, optional
1 Tbsp. best-quality balsamic vinegar, optional

Combine applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker.  Put the lid on and turn on high for 1 hour.  Remove lid or cock lid so apple butter can cook down.  Stir occasionally, taking care to stir in any darkened edges.  When apple butter is deep chocolately brown and significantly reduced (this is a matter of available time and opinion), use an immersion blender to further puree the mixture.  Taste.  Add optional blackstrap and balsamic, starting with a tablespoon of each and going from there.  May need more sugar, too, depending on your taste and the apples you used.  
Store in the fridge for 4 weeks or so, or can pints in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Makes about 3-4 pints, depending how long you cook it down.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Homemade Canned Tomato Soup

October is my favorite time of year to can. The house can be chilly, so the canning heat is welcome.  The children are at school and while I would probably get them to help me otherwise, it's also so luxurious to focus solely on my project in a quiet house by myself.

Plus, the farmers have lots of produce yet and no one else seems to want it, so they practically give it to me.  See this sinkful of organic, local, seconds tomatoes?  I had to convince the farmer to take $2 for them.  He wanted to give them to me.  In August, I would pay $10 or more for tomatoes like these!

I decided I didn't have enough tomato soup or ketchup to get through until next fall, so I made a batch of each.  Ketchup recipe is here.  Tomato soup method is below.

 Thrift at Home Canned Tomato Soup

Use 3 parts tomatoes to 1 part onions and 1 part celery.  I usually add a few garlic cloves too.  I usually do at least a dishpan of tomatoes and end up with 9-12 quarts, but this "recipe" is made to work with what you have, so the individual jars are seasoned after the veggies are cooked.

Once the vegetables are assembled, core tomatoes (no need to peel - big time saver!) and peel onions.  Roughly chop veggies.  Puree in food processor in batches, making sure to mix onions and celery and tomatoes to get a juicy puree.  Pour into stockpot.  Add 2-3 bay leaves.

Bring to boil with lid on.  Remove bay leaves.  Puree again with immersion blender.  Ladle into quart jars, leaving at least an inch of headspace because tomatoes really siphon out during canning.  Add 1 tsp. salt and a scant tablespoon sugar to each jar.  Seal by pressure canning at 10 lbs. pressure for 35 minutes.

To Make Homemade Tomato Soup:

Pour a quart jar of home-canned tomato soup in a saucepan and heat; I do this uncovered to concentrate the soup a bit. Sometimes I add a pinch of dried basil.

Meanwhile, make a white sauce.  I do this in my microwave in a big glass measure.  Place 3 Tbsp. butter in glass measure and heat for 1 minute. Whisk.  Add 3 Tbsp. flour.  Whisk.  Heat again for 1 minute.  Whisk.  Add 2 cups milk.  Whisk.  Heat again for 1 minute.  Repeat the heating and whisking until the white sauce is thick.

Once you have a hot, thick white sauce and hot tomato soup base, slowly pour the tomato base into the white sauce, whisking.  Do not reverse the order and pour the white sauce into the tomatoes!! Return the soup to the saucepan and heat gently if needed, but do not boil.  Taste to adjust salt or add pepper/basil/sugar according to your taste.  Serve hot with grilled cheese or crackers.

It's not recommended to waterbath tomato soup because it is a low-acid food due to the added celery and onions.

You can make the white sauce on the stovetop in the classic way, which involves lots of stirring.  More on the microwave method in this post.   It's a great job for a child.

Microwaves vary.  Mine is old and slow, so adjust times accordingly.

Sometimes I add a minced mushroom or two and some minced onion to the butter when I'm starting to make the white sauce.  Not usually.  I like my tomato soup pretty classically plain.  That's also why I only add a pinch of basil, no more.

I discuss the phenomenon of curdled tomato soup and why you must pour the acid (tomato) into the base (white sauce) in this post.  Pin It

Monday, October 27, 2014

A New Nightie

Suddenly, as it happens with children, Genevieve's summer nightie was tight across the chest.  I decided to go ahead and make her a new one because this fall has been so mild.  I used the same pattern as this nightie (the outgrown one) and this one, just made it a bit wider and a lot longer.  I'm hoping it will last for several years.

This fabric is adorable laundry line fabric that I bought new because I fell in love with it, something I hardly ever do.  I was thinking of a dress for Genevieve, but I kept hesitating because the light background was bound to be grubby and stained in no time.  I love it as a nightie, and she particularly loves the long swishy length.

Genevieve is nine now, and I'm way behind because I have no photos of her birthday  (the grandmas do) or her exquisite new bangs.

My dear pretty girl.
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