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Monthly Archives: August 2011

In East of Eden, John Steinbeck writes of automobiles, “[To start a car] required not only a good memory, a strong arm, an angelic temper, and a blind hope, but also a certain amount of practice of magic, so that a man about to turn the crank of a Model T might be seen to spit on the ground and whisper a spell.”

For most of my life, this was exactly how I felt about baking with yeast. It wasn’t until I began dating my boyfriend, whose mother regularly makes all kinds of delicious breads, that I even considered it a possibility that I, too, could use yeast. Under her careful guidance, I began to learn about bread-making. We started with pizza dough, since their family eats homemade pizza together once a week, and I took copious notes as I helped her make it time and time again. Although I have since successfully made other, more “impressive” breads with yeast (six-braid challah, pita pockets, sandwich bread), this recipe is near and dear to my heart, because learning how to make it opened the world of baking for me.

Favorite pizza:
*makes 1 XL pizza and 2 medium pizzas (halve it unless you are feeding a large group, like leftovers, or want to make bread with some of the dough)

  • 2.5 cups of very warm water (the hottest setting your sink allows should be fine)
  • Slightly under 2 tablespoons of active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 6 3/4 cups of high-gluten flour (this is usually marketed as “bread flour”)
  • 3/4 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Mix the water, yeast, and sugar together, then add flour, salt, and olive oil. Now knead the dough. I use my stand mixer, so I knead it (using the dough hook) on the first setting until it begins to come together, and then on the second setting for two minutes. You can, of course, also knead it by hand.
After kneading it, shape it into a disc and put it into an oiled bowl, flipping it over to coat both sides. Cover the bowl with a dish towel, and let it rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, or until it doubles in size. (I usually put mine in the oven with the light on.) You know that it has doubled when you can stick two floured fingers into the dough and the dough stays indented and does not spring back.
Now, punch down the dough and divide it into three pizzas – one XL pizza and two medium pizzas. Roll the dough into pizza shapes, add sauce and toppings, and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. For a really good crust, take the pizza off the pan and put it directly on the oven rack when you have three minutes left. That step is helpful if you’re baking pizza on cookie sheets, but with the pan that I just bought, it’s an unnecessary step because the pan has holes in the bottom and gives you a nice, texturized crust without having to move the pizza off the pan at any point.

This summer, in anticipation of living in the apartments, I read Michael Pollan’s book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, in which he provides a thoughtful perspective on the industrialization of eating, the advent of what he refers to as “nutritionism,” and the pitfalls of the modern Western diet. (His manifesto is:  Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.) It’s an interesting and thought-provoking work, although Pollan sometimes can be pseudo-scientific. I found the last chapter, in which he provides a few practical suggestions for eating healthily, to be the most helpful. Here are just a few for you to think about next time you are grocery shopping:

1. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup. (Is it food if you cannot identify what it came from – or is it just a “food product”?)

2. Avoid food products that make health claims. (It means, first of all, that the food is packaged enough to have a label on it, and probably that the food is altered from its original nature.)

3. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. (In most stores, processed foods dominate the central aisles, whereas “fresh” food is often along the walls.)

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. (While there are still local produce stands around, take advantage of them!)

5. Pay more, eat less. (“Choose quality over quantity, food experience over mere calories.”)

If you would like to read more about this, I have a copy of Pollan’s book in my apartment, and would be glad to loan it to anyone who is interested!

You’ve probably seen the produce stand across from Colonial and the library. There’s a large sign advertising fresh fruits and veggies, and a girl named Meghan works there six days a week to raise money for her college education. I made a trip there today and purchased all of the following for only $11:

  • one large cantaloupe
  • one pint of blueberries
  • six ears of corn
  • one red onion
  • one green pepper
  • one zucchini
  • one yellow zucchini

I already cut up the cantaloupe, and it is absolutely delicious! The stand is open from 9am to 5:30pm Monday through Saturday, and offers most in-season vegetables and fruits, including peaches, apples, plums, blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, sugar baby melon, nectarines, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, new potatoes, zucchini, squash, red peppers, green peppers, green beans, garlic, onions, etc. The pricing is very reasonable. For example, tomatoes, peaches, plums, and nectarines are sold by the quart for $4 per basket; lots of vegetables are two for $1; corn is $5 for a dozen and $3 for six ears; and a huge cantaloupe is $4.

The produce stand is associated with Seiver’s Farm Market (it’s on the way to the outlets on the left side of the road; in the fall there are hay bales and pumpkin fudge), and there is another stand by Katie’s Korner. Meghan told me that the stands will be open through the end of October, but Seiver’s Farm Market will be selling produce at the main location through the end of December. I hope you stop by and purchase some fresh fruits and vegetables from Meghan! I’m planning on buying a lot and freezing them so I can enjoy good produce throughout the winter as well. Here’s a good chart that explains how to freeze vegetables, courtesy of Simple Organized Living.

This may be one of the easiest recipes of all time, and it fills the entire apartment with a heavenly smell! I love to eat it for breakfast with yogurt or milk, and I’ll also eat handfuls throughout the day as a snack.

Granola: 

  • 4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 c. coconut
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
    ———————————-
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla
  • Sea salt to taste

In a large bowl, mix together oats, walnuts, coconut, brown sugar, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, mix together oil, honey, vanilla, and salt. Then coat the dry mixture with the wet mixture, and spread out the granola in a lined cookie sheet at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through. (The recipe makes about two cookie sheets worth of granola.) When you remove the granola from the oven, it will still be soft and warm, but if you let it cool for a few minutes, it hardens up and becomes nice and crunchy.

This recipe can be easily adapted to suit your tastes. If you prefer chewy granola to crunchy granola, just reduce the cooking time and increase the ratio of wet to dry mixture. You can also add dried fruit to the granola (after it’s cooked) or add almonds, pecans, and other nuts before you bake it. Either way, it’s delicious!

For move-in day, I made orange zest cupcakes with chocolate frosting for all of the girls on the hall. The orange zest adds such nice, subtle flavoring to regular yellow/vanilla cupcakes.

I got the cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart, and the frosting recipe from All Recipes, & I’ll share them both below.

Orange Zest Cupcakes:
*makes 24 cupcakes

– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tablespoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
– 2 cups sugar
– 4 large eggs
– Finely grated zest of 1 orange {mine was courtesy of Hicks cafeteria}
– 1 cup milk

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar, and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs to the large bowl one at a time, mixing well after each addition, and then add the orange zest. Add half of the flour mixture to the large bowl, and beat until combined. Add the milk, and mix again. Finally add the rest of the flour mixture, and beat until combined.

Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners, and place 1/4 cup of batter into each cup. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through to ensure that the cupcakes bake evenly. (The original recipe recommended baking them for 18-20 minutes, but I found that it took a few minutes more in my oven.) You’ll know the cupcakes are ready once the tops are golden, and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one comes out clean. After I took the cupcakes out, I let them cool in the pans for 5 minutes, and then I transferred them to a wire rack to let them cool completely. While the cupcakes cooled, I made the frosting.

Chocolate Frosting:

– 2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 6 tablespoons butter
– 5 tablespoons evaporated milk
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

This one is so easy! In a medium bowl, mix the sugar and cocoa. In a large bowl, cream the butter until it is smooth, and then gradually add in the sugar mixture and the evaporated milk. Blend in vanilla, and beat until light and fluffy. I found that it made more frosting than I needed, so next time I will probably halve the recipe and hope that will be enough to frost two dozen cupcakes.