Friday, November 20, 2009

Carrot Bread

Three weeks into our autumn CSA share, we had been given Enough carrots.

How many carrots is Enough? For us, about two pounds. It isn't that we don't like them - I mean, we don't. Not really. But there's only so many things you can do with carrots. Boil them... bake them? Put them in a stew? We were all carroted out from the last time we ate carrots, which was about a year ago.

And yet the carrots kept coming.

"We can't throw these away every week," we said. "And we can't just make carrot cake..."

Rebecca had a glint in her eye. "Or can we?"

So. With a little research, she found this carrot bread recipe. It's sweet enough to make anyone delighted and happy, but not so sweet that it becomes a dessert. It has been our breakfast during the last few weeks, and it is tasty.

Carrot Bread
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 8

Total prep time: 20 minutes
Total cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 35 minutes

  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 to 2 cups grated carrots (I use a cup and a half. The recipe is pretty pliable. This is the equivalent of 5-6 medium sized carrots.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
So! Here we go.
If you have a food processor, give it a hug. It will be your best friend in the world for this recipe. If not, I hope you have a grater and a wire whisk!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 Degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Easy enough, right?

If you have a food processor, go ahead and use the grater attachment to grate your carrots. Set shredded carrots aside and wipe out your work bowl. Otherwise, grate your little heart out! Do you like grating carrots?

Beat together the two sugars and the eggs - or, if using a food processor, pulse for 30 seconds. Here's the neat trick taught to me by Cooks Illustrated: if you just dump in your oil, it's going to sink to the bottom of the loaf. But if you pulse steadily - or whisk steadily - while pouring the oil in a slow, steady stream, you'll get a thick, delicious, caramelly goo that will blend into your bread perfectly. It's the same way mayonnaise works! So mix in your oil very slowly until you have a thick, delicious cream. Whisk in the vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a separate bowl while stirring occasionally. Fold in the egg mixture, carrots, and nuts just until everything comes together and there are no more floury spots in the bowl. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake on middle rack for 60 - 75 minutes, or until a toothpick (or butter knife!) poked into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Robert's take: YUM. This is my new favorite breakfast. An insult to carrots? Maybe, but at least they're getting eaten!

Rebecca's take: I LOVE THIS STUFF!! It really does make a delightful breakfast. The top of the bread is the best part, all sweet and crusty! And a side note about grating carrots: I don't think it's really that tough to do by hand if you have "normal" big carrots. The carrots we have are very organic, meaning they are little, odd-shaped root veggies with more greens attached than actual carrot. Grating them by hand is somewhat dangerous and very time consuming, so the food processor comes in very handy. Anyway, this is the best use for carrots, in my opinion!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Veggie Tacos & Homemade Tortillas

Pictures by Rebecca!

The thing about summer in the south is it seems like there's no end to tomatoes, squash, and okra. And peppers. Go to the farmer's market and that's all you'll find; baskets of tomatoes and zucchini and anaheims...

What started as a summer blessing ends like any meal at a Chinese food buffet: in a desperate plea for something, anything else. There's only so much you can do with the same thing week after week. And while I know we'll miss these vegetables in a couple of months, the excitement is gone.

Rebecca's been looking through food blogs to find new things to do with all the summer staples. This is the absolute best, easiest thing that we've come across: VEGGIE TACOS. Cheap, healthy, vegetarian, and spectacular. And I'm including a bonus recipe for homemade tortillas!

Thanks to Simply Recipes for the original idea!

Veggie tacos
Serves two (can easily be doubled)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped zucchini or summer squash (1-2 zucchini or squash, depending on the size)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 large fresh mild green chile (Anaheim or Hatch), seeds and stem discarded, chopped
  • 1/2 fresh chile pepper (serrano, jalapeno, habanero), seeds and stem discarded, minced (or more, if you desire more heat)
  • Salt
  • Pinch of ground cumin
  • Pinch of ground oregano
  • 1 small to medium tomato, chopped
  • 4 corn tortillas OR 1 cup masa harina / masa flour (for homemade tortillas - Masa harina / masa flour can be found on the baking aisle of your grocery store if you're in the right town, or it may be in the ethnic section of your grocery store.)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese - monterey jack is my favorite, but any kind will do.
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup crumbled Mexican cotija cheese (a salty, crumbly cheese, you can substitute feta)
  • OPTIONAL: 1-2 tsp lime juice
  • OPTIONAL: 1-2 tbs cilantro
Keep in mind that this recipe is as flexible as a boneless flamenco dancer. Feel free to throw in any vegetables in your garden. The only real MUSTS - in my book - are the tomatoes, which just taste fantastic, and the peppers. Feel free to throw in mushrooms, substitute peppers, take out the garlic, throw in some shallots. It'll all taste good on a tortilla.

Ready? Here we go!

1. If you plan to make your own tortillas - and I really suggest you do at some point in your life, because they're fantastic - add one cup masa harina (for approximately 4 shells) to a bowl. Mix in 1/8 tsp salt. Add in anywhere from 3/4 cup to 1 1/4 cup warm water; the recipe will be on the back of the bag. I've found that it's easiest to work with when it has the consistency of PLAY-DOH. I pour in about 3/4 cup of water, mix it in to see how dry it is, and then add more water as needed. Thing is, if it gets wet enough to be slimy, it'll stick to your rolling surface and will fall apart when you try to pry it off. If it's too dry, it'll crumble when you try to form the tortillas. The first batch or two you make will likely be trial and error. That may sound intimidating - but it's EASY to figure out. And the tortillas will be delicious.

SO! Now that I've terrified you - prepare the dough. Let it sit 5-10 minutes while you prep the veggies.

2. Slice and dice your vegetables.

3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium. Sear and saute the zucchini / squash, peppers, garlic, onion, cumin, and oregano for 5-10 minutes, until browned.

4. Add the tomatoes and set the heat to low. Add the lime juice, if using. Let cook while you prepare the tortillas.

5. Heat a second skillet - preferrably a griddle - to medium. Divide your tortilla dough into 4-6 equal pieces - I do 4 because I like em big, but you should be able to get 6 small tortillas out of 1 cup of flour. Roll each piece into a small ball.

6. If you're anyone who's anyone, you have a tortilla press. I don't. So here's what I do: I slice a gallon plastic bag across the side and bottom to make a plastic cover. I put each piece of tortilla dough in between the plastic bags and roll it out on the counter with a rolling pin. If anyone catches you doing this, you will be scolded.

7. Here's the hard part - prying the tortilla away from the side of the bag. I lay the shell on my hand and gently pry the plastic away from the tortilla. This part WILL take practice. You want to have a thin tortilla, but you don't want it to break. Once you get one side pried away, you can get it off the tortilla without tearing it too much. I think this is why people use real tortilla presses.

8. Gently (and CAREFULLY) lay the tortilla on the hot griddle / skillet. Let cook for one minute, flip, and cook the other side for one minute. Repeat for each tortilla.

9. Smell the tortillas. It will remind you why you went through all this trouble.

10. Fill each tortilla with the veggie mixture. Top with shredded cheese, and - optionally - cojita cheese or cilantro. Serve!

Robert's take: Man, I love these so much. They're easy to make (especially if you use store-bought tortillas) and taste fantastic (especially if you use homemade tortillas). They're cheap. They're healthy. MARRY ME, VEGGIE TACOS.

Rebecca's take: These are pretty tasty! It took me a while to adjust to a "taco" that didn't taste all meaty, but I quickly became a fan. (I never liked normal tacos very much anyway!) This really is an excellent way to use up a bunch of vegetables. And you should try making tortillas - they're soo good and fresh!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Peach Pie Jam

You can't eat english muffins without jam. It's completely obscene, like kissing your uncle or going to an Aerosmith concert after 2000.

Right now, right at this moment, there's a lot of fruit in season. Blueberries; blackberries; strawberries (okay, maybe it's a little late for strawberries.) And peaches. At our local farmer's market, there was an old married couple hauling out thousands and thousands of peaches from the back of a giant truck. I wish we'd taken pictures; imagine a table piled high with baskets of peaches beside a moving van stuffed with filled baskets. I've never seen so many in my life.

So we bought a few to make jam. Why not? Making jam takes less than half an hour and is cheaper than the nastiest off-brand. And it tastes lovely.

Here's the best advice I can give you: buy a box of pectin for low-sugar recipes (I went with Sure-Jell!) and go with the box's instructions (which are reprinted below - along with a few clever tips). Ready? Here we go!

Photographs by Rebecca

Peach Pie Jam
Makes about four jars
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes (plus a 24 hour waiting period, if you're a masochist.)

4 pounds peaches (6-7 very large peaches!)
3 cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell pectin for low-sugar recipes (Why low sugar? Because, in my opinion, it thickens better. If you'd rather, go get the other kind and follow the instructions there!)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1 tbs honey (optional)

If you have a kitchen scale and you don't want four jars, feel free to half the recipe - and the ingredients above. That's what I did! There should be 49 grams of pectin in the box, so measure out 25 grams and follow the below instructions. Here we go!

1. Dice the peaches. I prefer to leave some big chunks, because that's pretty tasty stuff. Big chunks of fruit make jam smile. You should have about 4 1/2 cups. Place into a large pot with the lemon juice.

2. Mix together 1/4 cup of the sugar and the pectin. Add to the fruit and stir well. If you want to be fancy pants, add the cinnamon and nutmeg and honey!

3. Bring to a full rolling boil on high, stirring constantly. Add the remainder of the sugar all at once, continuing to stir!

4. Boil for exactly one minute, so sayeth the bossy instructions. Remove from heat and pour into jars. "Process", if you're one of those wise people who know how to can stuff. I don't. We eat jam too fast to preserve it, too.

5. According to the directions, let it set up on the counter for 24 hours. Trust me; it'll be better if you wait; it thickens up overnight. But if you can't stand that wait, I totally get you. I took a spoon to the jar at this point.

After 24 hours, it should be set up. Refrigerate and enjoy. Feel free to spread it on toast, english muffins, and Aerosmith.

Robert's take: This is probably my favorite jam. When you put it on toast or english muffins, it tastes like you have a mini peach pie. What could be better? Nothing. It's the antithesis of Van Halen.

Rebecca's take: This jam is awesome! It's true what Robert says about this tasting like a little pie... And that is a really special thing to have for breakfast!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits

*Note from Rebecca: Sorry about the big break in posting - we were in the process of moving! You may notice a new kitchen in the background. This kitchen has slightly better lighting and is much more open, which makes taking pictures of the cooking process a lot easier.*

When I was a kid, the absolute ultimate breakfast was built on a single foundation: the biscuit. Upon this rock, an entire city could be built from gravy, eggs, cheese, bacon, jelly, honey; a thousand variations of delicious breakfast snacks. Make them into mini-sandwiches! Tart them up like little flaky strumpets! Biscuits could do no wrong.

The problem: my mom’s biscuits involved a rolling pin, a clean counter, lots of flour, and a hell of a cleanup process. And so after I moved out of the house, I avoided the simple biscuit. Too much work for too little gain.

Oh, sure; I tried drop biscuits. They weren’t satisfying. Weird little guys that were never round, never tall. Just irregular blobs, unsuitable for splitting and making into sandwiches or dressing with sausage gravy. It was a real shame. Once a year, I’d go to my parents’ house for Christmas breakfast, and there they’d be again: the magnificent biscuits of my youth.

And now? Now, I have a new recipe, thanks to the geniuses at Cooks Illustrated. These are tall and fantastic; they are flaky and delicious. You will love them. And you’ll never have to break out a rolling pin.

Buttermilk Biscuits (Makes 12 biscuits, serving 4-6)

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


Nonstick cooking spray, oil, or shortening (to grease pan)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder (The fresher your baking powder is, the better these will be.)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (COLD), cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 ½ cups buttermilk cold, preferably low-fat

To Form and Finish Biscuits
1cup unbleached all-purpose flour (5 ounces), distributed in rimmed baking sheet
Optional: 2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Heat your oven to 500 degrees. Spray a 9” cake pan inside and out with nonstick cooking spray. Or coat with oil or shortening. Whatever you’d like. Keep that cooking spray out; you aren’t done with it!

2. If you have a food processor, bully for you; this will be a snap! Process 2 cups of flour (10 oz), baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Otherwise, whisk it together real nice in a bowl!

3. Really, the food processor is your best friend here. You want to process the butter into the flour mixture so that the butter is in little pea-sized portions. You’ll be able to run your fingers
through the dough and it’ll feel kind of like cornmeal. So sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture and do 8 one-second pulses with your food processor.

Now, if you don’t have a processor - you don’t want the butter to melt, so you can’t use your fingers to do this. You can do this with a couple of forks; just kind of grind the butter into the
flour. You do like butter, right? You want your biscuits to be flaky, right? It’ll take a few minutes, but do it!

4. Put the flour / butter mixture in the freezer and wait til your oven is good and hot. While you’re waiting, spray or grease a ¼ cup measuring scoop. The hotter the oven gets, the quicker – and higher – your biscuits will rise. Patience. Meanwhile, spread a cup of flour across a rimmed baking sheet. Line up the baking sheet, your greased baking pan, and get ready to rock.

5. You’re ready. The oven is burning hot. This next steps will need to go a little quickly. Here’s what you’ll do now: mix together the flour / butter mixture with the cold buttermilk. Mix it well, but just until it all comes together. You don’t want to overmix these guys.

Stirring action shot!

6. Immediately afterward, begin scooping biscuits with the ¼ cup measure. Make them SCANT quarter cups; you’ll get twelve. Drop each biscuit scoop onto the floured baking sheet. Now you should have twelve clumps of biscuit dough!

7. Gently roll each biscuit into a ball and roll it in flour. Put nine biscuit balls around the perimeter of your cake pan and then put the last three biscuit balls into the middle. Look here!

8. If you really like, you can brush the biscuit tops with melted butter. Otherwise, pop that pan into the oven and wait 5 minutes.

9. After five minutes is up, drop the temperature to 450 degrees and bake another 15 minutes, until the biscuits are golden brown.

10. Let them cool two minutes in the pan on the stovetop.

11. Take out your giant biscuit mass and separate into twelve biscuits. Cool for 5 minutes; otherwise, they will be a little underdone! Patience, grasshopper.

12. Eat them!

Robert’s take: My favorite biscuits EVER. Pretty easy to make, too. Though I do prefer the homogeneity of the shape of my mom’s circular rolled biscuits, these guys are outstanding in flavor and texture.

Rebecca's take: Super delicious! When I was a kid, the only biscuits my mom ever made were the Pillsbury kind from a can. I feel lucky to be presented with these homemade biscuits for breakfast on a fairly regular basis. They're awesome with honey, jam, or bacon and eggs if you prefer! Mmm..

Friday, July 10, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

July in America is all about patriotism, popsicles, and pastries. A difficult month for one trying to cut back on dessert-type-things. But wait! What if your stomach demands cinnamon rolls? What if your significant other does, too?

Sort-of-Diet Cinnamon Rolls to the rescue. Thank you, CooksIllustrated. These are somehow way healthier than regular cinnamon rolls, but... I don't know if I believe that. The only difference between these and their regular cinnamon rolls is half a stick of butter. When you need an emergency infusion of cinnamon rolls...

Photographs by Rebecca

Sort-of-Diet Cinnamon Rolls (Serves 9; each roll contains 280 calories)

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes


1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz) packed dark brown sugar (or 1/3 cup light brown sugar + 1 tbs molasses, if you have it)
1/3 cup (2 1/3 oz) granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, and more for dusting the work surface
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled

2 tbs cream cheese (or light cream cheese, if you must, but it's nasty stuff), AT ROOM TEMPERATURE! Otherwise, this won't mix later.
2 tbs buttermilk
3/4 cup (3 oz) confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and spray an 8 inch square baking pan with cooking spray. This step is key! Preheating is important. Spray is important!

2. Mix all of the filling ingredients together in a bowl. Use your hands if you need to! This is the best part of making cinnamon rolls. It looks like dirt!




3. Whisk together the 2 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and 2 tbs of the melted butter. Stir together the buttermilk and flour mixtures JUST until the liquid is absorbed - the dough will look shaggy.

4. Transfer the dough to a *lightly* floured work surface - I use waxed paper, because I don't trust my counters. Knead for 30 seconds. The dough should be smooth.

5. Now comes the tough part. You're going to pat this dough down, but you'll need to pry it up later, and the dough tends to stick. SO! What to do?

First, I get a new, cleaned work surface. That means a new piece of waxed or parchment paper - or, if using the counter, clean it. Then gently flour the surface again. LIGHTLY pat out the dough with your hands into a 12 by 9 inch rectangle. That's about an inch longer than a standard piece of paper. Gently is the key here; you have to peel this and roll it in a minute.

6. Sprinkle the dough rectangle evenly with the filling, leaving a half inch of plain dough on all sides. Gently press the filling into the dough.

7. Now, roll up the long side, carefully prying up the bottom with a spatula as you do so. Roll tightly. Go slowly, making sure not to tear your dough if you can help it.

You're going to end up with a long, thick cylinder of delicious dough. Try not to eat it yet. Roll it so the seam side is down.

8. Now, if you have plain, unwaxed floss, you can use that to cut this puppy. If not, use a sharp knife, and know that your rolls will inevitably be as squished as mine. Cut the dough log into thirds (I used a tape measure, because I'm a nerd), and then cut those thirds into thirds.

9. Arrange the rolls in the baking dish, 3 by 3. As you add them to the pan, gently press to slightly flatten and seal the rolls.

10. Cover the pan with foil, slide into the oven, and bake for 12 minutes. When you take it out, they'll look like so!

11. Take off the foil, slide them back into the oven, and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown. YUM.

12. This part will be tough. You want to get these onto a baking rack to let them cool, if you have one. Place the rack over a cookie sheet and spray the baking rack with cooking spray. Slide the rolls onto the rack and turn them over. Try not to eat them yet! They need to cool a few minutes before you can glaze them.


14. Whisk the cream cheese and buttermilk together in a small bowl until smooth. "Sift" the confectioner's sugar over the mixture - otherwise, you'll have lumps. I don't have a sifter. I had lumps. Really, who cares? It's still tasty.

Gently spoon the glaze over the slightly cooled rolls. Serve warm.

Robert's take: YUM. These are one of my favorite things ever. Ever-ever. Cinnamon rolls are the best, and these are tops. I know that the recipe implies that they're diet, but... they really aren't. They're just a little better than the alternative. I love them.

Rebecca's take: I agree. I'm really glad I demanded them - they were great to have around for a few days! Cinnamon rolls can cure nearly any problem. Oh, and sorry about the strange array of lighting in the pictures - it's very difficult to get a good shot in our poorly-lit kitchen, so I do what I can to improve the quality later...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pizza Crust Recipe (+ Margherita Pizza)

Pizza is the most perfect food there is.

It isn't a debate. There isn't a question. It just is. There's so many things you can do with a pizza, which is essentially any collection of stuff on a piece of bread. Sauce, toppings, cheese; these things can be included, but really, the only definition of a pizza is Pizza Crust Plus Something Else.

That's why the crust is so incredibly important to pizza. Homemade pizza dough is a thousand times better than anything you'll get at a take-out place, a million times better than pre-purchased pizza dough, and it's cheap as dirt. And honestly, it takes hardly any effort to make.

I happen to have found the most perfect recipe for pizza dough there is. And lucky you; I'm sharing it today, along with a bonus recipe for Margherita pizza!

Pictures by Rebecca

Pizza dough: Makes one medium pizza (approximately 13 inches, enough for four servings. Can easily be doubled.)

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes

1/4 cup hand-warm water
1/2 envelope (or 1 1/8 tsp) instant yeast
1/2 cup room-temperature water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups bread flour (11 oz), OR 1 cup bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour (5.5 oz each)
1 tsp salt
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp herbs, 2 cloves garlic

You can use a food processor, stand mixer, or just your hands to make this.

1. Pour the warm water into a small bowl or cup and add the yeast. Stir and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. If it doesn't, then your yeast is dead. Toss and try again.

2. Mix the flour (or flours, if you're using whole wheat - I really prefer the whole wheat and bread flour mixture, because it makes the crust better!) and the salt together in a bowl, food processor, or the bowl of a stand mixer.

3. OPTIONAL STEP: if you'd like a herb / garlic crust, add the olive oil to a skillet with herbs and / or garlic. Let cook on medium-low for 2-3 minutes, until aromatic. Allow to cool.

3. Add the yeast-water and olive oil (or cooled flavored oil) to the flour. Mix until combined.

4. Pour in the room-temperature water. Mix until the dough comes together into a ball. Add up to two tablespoons extra water to make the dough soft and VERY slightly sticky. You'll probably have to add at least one tablespoon; two is probably a little too much. You just want it soft enough to knead; if it sticks to your hands, it's going to make it a bad time. Still, a little too much water is better than too little!

5. Now, time to knead. If you have a food processor, you're in luck; pulse for thirty seconds or so. If you have a stand mixer, knead with a dough hook on medium for five minutes. If you just have your hands, knead on a work surface for 7-8 minutes. Please, try not to add any additional flour when kneading. Too much flour and you'll have a tough crust, and no one wants that!

6. Oil a medium bowl and put the dough-ball in. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size; 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

7. If you really want an awesome crust, gently punch down the dough and stick it in your fridge overnight after the first rise. Take it out an hour before you're ready to bake the dough the next day.

And that's it. The best pizza crust you'll have. You can do whatever you like: add tomato sauce and pepperoni and mozzarella, layer with pesto, make Strawberry Pistachio Goat Cheese Pizza... or...

BONUS RECIPE: Margherita pizza (Serves 4)

Preparation time: One hour (most of this is just waiting time.)
Cook time: 10-15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


One recipe pizza dough
2 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
8 oz mozzarella

NOTE about pizza stones:
If you want a really amazing rise, use a pizza stone. These are super, ghetto cheap; $10 or so at Target. Here's the thing: they keep a stable, high temperature and ensure a great, absolutely amazing pizza crust. I can't recommend a pizza stone highly enough. If you can't find one or don't want to use one, you aren't going to get the same results... but you'll be okay.

I also really recommend using parchment paper. Pizzerias use cornmeal to slide their pizzas onto the stone. I use parchment paper; it lets me easily slide the crust into the oven without it sticking on anything, and it helps clean-up. Parchment paper is a baker's best friend.

Now, on with the show!

1. Preheat your oven (and, hopefully, your pizza stone) to 500 degrees *one hour* before you're ready to bake. Trust me, wait the hour. You want every inch of the oven to be blazing hot. Pizzeria ovens are 800 degrees; you want to get kind of close to that.

2. Fifteen minutes before the hour is up, roll out your crust. I put the dough on a piece of parchment paper on a RIMLESS baking sheet (this makes it easy to slide the finished pizza onto the hot stone. If you're baking directly on a baking sheet, don't worry about rimless.) Roll it out to a 13" crust. It might be a little thin or refuse to stretch; that's normal. Just roll it as much as you can, wait a few minutes, then stretch a little farther. It may take a while, but you'll get there.

3. Mince the garlic and saute in the olive oil for two minutes, until fragrant.

4. Time to assemble: spread the garlic-oil all over the dough. Add the basil leaves and sliced tomatoes.

5. Some people like to add the cheese here. Me, I hate little brown spots on the cheese for no good reason, so here I slide the pizza into the burning hot oven, bake for 7 minutes, slide it back out, add the mozzarella, and bake for another 5 minutes.

For simplicity's sake, though, feel free to add the cheese before baking and cook until little brown spots form.

6. Slide it out and cut into eighths.

Robert's take: With a good pizza crust recipe, you can do *anything* - pineapple pizza, barbeque chicken pizza, plain cheese. I use this recipe more than any other; it's quick, easy, and fantastic. Better than any other crust I've *ever* tried. And if you use the whole-wheat dough - trust me, you won't know it's whole wheat - it'll be even healthier. What normal, red-blooded American doesn't love more fiber? Or pizza?

Rebecca's take: I've eaten a lot of pizza, and Robert's not lying when he says this is the best pizza crust ever. Yes, sometimes we crave a greasy delivery pizza, but anything made at home is bound to be a lot healthier and taste pretty swell! Also, margherita pizza is perfect for anyone who's not fond of too much tomato sauce on a pizza - you get just the right amount of tomato!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Strawberry Muffins

Michael Jackson is dead. The man who wrote the soundtrack to the 80s - to my childhood - has passed on. In honor of his passing, this is the second of two recipes that will not feature step-by-step instructions.

Instead, let me point you to our current favorite breakfast recipe: Strawberry, Almond, and Coconut Muffins

Photographs by Rebecca

Right now, it's strawberry season. They're fresh, cheap, and plentiful. And what's better than strawberry muffins?

There's really only one trick to making muffins: whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl, mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then fold the wet into the dry until just moistened. Overmixing can make your muffins really nasty.

How come FoodBlogga has pretty muffin tops? Mine always, ALWAYS turn out flat. But they're still delicious.

Robert's Take: It's like eating sweet, moist strawberry cake for breakfast. Not the healthiest breakfast, but - because of the almonds and fresh strawberries - not the worst. This one's definitely going into regular rotation.

Rebecca's Take: These are perfect. Absolutely perfect. Eating them for breakfast is like a dream, and I keep finding myself craving them throughout the day... The crunchy top is my favorite part! And as a side note, you may have noticed that we used silicone baking cups (Silicups to be precise) - they're a bit expensive but they're so handy and reusable. I got a couple dozen a few years ago and I love them! Perfect for muffins because they pop out of the cup easily - not so great for cupcakes because the icing is hard to clean off.