Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cake Mix Cookies Redux

I first wrote about baking cookies from cake mix on October 4, 2019, but I've since done so much of it, that I had to share the experimental results.



With the holiday season now in full swing, time to begin thinking about, and experimenting with, cookie recipes.  Each year I like to make little gift plates for those businesses I deal with often.  It is just a little thank you, and holiday cheer, to those workers dealing with all kinds of customers daily.  One advantage of being on Facebook is all the recipes, with photos, that pop up in advertising, or are shared by those on my Friends list.  One recipe I definitely decided to try out was making cookies out of cake mix; not due to being lazy, but it sounded intriguing.  Three main ingredients plus add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, and dried fruits.  Too good to be true, and how tasty were the cookies really?

Asking my hubby, Roy, to pick out the flavor of the cake mix for my first attempt, he choose Red Velvet.  In case you did not know, red velvet is basically chocolate cake with a dump load of red food coloring, or beet juice.  Making the cookies using a “scratch” recipe sort of defeats the purpose of easiness though.  Looking through various recipes, I found one recipe for these cake mix cookies which claimed they were "made from scratch".  Going over the recipe, it should be renamed, "Semi-homemade", as boxed cake mix is still a main ingredient plus the addition of instant pudding.   It was a complicated, many ingredient recipe which resulted in only 20 cookies at completion.  Simply not worth my time when I was looking for fast and easy.

Here is the basic recipe for Cake Batter Cookies (using a boxed cake mix) which I found listed on the internet many, many times.

Cake Batter Cookies

Ingredients:

1 box cake mix (15.25 oz./16.25 oz./18.25 oz.)
**oil (vegetable, canola or a blend of both)
2 eggs

** 1/3 cup is for 15.25 oz. + one ounce of flour, or 16.25 oz. total.
     1/2 cup is for 18.25 oz.

If you live in a high altitude area, like myself, add the appropriate amount of flour listed on the cake mix box.  I shifted the mix + flour, added the oil for the size mix used, and the 2 eggs; it all came together perfectly.

Additions:  1/2 cup for chips - mint, vanilla, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon or toffee.

                   1/2 cup for nuts and dried fruits; large nuts and fruits should be chopped.
                   1/4 cup for sprinkles - they are tiny, so a little will go a long way.

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; line jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper (keeps the cookies from sticking and burning).

In a medium bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs and any additions.  I used a heavy duty rubber spatula and it blended together without any issues.  A ball of dough will form (it can be wrapped in plastic wrap, refrigerated for use after an hour, in case several different flavors are going to be baked up).

Use a teaspoon to measure out the dough, roll into a ball with fingers and place onto parchment paper.  These cookies do not spread out wide, so the dough can be pressed down slightly and a crinkle effect will be created as they bake.

Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly before removing and plating.  Sprinkle powdered sugar to enhance the crinkles, or leave as is.

Makes 3 dozen cookies if using a teaspoon to measure out.  Want larger cookies, double the teaspoon amount, or use a tablespoon to measure out the dough.  Better yet, use a 1-inch diameter ice cream scoop!

Basically, I had 3 dozen delicious red velvet cookies, with semi-sweet chocolate chips, baked and plated.  I sprinkled half with powdered sugar, and the other half were left as is.  The whole process took 45 minutes as I had only have two racks in my oven; if I had a third, the time would have been 30 minutes.

Hint:  if you cannot decide what flavors of cake mix to purchase, stock up on "White".  Then you can add cocoa powder to create chocolate; vanilla, lemon, peppermint or other flavors of extract as well.  Consider the white cake mix to be a blank canvass, you are the artist, now create!

It has been a lot of fun playing with other flavors of cake mix, and added ingredients.  Chocolate Fudge with chopped walnuts, dark chocolate and mint chips were my absolute favorite.  Roy enjoyed the Spice with chopped fresh apple, chopped walnuts and cinnamon chips. 

Chocolate Fudge with chopped walnuts, dark chocolate & mint chips.

Red Velvet with & without powdered sugar

Spice with chopped apple, chopped walnuts & cinnamon chips.

But, I had to do it, I had to see what would happen if I used a made from scratch recipe.  No, not a cake recipe; a cookie recipe that would convert the flat, crunchy cookies into thicker, cakier cookies…Chocolate Chip!  Now don’t I sound like a mad scientist working in a lab?

Taking a basic recipe for, made from scratch, chocolate chip cookies, I simply added three extra tablespoons of flour and used a Stevia baking blend instead of pure cane sugar.  Instead of spreading out flatly and becoming crisp while baking, the cookies only flattered slightly.  The bottoms were lightly crisp, but the overall texture was like any cookies that had used a boxed cake mix.  Due to the Stevia baking blend, they were not as sugary sweet, but the milk chocolate chips (instead of semi-sweet) made up for that.

Now that these experiments have been a tasty success, time to begin playing with pumpkin!

Have fun baking!

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Sheep and Bread


Historically, the New World, or North America, was explored and “conquered”, for lack of a better word, by the countries of Europe.  While the English primarily settled within the 13 original colonies, French and Spanish explorers traveled the fringes of both the United States and Canada.  Moving inland became justified with the finding of precious minerals (gold, silver, copper); fur trapping for animal pelts to keep human bodies warm in winter and, of course, land grabbing.

With the influx of these foreigners came food items and recipes.  American cuisine essentially began as a mixture of English, French, Spanish; increasing as more countries forth wars in North America.  The Hessians were approximately 30,000 German troops, hired by the British, to help fight during the American Revolution. They were principally from the German state of Hesse-Cassel, and with them came their cultural background.  It is known that the Spanish came through San Juan County, part of the development of the Old Spanish Trail from Mexico to California.

In the 1900s, Basque immigrants traveled to the mountain regions of California, Idaho, Montana and Utah.  Descended from the first Romans who invaded the areas of Spain and France, they have their own culture, language and distinct genetic background.  The Basque are extremely family oriented, so while sheepherding was a major component of life, it was a lonely existence.  The herders spent more time with their flock, than with family.  Living in small shelters and cooking for themselves was a basic necessity for their way of life. 

“Tending their flocks in the remote Western rangelands, Basque sheepmen had to cook for themselves, and they had to make do with a minimum of portable cooking equipment.   A Dutch oven became essential for cooking hearty soups and stews — and even for baking bread. They buried the pot in a pit full of hot embers.  During the winter months, herders would live in sheep wagons, which contained a stove and an oven. They baked their own bread in a Dutch oven, buried in the coals from sagebrush or aspen wood fires, with a tight-fitting lid and a bale handle. Today the tradition continues in homes across the world recreating this wonderful bread in modern ovens. ” ~~Sunset Magazine, June 1976~~

Now, in the history of bread baking, comes that age old question, “Which came first…?”  The Native American culture and traditions have their own bread creation styles.  Pueblo bread (San Juan Record, April 5, 2016), bread products made by ancestral Native Americans used corn flour.  The introduction of wheat flour, and eventually more processed flours, came from the exploring Europeans.  So, when it came to baking techniques, recipes and what the finished bread loaves looked like; who influenced who?  I asked a few Navajo ladies about the difference between Pueblo and Sheepherder breads, and the answer was simple…sugar.  The recipes are essentially the same, except Sheepherder bread contains sugar which gives a sweeter flavor, and browner coloring.

Sheepherder Bread baked Pueblo Bread style.
Not owning a cast iron Dutch oven (bowing head in shame), one recipe I came upon stated that a modern day, stainless steel/aluminum Dutch oven would do the trick.  Oh yes it did, I was totally tricked and fooled.  My first attempt with the recipe was a disaster of sorts.  Oh, it rose up beautifully as it baked, a lovely golden brown and yeasty aroma.  Tapping on the crispy crust though, something did not sound correct; it should have had a more hollow tone.  Cutting into the huge, round loaf and to my dismay, the dough inside was mostly gooey and raw.  I put it into the oven for 20 minutes longer, but the only accomplishment was a dark brown coloring and harder crust.

First Attempt
2nd Rising in Stainless Steel Dutch Oven

After Baking

Sheepherder Bread - Dutch Oven style

Failed First Attempt, still raw dough inside.
I am telling you of my failed first attempt to prove a point, do not quit.  The secret of life is to learn something new on a daily basis.  I learned that a baking technique, hundreds of years old, cannot be simply cheated on.  Then it hit me, wait, the Puebloans did not have cast iron Dutch ovens, how did they do it!?!  I went back to the basic recipe for Pueblo Bread (remember, it is almost exactly like Sheepherder Bread), added the sugar, but divided the first rise of dough into fourths.  Giving a second rise in round, oiled cake pans, I baked them according to temperature and time instructions. 

Second Attempt
Mound of Dough


First Rising in Greased Bowl

Knead, Divide into 4 Pans

2nd Rising, Cut X into top.

Sheepherder Bread, baked Pueblo Bread style....Perfect!

What was the result?  Four beautifully browned, round loaves of Sheepherder Bread; crispy crust, light and tender inside, mild sweetness that did not interfere with any ingredients placed upon the bread.  We indulged in grilled cheese sandwiches and French toast; or simply warmed slices smeared with butter and/or jam.  Not quitting, putting thought and experience to the test, success!

French Toast

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

With the recipe for Sheepherder Bread, there will be two sets of baking instructions.  The first set will be the traditional baking technique using a cast iron Dutch oven.  The second set will be as if making Pueblo style bread.  If you have a cast iron Dutch oven, I suggest making the bread both ways, and see which is preferred.

Sheepherder Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups very hot water
1/2 cup shortening
1⁄2 cup sugar
2 and 1⁄2 tsp. salt
4 and 1⁄2 tsp. dry yeast
9 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
Vegetable or olive oil

For Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Preparation:

In a bowl, combine water, shortening, sugar and salt.  Stir until shortening melts and cool to 110 to 115 degrees. Stir in yeast, cover and set in warm place until bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Add 5 cups flour and beat to form thick batter. Stir in enough of remaining flour (about 3 and 1/2 cups) to form stiff dough. Turn out on floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), adding flour as needed to prevent sticking.

Turn dough into greased bowl, cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 and 1/2 hours. Punch down and knead to form smooth ball, about 3-4 turns.

Grease inside of Dutch oven and inside of lid with oil. Place dough in Dutch oven and cover with lid to let rise for the third time. Let rise in warm place until dough pushes up lid about 1/2 inch (watch closely).

Bake covered with lid in 375 degree oven for 12 minutes, carefully remove lid and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and turn out on rack to cool.

Makes 1 loaf.

For Individual Round Pans
Preparation:

Same steps as Dutch oven method, except after first rising and kneading, cut dough into 4 sections.  Shape into round balls and place inside round cake pans that have been greased with oil.  Cover and let rise for 1 and ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 400F, bake for 45-50 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven and place loaves on rack to cool.

Makes 4 loaves.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Spanish Valley’s Hidden Cuisine.

Hidden Cuisine


2740 South Highway 191 (1/4 mile from Spanish Trail Road)
Moab, Utah, 84532 (Spanish Valley area)

Phone: (435) 259-7711


Hours of Operation:
Monday: 7am – 2pm
Thursday through Sunday: 7am – 2pm, 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Tuesday and Wednesday: Closed





Spanish Valley stretches along Highway 191 and encompasses two counties, Grand and San Juan.  Only 2.5 miles from the borderline, resting upon a small hilltop, is a hidden gem of a restaurant.  Serving American, Southwestern, and a cuisine that most Americans only wonder about, South African; Hidden Cuisine is a must experience restaurant.  Opened two years ago by owner and chef, Zinzi M. Chamanifard, Hidden Cuisine has received rave reviews.


Zinzi arrived, from Cape Town, South Africa, in America on a student visa, and now holds a culinary degree in hospitality; and she is an acclaimed chef as well.  Her training began in the kitchens of Desert Bistro and Sweet Cravings (both located in Moab).  She excelled rapidly and decided to prove her merits by opening her own catering business.  Opportunity came knocking upon her door with the advertisement of a restaurant location up for sale; Zinzi opened that door gladly.

At first, the restaurant was only open for breakfast (available at all open hours) and lunch, but recently dinner specialties are being offered Thursday through Sunday.  For breakfast, items such as “Biscuits and Gravy”, “Southwest Country Fried Steak” and “Eggs Benedict” are elevated from ordinary to extraordinary.  The pepper gravy used for the biscuits and country fried steak is smooth, creamy with the correct amount of cracked black pepper to enhance, not overpower.  Zinzi’s hollandaise sauce for the eggs benedict is so rich, creamy and packed with flavor.  Do not be surprised to find yourself licking the place for every drop!  The biscuits are fluffy; steak is encased within a crispy coating, yet fork tender, sporting pepper gravy attire.  Poached eggs are perfect globes holding a golden orb of yolk, sitting upon grilled slices of ham and draped in a silky hollandaise sauce.  Both selections came with red-skinned potatoes grilled, yet tender.  As you can tell, we decided to try out breakfast first; it was at lunch time and so, so satisfying.

Eggs Benedict

Inside the Poached Eggs - glorious sunshine!





Southwest Country Fried Steak

The lunch menu features a southwestern version of Philly cheesesteak, wraps and salads.
  Dinner though, a new edition to Hidden Cuisine’s menus, has offerings that showcase Asian, American, Southwestern, Italian and South African specialties.  As with breakfast and lunch, Zinzi shows off her talents, and quest for quality.  Sourcing for foods is based upon quality, so local, as well as outside of Utah, companies are used.  There is only one chef in the kitchen, and that is Zinzi.  Her mission and vision for Hidden Cuisine is to provide quality to the customer; quality atmosphere, service, and most especially, in the food items. 

Speaking of quality service, Shauna, our waitress, is very friendly, knows the menu items, and speaks very highly of Zinzi, her cooking skills and the food.  Our visit to Hidden Cuisine was definitely enhanced by her welcoming attitude, and quality service.  There is that key word again, Quality!

Hidden Cuisine is that type of restaurant where, no matter what speed your gear is in; stop in, sit, eat and simply enjoy.  Being curious about new cuisines, we are looking forward to another visit; this time for dinner and the adventure of South African flavors.

Mary Cokenour

Menus
Lunch

Breakfast






Beer and Wine
Dinner

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Paca Pantry is Alpaca and More.


Paca Pantry

133 East Center Street (Hwy. 491)
Monticello, UT, 84535

Phone: (435) 419-0750


Website for Ordering and Shipping of Items: alpacasofpetersprings.com, or find Wild Mountain Meats at Overstock.com

Free Wifi is available.


Five years ago, Dorothy Pipkin-Padilla, owner of Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, had a wild idea.  Doing research, finding resources that suited her needs, Wild Mountain Meats was born.  This new business features Alpaca meat in the forms of burgers, ground summer sausage, chops, and roasts.  Experimenting with dehydration techniques, a line of jerky will be added to the lineup. 


It was no wonder that a shop would open one year later, featuring, what else, Alpaca products.   Made from the fleece (fiber), Paca Pantry features scarves, hats, shawls, sweaters, gloves, head bandanas and yarn.  The bestselling item though are the socks which have dedicated repeat buyers from locals and tourists yearly.  “What is so wonderful about alpaca fleece?” you might be asking.  Each shearing produces roughly five to ten pounds of fleece per animal, per year. This fleece, often compared to cashmere, can be turned into a wide array of products from yarn and apparel to tapestries and blankets.















There are two different types of alpaca fleece.  Huacaya fiber grows and looks similar to sheep wool, causing the alpaca to look fluffy. The second type is Suri and makes up less than 10% of the South American alpaca population.  Suri fiber is similar to natural silk and hangs off the body in locks that have a dreadlock appearance.  At Peter Springs Alpaca Ranch, Huacaya is what you can see; simply ask Dorothy for tour information.  I have visited the ranch, while some of the alpaca can be a bit standoffish; several will gladly come forth to be petted, or simply “vogue” for the camera.  The Ranch and Paca Pantry are associated with Airbnb.com | Vacation Rentals & More (‎www.airbnb.com/‎) which helps to promote both businesses to those planning on visiting Monticello and the surrounding areas.

The alpaca fiber products at Paca Pantry come from the herd at the ranch; the fleece is sheared, carted, woven into skeins, and knitted into wearable and comfortable art.  Looking for something unique to hang over a fireplace?  A lovely, soft, full body alpaca hide can be purchased.









Now every business owner needs a right hand person; Sue Morrell, former award winning “31 Bags” demonstrator, is Dorothy’s.  Besides doing sales and making sure the shop maintains its eye tempting look, Sue helps to promote.  Currently there is a 50% off sale on all remaining “31 Bags” from Sue’s personal stock.  I LOVE the thermal insulated bags that keep items frozen or cold for approximately five hours!  Quilters and other crafters will adore the many pocketed bags made just for this purpose.


That’s right, Paca Pantry is not about alpaca only; expansion of stock is key to keeping a business interesting to the public.  85-90% of items offered for sale are sourced locally; either through consignment, or purchased outright.  The other 10-15% are Utah products; Dorothy and Sue believe in “Shop Local, Shop Utah”.










So, what else can be found to delight any shopper?  Beautifully handcrafted pottery pieces by Tony Wojcik, Otis Wright and Cedar Mesa Pottery.  Unpainted ceramic pieces are a best seller for the at-home crafter.  Essential Oils, postcards, photographs, jewelry, furniture, and I could go on and go, but I will not.  What I will do is ask you to stop in and see for yourself. 




Paca Pantry has a vision, “To provide items that will satisfy locals and tourists alike”.  Dorothy and Sue are community conscious by donating to, and attending, events such as the Parks and Beautification Gala, Rotary Club, San Juan Hospital “First Baby of the New Year”, Holiday Gingerbread House Tour, and the Pioneer Day Treasure Hunt.  Book signings, like local author Eric Niven, are an enjoyable event at the Pantry itself; along with classes on essential oils and alpaca education.  In future, cooking demonstrations will be offered on alpaca meat, so expect to get some nifty recipes for home use.  Also included will be the foods of local cultures such as Native American, Mexican and the Pioneers.

Speaking of food, in the summer, stop in for a childhood favorite, well of mine at least, a rootbeer float; or a cup of gelato which is sourced directly from the Moab Brewery.  If you have not tried their gelato yet, you will be in for a real treat!

Pet owners, do not feel left out, items geared for your furbabies will be offered in the future as well!  Before I forget, book readers; drop off used books for store credit, or come in and see what titles are a “must” purchase.

Winter hours allow for a little time off, Paca Pantry will be open Tuesday and Friday, from 11am-4pm, and Saturday, 10am to 2pm.  With the holidays looming ahead though, there will be extended hours Thanksgiving week, and the week before and during Christmas.  There will be a huge sale period beginning November 15th; 10% off ALL items in the shop, except for historically based pieces.  Looking for a special gift has now been made easier.

Whether a local or simply passing through Monticello; make a stop at Paca Pantry and shop!

Mary Cokenour


Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy – Chicago Style.


Chicago Style Pizza can be mistaken as a deep dish pan pizza.  While both are baked in a deep, round heavy aluminum pan, the crust and technique cannot compare between the two.  The dough is made differently from regular pizza dough; thicker and moister to keep from drying out and burning during baking. The assembly of the pizza itself is unique; the cheese on the bottom, additional ingredients in the center, and a tomato mixture on top.  With Chicago style pizza, the cheese goes beneath the sauce to create a barrier between the crust, sauce and additional ingredients.

Is this type of pizza Italian or American in origin?  The answer is both.  In 1880, while the Hole in the Rock pioneers were traveling to, and settling in, Bluff; Italian immigrants were moving to Chicago from the east coast.  Like other ethnic groups before and after, they were being subjugated to economic, political, social, and religious discrimination.  By 1920, Chicago housed the third largest population of Italians, and American born descendants; and I bet many are hearing in their minds…Mafia.  With the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), Al Capone and many of his cohorts were able to come into power; but this article is about pizza, not alcohol and crime lords.

1940s, World War 2 in full rampage, food being rationed; concerns over “bringing our boys home safe” and “how do we feed our families here at home”.  Wheat flour, corn oil, salt and yeast were not as severely rationed as meats, fruits and vegetables.  The first four ingredients were necessary for making dough; adding the few bits of meats and vegetables, a complete meal could be created…pizza!  However, to feed hungry laborers, it had to be more substantial than a thin crust Naples slice, or breadier Sicily square.  At home, to ease some of the tension of war, families ate meals together; at the set table, plates, utensils, linen tablecloth and napkins.  The dough was covered with thick cheese, the minimal meats and vegetables chopped and layered next, a rich tomato sauce poured over all; baked and served in a deep pan, like a casserole.   Bellies became full, stories were told of daily events at school and work; war was forgotten about, if only for a brief time.

So, you go to pizza places, like Pizza Hut and Old Chicago (Grand Junction, CO), that use basic dough and the assembly is the same as a standard pizza: dough, sauce, cheese, toppings (if any). It is baked in a deep dish pan, called “Deep Dish” or “Chicago style”, but are you getting the real deal?   If you want authentic Chicago style, then travel to Chicago!  Cannot fit that into your travel plans, order online for home delivery.  No, I am not kidding, a few Chicago restaurants will deliver all over the USA! 

Uno Pizzeria and Grill, established 1943 (http://www.unos.com/) or Lou Malnati’s, established 1971 (http://www.loumalnatis.com/) are two of the best when it comes to pizza.  The pizza is assembled, frozen, shipped and each comes in oven ready, aluminum lined paper baking pans.  Intrigued with other delicacies of the Chicago, Illinois region?  Tastes of Chicago (http://www.tastesofchicago.com/) makes it possible to order online to have pizza, and many other goodies, delivered to your front door.   While supermarket shopping, check the pizza frozen section; once in a great while, Chicago pizza can be found and that is definitely a treat.

Now if you are a daring type, like me, then you will take on the challenge of making this type of pizza yourself.  

Here is the basic information, so have fun:


Pizza Dough for Chicago Style Pizza

This type of pizza dough is thicker; it cooks in a deep dish pan and would burn if it was thinner like New York style pizza dough. However, the exposed dough, not covered with sauce, cheese and other ingredients, comes out crispy and light. This dough is best made using a stand mixer and the dough hook attachment due to the thickness and moistness of the dough.

Basic Dough

Ingredients:

2 packages rapid rise dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 110F)
½ cup vegetable oil
4 Tbsp. olive oil
½ cup cornmeal
5 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Preparation:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in warm water. When fully dissolved, add in the oils, cornmeal and half of the flour; mix for 10 minutes. Attach the dough hook, add in the other half of the flour and set on medium speed. The dough will be ready when it pulls easily from the sides of the bowl. Place the dough onto a floured board, cover with a large bowl; let it rise till it doubles in size. Punch the dough down, cover; let it rise again. Punch it down a second time; time to make the pizza.

The thickness of the dough will depend on the size of the deep dish pan being used; ¼” for a 10” pan; 1/8” for a 15” pan.   The depth of a deep dish pan is typically 2 inches; some are 1.5 inches, but I personally like the extra depth in case of overflow.  Lightly coat the pan with olive oil; place dough in center of pan and push out evenly to edges, then up the sides of the pan to the top rim.

Basic Filling - for 10” deep dish pan

½ lb. each sliced provolone and mozzarella cheeses
1 (10 ½ oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10 ½ oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. each dried oregano, basil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

Assembly

Cover the dough with alternating slices of provolone and mozzarella cheeses. In a medium size bowl, mix together crushed and diced tomatoes, herbs, garlic and salt; spread mixture evenly over cheese slices. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over tomato mixture.

The pizza will be baked in a preheated 475F oven for 35-40 minutes, on the center rack; the exposed crust will be a golden brown; the tomato mixture will be bubbly.

Additional Ingredients

These can be added on top of the cheese slices, before the tomato mixture goes on top; in any combination; the choices are numerous.

1 lb. of ground Italian sausage (mild or hot) or seasoned ground beef – the meat is uncooked; cooking the meat before usage will toughen it.

1 cup sliced vegetables: onion, bell peppers, hot peppers, mushrooms, olives

1 cup pepperoni slices or thinly sliced prosciutto



The deep dish pans can easily be found online for purchase.  Do not get frustrated if the pizza does not come out perfectly the first time.  Trial and error are all part of the learning experience which only becomes more fun as time and practice go on.

Mary Cokenour

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy - Sicilian Pizza


In a pizzeria far, far away from Utah, square pieces of pizza are being devoured; and I am full of envy and want.  This is the second installment of pizza making - Sicilian Pizza, also known as The Square.  For those of you who happen to travel to the New York City area, go into one of those older, authentic Italian pizzerias and make sure you order correctly.  If you want to try a slice of the Neapolitan, or round pie, you say you want “a slice”.  If you want to try Sicilian, you want “a square”.  If you just say you want a “piece of pizza”, you will be asked, “Youwana slice or a square?”   Capisce?  (pronounced cah-PEESHis - an Italian word that is used in American slang to say "got it" or "understand."?)  Now you are thoroughly prepared to order.


What exactly is Sicilian Pizza?  This type of pizza originated in the Palermo region of Sicily.  This is a thicker dough than used in the round type of pizza (Napolitano (for Naples)) and baked in a heavy aluminum rectangular pan.  In the United States, it is mainly seen in New York and New Jersey pizzerias, and whether the cheese goes under the sauce or on top is dependent on each individual pizza maker.

 “Tomato Pie” is a Sicilian pizza that has a thick layer of sauce over the cheese and is topped with a layer of diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes.   Why eat something so loaded with tomatoes?  Tomatoes have a wealth of vitamin and mineral content: Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Vitamin C, Vitamin K1, Folate (Vitamin B9), Lycopene, Beta Carotene, Naringenin and Cholorgenic Acid  The last four are Antioxidants which have been found to be necessary for good heart, skin and joint health.

Enough with the lecturing, let’s get to making Sicilian and Tomato Pies.  Since the “crust” is very thick, like a nicely baked bread, I will also tell you how to make French Bread Pizza.  Now you can make it fresh at home, and not have to buy that frozen product at the store.


Sicilian Pizza

How to Make the Dough
Ingredients:

2 (.25 oz.) packages of active dry yeast
4 cups flour
½ cup warm water (about 110F)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup cool water
2 Tbsp. olive oil


Preparation:

In a small bowl, combine the yeast with a ½ cup of flour and the warm water; cover with plastic wrap and allow proofing for 15 minutes; stir afterwards to deflate.

In a large bowl, combine remaining flour, salt, cool water and yeast mixture.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 15 minutes.   Clean the large bowl, lightly dust with flour and return dough to it; cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Brush the bottom and sides of a 17 ½” x 11 ½” x ¾” heavy aluminum baking pan.  Punch down the dough, return to floured board and roll out slightly.  Place dough into pan and stretch out to all sides, leaving a lip all around.  Let it rest for 15 minutes before adding toppings*.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
Makes 12 servings.

*Note: toppings would normally be a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese and an evenly spread layer of sauce; other toppings such as meats and/or vegetables can then be placed over the sauce.


Tomato Pie
Ingredients:

12 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese
2 cups homemade pizza sauce
2 cups diced or thinly sliced Roma tomatoes
1/3 cup grated cheese

Preparation:

Lay out the slices of cheese onto the pizza dough; evenly spread out the sauce and then the tomatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Remove pie from oven and sprinkle grated cheese over top of pizza.
Makes 12 servings.


Now I could have made this Pizza Trilogy into a quad, but why drag out a good thing, right?

French Bread Pizza can be found easily in the pizza section of the frozen food aisle; but making it from scratch is just as easy.  Honestly though, would you not rather make it yourself?  The frozen product has preservatives, oven needs preheating, let it bake for 20 minutes and it is sometimes an unsatisfactory product.   Monticello’s food market, Blue Mountain Foods, sells loaves of, what they label French bread, but looks like a very soft version of Italian bread.  I like to use it when in the mood for pizza, do not have the dough handy, but want it now!   When it comes to spontaneous cravings for pizza, sometimes you truly have to get creative.

How to Make French Bread Pizza



Basically there are three main ingredients: loaf of the wide French bread, a block of mozzarella cheese and pizza sauce. Cut the loaf in half lengthwise to create two half loaves; then cut these in half through the width.  If you want a rectangular look, cut off the heels first; save them to grind up and make bread crumbs.   Place the four pieces of bread, crust side down, on a large jelly roll pan.

Spoon sauce over the interior side of the bread; I use about 1/3 of a cup, but like a lot of sauce on my pizza.  While homemade sauce is best, use what you have handy.  Like I said before, sometimes when it comes to cravings, you have to be creative.   Now cut slices of the mozzarella, about 1/8" thick and lie them side by side until the bread is covered.  I find the sliced cheese melts better and creates gooey texture on the bread. 

Bake in a preheated 425F oven, center rack, for about 12-15 minutes.  Cut into thirds for easier picking up and eating, or just go for broke!  This will make four French bread pizzas.

Of course you can add other ingredients - meats, veggies, whatever you like, but make sure the meats are cooked thoroughly before using.  Also, mix the meats and/or veggies with shredded mozzarella cheese instead; that way the cheese will melt all around the pieces.

Whether you are making this for yourself, other adults and/or children; have fun with it!


Mary Cokenour

Friday, October 4, 2019

Cookies From Cake Batter, Who Knew!?!

With the holiday season beginning, ok, let me stop right here for a moment.  It is October, main holidays are Columbus Day (October 14) (even though everyone knows the Vikings actually discovered America), Samhain (October 31st) and Halloween (October 31st).  Why our local Family Dollar had Halloween candy displayed since the end of July, I do not know.  Think about it, that is 3 months the candy is sitting on the shelves, waiting to be purchased and given out to children trick or treating.  Glancing down one aisle, Thanksgiving decorations (sorry, the harvest themed decor is geared towards turkey day); which means Yule and Christmas decor should be available in about 1-2 weeks.  Ridiculous!  This is why many people get stressed out from October to January; the seasonal holidays are being rammed down our throats daily, and all at once!  Tell me, who actually has the time to welcome in the New Year after all that chaos!  Thank you for letting me rant, now back to baking and today's post on cookies,

Fall season has begun, the temperatures are cooling, leaves dropping or turning bright colors before doing so.  For me, this means experimenting with cookie recipes.  Each year I like to make little gift plates for those businesses I deal with often.  It's just a little thank you and holiday cheer to those workers dealing with all kinds of customers daily.  One advantage of being on Facebook is all the recipes, with photos, that pop up in advertising, or are shared by those on my Friends list.  One recipe I definitely decided to try out was making cookies out of cake mix; not due to being lazy, but it sounded intriguing.  Three main ingredients plus add-ins like chocolate chips, nuts, sprinkles, dried fruits; too good to be true, and how tasty were the cookies really.

I let my hubby, Roy, pick out the flavor of the cake mix for my first attempt, and he choose Red Velvet.  In case you didn't know, red velvet is basically chocolate cake with a dump load of red food coloring.  I have made it from scratch, but remember, I was looking for easy.  Oh, I did find a recipe for these cookies which claimed they were "made from scratch".  Going over the recipe, I would rename it, "Semi-homemade", as boxed cake mix is still a main ingredient plus the addition of instant pudding.   It was a complicated, many ingredient recipe which resulted in only 20 cookies at completion; simply not worth my time when I was looking for fast and easy.


Here is the basic recipe for Cake Batter Cookies (using a boxed cake mix) which I found listed on the internet many, many times.

Cake Batter Cookies

Ingredients:

1 box cake mix (15.25 oz./16.25 oz./18.25 oz.)
**oil (personally use a vegetable/canola oil blend)
2 eggs

** 1/3 cup is for 15.25 oz. + one ounce of flour, or 16.25 oz. total.
     1/2 cup is for 18.25 oz.

If you live in a high altitude area, like myself, add the appropriate amount of flour listed on the cake mix box.  I shifted the mix + flour, added the oil for the size mix used, and the 2 eggs; it all came together perfectly.

Additions:  1/2 cup for chips - mint, vanilla, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon or toffee.

                   1/2 cup for nuts and dried fruits; large nuts and fruits should be chopped.

                   1/4 cup for sprinkles - they are tiny, so a little will go a long way.

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350F; line jelly roll pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper (keeps the cookies from sticking and burning).

In a medium bowl, mix together cake mix, oil, eggs and any additions.  I used a heavy duty rubber spatula and it blended together without any issues.  A ball of dough will form (it can be wrapped in plastic wrap, refrigerated for use after an hour, in case several different flavors are going to be baked up).








Use a teaspoon to measure out the dough, roll into a ball with fingers and place onto parchment paper.  These cookies do not spread out wide, so the dough can be pressed down slightly and a crinkle effect will be created as they bake.









Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly before removing and plating.  Sprinkle powdered sugar to enhance the crinkles, or leave as is.

Makes 3 dozen cookies if using a teaspoon to measure out.  Want larger cookies, double the teaspoon amount, or use a tablespoon to measure out the dough.

Basically, I had 3 dozen delicious red velvet cookies, with semi-sweet chocolate chips, baked and plated.  I sprinkled half with powdered sugar, and the other half were left as is.  The whole process took 45 minutes as I had only have two racks in my oven; if I had a third, the time would have been 30 minutes.

Hint:  if you cannot decide what flavors of cake mix to purchase, stock up on "White", then you can add cocoa powder to create chocolate; vanilla, lemon, peppermint or other flavors of extract as well.  Consider the white cake mix to be a blank canvass, you're the artist, now create!

Mary Cokenour

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Pizza Trilogy – New York Style


In my 60 years of this current life, I have eaten mounds and mounds of pizza.  I have tried all styles, different types of mediums (dough, tortilla, and breads), sauces, toppings, cheeses.  Anyone who knows me has heard me state, “I admit to it, I am a pizza snob.”  I have been asked several times to write an article on making pizza.  I am doing three better, I am doing a trilogy of articles covering this first style, New York; then Sicilian and finally Chicago style.

Being born and raised in New York, eating pizza is a staple of a true New Yorker. There are two basic types in any pizzeria: Neapolitan is round in shape with a reasonably thin crust (not wafer thin, around 1/4"), with sauce, aged mozzarella cheese, garlic powder, and various toppings. Usually made in a gas oven, the dough is stretched (occasionally tossed, but that is mostly a show for the tourists), covered with a sauce primarily made of canned tomatoes and Italian herbs cooked into a sauce, and liberally covered with cheese. The slices are large, filling one paper plate, and usually folded when eaten.


One slice takes up a full sized paper plate.


Thin crust, crispy and perfect.
The second most common style of pizza in New York City (that is the 5 boroughs; and Long Island) is the Sicilian, or “square” pie. Characterized by its thick crust, Sicilian pizza is baked in an oiled pan, giving the crust a completely different taste from that of its round counterpart. The crust of a Sicilian pie is much thicker (like a nicely baked bread) than the Neapolitan, and usually has a thicker tomato sauce as well.

Chicago pizza is a deep dish pie made in a reverse fashion than the New York style.  Not bad really, but that is for another day.

Here comes the complaint, there is not any place in the Four Corners area that makes a great New York pizza.  Some come close to a pretty decent pie (yes, we call it a pizza pie) like Thatzza Pizza in Monticello, or Zak’s in Moab.  Domino’s in Cortez, Colorado has come the closest so far, I am just not a huge fan of the over spiced sauce they use.  They have a pie called the “Brooklyn” pizza, and if they bake it for 25 minutes, instead of the usual 20, than it is pretty close to the real deal.

My main complaint is that most places under cook the dough, so the crust is pale and doughy, or the dough is so thick, that it is gooey in the center.  Instead of using good mozzarella, it is usually a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar and jack cheeses.  Why?  Mozzarella is the number one cheese used on pizza, but provolone, asiago and parmesan can be added as well.   Also, why so cheap with the sauce?  A smear just does not justify calling it a pizza.  At this point, might as well skip the tomato sauce, put a smear of ricotta cheese (NOT cottage cheese), then a layer of shredded mozzarella, sprinkled with Italian herbs.  There you have it folks, the White Pizza, and yes, such a pizza does exist.

Well thanks for letting me rant about pizza; I am a pizza snob and I do not intend to ever apologize for it.  Oh, and what is my absolute favorite type of pizza?  Pizza of course!

Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

1 cup of warm water
2 tsp. sugar (to feed the yeast)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yeast
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preparation:

Put warm water (80 to 110°F) into a bowl. Add salt and sugar, mix with a spoon. Add yeast, mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes.  If the water is too warm, it will kill the yeast; too cold, and it will not awaken.

Start mixing, with a fork, by gradually adding flour and olive oil.  Once it is too thick to mix by fork, remove to a floured, wooden board; start kneading by hand.  Knead the dough until you have a smooth ball. If the dough cracks it is too dry. Add water bit by bit until if forms a smooth ball. If your dough feels more like batter, it is too wet and you need to add flour bit by bit. If you need to add water or flour, do it by small amounts; it is easier to fix too little than too much.

Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a large bowl and cover it with a clean, cotton towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature, then punch it down, so it deflates. Let it sit for about another hour. If you want to use it the next day, put it in a refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface; a pizza peel (wooden board with a handle) is easier for transferring the pizza from surface to surface. Put a bit of flour on your hands; using the balls of your finger tips and hands, make it into the shape of a circle by stretching it out from the center outwards. If you’re having a problem stretching the dough by hand, use a rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4" thick.  

The average size of the pizza will be about 16” which can be transferred to a pizza pan or stone. You get better results when you use a pizza baking stone. The pizza stone should be preheated to 450F for an hour prior to baking, and should be placed in the middle of the oven.  

 Spread out evenly about 1-1 ½ cups sauce; then add favorite toppings such as cheeses, meats and/or cut up vegetables.

The oven should be preheated to 450F.  Bake for 20-25 minutes; the crust should be browned and crisp, but not dark.  Remove from oven, use a pizza cutter for easy slicing up and serve. 

Makes 8-10 slices, depending on how it is cut up.

Mary Cokenour

Cheesesteak Pizza


Before Baking
After Baking

Ground Beef Pizza

Before Baking
After Baking


One Slice