Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread

I was scrolling through my bookmarked recipes and since I've been on a bread making high lately and I happened to have a package of pepperoni in my fridge(I intended to make pizza), this one caught my eye. It's really as good as Gaby from What's Gaby Cooking says in her original post and well worth the effort. It's fun for both kids and adults to pull off the pieces of bread and with a name like Monkey Bread, who wouldn't love it? I can't wait to see what other types of monkey bread I can make. Since this bread dough is not too salty, it would likely also work well in a sweet monkey bread with maybe cinnamon sugar, fruit preserves, or chocolate.
I made some substitutions to this recipe such as replacing the butter with olive oil for both ease and nutritional value and it was delicious. In most cases, I find that replacing butter with oil works just fine and doesn't sacrifice much in terms of taste, especially when there's cheese to make up for it. It doesn't work in the case of pie crust or cookies, but it does work in most savory applications such as mac and cheese and bread. If the pepperoni you're using in this recipe is oily, you may want to cook it over a low heat to remove some of the oil before you use it. Also try to use a lower sodium pepperoni if you can as it can be a bit salty when baked. If you make this for your next party or get together, kids or not, it will definitely be a hit.

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread
Adapted from What's Gaby Cooking

2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fine salt
2 cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup parmesan or asiago cheese, grated
1/2 cup pepperoni slices, cut up
1 tsp dried oregano (I used a mix of dried Italian herbs)
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used granulated garlic)
2 large pinches of salt

Mix the yeast, sugar, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for 5 minutes to activate. If it doesn't become frothy, try again with new yeast.

Add the flours gradually to the bowl and mix with a dough hook on low-medium speed. Mix in the salt, then knead for 8-10 minutes in the mixer until the dough starts to pull away from the sides. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and let rise for about an hour or doubled in size.

After the first rise, punch dough down and portion out the dough into balls about an inch in diameter. Combine the olive oil, cheese, pepperoni, dried herbs, garlic, and salt in a bowl. Mix the dough balls in this mixture and arrange them in a large bundt pan. Let rise for another 40 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, bake the bread for 30 minutes until it is golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce or on its own.

Kabocha Squash Pie

I find that most of my cooking and baking revolves around what I have in the kitchen and what needs to be used up first. More often than not, I'll buy ingredients with the intention of using them in one dish, but end up using them for something else. My family also tends to buy more than we need at once, so we usually need to find creative ways to use things up.

This was one of those cases, the ingredient in question? A kabocha squash. It's been sitting around for a few months waiting to be used, but nothing ever became of it...until earlier this week. My dad peeled it and steamed it intending to use it for a dessert of his own, but decided against it because he didn't think it was starchy enough. So, we were left with about 5 cups of kabocha squash puree without any plan to deal with it.

My mom suggested that maybe I could make a pie with it and that sounded like a good idea since it would be similar to a pumpkin pie. It's also the perfect time of year for a pie full of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. So, I set off to find a recipe for kabocha squash pie, made it, and was actually really pleased with the results. It's denser, stronger in flavor, and less sweet than pumpkin puree, but most people that tried it were fooled into thinking it was a pumpkin pie. I would definitely make this again and if you don't have extra kabocha squash puree around, this recipe will work just as well with canned pumpkin puree(15 oz) as it's basically the same recipe. I added more spices than was called for because the added spices really made it taste just like pumpkin pie, but adjust to your own taste.

I drained my squash puree since it was steamed and fresh puree tends to have more liquid than canned puree, but if yours is roasted, it may not be necessary. I like to bake the pie about 20 minutes in the beginning on the lower third of my oven to ensure that the bottom is browned nicely. Enjoy the recipe and give it a try with different autumn squashes as well.

Kabocha Squash Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Pie Crust
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 tsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/8-1/4 cup iced water

Pulse the butter, sugar, salt, and flour in a food processor until the butter is the size of peas. Gradually add just enough iced water as the processor is running until the dough just holds together when squeezed in the palm of your hand. Dump out onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a round disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days or freeze up to a month.

When ready to use, roll out the pie dough to a round big enough for a 9 inch pie plate. Fit into the pie plate, crimp, dock with a fork, then freeze for 10 minutes. Line with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 30-35 minutes removing the parchment and pie weights halfway through so that the crust can begin to brown. Remove when the crust starts to color nicely.

Reduce oven to 350 degrees F.

1 3/4 cups kabocha squash puree
1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 12 oz can of evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp fine salt
1 1/3 tbsp cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice + 1 tsp ground cinnamon( or use 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, and 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg)

Mix cornstarch with a bit of the milk first to eliminate any lumps, then add in the rest of the ingredients mixing until blended.

Pour filling into the prebaked crust and bake at 350 degrees F for 50 to 60 minutes until the center just wiggles slightly and a toothpick inserted gently about an inch from the center comes out clean. Let pie cool completely at least 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator before serving.(Since I made it on a rather cold day, I didn't bother putting it in the fridge.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Sweet Sourdough Bread

As you may know, I've been on the search for a good honey wheat bread. Since my first post on bread, I've made several loaves of honey wheat bread, each with a different recipe. While I have yet to find one that replicates the one in Berkeley that first made me fall in love with honey wheat bread, this one has been my favorite thus far and I was really surprised at how much I liked it.

What's interesting about this honey wheat bread is that it uses sourdough starter, but with the amount of honey in this recipe, it doesn't taste like sourdough bread. It just tastes like a nice slightly sweet honey wheat bread. It is great toasted and buttered and is not too sweet to use in both sweet and savory applications. I thought the ratio of whole wheat flour to bread flour was also perfect since the bread had a nice light whole wheat flavor without sacrificing texture. Those that don't like whole wheat bread in my family also liked it. For more whole wheat flavor, you can also easily replace some of the bread flour with whole wheat flour. I also liked the fact that I could use my sourdough starter in it to produce a loaf with the depth of flavor that a starter provides but is not sour. For an everyday honey wheat bread for those that don't really like wheat bread, this would be my choice assuming you have a starter to use or you could just make one the night before for usage the next day.

Although you can easily make bread without a starter, I've found that I really prefer the taste of bread made with starter. I've also realized that I much prefer bread shaped into a loaf and baked on a sheet pan rather than in a loaf pan because the texture is much lighter. The resulting shape is more difficult for sandwich making, but that's something I'm willing to give up.

Light Honey Wheat Sourdough(Not really) Bread
Adapted from JulieK at
Makes 1 large loaf or 2 medium sized loaves

1 1/3 cups liquid sourdough starter
1 cup warm water(warm but not too hot to touch)
1 tbsp vegetable oil/butter
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
3/4 tsp fine salt(double the amount of coarse salt)
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 - 4 1/2 cups bread flour

Mix the yeast with the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for 5 minutes to activate.  Add in the honey, starter, and oil.

With a dough hook, mix in the whole wheat flour and salt, then the bread flour. Knead in the machine 8-10 minutes until dough comes together into a ball and is not too sticky. Add more or use less flour as necessary. Place dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size in a warm place.

After the first rise, punch dough down and shape into a large loaf or 2 smaller loaves on a sheet pan, Let rise another 1 1/2 hours. Slash the loaves.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when thumped.

Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake

This is another one of those recipes that I've long wanted to try making myself and my dad's birthday was the perfect time to do so. I was surprised at how simple this cake was to make. Although there are a few components to get together, the process is fairly simple. The addition of lemon juice and zest brings some dimension to the cake, but it is unexpected, so if you would rather keep it simple, just substitute with coffee. I thought the combination worked, but some members of my family thought it was a bit strange. Overall though, everyone enjoyed it and compared to coffee crunch cakes I've had, this one is definitely the best. The chiffon cake itself would be great in other layer cakes as well.

Blum's Coffee Crunch Cake
Recipe from Flo Braker via fancyfoodfancy
Makes One 10 inch cake

Cake Layers
1 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt(halve if using fine salt)
1/4 cup water
6 large egg yolks
1 cup egg whites(about 6-8 large eggs)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice/coffee
1 tsp grated lemon zest(optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the cake flour with the salt and 3/4 cup of sugar, set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl with 1/4 cup sugar until pale and thick. Whisk in the water and beat until thickened.

Whip the egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment on high speed until frothy, add the cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar while whisking until it reaches stiff, glossy peaks. Whisk in vanilla, lemon juice/coffee, and lemon zest if using.

Fold the egg whites and flour mixture into the egg yolks starting with a third of the whites followed by a third of the flour mixture alternating until everything is incorporated. Pour batter into an ungreased noncoated 10 inch tube pan with a removable bottom.

Level top and bake for 50-55 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and it springs back when lightly touched. Invert onto a cooling rack and let cool completely. Cut around the sides and bottom to remove cake from pan, cut into 2 layers.

Coffee Crunch
1 tbsp baking soda, sifted
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup

In a heavy-bottom medium saucepan, mix the coffee, sugar, and corn syrup. Stirring occasionally, heat over medium low heat until sugar dissolves, then increase to medium-high heat and let boil until it reaches 290 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in the baking soda. Pour onto a parchment lined or oiled baking sheet, do not spread. Let cool for at least 1 hour. Break into small pieces in a ziploc bag using a rolling pin. Store in an airtight container for assembly later.

Whipped Cream Frosting
2 cups heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until soft peaks. Frost cake with whipped cream, then refrigerate cake. Top cake with coffee crunch when ready to serve.

I made this cake for my mom's birthday per her request. It's made up of genoise from the raspberry cream cake, vanilla custard from the banana cream pie recipe, strawberries, and bananas topped with a whipped cream frosting. While my cake baking skills are improving, my decorating skills still need some work. This was a nice combination, but I put a bit too much fruit in it. Next time, I might try adding some baking powder or cream of tartar to this genoise for an airier cake. It's not traditional and might no longer be considered a true genoise, but to each their own.