Monday, December 29, 2008

Homemade Pizza Dough: BBQ Chicken Pizza

One of my Christmas presents from my mom was a "baking supply box" with spices, yeast, natural honey and vanilla, and high end baking utensils. I decided to put some of these to use and make a homemade pizza dough. This dough can be made slightly sweet or traditional by adding or omiting the honey. I prefer the sweet (especially with this recipe).

I have never been a big fan of pork (sausage and pepporoni), but my husband LOVES these and other meats on his pizza. I prefer the veggies. One way we compromise is to make this BBQ Chicken Pizza. I only put the veggies on my half. :)

Pizza Dough At Home
(Adapted from: Baking Illustrated)
Makes enough for 2 large pizzas.
If you want to make pizza dough in the morning and let it rise on the counter all day, use the 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at cool room temperature (until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, which will take 6 to 8 hours.
If you prefer to use the dough right away, increase the yeast to 1 full envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons). Letting the dough rise, double in size in 1 ½ to 2 hours.

1/2 cup warm water
1/3 envelope (about ½ teaspoon) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon honey
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl
1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
2. Combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, 3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size (8 hours if using 1/3 envelope of yeast or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for full envelope). Press the dough to deflate it.

8:00am Homemade Pizza Dough before rising (doubled in size after 8 hours)

BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 recipe Pizza Dough (see above)
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing on the stretched dough
1 pound boneless chicken breast, diced
Salt and ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (mix of basil, oregano, parsley)
Choice of veggies: Onion, Pepper, Mushrooms, etc. (about 1 cup chopped)
1 1/4 cups BBQ sauce
Cornmeal for dusting the pizza peel
1 1/4 cups BBQ sauce
4 ounces mozerella cheese, shredded (about 1 cups)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare the dough as directed in the Pizza Dough recipe. Place a pizza stone on a rack in oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

2. While preparing the dough, heat the garlic and oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the diced chicken and sauté until golden brown about 7-8 minutes. And salt and pepper to taste. Transfer chicken to a bowl and add 1/4 cup favorite BBQ sauce and Italian seasoning. Set BBQ chicken aside. In the same pan used for the chicken, add choice of veggies: onion, mushrooms, peppers, etc. Saute until tender, about 7 minutes.

3. Full recipe makes 4 individual pizzas. When cooking for two, place unused ball of dough in refrigerator or freezer for later use. Divide dough ball into two equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, shape the dough, then transfer it to a pizza peel that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.
4. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil. Spread 1/2 cup BBQ sauce over the dough round, leaving a ½-inch border uncovered. Scatter half of chicken and veggies evenly over the sauce. Top toppings with the mozerella cheese. Repeat for remaining dough ball.

5. Slide the dough onto the heated stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan, cut into wedges, and serve immediately. Recipe makes enough for 2 individual pizzas.

7:00pm The finished product!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Goodies to All!

It's Christmas Eve day and I decided to surprise co-workers, neighbors, and our faithful mail man with a little treat. :) This bark is festive and simple to make. It also tastes great! The mix of sweet and tart dried cranberries, sea salt and roasted nuts, and smooth white chocolate is a wonderful flavor combination. Enjoy!

Recipe Inspired by: Ina Garten on The Food Network

1 pound finely chopped white chocolate
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 1/4 cups mixed nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, and walnuts), toasted


Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper and set aside.

Pour a couple inches of water into the bottom half of the double boiler and heat over medium-low to just below a simmer. Put the chopped chocolate in the top half of the double boiler and set over the hot water. Slowly melt the chocolate, stirring with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. (An alternative method would be to melt chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each heating.)

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Spread nuts evenly on a baking sheet. Roast for 7-8 minutes or until nuts become fragrant. (Check after 5 minutes)

Quickly stir the fruit, salt, and nuts into the chocolate. Spread chocolate mixture out on the prepared baking sheet so it's about 1/2-inch thick and the fruit and nuts are coated. Sprinkle some dried cranberries on top for visual appeal. Set bark aside at room temperature to harden or refrigerate for 35-50 minutes. Break into angled pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Christmas Cookies! Easy, Festive and Cost Saving!

Can you ever have too many Christmas cookies? I don't think so. They make great gifts for unsuspecting family, friends, and co-workers. Today I decided to make a basic soft sugar cookie recipe into three different types of cookies. The results were fantastic! We plan on enjoying these during our Beechy Christmas get-together.

Soft Sugar Cookie Dough Recipe:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (omit vanilla if making three types of different cookies)
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Decorator sugars or favorite frosting

Combine sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs (and vanilla if using); continue beating until well mixed.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat, adding flour mixture alternately with sour cream and scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Divide dough into four separate sections; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Cookie Type One: Candy Cane Cookies
Take 2 sections of above cookie dough.
Add 6-7 drops of red food coloring to one section and mix with hands (I wore rubber gloves)
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons peppermint extract to the "white dough"

Heat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness and shape into a rectangle. Keeping sections separate. Cut dough into thin strips (horizontally). Roll strips to equal length and thickness. Braid one strip of red dough and one strip of plain dough together. Pinch at ends. Curve to shape of a candy cane. Place several inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8-9 minutes .
*Tipes: Work with cold dough and do not over flour your dough/work surface.

Also, I was worried about the food coloring effecting the taste of my cookies and therefore didn't add enough to get a deep red color. If you are may want to add more then 6-7 drops. :)

Cookie Type Two: Sparkle Christmas Bulbs
Portion of Soft Cookie Dough (from above)
Vanilla or Almond Extract
Red or Green sugar crystals (or other sprinkles)


Add 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract to a portion of dough from above. Shape into one inch balls (I recommend using a cookie scoop or melon baller). Roll in red or green sugar crystals.

Bake for 7-8 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Cookie Type Three: Thumb Print Cookies


Portion of Soft Cookie Dough (from above)
Chopped walnuts or almonds
Favorite jam or jelly

Shape dough into one inch balls (I recommend using a cookie scoop or melon baller). Roll in walnuts or almonds.

Using your smallest finger, create a "bowl" in the center of your cookie ball. Fill "bowl" with your favorite jam (I used raspberry because of its festive red color).

Bake for 8-9 minutes in 400 degree oven.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Mom's Triple Layer Brownies

It's Christmas time! That means time for Mom's Triple Layer Brownies. :) These are my most favorite brownies in the world. Not only are they rich and delicious, I associate these with special Christmas memories...

1. Following Christmas Eve church service, driving around the neighborhoods near our home and looking at Christmas lights while Christmas music played on the radio.

2. Stockings came first on Christmas morning-- but not before Mom turned on the Christmas music (signaling it was safe to emerge from our bedrooms).

3. Protesting while my Mom "made" us watch Miracle on 34th Street each Christmas (my sister and I agree we gave her a hard time every year, but secretly cherish this time)

What are some of your family's Christmas traditions and memories? I'd love to see them posted!


Pre-heat Oven 350 degrees

FIRST LAYER: 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate

1/2 lb of butter (must use butter)

2 cups of sugar

3 eggs

1 cup of flour

1 tsp. vanilla

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Melt chocolate, butter together over low heat. Cool slightly; add eggs, sugar and extracts. Blend well. Stir in flour until blended. Turn into greased & floured 9x 13 metal pan.

Bake in pre-heated ovens for 25 mins. Or until toothpick comes out clean.

SECOND LAYER: 6 tbls. Butter

3 1/2 cups of powder sugar (sifted)

5 tbls. Milk

1 tsp. Vanilla

Melt butter until brown, golden nutty color. Immediately stir in remaining ingredients. Spread over cooled brownie layer.

Chill until set & firm

THIRD LAYER: 1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

6 tbls. Butter

1 cup sifted powdered sugar

Melt chips & butter together. Stir in sugar. Pour over cooled 2nd layer & spread.

Finish with drizzling powered sugar or sugar glaze over top.

The beautiful creator of these treats:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Grandma's Christmas Fudge

Each Christmas, my grandma makes THE BEST fudge. This week I called her to see if she would pass on her "secret" recipe to me. :) She started listing the ingredients and quantities of each. I was surprised to hear the recipe uses whole (or 2%) milk rather then condensed milk. My grandma said this gives the fudge a richer taste. After she finished giving me the recipe I asked her the recipe came from (expecting it to be some family secret, with a great story behind it, passed down by generation). Grandma said "It came from the back of the Hershey's Coca can in the 70's". Oh boy! I laughed and thanked grandma for sharing "the secret". It took some hunting, but I found the exact recipe on the Hershey's website. Enjoy! It is delicious.

Rich Coca Fudge by Hershey's
3 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) (My grandma adds walnuts, but I did not add either)

1. Line 8- inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter foil.

2. Mix sugar, cocoa and salt in heavy medium size saucepan; stir in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to full rolling boil. Boil, without stirring, until mixture reaches 234°F on candy thermometer

3. Remove from heat before adding butter and vanilla. DO NOT STIR. Cool at room temperature. Beat with wooden spoon until fudge thickens and just begins to lose some of its gloss. Quickly spread into prepared pan; cool completely (refrigerate for at least 2 hours is recommended)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Return of the Whoopie Pie!

Whoopie Pie!

This is my husband’s favorite dessert! I received this recipe from my wonderful and talented sister-in-law, Peg, at my bridal shower. I posted it to my blog in March, but am reposting it to submit to Joelen’s Holiday Cookie Swap Adventure (

Peg makes these delicious cookies every year…I can’t wait to enjoy them during Christmas with the Beechy family. :)


1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup Crisco
2 eggs- beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup “Sour milk” (1 cup milk plus 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice- stir let stand 5 minutes before use)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients (accept water). Then add boiling water. Mix well. Spoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake 8-9 minutes.

1 pound powdered sugar
¾ cup Crisco
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 teaspoons water
Mix well and spread between two cooled cookies

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Butter-Balls (and I'm not talking turkey :) )

It seems our weather went straight from fall-like to blistering January temperatures. Burrrr! Today was 20 degrees and blowing snow. A perfect day to stay in and bake! I decided to make myself a cup of hot tea which lead to a craving for something sweet to go with. Having used the last of our eggs, my options were slightly limited. I found these yummy treats on a recipe search through and made a few changes to our liking.
These are supper easy to make and taste a cinnamony-sugary shortbread cookie!

Butter Balls-II (asterisks note my changes)

1 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (*I omitted)
For decorating:
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (*I omitted)
*2 tablespoon cinnamon
*1/4 cup sugar (a little more)

Beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, beat until fluffy. Add flour, and beat at low speed until well blended, stir in pecans (I omitted).

*I refrigerate the dough for 2 hours because I find it easier to work with, but the recipe works well without refrigeration.

Shape into one inch balls (I recommend using a cookie scoop or melon baller). Bake at 325 degrees on an ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. Roll in confectioners’ sugar*

*Here I rolled in a mix of cinnamon and sugar while still warm because I didn’t have an open box of confectioners’ sugar.

They turned out great!

By the way....where do you hang your stockings if your house doesn't have a fire place? I am open to suggestions. :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever!

These sugar cookies will live up to this claim every time....I promise.
During our four day stay with my husband's family over Thanksgiving, I made these with my mother-in-law to welcome the start of the Christmas season. The secret to this recipe is the sour cream. My grandma has been making this soft sugar cookie for years, but I recently discovered it on the back of the Land O Lakes butter box. I omit the orange peel (not included in my grandma's recipe), but I bet including it would make this recipe equally or even more delicious.

The cookie below was my husband's giant snowman cookie. I thought he was very cute. :) (The snowman and my husband)

Soft Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Decorator sugars or favorite frosting

Combine sugar and butter in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; continue beating until well mixed.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Reduce speed to low. Beat, adding flour mixture alternately with sour cream and scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Divide dough into four separate sections; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate until firm (at least 2 hours).

Heat oven to 400°F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface, one portion at a time (keeping remaining dough refrigerated), to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut with 3-inch cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle cookies with decorator sugars or bake plain and frost once completely cooled.

Bake for 6 minutes or until edges are very lightly browned.