So I’m back at college and back in the baking game! That means things are going to get a lot more simplistic and even more sporadic than my current posting has been. I did break my arm in a cycling accident in August and am just starting to be able to lift things so that’s why the severe absence. It has been driving me absolutely nuts to not be able to cook or take photographs. But now that I’m (almost) all better, it’s back to the kitchen for me.
This awesome recipe is my first failed attempt at the recipe column that I was (am?) going to have in the newspaper but there was confusion of subjects and what should the recipe be and alas, it didn’t happen. It also didn’t help that I was in Rochester for the weekend visiting the boyfriend. But visiting someone on a floor full of 18-year-old boys turned out to be helpful – an infinite number of taste testers.
I had thought “dorm pizza” would be a good starting point for writing college dorm recipes because, besides ramen, pizza is pretty much a staple. At least at Ithaca, the dining halls close super early and I frankly can’t afford to order pizza every time I miss that window of edible opportunity. I have seen pizza recipes using tortillas but I thought those would be too thin alone, hence the “stuffed crust.” Really it’s more of a quesadilla with pizza toppings but it is still delicious. Adding the cheese in between the tortillas gives it an illusion of having a thick crust while amping up the cheese flavor without adding so much on top that it becomes a solid heavy mass after cooling.
I love pasta. And cheese. So naturally, baked ziti is right up my alley. I had wanted to try this recipe since the day I saw it on Can You Stay For Dinner? in my days of endlessly looking at food blogs. Now I have enough recipes to last a year so the search has subsided… For now. Read the rest of this entry »
The recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Cheese Straws. What I changed was using chili powder instead of red pepper flakes because I thought those would be overwhelming with the small size of the cheez-its i was creating. I also, obviously, didn’t make them ‘straws.’ They were still really delicious!
So some notes on what could be improved – The 1/8th inch thick that Deb says to use is just a little too puffy for cheez-its (though I think it would work perfectly for the straws). It’s hard to go thinner but I think the next time I make these, I’ll also make them a little larger. It was a HUGE pain to transfer all those little cheez-its from the cutting board to the baking sheet.
Definitely give these a try if you like cheez-its but are not so much a fan of the chemicals in normal ones.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon milk
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza or pastry wheel; both worked great), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/2 -inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Then work the other direction to create the squares. Gently transfer the crackers to a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/4-inch between them.
4. Bake the crackers on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the corners are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.
5. Serve at room temperature. Cheez-Its will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days.
This is a bit of old news, but I’ve so far made two ultra basic loaves of bread! By ultra basic I mean “flour, salt, yeast, and water” is the entire ingredient list and it is labeled as an “almost no-knead” bread. This is an adapted version of the original Cook’s Illustrated “Almost No-Knead” found at Breadtopia. It’s really simple to make even for those of us living in a tiny dorm room. I’ve been adding white whole-wheat flour and it’s really good!
Just a few notes about this recipe though. Even introduction of flour is important and the dough will seem dry after stirring together the ingredients. It gets REALLY wet after the LONG 18 hour rise. The kneading of this dough is extremely simple and can be done just on a cookie sheet on the floor. I know this from my adventures in dorm baking. Words of caution – use a real bread knife to cut this, it gets messy otherwise. That may seem straight forward, but this is not a bread you can pinch apart to enjoy. I think it tastes better with some jelly or other topping but there were plenty of people at the newspaper office who seemed just fine eating it plain!
Next stop… Monkey Bread
I’m about 4 slices into my second loaf of what is called Sally Lunn bread. The recipe is, again, from Smitten Kitchen (as most of them will be until I bake/cook my way through her site). This is a fairly simple, no-knead bread that has a sweet flavor and dense texture.
Loaf #1: I made the first loaf for my first Wednesday (deadline) night as Assistant Photo Editor for the Ithacan, our newspaper. Some problems arose as this was my very first loaf of bread… ever. I had allotted 15 minutes to put the ingredients together. I think, at my best in a dorm room, I could maybe make it 20 but that’s not going to happen while I do not have my own kitchen. And then I went to let the bread rise, but I stuck the plastic wrap to the bread instead of on the top of the mixing bowl. Oops, that was a giant sticky mess. My rising time (3 hours) for that loaf is just way off. I am using instant yeast in all my breads so I doubled the amount as per comment 299 on the recipe. The dough for this bread is EXTREMELY sticky. Absurdly so. My flimsy scraper just could not do the job of getting the dough to the baking pan relatively easily… so that goes on the shopping list. The oven in the kitchen here seems to run a bit hot so I put the loaf in for 28 minutes and it had a very thick crust and the thermometer came out perfectly clean reading 190-200˚. I took it in to the office after it had barely cooled so by the time we ate pizza it was all good. It got devoured so quickly that I had to make a second loaf today.
Loaf #2: My only severe mistake was pouring cold milk onto the hot, melted butter. It makes the butter get all hard and weird very quickly and is not easy to incorporate in that state. I do not heat them together as the recipe states because I am using instant yeast which does not need to be proofed. I put the plastic wrap in the right place this time!! But I’m thinking that even with doubling the yeast, at least in my room, 1 hour is not enough rising time. It is hard to do the 2 finger indent test with such a sticky dough. So next time I’m going to give it 2 hours of rise and then see if that helps make the final product taller and fill out the pan more. My bread pan is slightly larger than the one that Deb uses but my bread is really short and it kinda sags so, time to try something new! Also, the running hot oven never ceases to fail me on baking times. I tried 27 minutes today and it still worked fine but I am having a bit of trouble with the crust. My breads have a really hard crust that doesn’t jive with the interior texture at all. So for next time, I’m going to try putting the oven at 350˚ and checking it at 28 minutes again.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Pop Tarts
So I got super bored today and impatient waiting for my order of yeast to come from Amazon and decided to work with what I have and make peanut butter and jelly pop tarts. The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen and worked like a charm. I used all white flour instead of opening my new wheat flour. Everything went really smoothly until it was time to roll out the dough. Obviously, being in college doesn’t mean you have common sense so I have no rolling pin. Instead, I hand molded it and rolled with a jar of peanut butter and roll of duct tape. The thickness of the dough seemed to turn out fine. I didn’t have a ruler so the edges are a little rough but they turned out well. I think the mounds of peanut butter jelly mix are a little high for the normal pop tart filling, but that’s what repetition is for, to improve. The tarts were so filling! I’ve just been giving them away to people on my floor. But once I make it to Wegmans again, I’ll make cinnamon sugar pop tarts!
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)
Peanut Butter and Jelly Filling
5 tablespoons jelly (I used grape)
4 tablespoons creamy peanutbutter