Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homemade Honey-Wheat Pizza Crust

     Although we generally prefer going down to Shakespeare's and getting their fresh wheat crust to take home to make homemade pizza (their dough is delicious and an absolute steal), we've long been trying to come up with a homemade pizza dough that's fairly tasty.  To be honest, it's never something we've completely nailed, though this is the closest we've come thus far.  All in all, it's a pretty good crust, but we can't get it to crisp up as much as we'd like (maybe this has something to do with our oven, as compared to professional pizza ovens?).  However, this is a good recipe to take forward and continue tweaking! I can't remember where the inspiration for the base recipe came from (several different recipies online, I believe), but here's what we came up with. 

     Ingredients (For one large pizza)
       -1 cup whole-wheat flour
       -1 cup all-purpose flour
       -1/3 cup cornmeal
       -1 heaping tablespoon dried yeast
       -1 tablespoon honey
       -1 cup warm water
       -1 teaspoon garlic powder
       -1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
       -1/4 teaspoon salt
       -1 tablespoon olive oil

       Begin by mixing the dried yeast in the warm water, and let it proof (rise/bubble) for 10 minutes or so.  Mix proofed yeast mixture with the other ingredients, gradually, using a mixer and dough hook.  When thoroughly combined and smooth, place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and place in a just slightly warm oven to raise for 15 minutes or so.  To get the oven temperature about right, set your oven for 350 degrees, and let it heat for 60 seconds (not 60 seconds after the oven has hit 350) before turning it off; then place the dough inside.  After the dough has risen, turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and roll out to desired size/thickness.  Top with your favorite toppings, and bake, on a pizza pan (next time we might try our pizza stone?) at 475 degrees, on the top rack, for 10 minutes or until crust is done and toppings are bubbly.  Enjoy!     

French Onion Soup (Pub Classics)

     This past weekend, we had a soup/chili benefit at church and, since we'd taken a somewhat non-traditional chili, we wanted to take a soup option that was a bit more 'normal'.  French onion soup has long been one of my wife's and my favorites, but we'd never really nailed down a recipe.  This weekend seemed to be a perfect opportunity to do so, and this is what we came up with.  I don't think we'll look for another recipe after trying this one, as it turned out really well!

       -4 extra-large white onions, thinly sliced
       -1 stick butter
       -2 teaspoons crushed garlic
       -2 tablespoons brown sugar
       -1/4 teaspoon dried, ground thyme (can also use regular dried thyme, just use a bit more)
       -1/4 teaspoon Emeril's Essence spice blend
       -1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
       -7 cups beef stock
       -4 oz. good-quality, malty English ale
       -HyVee seasoned croutons, to serve
       -Shredded Italian-style cheese, to serve

       Chop butter into pieces and melt slowly in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat.  Throw in the onions, and toss thoroughly to coat, stirring continually, for about 10 minutes.  Add brown sugar, stir thoroughly to mix, and continue stirring pretty much constantly for 30 minutes or so on medium to medium-high heat, until the onions begin to nicely caramelize.  At that point, add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium heat.  Add the ale to deglaze, and stir thoroughly to combine, scraping the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.  Remove to a Crock Pot and add the remaining ingredients, except the croutons and the cheese.  Cook for 2-4 hours in the Crock Pot until seasoned through.  Ladle into bowls, add croutons and cheese, and serve.  This is rich, satisfying, and nicely spiced.  You can play with the spice levels (especially the Worcestershire and Emeril's) as you see fit.  Enjoy!   

Cold Weather Pumpkin Chili

     For anyone who knows anything about our hometown (Morton, IL), the idea of pumpkin chili shouldn't be all that shocking.  After all, Morton is the 'pumpkin capital of the world' and during the annual Pumpkin Festival all kinds of delicious foods are available with pumpkin as an ingredient, including pumpkin chili.  We recently had a benefit soup/chili supper at church and we wanted to do something a bit unique.  While the chili at the Pumpkin Festival doesn't (in my memory) have much (if any) 'pumpkin pie' character, I wanted to create a recipe that incorporated some of these flavors, albeit in low amounts, to a more traditional chili recipe. 

       -2 lbs lean ground beef, fried and drained                               
       -2 (30 oz.) cans HyVee chili beans in chili gravy                   
       -1 large yellow onion, chopped fairly fine
       -1 (15 oz.) can HyVee 100% natural pumpkin
       -2 (28 oz.) cans HyVee diced tomatoes, drained
       -5 tablespoons chili powder
       -1 tablespoon crushed garlic
       -1/2 tablespoon salt
       -1/2 tablespoon pepper
       -1/2 tablespoon Tone's pumpkin pie spice

       Brown the beef in a skillet (or, as we did, a heavy, stainless-steel stockpot, so you don't have to dirty a frying pan as well) and drain if needed.  Add all other ingredients, mix thoroughly, and put on a low simmer for an hour or two.  At this point, we found the chili to be extremely mild: flavorful, but with very little heat and no real 'pie spice' flavor.  The following day, we reheated this slowly in a large Crock Pot and, when we served it, it had a pleasant, moderate heat, and a noticeable (but fairly mellow) touch of pie spice on the finish.  Overall, this makes for a really nice cold-weather chili with something just a bit different.  It's not something I would want to eat for several days in a row, but it's unique and definitely worth a try.  For what it's worth, when we make this again, we'll likely give it a day to flavor through (like we did this time) before serving.  Sprinkle a bit of sharp cheddar on top, and enjoy!
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