Monday, April 12, 2010

The Puffins: beautiful little pancake muffins

I don't know if you've ever heard of these before but I hadn't and the lazy part of me got so happy it literally jumped up and made these the minute I saw them. Conveniently, it was also morning. 

Pancake muffins. What can I say? Pros: 1. You don't have to sit and flip your pancakes one by one. 2. It's super fast to make. 3. Everyone gets to eat at the same time 4. You can substitute the chocolate chips with just about anything or make them plain. 5. They'll make you happy. They'll make your kids happy. They'll make your whoever happy. No need to elaborate any more than this really AND I've got a lot of cleaning to do today so be happy with photos and a recipe my little friendlings and run along. And please, please, please... try these.

Mini Chocolate Chip Pancake Muffins: (Adapted from Bakerella. Thank you, Essmat, for introducing me.)
1 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
2/3 cup of buttermilk (I used a buttermilk substitute - 2/3 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of vinegar left to stand for 5 to 10 minutes)
1 egg
2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup (I used pancake syrup because I had it around. I'd love to try this with honey or vanilla.)
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Generously grease mini muffin pan. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Sift together with a wire whisk. In another bowl, stir buttermilk, egg, maple syrup and melted butter until combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined. Stir in your chocolate chips and keep a few to sprinkle on the top. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes. (My chocolate chips sadly didn't stay on top.)

Makes 24 mini pancake muffins. Let cool slightly and remove from the pan. You may need to use a toothpick around the edges to separate the pancake muffins from the pan. Serve immediately with warmed butter, maple syrup, pancake syrup, chocolate sauce, your call really. You really should dip these in something. They are, after all, meant to be dipped. And one of the best things about them is how they slip right out of the pan. I love things that don't make me scrub to get stuff out. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I pity you for not attempting this.

I have a problem with chocolate. My problem with chocolate is that I usually don't crave chocolate alone. I crave chocolate along with something equally as bad, something bready or starchy. Strange to you maybe but I generally tend to listen to my more bizarre cravings. I can easily dip a salted potato chip into some Nutella and enjoy it and one of the first things I think of when there's hot bread around is: chocolate! And since we have a chocolate hoarder in the family (I won't reveal which one of us), it would be nice to have more... bread! But sadly and boohoo for you, this is not a tribute to chocolate. Not just yet.

This is a tribute to my now favorite bread, probably because I miss Cairo and probably because it's so versatile. You never think that the fresh hot pita bread you or a family member picked up on the street (either plain to be used at home later or stuffed with something equally as fresh, hot and good) is something you'll really, really miss when it's not there anymore. Pita bread, Arabic bread or whatever you want to call it:I apologize to you for not appreciating you more often back home. I apologize for choosing baguette over you a lot of the times. I'm so sorry. So what happens when you miss something a lot? You either go to it or make it come to you. And since I'm not due in Cairo just yet, pita bread was going to join me for a menage a trois with my Nutella jar among so many other things. I am not exaggerating when I say: so many other things. So I scoured the Internet for maybe a full day (no joke) until I found what looked like the perfect recipe hiding peacefully in Candace's blog. We enjoyed this so much! Perfect recipe it is! So without any further need for formalities, you can now proceed to call me "Teta", "Grandma" or anything else you'd like since it's "like so uncool to like make pita bread at home! Like, who has the time to do that? Loooser." But guess what? I impressed myself so much with this, I almost cried.

Pita Bread or Back Home Bread (to me): (Taken from I Shot the Chef Thank you so much, Candace. You gave me back a piece of home. )

1 teaspoon of dry yeast
2 and a 1/2 cups of tepid water (25-30 degrees Celsius)
2 and a 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (I used Atta flour because I had it lying around. Use any whole wheat flour you prefer.)
1 tablespoon of salt
1 and a half tablespoons of olive oil
2 and a 1/2 to 3 and a 1/2 cups all purpose flour 

Stir the yeast and water together in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon and stirring in one direction, add the whole wheat flour, about a cup at a time; then stir 100 times, or until the mixture looks smooth and silky.  This is the sponge that needs to rest covered with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes, although it is best if it can rest longer, up to 8 hours in a cool place. I left it for 2 hours.

Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and then stir in the olive oil, mixing well, again stirring in the same direction. Add the all purpose flour a cup at a time, mixing until the dough is too stiff to mix with the spoon.  Scrape into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. The dough will be moderately firm and have a slight sheen.

Rinse the mixing bowl, dry it and coat it lightly with oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours or until it doubles in bulk. 
Deflate the dough by kneading it briefly. Divide it in half and keep one half under plastic or a cloth while you work with the other. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and with the light floured cupped hands, form the pieces into tight balls; keep the balls under plastic while you work on the others. On a well floured surface, flatten the balls of dough into a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Cover, but do not stack the rolled out breads.

Bake in the oven. I used a pizza stone but you can also use a sheet pan. Preheat your oven to 230 degrees Celsius.
Place the dough on the preheated stone/sheet and bake for 3-5 minutes or until the breads resembles blown-up balloons. Don’t worry of you get seams or dry spots or less than full balloons; the bread will still taste good. As the breads come out of the oven, wrap them together in a large kitchen towel. Finish baking this batch of bread, roll out the remaining dough and continue baking.

Makes 16 pitas

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Time Pizza Dough

Dear Pizza,

You make me pudgy. You make me doughy. You make me all sorts of things I don't want to be. You make me happy. You make me silly. You make me really, really me. (Loser-rhyme inspired by my friend, Ms. Amirapeanutkarsamishmishcakes. Send her kittehs.) 

Love you lots,

I wish I could put this in a simpler way: I love pizza. Not the kind of love that you have for pizza. No, it's an even bigger love. A better love. A monogamous brain-heart love. I order pizza if it's available in the middle of proper "Grown Up Dinners" [because I'm not really a grown up at heart] to everyone's amazement and inner disgust. I order pizza every time at this great Italian restaurant that boasts many other spectacularly creative works of food art. I even ordered pizza once at a German restaurant. It's their fault anyway. They shouldn't have put it there on their menu if they wanted me to order something more German. 

Am I ashamed? No. What I am ashamed of though is that I have yet to find the perfect pizza dough recipe. Perfect-restaurant-material pizza dough. A few months ago, I came close to finding it but... Alas! Woe is me! I lost the recipe! So we're back to square one. Today, I decided to try out a recipe from KitchenSimplicity and was thoroughly impressed with how easy this dough was to manipulate. You were right, Cheri. Pliable? Check. Freezes like a dream? Check. Easy peasy? Check. Husband in love with pizza more than me at that given moment? Check. Ended my search? Not quite yet, but I'll be using this a lot and it's definitely freezer storage material. It's still not the answer to my dreams but it'll work GREAT for evil pizza cravings. It's so light and airy and will work GREAT with kids. I love, love, love, love how thin you can spread it out without it tearing. Did I say love?

Thin Crust Pizza Dough from KitchenSimplicity's Cheri with minor edits
One cup of warm water
1.5 teaspoons of yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
2.5 teaspsoons of olive oil
1.5 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
4 cups of flour

Don't fear the vinegar or the vinegary smell! It goes away and makes it great. Stir together your water and sugar and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Leave it for 10 minutes until it's all bubbly. Add the oil, salt, vinegar and 2 cups of flour until well incorporated. Add additional flour and knead until pliable, stretchy and barely sticky. It shouldn't make you go "Ew!" when you touch it. Move your dough to a greased bowl and cover. Let your dough rise for an hour or until it has doubled in size. Once it has doubled, punch it down and divide it into the portions you need. I personally made a few smaller pizzas with this as opposed to 2 super large ones. 

Roll and stretch each piece of dough until it reaches your desired thickness and size. I personally have a pizza stone (which is a great invention but not neccessary). You can easily use a regular ungreased baking sheet. 

Coat your dough with pizza sauce and toppings of your choice. Bake at 250 degrees Celsius for 10-12 minutes or until browned and bubbly. It all depends on your oven. 

You can also use the amount of dough you need and freeze the rest of the dough. Grease the inside of a freezer bag, put the rest of your dough in and make sure it's sealed. Next time you come to use it, take it out in the morning or allow it to thaw at room temperature before attempting to roll it out.

For a super simple pizza sauce, combine one can of whole peeled tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, half a teaspoon of oregano, half a teaspoon of dry basil, 1 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of sugar if you don't like the tomatoes' acidity. I always add fresh ground black pepper so if you'd like, do that too! You could puree it for a smoother sauce but I prefer a chunkier sauce. Leave it to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Annnnd you've got simple pizza sauce. I have a thing for tomato sauces so I'll be uploading quite a few as time goes by. If you try this out, share your photos. 
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