Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brains For Dinner!

For Halloween dinner, I usually try to come up with something quick and fast, but still gruesome and fun.

Try serving spaghetti from a skull Halloween bucket, along with some chicken fingers with the tips dipped in paprika (to make fingernails) to gross out the family but still get something hearty in their bellies before heading out trick-or-treating!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

October Daring Bakers Challenge-- Pizza

Happy Half Birthday to my being a Daring Baker! What better way to celebrate being a Daring Baker than with a pizza party!

This month's challenge was hosted by Rosa. She was supposed to be cohosting with Sher, but unfortunately Sher passed away unexpectedly in July. Just 9 days before she died, she and Rosa had talked about what they would choose for the October challenge. Rosa decided to pay tribute to Sher by submitting Sher's recipe for this months challenge.

The rules for this challenge were simple. We were to make the dough with the provided recipe and we were to use both a sauce and toppings on the pizza. Our options for toppings were endless. We could have savory... we could have sweet. We could do both (which is what happened since the recipe is large enough to make six entire pizzas).

But the catch was this: We had to hand toss our pizza for at least 2 of the 6 crusts (and prove it with a photo!). I cracked up when I read that and then got sort of a queasy stomach thinking about it. How on earth do you toss a pizza crust like the professionals?

I actually don't usually eat pizza that is hand tossed. It grosses me out to think of the arm hair on the (usually) guy that is tossing it. You can't tell me that not a single hair will not make it into my pizza crust. And I've never seen a pizza guy wear gloves up to his elbows. So I usually opt out of pizzas made by other people (especially those with exceptionally hairy arms).

But for some reason, ingesting my own arm hair doesn't seem to bother me. So it was game-on.

So with all due respect, here is Sher's chosen recipe for our pizza dough.

Equipment: Stand mixer with paddle and dough hook attachments (optional, see recipe), cooking thermometer, baking sheet, parchment paper, cooking oil, plastic wrap, pizza peel/scraper, pizza stone or pan.

BASIC PIZZA DOUGH ~Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches in diameter).


4 1/2 Cups Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups Water, ice cold
1 Tb sugar -
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting

Method: 1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water. The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.
Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

(I only have three because I cut the recipe in half)

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to three days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F)

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.

During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully, then try again.

You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches in diameter - for a 6 ounces piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
We made a basic half-cheese, half-pepperoni for one pizza:

One berry pizza (the crust was heavenly! Brushed first with 2 tbsp of melted butter and sprinkled with 2 tbsp of cinnamon sugar before being baked and then topping the cooled crust with Marscapone Cheese, mixed with some lemon juice/zest and heavy whipping cream, and then topping THAT with berries and then sprinkled with another 2 tbsp of cinnamon sugar. Whew. How's that for a run on sentence?):

here is the crust:

And Apple Pie Calzones:

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

NOTE ON SAUCE: Your sauce should not be too thick as it will thicken in the hot oven. Less is more but make the less truly more by using quality ingredients.

Be sure to check out all of the other Daring Bakers Creations!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crispy Ghosts

How cute are these ghosts? We had a blast making them! Okay, who am I kidding? Maybe not a blast... quite honestly, it was a pain in the butt trying to get the ghosts formed, but at least we enjoyed putting the faces on them!


1 10-ounce bag of marshmallows
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/1/2 stick) margarine or butter
6 cups crisp rice cereal
12 ounces vanilla-flavored candy coating, melted

Black licorice candy Chocolate sprinkles Miniature semisweet chocolate pieces


1. In a large pot, combine marshmallows and margarine. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until mixture is melted. Gradually stir in cereal until well combined.

2. Use 1/2 to 1 cup of the cereal mixture per ghost to form into ghost shapes. Set aside to cool completely.

3. Dip each ghost shape into melted candy coating. Use pieces of licorice, chocolate sprinkles, and/or chocolate pieces for the eyes, nose, eyebrows, and mouth.

Look at that determination...

...and the pride (but not the dried treats/candy on his face!)

Makes 9 to 12 ghosts.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chocolate Cake Roll

We had company for dinner last night and this was the dessert I made. I have had this recipe for years-- it's one that came in the mail on one of those "sample recipe" cards, trying to hook you into purchasing the entire set. I saved the recipe knowing I'd love to make it someday and that someday finally came! I refrigerated the cake when it was finished, but I think it would taste fantastic frozen.


For the cake:
1/2 cup cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa powder
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar, divided

For the filling:

1 8oz container frozen whipped topping, thawed



1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 15x10-inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper. Grease and flour the lined pan; tap out excess.

2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until fluffy.

3. In a small bowl, using clean beaters, beat egg whites on high until foamy. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.

4. Fold 1/3 beaten egg whites into egg yolk mixture. Alternately fold in remaining whites and flour mixture. Pour batter in pan; smooth top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.


1. Dust a clean cloth with remaining sugar. Turn cake out onto prepared cloth; remove waxed paper. Trim the cakes edges.

2. Starting with a long side, tightly roll up cake with cloth. Transfer cake, seam-side down, to a wire rack to cool.

3. Unroll cake; remove cloth. Spread whipped topping over cake to within 1/2 inch of edges.

4. Re-roll cake; place seam-side down on a plate.

5. Dust with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Friday, October 24, 2008

3D Pumpkin Card

These instructions are from Skip To My Lou-- such a creative idea! And really easy and quick to make.

What you need:

Orange tissue paper
Decorative cardstock
glue stick

What you do:

1. Draw a pumpkin shape on the tissue paper. You will need 9 layers.

2. Cut them out.

3. Glue one layer in the center of your cardstock.

4. Now, if the pumpkin were to be a clock, you need to put dabs of glue at 12:00 o'clock, 3:00 o'clock, 6:00 o'clock and 9:00 o'clock.

5. Place another tissue layer on top. Now you are going to glue in between:
12:00 o'clock and 3:00 o'clock
3:00 o'clock and 6:00 o'clock
6:00 o'clock and 9:00 o'clock
9:00 o'clock and 12:00 o'clock

6. Place another tissue on top and now glue as you did in step 4, at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00. Continue alternating this pattern as you add all 8 of the 9 layers.

7. When you get to the last tissue pumpkin, put the glue on the 8th layer. Then cut the ninth pumpkin in half, down the center.

8. Place the pumpkin half on the right side of the 8th layer. Fold the card in half. When you open it, you will have a honeycomb pumpkin!

9. You can add a little pumpkin stem to the top by using construction paper and glue.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pumpkin Jar Candle

I saw this idea in an old edition of Family Fun magazine. I'm starting to think that Mod Podge is my new best friend.

What you need:

Mod Podge
Paint/foam brush
Orange crepe paper
Black construction paper
A jar (any size)

What you do:

1. Rip the crepe paper into small pieces. Mine are about 2 or 3 inches long, but you can really do them as small as you'd like.

2. Cover the jar with Mod Podge, using the foam brush.

3. Stick the pieces of crepe paper over the wet glue, covering the jar.

I have found that any pieces that are dangling loosely can be easily adhered by dabbing a smudge of glue under it.

****Be sure none of the crepe paper is higher than the mouth of the jar. This will create a fire hazard. ***

4. Load your foam brush up with more Mod Podge and very carefully cover the crepe paper with a layer of glue. Be very careful- the paper rips and tears and pulls easily so you really need to almost dab it in some spots.

5. Tear or cut pumpkin eyes, a nose and a mouth out of the black paper and place on your pumpkin jar.

6. Cover face with Mod Podge.

7. Allow to dry completely before placing a candle in the jar.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Witches Hats

My 10 year old niece, Lauren, took an after-school cooking class and made these creative little witches hats. I thought they sounded so yummy and fun to make that we gave it a shot ourselves. I can't give you play-by-pictures with this one. Not that I didn't take pictures as I went along.... I did! But I didn't realize until I went to upload the pictures that my picture card was not in my camera. So all I have for you is our results! Here they are:


Keebler Fudge Striped Cookies
Hershey's Kisses
Chocolate candy melts (or chocolate chips with a little milk mixed in)
Halloween Sprinkles


1. Unwrap Hershey's Kisses.

2. Place cookies, fudge stripes down, on a sheet of parchment paper/wax paper.

3. Melt candy melts/chocolate chips.

4. Dip the bottoms of the Hershey Kisses into the melted chocolate and then place in the center of the cookie, hiding the hole.

5. Use a spoon to dip into the melted chocolate and then drizzle over the cookies. Working quickly while the chocolate is still soft, top melted chocolate drizzles with candy sprinkles.

Thanks for the great idea, Lauren! xoxo
-Aunt Michele

(Lauren and I)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mummy Dogs

I saw this cute idea on the cover of a recipe magazine while standing in a checkout lane at the store the other day. I didn't buy the book, but figured it wouldn't be too hard to create these without a recipe. Another cute Halloween food idea to feed your little ghosts and goblins before sending them out the door for trick-or-treating.


Hot dogs
Crescent roll dough
Mustard (or ketchup)

What you do:

1. Unroll the crescent dough and don't break it apart. Leave it as one large rectangle and press the diagonal seams together a bit.

2. Use a pizza cutter or a knife to cut strips in the rectangle of crescent dough.

(I ended up cutting all of it, not just half as the picture shows)

3. Roll the strips (either a full length strip or a half strip (since it's perforated already) )like you would to make a snake out of playdough. Stretch the dough to be about 2 times it's length.

4. Wrap the rolled strip around a hotdog in a bandage fashion. I used two or three "half" strips for each mummy.

5. Place your mummies on a baking sheet and bake at 375°F for about 13 minutes (give or take) or until golden brown.

6. Use mustard or ketchup to dot some eyes on your mummies before serving.