Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Juicing the Mint Leaves

Mint Chip Chocolate Cookies

mint cookies TITLE

Mint has always been a flavor that has captivated my palate. However, despite this longstanding love affair, mint was rarely used in the sweets my mom prepared when I was young. This lead me to believe that items with mint components were incredibly exotic and that it must require Herculean efforts to impart that cool flavor to one’s dishes. In fact, my sister and I still use the term “have to juice the mint leaves” when referring to simple tasks that appear to be deceptively laborious.

Luckily, it turns out that making a delicious mint desert can be as simple as adding a few high quality mint chocolate chips to the recipe.
guittard mint chips

Add a couple cups of Guittard green mint chocolate chips to a chocolate cookie recipe and you will have a mint cookie to rival the devil-spawned (that is to say, unnaturally delicious), cocaine laden wafers purveyed by any girl scout.

Polka Dot Cookies Recipe

Adapted from the recipe from the back of the Guittard Green Mint Chips bag.
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon coffee
2 cups (1 12 oz bag) Guittard Green Mint Chips

Preheat your oven to 350oF.

Add the semisweet chips to a microwave safe bowl and heat for one minute in the ole ‘wave. Stir the chocolate and microwave for another minute. Add the butter to the chocolate and stir together until it is all melted evenly (the butter and chocolate may require an additional minute in the microwave together).
melted chocolate

When the chocolate and butter is smooth, set it aside and combine the flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and coffee until smooth and light. Add the dry ingredients to the mix until everything is evenly incorporated into the batter. Fold in the green mint chips, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place everything into the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes.

MINT CHIP cookie dough
(The Master's Glaive?)

When the cookie batter has firmed up a bit, scoop it into rounded teaspoons and drop onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes and buen apetito!

mint chip cookies

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Homemade Pizza Dough

pizza dough title

Excellent pizza dough only takes a few simple ingredients, a little kneading and time. Pizza dough is also a great springboard for easing yourself into the beautifully rewarding world of bread baking.

Although there are certainly more convenient alternatives to the homemade variety, such as take home dough from a pizzeria or pre-made shells, no one should be afraid to make their own personal, superior version.

I must admit that I do utilize a stand mixer (see old blue), which makes the kneading process incredibly easy for me. However, a bread machine will also work fabulously or you can even use a food processor to eliminate some of the manual labor. Although these devices certainly do make short work of even the most intimidating bread dough, they aren’t necessary and a little hand kneading can actually be pretty fun.

I came up with this recipe while trying to crack the formulae for the ambrosia served at my two favorite pizza joints (Bianchi’s Italian, Brooklyn Pizza Co.) with little success. I like it because the crust at the end has an almost pretzely taste, which I think you'll find surprisingly satisfying.

Pizza Dough Recipe (yeilds enough dough for 1 large thick crust pizza or two medium pizzas):
1 1/8 cups warm water
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
3 ½ cups all purpose or bread flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of course grain salt
extra olive oil to lubricate the bowl

Place the yeast into the warm (around 100 degrees F) water, give it a little stir and allow to proof for about 5 minutes.

While the yeast is doing it's thing, you can combine the flour, tablespoon of oil and salt into your standmixer, bread machine pan, or mixing bowl and whisk until combined.

I know a tablespoon of salt seems like an aweful lot but the crust won't be overpoweringly salty. The trick is to use course grain salt. A tablespoon of course salt equates to roughly 1.5 teaspoons of standard table salt (or so I have been told) and will give your crust a unique flavor and texture.

course grain salt

After the yeast has proofed, combine it with the flour and attach the dough hook to your stand mixer. Allow the dough to knead for 7 minutes and then check to see if it is too wet or dry.

dry pizza dough
(This dough is a little dry and needs about a teaspoon of water)

At this point, I like to finish kneading the dough by hand.
kneading pizza dough

I push forward on the dough with the "heel" of my palm, fold it backward on itself and repeat the process until it is smooth and elastic.

perfect pizza dough

Form the dough into a ball and place into a bowl that has been coated with extra virgin olive oil. Cover the bowl with platic wrap and allow the dough to rise for 2 hours.

There, you have it, beautiful dough that is ready for your favorite pizza recipe. When the dough is ready, form it into a thin circle by placing your knuckles in the center and stretching outwards. Then, place the dough on a pizza pan, and finish streaching it out using the palm of your hand. Fold the edges in on themselves to create the outer crust. Prick the crust with a fork all over so it doesn't bubble up when you bake it, add your sauce, cheese and toppings and bake at 500 degrees F for about 15-20-30 minutes (keep an eye on it after 10).

A lovely cheese pizza just for me
A lovely cheese pizza, just for me!