Probation

SAM 2666 Edited e1314839905518 Probation

When I started this blog three months ago, I had no idea what to expect.  I knew I wanted to write, and I knew I really liked cake, so I figured I would simply begin a blog about baking.  Boy, was I in for a surprise.

I knew I was jumping in with both feet on two hobbies, the writing and the baking, but I conveniently ignored the other two factors inherent in blogging, the photography and the blog site itself.  The familiar saying “like drinking from a firehouse” comes to mind when I think about what learning all of these aspects has been like.

While I learn a little bit more about food each time I bake, my concoctions are by no means perfect.  Try as I might, things that leave me wondering what the heck went wrong still come out of my oven.  In Spoon Fed, Kim Sverson writes about the fantastic world of food, describing how only something magical can explain the myriad colors of beets (red, golden and candy-cane striped), how wonderful it is that salt can preserve anything and everything, and the miracle otherwise known as cheese.  Then she writes, “things get more mysteriously divine when you start to think about baking.”  Those mysteries are what keep me going.

In addition to becoming a slightly better baker, I have really enjoyed learning a little more about blogging everyday.  Just when I think I have my site looking pretty good, I will come across other blogs with bells and whistles that I simply must have too.  Then it takes me days, if not weeks, to figure out how to get them.  I’m not even close to having my site where I envision it, so I’ll keep working at it.

But first up, I would like to learn a bit more about food styling so I can post better pictures.  While I’m doing okay with my little point-and- shoot camera, I know I can get better shots with just a few more props and a better understanding of what makes a good photo.

While I was on the vineyard tour a few weeks ago, I told my friend Dawn that I thought of her often while taking blog photos.  Dawn is a very good photographer, and she took the photo of me that I use on this blog.  She tried to make me feel better by rattling off something about the relationship between apertures and shutter speeds and something else I can’t remember right now, but all of those things are yet to fully sink in.

All that said, I think I passed my 90-day probation and can continue on.

On this September Eve, I am looking forward to continuing this project for the next few months.  Right off the bat there will be birthdays, and later in the month I will attend a much anticipated wedding. I will go my first blogiday, and I will enjoy Oktoberfest and some football games.

These events should create good momentum for October, and I already can’t wait to bake with pumpkin.  In fact, I love pumpkin so much that I might bake with nothing other than pumpkin for all of October.  Then the holidays will be upon us, so I figure there will be no use stopping right in the prime of baking season.

I’m looking forward to carrying on, and I thank you all for reading!

SAM 2675 Edited Probation

Jellies for Ellie!

SAM 2642 Edited e1314742813487 Jellies for Ellie!

While I have had a variety of cupcakes and cookies and breads and brownies in my oven over the course of the past few months, my cousin Janelle has had only one thing in hers: a bun. That bun in Janelle’s oven, now known as Ellie, made her grand entrance into the world while I was in the midst of posting about peaches last week, but today I finally got around to making some jellies for Ellie.

I may have cheated a bit on the first batch, recipe courtesy of Skip to my Lou. Since last week I wrote that cutting and then baking or frying store-bought tortillas does not really count as “homemade” tortilla chips, I can’t rightfully say that mixing a box of flavored Jello and unflavored Knox gelatin together really counts as homemade gummi candies. But that is exactly what I did for the red jellies.

SAM 2648 Edited Jellies for Ellie!

I then made a second batch using a recipe from about.com. For the juice, I put a pear and an apple down the juicer chute (yes, there is a juicer in the house but not a food processor), then mixed the juice with unflavored gelatin, corn syrup, sugar, and gel food color.

I used two candy mold trays for each batch of jellies. To make pouring the mixture into the candy molds a bit easier, transfer the liquid into a measuring cup with a spout or other small pitcher. Once the jellies set, it is necessary to use a firm hand to remove them from the molds. I was a bit timid with this at first, thinking that I would tear the candies, but they held their shape just fine.

As for the taste, I preferred the first “cheat” recipe. Those jellies tasted more flavorful and had a firmer texture, which I preferred.  All in all, this was a fun, easy project that returned some tasty, cute jellies. Just not as cute as Ellie…

Ellie Edited Jellies for Ellie!

Gummi Candi
 
Author:
Recipe type: Candy
Ingredients
  • 1 box flavored Jello
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • ⅓ cup water
  • or
  • ⅓ cup fruit juice
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • gel food colors
Instructions
  1. If using the Jello and unflavored gelatin, place all ingredients in a saucepan and allow to sit (to soften) for one to two minutes.
  2. Over low heat, stir until well combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into a mixing cup with a spout or a small pitcher and pour into candy molds.
  4. Allow to cool and sit until firm, approximately 20 minutes.
  5. If using juice and unflavored gelatin, place both ingredients in a saucepan and allow to sit (to soften) for one to two minutes.
  6. Add the corn syrup and sugar.
  7. Over low heat, stir until the sugar is fully dissolved and the mixture is well combined.
  8. Add the food colored as desired.
  9. Pour the mixture into a mixing cup with a spout or a small pitcher and pour into candy molds.
  10. Allow to cool and sit until firm, approximately 60 minutes.
  11. Remove candy from molds and enjoy.
Notes
Place the filled candy molds in the refrigerator to speed the time it takes for the gummi candy to set.

 

I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

SAM 2630 Edited e1314504753172 I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

I am glad I waited until  the weekend because this one took a while: peach pizza with made-from-scratch ricotta cheese and cinnamon pizza crust.

First up was the crust.  Using the Valentino’s Pizza Crust recipe from allrecipes.com, stir one packet (1/4 ounce) of rapid-rise yeast into once cup of warm water.  Allow the yeast to dissolve for a few minutes while whisking together 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the water and dissolved yeast into the well.  Add about two tablespoons of olive oil to the mixture and stir until combined.  Form the dough into a ball, coat it with olive oil, and let it sit covered with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel while the other ingredients receive attention.

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Next up was the ricotta cheese.  The recipe for ricotta is pretty much the same everywhere, but I will credit the pizza feature in my most recent Country Living magazine for making it jump to mind.  Bring 1/2 gallon of whole milk and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil.  Reduce the boil to a simmer and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (I used the juice from two lemons).  Stir the milk mixture about one minute until curds form, then use a small colander or slotted spoon to transfer the curds to a large colander lined with cheese cloth.   The large colander should sit above a large bowl that will catch the draining liquid.  Allow the curds to drain and wah lah: fresh, creamy, delicious ricotta cheese.

SAM 2625 Edited e1314504372412 I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

Finally, it was time to roll out the crust and assemble the pizza.  I uncovered the dough, gave it a gentle punch or two, and rolled in out into a greased and floured 11 x 17  jelly roll pan.  Any type of flat pan, sheet or pizza stone you have on hand is by all means acceptable.  Very finely chopped peaches will act as the sauce.  It is a good idea to allow the chopped peaches to drain on a paper towel for a few moments to avoid an overly watery pizza.  Top the sauce with sliced peaches, onions, sausage, ricotta cheese, cilantro, and cinnamon.  Pop it in the oven at 375 degrees, and wait just a few moments for your lunch, dinner or a delicious snack to bake.

SAM 2616 Edited e1314504191843 I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

The pizza was superb.  The crust baked up like a thick, soft pillow, and the toppings had just the right amount of sweet and savory for my tastes.  In regards to the ricotta cheese, my initial uncertainty quickly gave way to the a) ease of the process and b) the delicious taste of fresh, rich, creamy ricotta cheese.   I hope to never buy the devoid of taste ricotta that lives in plastic tubs in the dairy section again.

While the pizza bakes, you can use any leftover pizza crust to make cinnamon and sugar bread sticks (or knots, if those are a preferred shape).  Brush the remaining dough with butter, roll it in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, cut in thin strips and twist to make bread stick appetizers.

SAM 2628 Edited e1314504829501 I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

Like the peach salsa, pizza is a make-it-your own type dish.  You need a crust, sauce, peach, meat, cheese, and combination of herb or spice.  For the meat, I considered bacon, but I had sausage on hand.  I also really wanted to use basil,  but since my basil plant looked like what you see below,  I improvised with the cilantro I also had on hand.

SAM 2611 Edited 150x150 I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

After I baked my pizza for lunch, I went dinner at 300 East.  I was very satisfied to see they too had a peach pizza on the menu, but with red onion, ham, blue cheese and basil.  Pizza really is a make it your own dish, so please, try it and make it your own. You will be off to a great week!

SAM 2623 Edited I Really Like Your Peaches Pizza with Homemade Ricotta Cheese and Cinnamon Crust

Peach Pizza
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pizza crust
  • 2 medium peaches
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 large sausage links
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Very finely chop one peach, and cut the other into thin slices. Allow the chopped peaches to drain on a paper towel for a few moments while you prepare the onion and sausage.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and brown sugar. Add the onion and sausage and cook until lightly browned.
  3. Roll out the pizza crust in a greased and floured jelly roll pan or on a pizza stone.
  4. Top the crust with the chopped peaches, then add the sliced peaches, onions, sausage, ricotta cheese, cilantro, and cinnamon.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 minutes
Notes
To make homemade pizza crust, stir one packet (1/4 ounce) of rapid-rise yeast into once cup of warm water. Allow the yeast to dissolve for a few minutes while whisking together 2½ cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the water and dissolved yeast into the well. Add about two tablespoons of olive oil to the mixture and stir until combined. Form the dough into a ball, coat it with olive oil, and let it sit covered with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel for up to two hours. To make homemade ricotta cheese, bring ½ gallon of whole milk and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Reduce the boil to a simmer and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (two lemons). Stir the milk mixture about one minute until curds form, then use a small colander or slotted spoon to transfer the curds to a large colander lined with cheese cloth. Allow the curds to drain from the colander into a large bowl. Refrigerate immediately.