These days, I find myself making a lot of things from scratch that I might not ordinarily make: ice cream, pasta sauce, bread. Okay, actually, I make bread all the time, but not usually in these quantities! But I realized that if I’m making that much bread dough, I may as well make other fun things out of it, such as pizza. It’s really pretty easy to make at home, especially if you have a pizza stone. If you don’t, no worries. An ordinary baking sheet will do.
The lovely thing is, you can top it with whatever you have handy. You don’t have to use mozzerella. Try goat cheese, blue cheese, or cheddar with cooked ground beef to make a cheeseburger pizza. Find toppings in the back of your pantry, freezer, or fridge: olives, anchovies, spinach, broccoli, butternut squash, breakfast sausage. No tomato sauce? Try alfredo sauce or plain olive oil for a white pizza. Experiment! This is a great opportunity to try new things.
Start with the crust about 2.5 hours before dinnertime.
(This is just a simple white bread recipe. If four crusts is too much for you, you can put half the dough in a loaf pan and make nice white sandwich bread. You can also refrigerate the dough for up to a week. Just let the dough warm up for 20 minutes before rolling it out.)
- 1.5 Tablespoons dry yeast
- 1.5 Tablespoons salt
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 6.5-7.5 cups all-purpose flour
Throw these willy nilly into a mixer bowl and knead using a dough hook or by hand until the dough is smooth, pulls away from the sides of the bowl, and stops sticking to your fingers. You may need to add extra flour on a humid day. Cover loosely and allow to rise for two hours.
About 15 minutes before the dough finishes rising, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven now. If you like a crispy crust, add the bottom of a broiler pan on the lowest rack. If you are using a pizza stone and have a pizza peel, dust the peel with cornmeal. Otherwise, a baking sheet with parchment paper for each pizza you plan to make and dust that lightly with cornmeal.
Punch down the dough and divide it into four grapefruit-sized balls. Flour a board and a rolling pin and roll out to the width of your baking sheet. Bonus points if you pick it up and toss it in the air to stretch it. This will delight your kids. Extra credit if you give one quarter of the dough to your kids to try tossing. Don’t worry if they drop it on the floor. You’ve got three more crusts, remember?
When the dough is nice and stretched out, lay it out on the pizza peel/baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Add your favorite pasta sauce, cheese, and toppings. Place in the oven either on the pizza stone or in the baking sheet. If you like a crispy crust, pour 1 cup of water into the broiler pan at the bottom of the oven. This will fill the oven with steam and paradoxically create a lovely, crispy outer crust. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the crust turns slightly golden brown and all the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for about five minutes before cutting. Enjoy!
There’s something about snow in the middle of April that makes me want comfort food, and for me there’s no greater comfort than my abuela’s tortillas. It’s also a nice recipe to have in the middle of a pandemic if you’re running low on yeast. (Spoiler: I still have plenty of yeast, I buy it in bulk. I just really wanted tortillas.)
I remember helping Abuela make these in her kitchen. She’d hand me a chunk of dough and a rolling pin and let me roll to my heart’s content. She would roll hers perfectly round. Of course, my tortillas came out looking like houses or Alaska or the occasional deformed hippopotamus, but that doesn’t matter. They still taste wonderful.
For a long time, I didn’t have this recipe because there was none. Abuela would just shake some flour into a bowl until it looked right, grab a handful of baking powder and a few pinches of salt, and mix it all by hand. Finally, one of her neighbors forced her to measure all the ingredients as she went, and this recipe is the result.
- 5 cups all-purpose flour plus additional flour for dusting
- 1 heaping tablespoon baking powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- ~2 cups hot water
Combine dry ingredients thoroughly. Mix in shortening with your hands until you have a dry, crumbly, even consistency. Gradually add water and mix until dough becomes almost smooth. You may need more or less water depending on humidity levels. Knead the dough for about five minutes.
Tear off a chunk of dough and squeeze it through your thumb and forefinger, about the size of a golf ball. Then, digging your fingers into its base, flatten the ball into a disc about two inches across that’s slightly hollow underneath. Line these up on a floured board and cover with a cloth to keep moist.
Roll the discs into tortillas using a small rolling pin. Put flour on the rolling pin to keep it from sticking to the tortilla. I recommend giving the tortilla a quarter, rolling again, and repeating until you have a nice round tortilla.
Cook on an ungreased hot skillet or electric griddle at 400F until brown spots appear on bottom, then flip and repeat. Watch them carefully and turn frequently or they will burn, and the skillet will be hard to clean. Makes about 18 6-inch tortillas.
For lunch, I made myself a delicious fish taco with a mahi mahi patty, fresh tomato slices, colby jack cheese, baby kale, and green tomato relish.
I don’t know about you, but all the days of the week have been blurring together. Last Wednesday blew right past me, and I didn’t even notice until Friday, at which point Easter was upon us. So I’m sorry that I missed last week’s recipe. I remembered today!
My elder daughter loves bagels for breakfast. She would eat them for lunch and dinner, too, if I let her and often snacks on them. But bagels are hard to come by right now, when I’m trying to avoid going to the grocery store for as long as humanly possible. Fortunately, there’s a type of bread she loves even more than bagels. When we visited Sweden in the summer of 2018, my daughter fell in love with the flatbreads that most Swedes eat for breakfast with butter, cheese, and ham or other cold cuts. The bread is light and fluffy, even though it’s thin, rather like a very slender bun, and it’s slightly sweet. It forms the base for a simple, relatively healthy breakfast, and I resolved to try making this odd bread.
However, finding a recipe has been harder than I expected. Part of the problem is that I don’t remember what they’re called. Some searching turned up a bread called hönökaka, named for the island of Hönö from which it originates, but this bread is twelve inches in diameter, whereas the breakfast breads we remember were just six inches wide. I decided to try it anyway and adjust as best I could, rolling out nine flatbreads instead of six. These turned out to be too thick but otherwise quite acceptable and tasty. We just sliced them in half and used them as sandwich thins. I also had to use brown sugar instead of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, which was recommended in most hönökaka recipes, but I am hoping to acquire some for my next batch. I based this largely off of this recipe but made some obvious modifications. Here’s what I came up with:
Swedish Breakfast Flatbread
- 1.5 tablespoons dry yeast
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1/4 cup soft light brown sugar or 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
- 2-3 cups rye flour
- 3-4 cups white flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- Optional: one tablespoon butter, melted
- Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for a minute or so, then add the sugar/Lyle’s golden syrup and mix again to dissolve. Add two-thirds of each of the two flours, plus all the salt, and start mixing. You may not need all the flour, which is why you start with the amount indicated, then add more of each as you need it. Add the 7 tablespoons of softened butter and keep mixing until it is incorporated. Add more of the flours as needed. When the dough starts letting go of the sides of the bowl (after around 5 minutes of kneading in the machine and with enough flour added), cover the dough and leave to rest in a warm place for around an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, then cut it into twelve equal-sized pieces. Roll each one out to a circle with a diameter of 6 in., then prick all over with a fork and place on baking parchment or a floured pizza peel. Leave to rise again under a tea towel/dish towel for around 40 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 475°F. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven. Otherwise, place baking sheets in the oven at this stage, as placing the hönökaka on a hot sheet or pizza stone speeds up the baking on the underside of the bread.
- Prick again with the fork just before you pop the bread into the oven (you may need to bake them in batches). Bake for around 8 minutes, but keep an eye on them, as they can go brown quickly due to the sugar content. You want them slightly golden but not overly brown.
- Remove from the oven and move to a cooling rack. If you want a softer crust, brush with the melted butter.
While the traditional method is to eat them with butter, cheese slices, and ham, I made myself a nice thick sandwich using leftover Easter ham, Swedish mustard and hot mustard, mashed avocado, green tomato relish, red tomato slices, and slices of Jarlsberg cheese. Delicious!
I’ve been meaning to try this recipe forever. It came with a set of copper gear cookie cutters I bought many years ago. I’d purchased Fibonacci cookie cutters for my (alas, cancelled) book launch, and I thought this recipe would be perfect to try them out on. They’re not incredibly tasty – not too sweet or nor very rich, but I think they’re meant as substrates for icing, in which case they work very well.
1-3/4 c butter (no substitutes)
2 large eggs
2 c brown sugar
2 t vanilla
1 t water
4-1/2 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
Cream together: butter, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and water. Gradually add cocoa powder and flour. Divide dough into 3 balls, wrap in wax paper, and chill.
When ready to bake cookies, let dough soften slightly, roll out onto floured board to 1/4″ thickness, and cut out with floured cutters. Place on lightly greased baking sheets (I totally forgot to grease the sheets, and they came off just fine), and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute (this is important – they fall apart otherwise) and then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely before you decorate.