Pizza Party

Thing have been a little busy recently around the Mo’Pies kitchen. Or, more accurately, I have been busy, and the kitchen hasn’t really been used for much baking. I really do feel like it’s been ages, but somehow my time has been sucked up by social activities, and work, and running. I signed up for the Houston Marathon, so I have been spending a lot more time putting miles behind me recently. I also finally bought that DSLR I’ve been meaning to get for ages, and I love it. The pictures of the pizza party were taken with that camera.

I’ve also been apartment-hunting. The currently Mo’Pies kitchen is actually my parent’s kitchen, which is nice because it is big and fully stocked and I don’t pay rent for it, but is lame because it is my parent’s kitchen. But the Mo’Pies kitchen is moving! My fashionable friend Emma (you may remember her for wearing scarves in the middle of summer) and I have a lovely new apartment with a lovely kitchen that I plan to take advantage of.

Counter space!

Things have certainly been baked/cooked in the Mo’Pies kitchen recently- things like Jaques Torres chocolate chip cookies (I took pictures and may blog about this sometime soon), Chocolate Pound Cake from ACC (coming soon in a different blog post), watermelon arugula salad with serrano vinaigrette (there were slices of pickled watermelon rind on that one) and coffee and chipotle rubbed pork tenderloin with a chipotle dill sauce, garnished with chocolate covered pomegranate arils (I didn’t make the last two- those were made for me in my kitchen and were fantastic). I also threw a pizza party.

Pizza is one of the greatest foods in the entire world. Since the current Mo’Pies kitchen has two ovens, I decided to take advantage and throw a pizza party before I no longer have access. So I told my friends to bring their favorite toppings- I’d take care of the pizza dough and sauce.

I had a lot of fun making the pizza dough. I even tried tossing it. Marco was better...

I made two different types of pizza dough. One was my go-to pizza dough recipe from allrecipes.com: Valentino’s Pizza Crust. I’ve made this a number of times and been very satisfied. The other is a recipe that my coworker Bill gave me, and I think it’s my new go-to. It was really good (thanks, Bill). I ended up making another batch of this one.

Bill also gave me a pizza sauce recipe. It was also good, but not my favorite sauce (sorry, Bill). That said, I didn’t pay much attention to the sauce, because the toppings were great.

We ended up making six pizzas:

Margherita Pizza:

Gorgeous!

Pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, peppers, etc:

Yum!

“Israeli Pizza” olives and Hal’s home-grown carrot peppers.

Way too spicy

Hawaiian Pizza

Tim’s Pizza- Tim had a pizza like this somewhere once and recreated it for our party. There was a thin layer of olive oil over the dough, then prosciutto, artichoke hearts and basil, topped with mozzarella.

This is actually my favorite picture of this pizza..

The everything-left-over pizza: we had enough dough for one more pizza, and a lot of leftover toppings. Everyone was stuffed from all the pizza we had eaten, but we decided to make this one and I sent it home with friends. I don’t even know what was on this pizza- we just threw everything onto it and hoped for the best. It looked pretty great in the end.

This one came out looking really good.

I know pizza and beer is standard, but Jeff brought a great bottle of red wine that was fantastic. Apparently Marco’s boss suggested this winery, Pali, when the guys went up to the Santa Barbara area for wine tasting. They found it in the “Wine Ghetto” of Lompoc and the guys brought back a case. It was great wine- I was sad to see the end of that bottle.

For dessert I made two different kinds of ice cream. Having made Nutella Peanut Butter Chip ice cream, I decided to try some new flavors: Cinnamon Bun and Vanilla Mocha Fudge Swirl. The Vanilla Mocha Fudge Swirl gave me quite a headache- the recipe (which is actually Hazelnut, not Vanilla) calls for making coffee-infused whipped cream. This sounds really awesome, but despite my attempts to whip the cream, it wouldn’t work.

I’ve never infused whipped cream with coffee before. The recipe has you boil the whipping cream and add coffee grinds. Cool it down, strain it to remove the grinds, and let it chill in the fridge. Then you whip it.

That stuff does not whip. I’m not sure what exactly went wrong here- maybe the heating process ruined the whip-ability. Maybe I didn’t let it chill in the fridge long enough. I’m not terribly versed on these things, unfortunately. But the points is, it didn’t work! I ended up just whipping the cream and adding coffee to the chocolate-and-sweetened-condensed-milk mixture, which made it thinner than I would have liked (despite my attempts to boil off a lot of the water). It turned out ok, but I would like to try it again to fix the issues. Like the chocolate pieces sinking to the bottom, or the whipped cream- I really want to make coffee-infused whipped cream! While researching my problems, I found someone who was trying to make lavender-infused whipped cream- how awesome would that be?

We couldn’t finish all the ice cream because we were too full from the pizza. All and all, this was a fantastic night. Good times, with good friends, good food, and good wine. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

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Amanda moves to Seattle

My sister moves to Seattle tomorrow- she is off to business school. Tonight she invited her closest friends to come over for pie and tacos and farewells.

I was, of course, in charge of the pie (they are going somewhere else for the tacos). I made apple and chocolate kahlua pecan, as per Amanda’s request.

I also shared the ice cream I made last night. That’s right- I made ice cream. Olivia showed me a really easy recipe that doesn’t require an ice cream machine! I decided to try the Nutella Peanut Butter Chip flavor. It came out so rich and decadent! It’s great but I can only eat a little bit at a time.

My sister’s friends seemed to enjoy the pies and the ice cream. It’s not all gone, but they’re still hanging out so they might take a bit more.

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Apple pie, chocolate kahlua pecan pie and nutella peanut butter chip ice cream, plus a blueberry crisp my mom made and some vanilla ice cream

 

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Nutella Peanut Butter Chip ice cream

 

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Argroves Manor Coffee Cake

Ugh- this is the worst post ever! Not because of the content, but because I keep trying to write it and I get distracted, or I write a bunch and lose it somehow (which happened more than once), or I just don’t have the time I need to sit down and just write about it. So my apologies on the tardiness- I made this cake over a month ago and am finally posting about it! So onto the post:

Sometimes I bake things and I just know they’ll turn out tasty. I just kind of trust in myself and my baking skills- I’m comfortable enough in the kitchen to have that kind of faith in myself. Generally things don’t go badly, as long as I follow directions. And I am usually able to taste test things before I share them with others.

Sometimes I bake things and have no idea if they’ll be any good or not. But I want things to taste good- that’s the point! I like feeding people and want to make things that they will enjoy. I can get a little anxious about these unknowns- I care about baking well, so I care what people think of my baked goods.

This cake (as like many of the cakes in ACC) was one of those unknowns: I fretted and hoped for the best because I wanted to impress the people that would be eating it. I really need to get over myself and this anxiety, but sometimes I can’t help it.

The absolute best thing about making this cake is that my Person (read: best friend in the whole wide word) Olivia was in town and she helped me make it! Olivia lives on the east coast because she is in grad school, but she was home for 10 days and it was heaven.

There are three components to this coffee cake: the cake, the streusel, and the stewed fruit. We started with the stewed fruit, which is basically sugar water on the stove, with fruit mixed in. MG says to use Granny Smith for bitter and Gala for sweet (but under no circumstances should you use Red Delicious! I’m not sure why, though- MG doesn’t explain). I picked Granny Smiths because I figured the cake would be sweet enough as it is with two cups of sugar…

Stewing fruit.

I think I did the stewing wrong, or didn’t really pay attention well enough, or something. It took way longer than the 20 minutes MG says in ACC. And I think I let it get too thick- it probably should have been a bit thinner (and then there would have been more of it, too). But it worked.

While I manned the mixer and kept an eye on the stove (stirring the fruit every few minutes), Olivia threw together the streusel. It was a standard streusel: butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt and walnuts.

Olivia hid from this picture... apparently she thought I wouldn't want her in it! OF COURSE I DO, OLIVIA!

Making the cake was pretty standard too: creamed the butter and sugar, added eggs, added the dry ingredients. Then we added the yogurt. Which was a new one for me- I’ve never put yogurt in cake before. When it was done, we poured out half of the batter into the pan, covered it in the stewed fruit, then some of the streusel, then the rest of the batter. Then came the last bit- Olivia and I were both a little fuzzy on exactly what MG meant by this one: “Move the spatula through the batter in 4 or 5 spots, angling it down, then bringing it up. This will spread the blueberry and apple syrup through to the bottom of the coffee cake.” We eventually decided what we thought this meant and did it, which seemed to work in the end. We topped it with the rest of the streusel and let it bake.

Before adding the last of the batter.

MG warns you that this cake will fall… but I wasn’t really expecting it to look the way it did. When it came out of the pan it nearly fell apart. Which totally freaked me out! It wasn’t pretty and it was almost falling apart and what if it didn’t taste good?

Falling apart

I should have had faith.

Final product- it looks like it's about to fall to pieces (or at least split in half).

If there was ever a cake bake to put my best foot forward, it was this one. With some cakes I am pleased with the outcome; with this one, I was overjoyed. It was a really good cake. Perhaps a bit too sweet- it’s a good thing we used Granny Smith apples in the stewed fruit.

it looks like that layer of stewed fruit sank a bit

Olivia and I baked this to be a snack/dessert for a hike we were going on the next day with friends. It ended up being our lunch. We reheated the cake and enjoyed it while the weather cleared (it rained that morning). The hike was great- I havent really been hiking much recently. I used to all the time, when I was doing field work and studying rocks. Afterwards there was hanging out, happy hour and Dance Central (I am pretty bad at that game, but it’s really fun anyway).

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Gingerbread

I’m not a big gingerbread fan. I think it’s nice, but not particularly wonderful. That said, I think it has its place. And by that, I mean wintertime. Gingerbread is for when it’s cold outside, when there are fires in fireplaces and people are sipping mulled wine. I think of Christmas (even though I don’t celebrate it- I’m Jewish), all the spices and warmth, the sweaters- it’s sweater weather at Christmastime- and scarves.

So gingerbread doesn’t really fit in right now, in July (or June, when I made this!), when the temperatures are getting into the 90s and the sun goes down late. People don’t need jackets, even at midnight, and no one wears scarves except my friend Emma, who only wears them as fashion accessories (and takes them off pretty quickly because really, Emma, it’s too hot for that). No one needs the spicy warmth of gingerbread in summer. But it was in the chapter, so I had to make it! And this is just one of the two gingerbread recipes in ACC (and this chapter), so I will have to be making that one soon, too.

I’ve actually never had gingerbread as a cake before. When I think of gingerbread I think of man shaped cookies and am reminded of feeble attempts at being a gingerbread-house architect (I assure you, they are were not pretty). If you have a second, google “gingerbread” and you’ll see: all of the top results are cookies or houses, not cake.

I spilled a bit of molasses on my cookbook.

This was a quick and easy recipe. I made no substitutions or changes. I’m not the biggest fan of using shortening as opposed to butter, but luckily I found some lying around. I also didn’t have enough molasses, so I had to go to the store. It was only later that I found MG’s little tip on the side: “if you start to make it and realize you dont quite have enough molasses, make up the difference with honey. I was desperate one morning and tried it-pretty delicious!” Oh well. I’ll need the molasses later, anyway.

The recipes in ACC have little side bars with stories about the recipes and/or tips. My favorite thing about this recipe (and, in all honesty, this cake) was the sidebar. Apparently this recipe comes from a 1971 edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. MG shares the introduction from the Editors: “Dear Homemaker: From cover to cover, this Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book was written with you, the homemaker, in mind…. Whether you’re an experienced cook, or a newcommer to the world of cooking three meals a day, we want it to be your best friend in the kitchen.”

MG comments: “Well, bless your heart, Editors. My best friend in the kitchen is my microwave, which heats two of the three meals I eat every day. While the Editors might have missed a few episodes of Maude and probably the entire feminist movement, most of the BH&GNCB baking recipes have withstood the test of time.”

I love this cookbook! I've used it a lot. The page for cherry pie is so used it's fallen out.

MG is right- BH&GNCB recipes have withstood the test of time- I have a copy from the early 70s, and it’s one of my favorite cookbooks. My mom got it years ago and I’ve found a number of great pie recipes in it. Mine doesn’t have an introduction, and I’m not sure what year it was published so it may or may not be the same one MG has. I checked, though- the gingerbread recipe is exactly the same except my cookbook specifies light molasses and MG says that she uses dark/robust. I used molasses that was labelled neither light nor dark nor robust.

The unfortunate thing is that this snarky little tidbit was my favorite part of this recipe. I’m not going to lie- I was not impressed. Now is really not the time for gingerbread, so I couldn’t really embrace it. It did rain the morning I took this to work- a nice bit of June gloom to help us pretend it was the proper time for gingerbread, but it wasn’t really enough.

I would have preferred a square pan, but I'd left that at a friend's house.

It wasn’t bad, but since I am not a gingerbread fan, I didn’t think it was great. But it was properly spicy and was a good representation of gingerbread. And it got eaten, which was the point. Maybe I’ll try this again in six months, when it’s cold out.

A few slices left...

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4th of July!

4th of July is a great holiday- the weather is warm, people gather around and eat and have fun and drink beer. It’s fantastic. Last year, I hosted a BBQ and decided to do it again this year- I rarely invite friends over because of my living situation, but I live relatively close to a good place to view fireworks, so I figured now was the time.

Here’s what I provided this year: hamburgers, sausages, sangria and apple pie. The hamburgers were pretty much exactly the same as I did last year: ground beef with diced onions sliced in, plus garlic powder and a touch of cinnamon. I also threw in a pinch of oregano and a bit of chili powder, too. I went for sausages instead of Hebrew National hot dogs this year: some bratwurst, some spicy Italian sausage and 100% beef sausages.

I stressed a bit about the sangria. I’ve never made it before, but I really like sangria and wanted to give it a try. I searched around for recipes and settled on Bobby Flay’s recipe on the Food Network website. The only edit I made was omitting pomegranate seeds- way too much effort involved for that to be worth it. Besides that, it was really easy to make. Mix all the ingredients and let them sit for a day. I did remove the orange peels- I wanted to avoid getting the bitterness of the rind in the sangria (maybe you’ve noticed- I don’t like zests). The biggest issue was finding a big enough container for all the ingredients, and finding the right wine. It calls for red table wine, and I looked around for awhile because I wanted table wine and not some other kind of red. I even had a hilariously embarrassing moment in the store when I knocked over a bunch of bottles of wine! Luckily nothing broke (and no one saw).

Unfortunately the only brandy I had laying around was cherry brandy, so I was a little worried about the taste. I did try a sip right after I mixed everything up, and it was not pleasant. But 24 hours later, it was fantastic! Thank you Bobby Flay! My friend Katie even said that she hasn’t been able to find decent sangria in the states, but this was up to snuff. So there’s a recipe worth keeping!

I also went for the go-to Apple Pie by Grandma Ople. Fantastic as always. I latticed the top so it would look pretty. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it! But believe me, it was pretty!

My friends brought over a number of great things: chips and guacamole, shish-kebabs, veggie burgers, beer, wine, popsicles and Chris brought onions and spices to make the sausages in a special way. Katie also made a humongous, fantastic cookie- YUM.

I really failed on the picture aspect of this post… Sorry! I could have gotten some great shots of the pie, or the sangria, or the grill in action. I was too busy having fun with friends and trying to be a good host. So this is all you get:

Danien, Marco, Katie and Hal sitting around the table on my deck.

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Blueberry Muffins

I’m making a short post from my phone because I’m sitting outside with friends, enjoying the sunshine. I had a random craving for blueberry muffins the other day, so I made them and brought them to friends. Because I have the best friends EVER!

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Wacky Cake

The anniversary of my first post to this blog came and went without mention- on June 20, 2010 I posted about Amanda’s Fantasgreat Cookies. Of course, I haven’t been posting continuously since then. But now things seem to be going along with the cakes, so on to the next:

This cake is called Mary Carole Battle’s Mother’s Wacky Cake with Seven-Minute Frosting. I made it for my brother right before he left for China (again). He wanted chocolate cake, and there are two chocolate options in the first chapter of the cookbook. He picked Wacky Cake when I read the title to him. Because who wouldn’t be interested in a cake with a name like that? Normally I make the cake name the title for these posts, but this one is just too long.

This is definitely a weird recipe. Weird thing no. 1: After mixing all the dry ingredients together you have to make three wells for the three wet ingredients. I’ve made wells in dry ingredients before, but only one (that you then put all the wet ingredients into). Three was a little weird. And also a little difficult to make the wells large enough for the ingredients.

Ingredients- I made sure to use the right kind of chocolate.

Weird thing no. 2: One of the wet ingredients is white vinegar. What?? Why would anyone want to put vinegar in a cake? There is also baking soda in the cake. I was definitely waiting for some bubble action. I had flashbacks of elementary school science and art class- making volcanoes with clay and causing baking-soda-and-vinegar eruptions. The actual result was a little disappointing.

Three wells for three ingredients- that fizz is so not good enough. I really wanted to play with the baking soda and vinegar, but I had time constraints.

Weird thing no. 3: The frosting. When I think of frosting, I think of something like buttercream frosting, which is basically butter, powdered sugar and milk. This is basically meringue! And seven minutes doesn’t sound that long, but when your family is sitting down to dinner, and everyone is waiting on you, and you have a double boiler on the stove with a hand-mixer going and the eggy mixture just wont get thick enough, it feels like a long time.

Weird. This was not something I ever thought I would do with a double boiler or a hand mixer. Also, my double boiler was almost not big enough for this!

Weird meringue cake

It wasn’t my favorite chocolate cake- I like chocolate, so I’m extra picky about chocolate cake. But this one was moist (my dad didn’t even comment that it was dry!), and you couldn’t taste any vinegar (but I’m pretty sure that gave it a nice, discreet tang. The frosting was weird, but not bad. It was not a combination I would have ever thought of, and I don’t know if I’d do it again.

Pretty little slice of cake.

So this cake has a weird name, weird directions, weird ingredients and weird meringue-frosting. I wasn’t really sure what to think, but it actually turned out pretty well! My sister really liked it, and it’s dairy free so no problems for her! And more importantly, Ben liked it, so I was able to send him off in style.

Ben and my adopted sister Amanda (my non-adopted sister's name is Amanda too- yes, it's weird, but they're both awesome so they can share the name). Both of you, come home! I miss you!

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