Thursday, October 30, 2008

My New House

Here are some real pics of my house using my new camera. I finally found my card reader so I could post these.

These are of the house empty. Let's start at the entry again. Here are the stairs up to the bedrooms and office.

To the left, the living room with the daybed I inherited because they couldn't get it out.
And through the living room to the dining room/kitchen.

And over to the sunroom
Now let's head up. Here's the guest bath.
And the guest bedroom
My office. Which by the way isn't in the hvac so we'll see how much use it really gets besides as a place to store stuff.
My master bath
The hall between the bath and my bedroom with the monstrous closets.

And my bedroom

And this was after my stuff was delivered. I had an unpacking service so I had them take care of some items, though not everything. The unpacking is really nice because they take away the boxes and paper. If they hadn't I would have filled our dumpster many times over.

This is my pathetic wardrobe. I had them unpack my clothes and this is what it filled. This is just the walk in closet. There is another side of the closet on the right as well that I couldnt' get in the picture. There is a 2nd closet as well.
Fortunately I had my suitcase of clothes that I had brought down with me that when I spread it out and put all my coats and hung up all my jackets, sweatshirts, fleeces, etc and moved everything from my dressers to my closet made it look like I could almost make good use of it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

DB: Pizza.... I'm Back!!!!!!

This month's Daring Baker's challenge was chosen by Rosa. She's got some cool pics and recipes on her blog though it's not all in English. This is problematic. It looks like maybe French? I don't know french! And everyone knows the world revolves around me!

Well at least she chose an interesting recipe. I once had a bad attempt at Deep Dish Pizza before. It came out dry and grainy and all sorts of bleh. That was the only attempt at pizza dough that I had made before so I was not overly optimistic.

The dough came together quite easily. I did it all in my stand mixer so it was even easier. I must have not worked in enough flour in the kneading process because there was no tossing action to be seen. I picked up the dough balls and they pretty much started stretching instantly. They stretched out so quick I just rushed to get something under it so I didn't just drop it.

The first 2 I tried the cornmeal, skooch off a baking pan idea. That failed miserably. I guess I didn't cornmeal evenly enough and it stuck to the pan. I ended up using a spatula to push it off onto my griddle pan that was hot in the oven and it made a mess.

Well I baked it anyway. It didn't come out too bad, considering... the part that I pushed off that flipped over ended up burning before the rest of the pizza was done. It tasted OK after I cut the burnt part off. The crust came out nice and crispy.

Look at that crisp crust... fresh out of the oven and me burning myself only a little

The next one I tried was a dessert pizza. I put some frozen mixed berries, chocolate and walnuts. This time I put the pan that I assembled it on into the oven. This didn't get the nice crisp crust I guess because the pan had to warm up. I also didn't chop up the chocolate small enough I guess and it didn't melt very well. While it tasted OK, the crust was lacking and it was rather mediocre.

After that I made the last 4 so I would have food for a couple days. I did a BBQ chicken with onions and gouda, 2 with the meatsauce that I had from last week and mozzerella and an another attempt at a dessert pizza. They came out decent when they were fresh but once I stuck them in the fridge and had them for lunch they were edible but not really good. Sigh.

Here are pics of round 2:
The BBQ Chicken pizza with gouda cheese and onion:
Pizza with meat sauce and italian blend of cheeses:
Pizza with meat sauce and fresh mozzerella:

And dessert.... cream cheese base with strawberries and walnuts on top.
I was starving by the time they got in the oven so there are no pics of them cooked.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) vegetable oil
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


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/10°-13° C.

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.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee 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 tablespooons 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/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm 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/260° C).

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/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g 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.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 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.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

DB/BB/New House and deflowering my new kitchen!

I have now closed on my house! It was a bit painful. The money transfer took all day Tuesday and then the movers showed up almost 4 hours late. But now everything is here. And a lot is unpacked.... not all... but a lot. I have pics but I can't currently find my SD Card reader.

Now I have a real kitchen! For the last week or so I've been thinking about my first real meal I was going to make in my new kitchen. I decided on Spaghetti Bolognese with freshly made spaghetti and freshly ground meat using my stand mixer and attachments that have sadly been sitting in a box for over 2 months now. They have been crying to get out of the box and make something. Maybe that's why I haven't been sleeping well. I also made fresh baked bread, based of the No Knead Bread recipe that has been all the rage for a while with some garlic butter. I threw in a salad to call it a balanced meal and attempted to make Creme Brulee for dessert.

The first time doing something doesn't always work out the way you hope it would. It can be awkward because you don't know exactly how everything should happen. I had very ambitious hopes for how it would be. Which can lead to disappoint. Well let me tell you, it was everything I hoped it would be. Although it wasn't perfect, we'll get there eventually, it was a very good and satisfying experience.

So the first thing I started was the No Knead Bread. I pretty much used this recipe, the original. Here is my version. I made the dough Friday night so that I could have it with my bread on Saturday. It came out wonderfully. It had a wonderful crisp chewy crust. I threw a head of garlic in the oven while the pan was heating and made garlic butter to spread on the bread. mmmmmmmmmm tasty

No Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cup water

Mix everything together in a bowl and let it rise on the counter for at least 12 hours. The dough is very wet.
Flour your countertop and hands generously and dump the dough on the counter. Work the dough into a ball. Flour a bowl generously and throw in the dough.
Allow to rise about 2 hours.
Heat up a cast iron dutch oven in the oven at 450 for at least a half an hour.
Dump the dough into the dutch oven, cover and bake for 30 mins.
Take the lid off and bake for an additional 15 mins until the bread is golden brown and crusty.

Next item was the sauce. I ground 2 lbs of chuck with my stand mixer. I learned that the piece I used last time for making the really thick spaghetti is actually for the meat grinder. Oops. It was still good. Well I learned something. I went a little heavy with the red pepper flake but it was good. It makes a lot of sauce. I froze 2 quarts of it and still had enough for a half a lb of pasta. The round quart containers like the ones from chinese takeout places fit perfectly in the door of my freezer. Woohoo I'm filling my fridge.

Bolognese Sauce

2 lbs ground chuck
8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 jar tomato sauce
mozzerella cheese
parmesan cheese
sprinkles of red pepper flake, basil, oregano, parsley, garlic powder to taste

Brown the beef in a large skillet on medium high. Remove the meat and set aside.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and brown for a minute then add the onion. Cook until translucent.
Add back the meat and the tomato sauce, bring to a simmer and lower heat to medium low.
Taste and season as desired.
Add cheese.
Simmer until the pasta is ready.

The next item was the pasta. I learned something there too... the first time I made the dough I made it too wet and the noodles all stuck together. This time I made it too dry and it doesn't extrude. It's like trying to extrude plastic with the heats too low or off. I had to rip the whole thing apart, get the dough out, incorporate more water and re-extrude. But I got it. I made half of it and froze the other half.

Fresh Pasta

2 1/4 cup flour
1 large egg

Mix flour and egg in your stand mixer.
Add water slowly just until the dough holds together if squeezed.
Rest dough for 15 mins to let the water saturate the flour.
Extrude through your pasta maker. Re-extrude as necessary.
Add to boiling salted water until it floats.
Add to hot sauce immediately to get the sauce to integrate into the pasta.

And for dessert.... creme brule. I used something like Dorie Greenspan's recipe that people did for Tuesdays with Dorie. Of course I had my modifications. I did it in a water bath rather than low oven temp. I still tried to caramelize the sugar on top in the toaster oven, like before I moved in because I don't have a torch. It didn't work so well. I have a couple more ramekins of the custard that I will try again. I only had a couple small ramekins with me and not enough room in the fridge for the ingredients and whatnot until I got in the house.

Creme Brulee

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
sugar on top to coat

Preheat oven to 350.
Heat milk and cream in a pan to a simmer.
Mix egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl.
Stream into egg yolks while whisking to temper the eggs.
Stir in vanilla.
Pour through strainer into 4 1 cup ramekins.
Place a pan to be used as a water bath in the oven.
Place ramekins in pan and pour boiling water to create water bath.
Bake for 1 hour or until custard is firm.
Chill for at least 4 hours.
Just before eating, sprinkle sugar on top just to coat.
Use a torch or broiler to caramelize the sugar on top.
Allow to cool a couple minutes so crust forms.
Eat immediately.

Next I will try to catch up on the Daring Bakers and Barefoot Bloggers challenges I've missed for a while now. I will make as many as possible but some of them probably aren't going to happen. I have my doubts I'm going to find good enough tomatoes to make a panzanella salad. Hopefully most of the others will happen over the next couple months.

Maybe I'll get the rest of stuff put away at some point too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


So I signed all the papers for my house yesterday. We couldn't do the money transfers because it was a stupid holiday. So the money part was left for today. I was told it should be a quick process, that what was left should be a piece of cake. I thought I'd be in the house by 10 this morning.

The bank opened at 9 this morning so I got there a couple minutes before 9. There was a whole line of people waiting for them to open. I thought that was kind of strange but whatever. For some reason it took a while for them to do it so it was about 9:30 when I had the check in my hand.

I have never had a check that large in my possession before. The most I've had before was about $3000 and that already made me uncomfortable. And this was 20% down + fees. So this was a monstrous check sitting in my passenger seat. It was a long 10 minute drive to the lawyer's office.

I get to the lawyer's office and she is not there. Some other lady comes out and asks what I'm doing there. I explain to her what is going on and she comes over, takes the check, tells me it'll be about noon or so before they do anything and ushers me out the door. This was a little disheartening. I had just handed the largest check I have ever seen to a lady I'd never seen before and whose name I didn't even know. The only consolation I had was the check was made out so that it would be my down payment.

So the second I am out the door I call my realtor so she can explain what the hell just happened and if I should storm back in there to get my check. She didn't answer. I just paced around the parking lot about to have a heart attack. Eventually my realtor called back and said it was OK and I just had to wait and that noon isn't that bad.

So I went to Panera and waited. And waited. And waited. And ate a chocolate chip bagel, toasted with butter and a lemonade. And waited. Noon rolls around. And I'm wondering what's going on and if I should call anyone or who I should even call. My realtor calls me at about 12:10 asking if I'd heard anything. Apparently she hadn't heard anything either and was hoping that I had. She had called the lawyer and couldn't reach her. The lawyer's office apparently is out 12-1 every day for lunch. So I continued to wait. Needless to say, I am not thrilled with this lawyer. I suspect the staff at Panera were suspicious because I was there being all fidgety and nervous. And I was there for so long. Just playing with my computer, nursing a lemonade, checking my phone every couple minutes with a car parked right in front loaded up with who knows what. I'm shady like that.

And apparently there was someone else at Panera with my name. It was strange because I was sitting there playing with my computer when I hear my name on their speaker system. I looked up like wait, what did I order when I realized maybe it's someone else. No one ever has my name.

At about 1:30 my realtor called. I was hopeful that everything was now done and I could finally get into the house. Not so much. They were still waiting on the wire transfer. Something about getting backed up because of the holiday. Like I care. I wanted to get into the house so I could get my stuff in and clean the place down. I thought I'd have that done by 1 or so. Instead I wasted my day at Panera.

It looks like I am going to have a long night ahead of me. After I get things done at the house I have to go back up, pack up the rest of my stuff, get it in the car and be out the door by 7AM tomorrow to get down here in time to meet the movers. Assuming the wire transfer gets done and I do get in this afternoon.

I hate this. Today was supposed to be an easy happy day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Brownies and my new camera

I decided I needed a digital camera. I got a Sony Powershot SD1100 IS. Consumer Reports likes it. Hopefully I will too. It's my first one. I know, I'm so far behind the times. According to the Wall Street Journal I should be on my 3rd or 4th. I almost need to get 2 more right now so I can catch up with the rest of the world.

I needed to test out my new camera. I've had it for 3 days now and had taken 1 pic. This clearly was not good enough. So I made these brownies. I'm a fan of the Ghirardhelli brownie mix but I didn't have any and I have a bit of chocolate so I went in search of a recipe. I ended up basing it on Dorie Greenspan's Quintuple Chocolate Brownies. Very loosely basing off of it. I had 10 oz of milk chocolate so that's what I used for most of it.

Here is the best pic I got with my new camera. Still doesn't look good like some food bloggers' but oh well. I still need to figure out how to use it. The first few pics came out orange because it kept using the flash until I turned the flash off. I need something else to take pics of but for now this will do.

based loosely off Dorie Greenspan's Quintuple Brownies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
5 oz milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
5 ounces pmilk chocolate, chopped into small chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts (or whatever you have)

Preheat oven. In my case I was melting the butter and chocolate in the toaster oven because I don't have a microwave safe bowl so that was my version of preheating.
Line a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.
Melt butter and 5 oz milk chocolate and semisweet together in a bowl. Once mostly melted, let it sit and the rest should melt when you give it a stir. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.
Add the sugar.
Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. It will seize up a bit until near the end. That's OK.
Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, just until it's not very dry.
Mix in milk chocolate and walnuts.
Pour into lined pan and spread to even out batter.
Bake at 300 in a convection oven for 35 minutes.
Allow to cool before cutting.
Cut into however many chunks as you want.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

"Friends let you to not sit in a room by yourself."

Maybe not of the day. Maybe of the week. Maybe something else.

First person who can tell me what the quote is from wins a prize.

Post a comment with where you think it is from.

I tweaked the quote so you can't google it to find the answer.

Yes, I am that insane.

No, I don't know what the prize is but I'll figure something out.

Yes, I am having a conversation with myself.