Pizza with Pears, Goat Cheese & Port-Thyme Caramelized Onions

Pizza with Pears, Goat Cheese & Port-Thyme Caramelized Onions

I love pizza.

I love goat cheese.

I love caramelized onions.

I love cooking with wine.

I somehow managed to combine all of that into one recipe.

And I couldn’t help but sing THIS SONG while making it.

Pizza with Pears, Goat Cheese & Port-Thyme Caramelized Onions

Pizza with Pears, Goat Cheese & Port-Thyme Caramelized Onions

I set aside some pizza dough that I made for dinner to try this with, so the amounts in this recipe are for a small pizza made with 8 oz. of pizza dough, enough for two people (or one, if you’re me).

1 tablespoon olive oil (I used a nonstick pan, you may need more oil for a regular pan)

1 large onion, sliced

Kosher salt & Freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup port wine (probably any red wine would be fine)

1/8 teaspoon dried thyme (or more, to taste)

1/2 pound pizza dough, homemade or store-bought (I love THIS recipe)

Sliced pear (I used small Forelle pears, so I needed 3 of them. If using larger pears you’d probably just need one.)

1 1/2 ounces goat cheese

Cornmeal, for sprinkling

1) Preheat oven to 500°F. If you have a pizza stone, make sure it is in the oven before you turn it on. If you do not have one, you can just bake the pizza on a baking sheet.

2) Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add onion and a large pinch of kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deep golden. Add port, and cook until liquid is just about evaporated. Remove from heat and add thyme and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

3) Since I don’t have a pizza peel, I’ve found that the best way to transfer my pizza onto the pizza stone is to prepare it on a piece of parchment on the back of a baking sheet, and then slide the pizza onto the stone along with the parchment. I then slide the parchment out from underneath the pizza after a few minutes of baking since parchment burns at 500°.

Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper, a pizza peel, or a baking sheet with cornmeal. Roll the pizza dough it very thin (or thick, if that’s your preference), and place on the prepared parchment/peel/baking sheet. Top with the caramelized onions, pears, and goat cheese.

4) Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the crust starts to brown, about 10 minutes. If you use the parchment paper, remember to remove it from underneath the pizza after the first 4-5 minutes!

Soft Pretzel Twists

I wasn’t originally planning on blogging about these. I made them the other night to have alongside soup for dinner, and when I pulled them out of the oven I snapped a quick picture (am I the only one who compulsively takes insane amounts of pictures of food??). When I posted the picture on my personal Facebook page, I got several requests for the recipe, so I figured I may as well write a quick post about them!

It took me just a few minutes to make the dough in the late afternoon, and then I boiled and baked them just before we ate so they’d be nice and hot when I served them. I definitely see myself making these often — they were soft and chewy, the kids loved them, and they were so much better than the frozen ones I used to buy years ago!

Soft Pretzel Twists

3/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus up to an additional 1/2 cup for kneading)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1) Combine water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2) Add the flour, salt and melted margarine and knead, using the dough hook, for 5 minutes. Add more flour if necessary, a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

3) Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour.

4) Preheat oven to 450°F.

5) Once the dough has risen, separate it into 4 to 8 sections (4 for larger pretzels, 8 for smaller pretzels). Using your hands, floured if necessary, roll each section into a 24-inch (for large pretzels) or 12-inch (for smaller pretzels) strand, and shape into a pretzel knot. Transfer each pretzel to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment and sprayed with cooking spray.

6) Bring the water and baking soda to a boil, and drop in the pretzels, one at a time, boiling for around 30 seconds each. Remove with a slotted spatula and transfer to a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the sea salt.

7) Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Makes 4 large or 8 small pretzels

Note: Don’t do what I did and bake the pretzels on parchment paper. Even though it was sprayed with cooking spray, the pretzels still stuck to the parchment. Bake them directly on a sprayed baking sheet.

* Adapted from Peas and Thank You, by Sarah Matheny

Sweet Challah

This is THE BEST challah recipe! I’ve made it many times, and it always comes out perfectly. The bread is really soft.  It is sweet, but not too sweet. And the honey adds a wonderful fragrance to the loaves.
It also multiplies beautifully if you need more than one challah.
One thing though – don’t attempt to make it without the saffron. I did that once and the challah was really bland. I know that saffron is expensive, but just a little bit goes a really long way, and it is worth the splurge.
Let me also add that your house will smell fantastic for hours after they are baked!!

Sweet Challah
Cooking Light, November 2005
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 tablespoons honey

Dash of saffron threads, crushed

3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon salt

1 large egg
3 cups bread flour (about 14 1/4 ounces), divided

Cooking spray
1 teaspoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon water

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup warm water in a large bowl; stir in honey and saffron threads. Let stand for 5 minutes. Add melted butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and egg; stir well with a whisk.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture, and stir until a soft dough forms. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down. Shape dough into a ball; return to bowl. Cover and let rise an additional 40 minutes or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 15 minutes.

Divide dough into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 25-inch rope with slightly tapered ends. Place ropes lengthwise on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal; pinch ends together at untapered ends to seal. Braid ropes; pinch loose ends to seal. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine 1 teaspoon water and large egg yolk, stirring with a fork until blended. Uncover loaf, and gently brush with egg yolk mixture. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

1 loaf, 12 servings per loaf

157 Calories, 4.1g Fat, 5g Protein, 26.9g Carbohydrate, 1.7mg Iron, 202mg Sodium, 7mg, Calcium

No-Knead Crusty White Bread

I have a love/hate relationship with homemade bread . There is nothing quite like homemade bread –  the smell as it bakes, the fresh taste of a just-baked loaf. But I hate, hate , hate kneading dough. I just really hate the mess that it makes in the kitchen (and on me), and I have no patience for the time that it takes. So when I saw this recipe for no-knead bread I knew that I had to try it. And I’m really glad that I did! It was so easy, and the results were fantastic! Everybody who tasted it raved about how good it was. I will definitely be making this often!
I did make a couple small changes: I did not have instant yeast, so I used an equal amount of active dry yeast that I dissolved in the water for 5 minutes before adding the flour and salt. Also, when I mixed everything together, the dough was a bit dry (I don’t know if it was because of the weather or because I used a different brand of flour) so I added an extra 1/4 cup or so of warm water to make a wet dough.
I let mine rise for 5 days.

No-Knead Crusty White Bread
The most basic of all no-knead loaves, this is a wonderful way to get into yeast-bread baking. The easy stir-together dough rests in your refrigerator, developing flavor all the time, till you’re ready to bake. About 90 minutes before you want to serve bread, grab a handful of dough, shape it, let it rise, then bake for 30 minutes. The result? Incredible, crusty artisan-style bread. If you’re a first-time bread baker, you’ll never believe this bread came out of your own oven. If you’re a seasoned yeastie, you’ll love this recipe’s simplicity.
Our thanks to Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, whose wonderful book, Artisan bread in Five Minutes a Day, is the inspiration for this recipe.
3 cups lukewarm water
2 pounds King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (6 1/2 – 7 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
* If you measure flour by sprinkling it into your measuring cup, then gently sweeping off the excess, use 7 1/2 cups. If you measure flour by dipping your cup into the canister, then sweeping off the excess, use 6 1/2 cups. Most accurate of all, and guaranteed to give you the best results, if you measure the flour by weight, use 32 ounces (2 pounds).
Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl or a large (6-quart) food-safe plastic container. For first-timers, “lukewarm” means about 105F, but don’t worry about getting the temperatures exact here. Comfortably warm is fine; “OUCH, that’s hot!” is not. Yeast is a living thing; treat it nicely.
Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with a beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir-stir-stir with a big spoon or dough whisk until everything is combined. Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic container, you’re all set – just let it stay there, covering the container with a lid or plastic wrap; a shower cap actually works well here. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. There’s no need to grease the bowl, though you can if you like; it makes it a bit easier to get the dough out when it’s time to bake bread.
Cover the bowl or container, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it will get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s okay; that’s what it’s supposed to do.

When  you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough – a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball or a large grapefruit.

Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball or a longer log. Don’t fuss around trying to make it perfect; just do the best you can.

Place the dough on a piece of parchment parchment paper (if you’re going to use a baking stone), or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the dough moist as it rests before baking.

Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes. It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven (and baking stone, if you’re using one) to 450F while the dough rests. Place a shallow pan on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.

When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2-inch deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s okay. It’ll pick right up in the hot oven.

Place the bread in the oven, and carefully pour the cup of hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.

Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

3 to 4 loaves.

My New Favorite Pizza Dough

I decided to try a new pizza dough for dinner last night and we all loved it! The crust was chewy with lots of flavor. This is going to be my regular pizza dough from now on!

(*Note: I did use the semolina flour, but if you can’t find it, substitute more all-purpose flour. It also doubles beautifully.)

Semolina Pizza Dough
Vegan Italiano, Donna Klein

2 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105F to 115F)
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semolina flour
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional as necessary

Grease a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of the oil and set aside. In another large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining oil and salt. With a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the semolina flour and enough of the all-purpose flour to make a firm, soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, adding additional all-purpose flour as needed to prevent sticking. Gather the dough into a ball and place in prepared bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead briefly to release any air pockets. Shape the dough into a ball. The dough is ready to be shaped and rolled as needed.

(Bake at 500F.)

Makes 1 (14-inch) pizza crust