Thursday, December 27, 2012

An Italian Evening (5 Recipes!)

Today was my first whole day off in longer than I can remember. No plans at all. And of course there's no way I could sit around and do nothing. I thought it would be best to put these all in one post. They are all linked to on their original sites in each recipe section. If you time it right you can do the last 3 all at once. Otherwise at least the pizza and the garlic knots. They cook at the same temperature.

These are the things I made today:

Pizza Dough
Garlic Knots
Tomato Soup


I got a make your own Mozza kit for Christmas (only my boyfriend would think of that) so I decided that would be my first task of the day. The kit makes over 8 pounds of cheese but we figured One would be enough for today. I came out with three fairly good sized balls. I never knew it was so ridiculously easy to make your own cheese.

Rennet + Water
Citric Acid + 4L Milk
Boil, Mix, Let sit, Stir, Strain and heat.
You can braid it, make larger balls, bocconcini, or whatever your heart desires.
Sits in a water bath for 3 hours, tightly wrap and it will keep for 10 days or so or freeze.

You can get your own kit here:


Sean and I decided that after making our own mozza we should probably have pizza.

I wanted to do a thin crust but I decided on a dough recipe I already knew. This is an easy and quick recipe from Stefano Faita on CBC.

Pizza dough
2 3/4 to 3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp. salt
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
In a large bowl, combine 2 3/4 cups flour and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, add warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir to combine. Let sit until yeast starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.
Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir or work with your hands until dough starts to form into a ball. Transfer to work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 7 to 8 minutes, adding more flour if dough is sticky.
Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and cover. Store in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Punch down dough. Cut in 1/2. Roll each piece into a 10-inch round.

I rolled out one half into about a 12" pizza, so it was a bit thinner. I preheated my oven and cast iron griddle to 400ºF so the crust would get a bit of a head start on cooking as soon as I put it on the hot pan. I also poked holes in the dough with a fork so it crisps a bit more on the bottom.


We decided on a basic pizza:

Homemade Mozza
Basic Pizza Sauce (I cooked alot today, just used Eden's Organic Sauce from a tin)
Olive Oil

After crisping up the crust for 5-10 minutes in the oven, put your choice of sauce on and the cheese. Place back in the oven for 7-10 minutes until it gets a bit melty.

Take it out and sprinkle on the Spinach and Basil. Put on as much meat as desired and pour a bit of olive oil across pizza.

Put back in the oven for 2 minutes to heat through.


With the other half of the dough I decided to make "Not your Average Garlic Knots" which made Rachael Ray's top 10 downloaded recipes of 2012. I didn't make this exactly how it goes just because it was kind of a spur of the moment decision. I also only made half.

The only ingredients I left out were the rosemary and provolone. I have no doubt it would have been 10 times better with those. But they were still great. This was a recipe that was to be made in a bundt pan, which many of us have but not many of us use. I actually don't have one so I just oiled up a little baking dish.

Since the oven is the same temperature as the pizza you can definitely make both at the same time.

Here is the original recipe:

Nonstick cooking spray
4 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound store-bought pizza dough, cut into 1-inch balls
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
Coarse ground sea salt
Black pepper
1 cup shredded provolone
1 cup grated Parmesan

Tomato sauce, homemade or store-bought, for dipping
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Prepare a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a small saucepot, melt butter with garlic. Pour into a large mixing bowl and toss together with pizza dough balls, rosemary, sea salt and black pepper. Place half of the dough balls into the bundt pan, top with half of the cheeses. Top with remaining dough and finish with remaining cheese. Bake 30 minutes. 


For the final recipe I decided on a tomato soup to start off with. Since I wasn't originally planning on the garlic knots. This was another recipe from Rachael Ray's TV show. I didn't do the egg noodles although they definitely interest me for a future recipe. I used everything except the bay leaf because we couldn't find any. I also never have whole milk in my house and used 1%.


2 tablespoons EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
1 large fresh bay leaf
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart chicken stock
1 28- to 32-ounce can hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes
A few leaves basil, torn
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk

For the soup, heat oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a large soup pot over medium to medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, carrot, salt, pepper, thyme, bay and cook partially covered to soften 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste and stir 2 minutes; add stock, tomatoes and basil. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes, remove and discard bay leaf.

Purée soup in a blender and return to pot. (I used an immersion blender and never had to pour it out and back into the pot)
To make the béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepot over medium heat, whisk in flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk, season with salt and pepper, and let thicken to coat a spoon. Stir béchamel into soup to combine.

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake

When I first made peppermint bark this year and found this recipe in the suggested section there was no way I couldn't make it. I love cheesecake. Its seriously my favourite dessert.

We got invited to a Christmas party/potluck. As my boyfriend takes it upon himself to brag about my baking I got sucked into bringing two things. My Jalapeno Cheese Buns as well as this. They were both well received and needless to say none came home with me. I did make sure I was first in line for one of each so I at least got to enjoy it myself. This cheesecake does take some time compared to some others I've made but it was worth it for sure.

I attempted this again in mini size and I didn't even think to adjust the cooking time - down to 35/40 minutes is recommended. It'll make 12 of the mini size. When I made it the second time I added a touch less peppermint extract. That was just my personal preference.

With all that said, here's the recipe and photo!

*If you need some extra clarification, there's some great photos at many of the steps on the original site.

White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake
(Adapted slightly from Baked By Rachel)

Crust Ingredients:

2C chocolate cookie crumbs (or 22 regular oreos with filling – not double stuffed)
3 tbsp butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:

3 – 8oz containers or blocks cream cheese, softened
1C sugar
4oz white chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp peppermint extract
3 eggs
1/2 batch peppermint bark, made thin or roughly 1 1/2C chunks

Mousse Ingredients:

1/2C cool whip, softened
4oz cream cheese, softened
2 oz white chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla


2 oz Cream Cheese
1 Cup Cool Whip
1 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Vanilla
Peppermint snow
Grated chocolate


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 10″ spring-form pan with two sheets of tin foil. In a food processor, blend cookies until only fine crumbs remain. Add melted butter. Give a quick blend. Transfer crumb mixture to spring-form pan. Shake to disperse crumbs. Using a flat bottom cup, press down to create an even crust. Bake crust for 10 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce temperature to 325 degrees.

Cut up peppermint bark into small pieces. Set aside.

Begin melting 4oz white chocolate. Using the microwave, in a heat safe bowl microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power until fully melted. Stir well after each interval.

In stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar. Mix well. Scrape bowl well prior to each new addition and as needed. Add melted chocolate, flour, whipping cream, salt and peppermint extract. Mix well. On medium/low speed, add one egg at a time. Mix until smooth and blended well.

Add peppermint bark pieces, stir by hand.

Transfer spring-form pan and cooked crust into a larger pan, such as a large roasting pan.

Pour filling into crust. Add enough hot water to reach half way up the sides of your spring-form pan. Carefully place in center of oven. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour. Turn off the oven. Keeping the door shut, leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additional 45 minutes. Remove and allow to sit for at least 1 hour before chilling.

Chill 4 hours or overnight before adding the mousse.

In a medium bowl beat softened cream cheese, melted white chocolate, cool whip, sugar and vanilla until smooth and slightly thickened.

Carefully remove side of spring-form pan. Spread mousse mixture evenly over cheesecake. Chill for 4 hours or overnight before serving.

I also made a little topping dollop for each slice to help with division. To do this, Mix the first 4 ingredients (2 oz Cream Cheese, 1 Cup Cool Whip, 1 tsp Vanilla and 1 Tbsp Vanilla) quickly with a hand mixer or stand mixer until well combined. Mixture should still be fairly close to the consistency of cream cheese. I then piped this around the outside of the cake in even dollops. See photo.

Serve slices with chocolate shavings, crushed peppermint candies and whipped cream.
Store covered in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Pecan Caramel Candy Bars

The last of the three recipes we chose for our crazy baking day! This one has the longest name and was probably my favourite. It was a little more intense than the others to make but it will definitely be on my Christmas Baking list for next year.

To make it a bit easier to get out of the pan, we actually used Crisco to grease the foil. There was no way anything was sticking to that! The only other thing I would say with this recipe is that it would probably be easier to make it twice instead of doubling it.

Here`s the recipe and flashcard picture!

1 1/2 Cups AP Flour
1/2 Cup Firmly Packed Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter


6 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Brown Sugar - Firmly packed
3 Tbsp Honey
3 Tbsp Heavy Cream
2 Tbsp Maple Syrup
1 1/2 Cups Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (We chose Pecans)
1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF, Line a 9x13" baking pan with foil and grease foil (we used crisco for greasing).

To make crust, combine flour, sugar, butter and mix until crumbly. You can do this in a food processor a mixer or even by hand. Pat into the bottom of the pan (on foil). Bake for 12 minutes or until set. Remove and cool the pan on a rack.

To make topping, in a sauce pan, heat butter until it melts and bubbles. Add brown sugar, honey, cream and syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat while stirring constantly. Let boil without stirring for 1 minute. Pour over the hot/warm crust and sprinkle with nuts. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until caramel layer is bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let melt, then swirl with a spatula. Let cool and peel off foil. Makes about 3dz 1 - 2 inch squares.

Ours turned out a bit thicker than the picture but they were a great consistency through out.

Swirled Peanut Butter Bars

I'll be honest, I don't like peanut butter. I mean in a classic PB&J or spiced up for a Thai sauce, I'm in. But standard peanut butter things, I'm not overly into. But this was another one of the recipes we picked for our Pre Christmas baking spree.

We doubled this one for two 9x13" pans. They turned out really good, maybe a little rich tasting for me - but every peanut butter fan I know liked them. These probably won't make my Christmas baking list, but don't let that stop you. Because if it sounds up your alley - it probably is and it turned out great and was easy.

Here's the recipe and flashcard picture!

1/2 Cup Room Temperature Butter
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar Firmly Packed
1 Egg
1/3 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1 Cup AP Flour
1 Cup Quick Cooking Oats
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Tsp salt


1 Cup Icing Sugar
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
3-4 Tbsp Heavy Cream (We used about 10 tbsp for a double recipe)
2 Cups Chocolate Chips

Preheat Oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease a 9x13" baking pan. Cream together butter and sugars until light. Add egg and peanut butter and mix until blended. In another bowl mix together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until blended. Pat into prepared pan.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly browned.


Stir together sugar, peanut butter and enough heavy cream to form a runny mixture (Ours never really got "runny" but it got thinner).

Remove baked bars from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips, let melt for a couple minutes. Drizzle or spoon peanut butter mixture over the chocolate and swirl with a spoon or butter knife. Let cook on a rack. Makes about 4dz 1 - 2 inch squares.

Here's the flashcard picture - ours looked almost identical.

Frosty Snowmen

My friend and I decided to band together and bake our faces off for a whole day, pre Christmas. She had this really awesome flashcard deck of Cookies, Bars and the like so we picked out 3 recipes to take down in our day.

This is the only one we didn't double to share, they turned out great.I had to add ALOT more liquid to the glaze to make it glaze like. But that was all. Really could have been because of our wonderful dry weather here in Calgary. We also had a bit of trouble with the dough tearing while we were rolling it out. Overall though, I will be adding these to my Christmas list of baking for years to come.

I found a similar sized snowman cutter and used peppermint snow for the buttons, as we found out that the nutty club went out of business and no longer sells those cute little silver button balls anymore! I did find a few at my out of town IGA, I may have bought more than I'll use. Ever. (But they're Mine) You could also use any other shapes holiday themed or not!

Here's the recipe and the picture on the back of the flashcard:

1 Cup Icing Sugar
1 Cup Unsalted Butter
1 Egg Yolk
2 Tsp Grated lemon zest (I'd use organic, since you're zesting)
2 1/4 Cups AP Flour
1/4 Tsp Salt

2 Cups Icing Sugar
2 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Chambord (or other raspberry liquor)

In a bowl cream together sugar, butter, egg yolk and lemon zest until light in colour and smooth. Add flour and salt and mix to form a dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 375ºF. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough about 1/16 of an inch thick. Using a 2.5 inch snowman cookie cutter, cut out cookies. Place on greased baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. (Mine took 9 minutes in a regular, non convection oven.) Transfer to racks to cool. *We got 80 cookies with a 3.5 inch cookie cutter.

To make glaze, in a bowl whisk together sugar, lemon juice and chambord to make a thin, transparent coating. Spread on cookies.

*I probably used about another 3 Tbsp of liquid, half lemon juice and half chambord. This made way more glaze than we needed (but that's ok) and it did come out a light peachy pink colour. I used an offset spatula to spread it, worked great.