Sunday, April 3, 2011

Are we there yet?

Every summer as a kid, our parents would take us to a little cottage buried deep in the woods. The ride to this cottage was only four hours into Michigan, but with all the excitement and anticipation seemed like forever away. They would pack the car to the gills the night before so we were all ready when the time came to leave. Going to bed not knowing when they were going to wake you up to leave was the kick off to the ride. Once we were finally in the car and on our way, it would start...Are we there yet?

I think every kid, on their way in a car, bus, train, plane, whatever, has asked, are we there yet? I think that is something that kids just are born knowing. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? NNNOOO!!!! Come on, we've all experienced it as a kid and may now be having the pleasure of being the adult and yelling no after wanting to either pull your own hair out or kill someone, but my dad had a different answer. What could it be other than no you ask? Just over that next hill. Yep. That was it. Just over that next hill.

My dad would say that and we would look ahead searching for any slight rise in the road. That must be the hill! We would make it past and no exit off of the highway. Are we there yet? You see that hill way up there? Yeah. Well, just over that next hill. This would go on for hours. My dad would do this over and over and has finally told us that his dad used to do that to them when they were on their way to vacation.

Lou? Is that you?
So you may be asking yourself right now, how does this have anything to do with a food blog? Well, here's how. We love pizza, more specifically we love Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza. If you have never had this pizza, don't waste any time, order one for dinner tonight. Eat in, take out, whatever, get one. Tip: if you get the take out, get it uncut. Don't ask, just do it.

I have been toying with the idea of making pizza. I have never made my own pizza, dough and all, from scratch. I remember my mom doing it every once and a while and I clearly remember her bitching up a storm about what a pain in the ass it was, but she would do it as a treat every so often. I must say, that remembering this has probably delayed me in giving this whole deep dish thing a whirl. For real, one store trip I bought the cornmeal, the next time, the yeast, never everything in one trip. It was kinda like being in pizza denial. If I didn't buy all of the stuff, I couldn't make it. I did this even up until the last step. I made the dough without even buying the pan. See? Procrastination, how could I make the pizza without a pan?

Anyway, I shouldn't have to tell you that I started this little deep dish endeavor much like I start all of my new endeavors, on the internet. Yes, I was doing my research. I wanted this pizza to be like Lou's. Now, if you have ever had a Lou's you know that lovely delicious butter, crunchy, just like heaven crust. I'm not gonna lie, that crust intimidates me. So, here I am on the internet, researching Lou's crust. I found some recipes and took what I thought would be the best and molded them into my own. Right now you have to be thinking, are we there yet? Right over that next hill.

I made the dough, which is a brand spankin new thing for me, and let it rest on the counter the 4-6 hours. In this time, I knew I still didn't have a pan to make this pizza pie in. I had Jasen stop at Target, no pan, Kohls, no pan. WTF, does no one in this town make their own pizza?! Maybe this is a sign from God above, you know he had to have created that Lou's heavenly crust and didn't want me trying to infringe on his success. Bed Bath and Beyond. Finally, a pan and I had a coupon for $5 off. God must be smiling up there saying, go ahead, give it a try. Good Luck.

Are we there yet? Right over that next hill. I arrive home to my well rested dough and get to work.

Here is what I did:
Dough-You need to let it rest 4-6 hours or some say overnight in the fridge is even better.
1 1/2 cups 110degree water, mine out of the tap was hot enough to do this after letting it run a little.
1 package of active dry yeast, if you let it rest overnight, otherwise do 2 packs for the 4-6 hour rest.
1 tsp sugar
4 cups of flour
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup Crisco, I used the butter flavored kind
You will need a 14 inch round pan

In a bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar, mix to combine and let sit for 5 minutes. It will get foamy looking on top and watery underneath and actually smell like dough.

Then add the olive oil, salt, cornmeal, Crisco and only 3 cups of the flour. Mix with a dough hook on low to medium until it is smooth. It will start being into a dough ball shape by now. Start adding the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time. Each time mix it until the flour is completely incorporated. Then let it mix for 2-3 more minutes.

Pre heat your oven to 500. Yes, 500.

This is what it should look like.
Ready for the dough.
Well oil your deep dish pan with olive oil. I did this by pouring some oil into the pan and then rubbing it around with a clean paper towel. DO NOT USE THE NONSTICK COOKING SPRAY. You've come this far, oil the pan the right way. Then take some cornmeal and sprinkle it on the bottom of the pan and kind of shake around so it covers the pan.

Now you are ready for the dough. Take the dough and spread out evenly in the pan, pushing it about an inch up the sides of the pan. Are we there yet? Right over that next hill.

There you have it. The dough. This pizza better be damn good. This is a pain in the ass. I was channeling my mother there.

So now, you are ready for your toppings. We did half sausage and garlic, of course,  and the other half sausage, garlic, tomatoes and onions.

I browned the ground Italian sausage in a pan and removed it from the grease. Chopped the onions and tomatoes and was ready. Here is where it is different. I used Mozzarella slices, NOT shredded. It took TWO packages of the sliced cheese, a can of diced tomatoes, well drained and a can of tomato sauce, don't forget Italian seasoning.

Adding the final layer of cheese.
Cover the whole thing.
Logen is starving and can barely wait.
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet? Just over the next hill. Ok, you have your dough spread in the pan. Take some olive oil and brush it on the dough before topping with anything.

Take your sliced cheese and line the bottom of the pan. You got it, right on the dough. Cheese first. Then take some tomato sauce and spread it over the cheese, kind of like you are frosting a cake.

Now add the browned sausage on top of the sauce. Then add the veggie toppings of your choice and I ALWAYS add garlic. It's a big hit around here and gives wonderful flavor. Ok, don't forget to give a generous shaking of your Italian seasoning.

Now, you want to do your second layer of mozzarella cheese slices. Cover the whole thing. Frost your pizza again with more of the tomato sauce and now add the drained diced tomatoes. Sprinkle with a little parsley and with Parmesan cheese.

Ready for the oven.
Look at that hottie!
Are we there yet? Right over the next hill. Put that baby into the oven, middle rack at 500, uncovered and bake for 15 minutes. Check it and see how it is going. I actually ended up baking ours for about 22 minutes. It looked pretty good by then and the center was hot when I stuck my finger in it.  Take it out and let it "rest' in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then we and I really mean Jasen, removed it from the pan, which could have been disastrous, but ended up being ok. TIP: you need a pretty big spatula, server thing to get it out of the pan. Lift the pizza with the server and slide that baby out of the pan. Way to go Jasen!
Taste testers reporting for duty.

Are we almost there yet? Right over the next hill. So now you have your lovely pizza ready to cut. Do your traditional deep dish triangles and serve it.

Lou's Part 2: Coming soon!
Now we tasted this pizza and I thought, boy, this is good and it was my first try. Jasen was impressed and the kids ate it up too, but I thought, I'm not there yet. This isn't the same as Lou's. It's pretty damn close, but not the real deal. That's when Jasen and I started brain storming. What am I going to do differently, what am I going to add? That will be for another post. Maybe an update, an addendum.

Are we there yet? Right over the next hill.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

You never know where you are going to find your next good idea. I am always thinking and when I get some alone time, mostly while driving home from work, I like it quiet. Yes, I know most of you that know me are laughing wildly that I just said I like it quiet, but really, most days on my way home from work, I am in complete silence. No phone, no radio, just me and my thoughts. It is kind of a decompression time for me. Our house is usually a beehive of activity and mostly noisy activity, so those minutes on my ride home are peace, even though it is peace going about 75mph down I-80. I come up with some good ideas on these rides home, but not today.

This idea was found and thought of while in the dentist office. Actually it was in the waiting room while the kids were in with the dentist, but still. So I am sitting there, in my peace (quiet), and I was reading a children's themed magazine when I came across these cupcakes. They were part of a St. Patrick's Day article, but I thought these could be used any time at all to make someone smile.

If you work the batter to the edges of the liner, it WILL work!
Rainbow cupcakes. Hmmm....that's gonna take some work. I often shy away from recipes that are multiple steps or take a lot of effort, but I thought these were so cute that they would be worth it. Sometimes you find things that are just worth the effort and I really do think these are. Everyone that had one smiled. That alone made it worth the effort.

Even though you will fill these up pretty high, they will
turn out perfect!
Here is what I did:
1 box white cake mix, follow the directions on preparing the batter.
1 can of white frosting. I used cream cheese frosting from Aldi, my favorite place
Food coloring
Jelly beans

All of our batter bowls.
She can't wait to lick
those spoons!
Let's keep this as simple as possible.
Prepare the cake mix as it says on the box.
Get out six bowls and scoop equal amounts of batter into each bowl. I used my 1 cup measuring cup and just scooped.
Get out the food colors and add each of the following to a bowl.
Red, easy, it comes that way.
A tiny bit of red plus more of the yellow=orange.
Yellow, again, easy, comes that way.
Green, easy.
Blue, easy.
equal parts of blue and red=purple, easy.
Adding the layers one color at a time.
Be careful not to mix the colors
when you are working the batter
to the edges.
Now line the cupcake pan with paper liners and start with the end of the rainbow, purple. Put a little scoop into each tray and kind of smooth to the edge of the liner. This is the time intensive part.
This is what the batter should be like
when it is to the edge, but NOT mixed
with the color underneath.
Do this step again with the blue, green, yellow, orange and finally the red. Really it wasn't that bad.
Your cupcakes will be pretty full to the top. I was really worried about what was going to happen and if the overflow would be bad, but they turned out perfect!
Bake as the box directs for cupcakes.
Remove from pan to cool.
Perfect for Easter or
anytime you could
use a smile.
Once cooled, I frosted them with the white frosting and topped with the little jelly beans. They were cute, so what the hell, right? You gotta look around the house and use what you have. You'll be amazed at what you can make.

That's it. The kids loved them. Payten had a great time helping by licking off the spoons for all of the colors and my friends at work got a smile out of them too, which made them totally worth the effort.