Tag Archives: pizza

Stumbling Blocks in Baking

“The only stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a ‘What the hell’ attitude.”
— Julia Child

Not everything  I make turns out as I intend.  Usually, my kitchen failures involve baking.  Just ask my sister.

Last winter, between Halloween and the week before Christmas, it seemed as if I had lost all my abilities to bake.  I would send her photos of my botched cookies, breads, and cakes and then sit miserably, trying to determine where I had gone wrong. 

I wasn't kidding.


This was supposed to be a chocolate chip pumpkin loaf. And edible.

My baking experiment failures went on for a solid two months.  I think my problem was that I kept trying to adapt recipes I had never tried before.  Baking is extremely precise, so even my “extra dash of fill-in-the-blank spice” may have affected the recipe.  I truly did want to just throw in the towel and never attempt to bake another cookie in my life.  But, I knew that life would be very sad with no homemade cookies.


I somehow found my way back into baking around the Christmas holidays.  I’d like to thank a batch of perfect pumpkin muffins (yes, they were out of a box from Pelican Bay) to restoring hope in my personal abilities.  They were delicious on a snowed-in morning in the mountains of North Carolina.


Since then, I’ve gone on to bake many things and have shared many:  beer bread, cupcakes, donuts.  In my opinion, I’ve been doing pretty well.


And then today happened.  I woke up wanting to challenge myself.  I thought of all my past baking failures, channeled my inner Julia and give cooking a “What the hell” midset, and decided to make pizza dough from scratch. 


I really don’t know why I’ve been so nervous about this since millions of people make their own pizza dough, but I was honestly scared when I started activating the yeast today.  And of course I couldn’t just make your basic pizza dough.  Instead, I went with a recipe that calls for white wine, and then made a couple adaptations.  Go big or go home, that’s my motto.


Amazingly, it all turned out. 
White Wine Pizza Dough Crust
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller thin crust pizzas
1 packet of active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
¼ cup pinot grigio
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, and wine.  Stir well to combine.  Then add in the salt and nutmeg, and stir again.

Add in 1 cup of all purpose flour and mix to create a paste.  Then add in the remaining flour and start to knead dough.

On a flour-dusted surface, knead dough for 6 to 8 minutes.  Then place dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel. 

Let rise for 45 minutes.  (And if your kitchen is too cold like mine, warm your oven for a minute, turn it off, and then place the bowl inside.

After dough has risen, separate it into two equal parts if you’d like to make two pizzas.  Or roll out onto a ¼” thickness on a floured surface and make one giant pizza.  Top with whatever you desire, and bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.


Filed under How-To, Recipes

Pizza Party 101

Thanks again for the birthday wishes!  I had a great day and night celebrating with friends.  There was much pizza, wine, cake, and board games involved, so it was a very fun night.  I think I ate my weight in food last night and am still stuffed today, but it was delicious.   

Up until Thursday night, I had no idea what I was going to make for the crowd of 15 or so friends.  But while enjoying the sights and tastes of Logan airport, I finally had  a few moments to think about what to prepare that would suit a variety of tastes and dietary needs and also follow the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Stupid).  I tried to think of things that I could buy from the store but then jazz up to make them look and taste more homemade.  Here’s the menu I came up with:


– Cheese Log and Crackers
– Hummus Boat with Crudites
– Caramelized Onion, Pear, and Blue Cheese Flat Bread
– Classic Red Sangria








Pizzas and Sides:

– Zucchini White Pizza
– Chicken Sausage and Mushroom Pizza
– Italian Roasted Tomatoes and Mushroom Pizza
– Vegan Pesto and Sundried Tomato Pizza
– Curried Chickpea Salad
– Garden Salad with Carrots, Clementines and a Cranberry/Balsamic Vinaigrette





Secrets to Pizza Party Success:

Buy storebought doughTrader Joe’s and Whole Foods make great dough and sell it in balls for really cheap!  You just roll it out, add your own toppings and bake. 

– Think of your guests’ likes and needs  – I decided what pizzas to make based on the following realizations:

  • Some of my friends eat meat, some don’t.  Some of them like tomatoes and some don’t.  Having just tomato-sauce based pizzas was not a good option.
  • Guys tend to need meat to feel full, so I couldn’t have all vegetarian pizzas.  Girls also like meat, but at least in my friends, they prefer to go vegetarian more often.
  • The vegetarian pizzas needed to be filling and substantial so it didn’t feel like you were just eating bread and cheese.

With sides, few ingredients + flavor + pretty presentation = success 
The salads I made literally took me minutes, but looked and tasted like I spent a lot more time on them than I did because of the fruit and curry flavors I added.  Also, I took storebought classic hummus and made it look fancy in a really simple way:  I cut a square from the middle of a loaf of French bread, filled it with hummus, and then decorated the outside with vegetables to use as dippers.

Let me know what recipes you’d like me to post!  Anyone can make them, I promise.  Here’s one to start out with….most people were surprised that they liked this so much last night! 


Caramelized Onion, Pear, and Flatbread Pizza

1 storebought pizza doughball
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium red pear, sliced
3/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

1.  Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add onions and cook for 30 minutes stirring occassionally.  The onions should turn a deep golden color, shrink up, and taste sweet when finished.
2.  Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Heat oven to 450 deg. F.
3.  Roll out dough on a floured surface (make sure to let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before doing so).  Place dough on cookie sheet and press into corners to fill the pan.
4.  Brush remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the dough until lightly coated.
5.  Spread onions over dough and top with pear slices.  Cover with blue cheese crumbles. 
6.  Place in oven and lower temperature to 425 deg. F.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until crust is golden and blue cheese looks slightly melted.
7.  Cut into 2″ x 2″ squares and serve.


Filed under Holidays, Recipes, Uncategorized