Braided Pizza Bread

Braided Pizza Bread
Things can get a little crazy in my fridge. With all sorts of jars aligned in tall stacks, there is never a shortage of ingredients to come up with something to eat. Plus there is always dough stored in bags. I got kind of fancy with my pizza dough the other week. Instead of stretching it into a rough, lopsided circle per usual, I made braided pizza bread.

I rolled out the dough in a rectangle and spread on tomato sauce and pesto followed by a sprinkle of my favorite Italian blend cheese with parmesan, provolone, fontina and asiago, but any pizza toppings from meat to veggies would work. Then I took my pizza cutter to slice angled strips on each side that I overlapped into a braid before baking.
Braided Pizza Bread
Braided Pizza Bread

Serves 8-10

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon olive oil plus more for bowl and brushing dough
1-1/2 cups bread flour plus more for work surface
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cups tomato sauce plus more for serving
1/2 cup pesto plus more for serving
1/4 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

In a small bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar and olive oil. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flours and salt. Add the yeast mixture and process until a ball of dough forms. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch by 15-inch rectangle on a sheet of parchment paper Spread the tomato sauce lengthwise in center of the dough leaving a 5-inch border on either side. Spread on the pesto and sprinkle on the cheese. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into angled strips about 1-1/2-inches wide. Start at one end and fold each strip over the filling alternating sides.

In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, thyme and garlic powder. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle the Parmesan mixture on top. Transfer the braid on the parchment paper to a sheet pan.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Serve with tomato and pesto.

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Brussels Sprout Apple Salad

Brussels Sprout Apple Salad
I have a bad habit of ordering the exact same thing when I go back to a restaurant especially when I find a really good salad. It has to go beyond the usual mix of greens and vinaigrette and have all sorts of different flavors and crunchy textures. This Brussels sprout apple salad was inspired by one of those salads that if I’m out, I eat on repeat.

When I keep Brussels sprouts raw, I like to shred them, but this time I was all about the leaves. I made a mustard champagne vinaigrette that I tossed with the sprouts, apples, dried cranberries & blueberries, shallots, walnuts and Manchego. It turned out to be the kind of salad worthy of being served as a side, and I think it might make an appearance at Thanksgiving.
Brussels Sprout Apple Salad

Brussels Sprout Apple Salad

Serves 4

1-1/2 cups torn sourdough bread
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 pound Brussels sprouts, cored and leaves separated
1 Honeycrisp apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries & blueberries
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 ounce Manchego cheese, shaved
1 tablespoon chives

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toast the bread in a single layer on a sheet pan for 15-20 minutes until deep golden brown.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining olive oil, salt & pepper and champagne vinegar, mustard & honey until combined.

Place the Brussels sprout leaves in a large bowl along with the toasted bread, apples, dried cranberries & blueberries, shallots, walnuts, Manchego and chives. Toss in the mustard vinaigrette.

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Graham Cracker Cake

Graham Cracker Cake
My three-year-old has gotten in the habit of asking for dessert after dinner. I’ve tried to explain to him that we don’t always have dessert, but he just doesn’t accept that answer. I can’t blame him! Our compromise is a graham cracker, not a full-fledged cookie. I opened one of the many boxes stashed in my pantry to make this graham cracker cake. There’s no mistaking that this is 100% dessert.

I crushed a big stack of graham crackers in the food processor and used that dust like flour in the batter. At first when I baked the cake, I ended up with 2 layers, but I wanted to go taller, so I made another set. The recipe below is written for a 4-layer cake with rich chocolate frosting. If I had marshmallow fluff at home, I would have used that along with the frosting to create a s’more cake.
Graham Cracker Cake

Graham Cracker Cake
Adapted from Food 52

Makes one 4-layer 8-inch round cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 40 squares)
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups milk

Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the flour, graham cracker crumbs and baking powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla extract. On low speed, add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 28-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the edges of the cake pull away from the pan.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Then remove them and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed for 4 minutes until smooth. Sift together the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt. On low speed, slowly add the sugar-cocoa mixture followed by the milk, corn syrup and vanilla extract. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes.

To assemble the cake, use a serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes as needed to make them even. Slice the cakes in half crosswise to create 4 layers. Using an offset spatula, frost the top of one of the layers and stack another one on top. Repeat with the remaining layers. Frost the top of the cake followed by the sides.

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Fresh Pumpkin Pasta

Fresh Pumpkin Pasta
Yesterday I made fall official—I bought a bag of those adorable decorative mini gourds with their bumps & lumps and green, orange & gold stripes. I arranged them in a bowl along with my edible squash that have yet to make it in into the oven to be roasted or in a pot for soup. I’ve also been stocking up on my go-to autumn canned goods like I used in this fresh pumpkin pasta.

Yes, I could have roasted a pumpkin and pureed it, but it felt from-scratch enough to be making my own homemade pasta. There’s no shame in a can of pumpkin puree! The pasta had a subtle orange hue to match its hint of pumpkin flavor. I kept it simple tossing the pasta in garlic-infused olive oil along with crispy sage. Next time I’m going to try it with browned butter.
Fresh Pumpkin Pasta
Fresh Pumpkin Pasta

Serves 4

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon olive oil

In a food processor, pulse the flour, semolina and salt until combined. Add the pumpkin puree, eggs and olive oil. Process until the dough forms.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a couple minutes until the dough is smooth. Form the dough into a round disk and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes or refrigerate overnight. (If the dough is refrigerated, make sure to let it come to room temperature before rolling it out.)

Divide the pasta dough into 4 pieces keeping them covered. On a well-floured work surface, roll out the dough as thinly as possible into rectangular sheets. Let them dry for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the sheets with flour and roll them up loosely. Using a knife, trim the rough edges and cut into 1/4-inch wide strips. Unroll and place the strips on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 2-3 minutes until al denté and then toss with desired sauce.

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