Monday, May 18, 2009

Family Favorites..... Rustic Pizza and Chocolate Cake!!!!!

Too late I realized that I didn't make it to the market nor did I defrost any of my old standby's for dinner so I went into "creative mode" and looked at my pantry for available dinner items..... Since it was Sunday we were all home and feeling lazy (so no tacos or other street food as saviors today) and as I looked (I usually keep lots of basic items on hand for cases such as these and I realize that other people might not consider anchovies, capers and yeast basics, but what can I say?)

Looking around I found a can of Hershey's Cocoa Powder and right away the idea of baking a chocolate cake sounded like a good idea to top off whatever we decided to have for dinner, so I got busy with the best cake recipe I've ever had (and which I've been making for eons and is still everyone's favorite cake recipe, besides, how can you go wrong with chocolate cake?

Real Chocolate Cake: (super moist and chocolaty)....
2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa Powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round pans or one 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; make sure it's really well combined and check the bottom of the bowl for flour. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely or icing will melt off.

So I had the cake cooling on the shelf and I decided to make a German Chocolate Icing, here goes:

Coconut Pecan Frosting:
1 can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/3 cup Coconut Flakes
1 cup chopped pecans

Stir together sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks and butter in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, coconut and pecans. Cool.

I slice the cake across the middle to give me 4 thin rounds instead of 2 (which also allows me to use more of this great icing!) and it improves the presentation too! Great dessert....

Now I could concentrate on dinner... I found lots of goodies and gave my guys some dinner choices to choose from.... what did they decide on? Rustic Pizza! YUM.....

Let me tell you I don't have a fancy oven (as a matter of fact my stove (supposedly the top of the line Mabe stainless steel model I have) has thermostat "issues" and either doesn't do it or goes into volcanic..... so I got an oven thermometer and I jiggle the knob up and down until I get the temp I need (more or less.....). I do have a gas stove and wouldn't dream of cooking with anything else. I also don't have pizza stones (although I could go to the alfareria place down by the highway and get some tiles I suppose...) or any fancy gizmos at all..... I just use what I have and it's always come out really good.

Let me give you the ingredients you'll need first:
4 cups of flour
2 packets instant dry yeast (or the kind you like, I've used the German block kind or packets)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1-2 cups med hot water (not boiling)
1/4-1/3 cup olive oil

You can either proof your yeast (in a bowl put 1/3 cup hot water, sugar and yeast) let sit for 15 min or so and notice if it starts bubbling...... or you can put it in right into the flour. You put the flour on the table and make a hole in the middle, put the water there (about 1 cup) and put the yeast in there and wait 10 min. Then add the rest of the ingredients and form into a ball of dough, work the dough for about 15 min to allow the gluten to do it's thing and add flour so it doesn't stick all over the place. When it gets nice and unsticky, oil a bowl and put the dough in, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit 1/2-1 hour until it doubles in volume (or more!) and it gets puffy..... you can then cut into 4 sections and each will be rolled out to make a crust.

Now how about toppings? Can be anything you have. Clean out the refrigerator and use up all the leftovers you have. You can make your own sauce, use what you have or improvise. I made a basic tomato sauce, here's how:

PIZZA SAUCE: Easy and quick:
10-12 small to med very ripe Roma tomatoes, whole
4-5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 med onion, in quarters
1-2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp pepper
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup sugar (or more....)
1 tbl crushed oregano
1 tbl oil

Put it all in a sauce pan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and cook until the tomatoes are almost exploding their skins and are soft. Put everything (without the water) into a blender
with the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return to the pot (throw out the water) after putting in the oil and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and reduce until you get a thicker consistency, about 1/2 hour. It will get thicker once you turn the heat off too. Taste it and make sure it's great.

I decided on making 4 rectangular pizzas (since I only have sheet pans to use).... I cut the dough into 4 parts and extended 2 onto my sheet pans to make a thin crust. I put some of the pizza sauce on each of them and for toppings this is what I found:

Hawaiian Pizza: I had Smoked Turkey ham which I layered on top of the sauce but only had a couple of slices of pineapple left over from having fruit in the morning so I used that; I also had some Pineapple Pico de Gallo Salsa that had been leftover from some Carnita Tacos the day before so I put the plain pineapple on one half and the Salsa on the other half (my son doesn't like onions so he'll have the plain side while we'll eat the rest)... covered the whole thing with about 1 cup of shredded Manchego Cheese and it was ready for the oven.

Carnitas Pizza-Then I found some of the leftover Carnitas I mentioned and decided to use that too. Carnitas over the sauce (I could have used some green sauce on this one but went red sauce instead) and some jalapeno slices, onion and the cheese here too.

In they went into the oven at the highest setting I could get (I didn't see the temperature at all just put the knob all the way). Took about 10-15 min and they were golden brown and melted.

While I waited for the pizza's to come out of the oven (I can fit two of the pans in my oven, I got the rest of my pizza dough ready for the next batch. What did I find?

Chorizo and Bacon: My meat lover's really like this one and I had found some really flavorful chorizo at the store, so I fried it up in a pan and had it crumbled and ready. I also put some bacon slices (4 only) in a dish and cooked them in the microwave and cut them in small pieces.
Put the chorizo over the sauce really well and then distributed the bacon all over the pizza. Covered the whole thing with the same Manchego Cheese and it was ready for the oven. (you can put some sour cream when you serve it too, tastes really good).

And last but not least I had some Smoked Tuna, olives, capers and anchovies, some sliced onion and jalapenos to round it out and we had a truly gourmet pizza that is my husband's favorite! Had to top all this with the same shredded cheese and voila! the pizza's were ready for the oven and the first one's were ready to be taken out so my little assembly line was coming right along filling the house with the aroma of baking and since the afternoon turned rainy here in Puebla, it was the perfect baking day.....

So if you consider that I improvised the whole thing I have to admit it came out fantastic! We had a great dinner (with a fresh green salad on the side with a nice mustard vinaigrette) some English black iced tea for refreshments and what else could you ask for? The chocolate cake of course.....and an expresso too.....

Tomorrow won't be an improvised meal since I've got Pollo en Mole on the schedule and I've got to start it early since it's a long drawn out affair- from making the chicken stock with vegetables from the head, neck and feet in the kitchen (I only buy whole roasters and they come with everything, sometimes even feathers too!) to roasting the spices and grinding them fresh, using some of the stock for the rice and allowing the mole to become..... lots of work but definetly worth the whole thing.....

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