Entertaining: DIY Pizza

Despite my bite sized kitchen, I love to entertain. And now that the weather is getting warmer, barbeques are a plenty and it’s nice to have an easy and affordable alternative, such as pizza!

You were probably thinking I’d say fruit salad, corn on the cob, or even pasta salad. But pizza, in summer… well, it’s genius! Pizza is another one of those foods that you’re quick to purchase because it’s quick, affordable, and delicious. And for someone whose looking to entertain, homemade pizza makes a greater  starter or main course and will most definitely impress your guests!

Pizza is an ideal food because of its versatility. Pizza can be vegetarian, gluten-free, kosher, and will probably fall into a plethora of other categories that are important to health conscious, allergy-cautious, or religiously observant eaters. Pizzas are also very easy to make as they can be cooked in the oven on a sheet pan or pizza stone (which I highly recommend), a cast iron pan, or even on the grill (on a sheet pan).

To save time, I like to buy pre-made dough which you can pick up from a local pizzeria or at Trader Joe’s (which comes in white flour, whole wheat, or herb flavors for 99 cents). I also like to have some corn meal on hand which I spread at the bottom of the baking dish or pizza stone before cooking.

Grilled Pizza This past weekend I decided I’d try and grill my pizza on the barbeque. Though I’d seen recipes where the dough was cooked directly on the grill, I had a feeling that the dough would stick to the actual grill leaving me with very little to work with. Because I used a sheet pan to grill the entire pizza, from dough to cheese, the pizza didn’t retain the smokey flavor I was after. I guess next time I’ll have to try my luck by grilling the dough.

But whether you’re grilling pizza or baking it in the oven, you’re guests will taste and appreciate the homemade goodness of a DIY Pizza.

Margherita-Garlic Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package Pizza Dough
  • Extra Flour
  • Marinara Sauce (up to 4 cups)
  • Fresh Mozzarella (8 oz), thinly sliced
  • Chopped Jarred Garlic (1/8 cup)
  • Fresh Basil, chiffonade
  • Olive Oil

TOOLS

  • Rolling Pin
  • Pizza Stone (or Aluminum Sheet Pan/Baking Sheet)

PREPARATIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees and begin heating your pizza stone until oven is completely pre-heated.
  2. Spread out about 1/4 cup flour on top of your countertop. Roll out pizza dough into one long rectangle that will fit on your pizza stone.
  3. Once the pizza stone is preheated, take it out of the oven and spread a light coat of corn meal on the bottom of the pizza stone.
  4. Lightly coat one side of the dough with olive oil and place that side facing down into the pizza stone. Then lightly coat the other side of the dough with olive oil and a few tablespoons of chopped garlic.
  5. Then spread anywhere from 2-4 cups of marinara sauce over the pizza dough and losely cover with the 8 oz of fresh mozzarella and basil.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is no longer gummy but crunchy and the cheese bubbly.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Pecan Date Pie

Seeing as Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought I’d try out a new spin on the old favorite, Pecan Pie. But to my disappointment, my first Pecan Date Pie was quite a disappointment. As usual, I’d used a Cooking Light recipe and didn’t change a thing. I had an extremely difficult time making the crust, as it seems most other reviewers of this recipe had. But overall, I felt Cooking Light’s Pecan Date Pie was way too sugary. Granted I’d never tasted Pecan Date Pie, let alone Pecan Pie, but there’s no way that this is what it was supposed to taste like. My Dad told me that the morning after he’d tried a piece, he had had a diabetic attack because he was not used to eating that much sugar.

Although the Pie was mostly terrible, I felt the use of dates gave the pie a nice consistency and texture. Below is my recommendation on what a better Pecan Date Pie would taste like, though I have not tried it out myself. I increased the amount of Pecans, completely changed the crust to incorporate even more Pecans, and tried to use less sugar and whole eggs. I hope this proves to be a better tasting and more healthy recipe!

Yield

10 servings (serving size: 1 wedge)]

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1  cup  whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4  cup  pecans
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 3 1/2  tablespoons  chilled butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2  tablespoons  maple syrup

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup whole pitted dates, chopped
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (can also substitute for Splenda Brown Sugar)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs and 3 egg whites

Preparation

1) Preheat oven to 325°.

2) To prepare crust, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, pecans, and salt in a food processor; process until pecans are finely ground. Add butter; pulse 4 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal.

3) With processor on, slowly add 2 tablespoons syrup through food chute, processing just until combined (do not form a ball). Place dough on a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 or 5 times (dough will be sticky).

4) Keep dough whole if you plan on making a 9-inch pie. If you plan on making miniature 5-inch pies, then break dough into three pieces, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10-20 minutes. The dough become harder when refrigerated which makes it easier to mold.

5) Roll out one piece of dough between the plastic wrap into a circle large enough to cover the  pie pan by about 2 inches (whether it be a 5 or 9-inch pie pan). Then, plastic-wrap side up, place the rolled dough into the pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove remaining plastic wrap. Press dough into bottom and up sides of pan. Fold edges under; flute. Then repeat with other two dough pieces.

6) To prepare filling, sprinkle dates and pecans evenly over bottom of crust. Combine corn syrup and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.

7) Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 325° for 45-55 minutes or until a knife inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Please note that the amount of time the pies bake for will remain the same whether you are making a 5 or 9-inch pie.

Ingredients for Pecan Date Pie

Ingredients for Pecan Date Pie

Chopped Dates

Chopped Dates

Pre-Pecan Date Pie

Pre-Pecan Date Pie

Pecans, Dates, & Pie Crust oh my!

Pecans, Dates, & Pie Crust oh my!

Raw Pecan Date Pies

Raw Pecan Date Pies

Tah Dah!

Tah Dah!

What is the difference between a tart and a pie?

Tarts and pies are quite similar. Though unlike a pie, tarts are served outside of the containers they were baked in. Tarts are usually baked in straight-sided rather than slope-sided pans, often with fluted edges . Before serving, tarts are separated from their baking pans, which are formed with removable bottoms so that the tarts hold together when they are removed (AS EASY AS PIE). Tarts usually hold the same fillings as pies such as fruit fillings but can also hold custards and are traditionally open faced.

Last night was my first time time baking tarts and I must admit, it was not an easy task. When making tarts, especially tarts of 3-4 inches, you must be very delicate with the dough. It is important not to overwork the dough in tarts, otherwise you will be left with a hard, non-flaky crust. Another key step to know in the preparation process is to cool the dough before molding it into the tart pans AND to freeze the dough for several minutes (until hardened) before baking. The dough needs to be chilled so that it holds together while baking and after it is removed from it’s pan. Pie and tart crust making certainly is an art but can be achieved through practice… a lot of practice!

Below are a few pictures of different tarts I made last night. Hopefully the recipients of these tarts will appreciate all my hard work! I made them as a birthday treat for two of my friends. The tarts consist of a fruit base (made by boiling down berries and turbinado sugar) and topped with additional marinated fruit. Hopefully they are as delicious as they sound. I’ll keep you posted!

MINI MIXED FRUIT TARTS

Ingredients

1 Hartley Confections Pie Crust (refrigerated for 30-45 minutes)

3 cups of your favorite seasonal fruit, diced

1/2 cup of diced strawberries and/or blueberries (or your fruit preserve of choice)

1 pt rasberries and or blackberries

1/3 cup of turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Dice your fruit of choice and marinate with turbinado sugar to taste. The fruit may need to be separated depended on its natural sweetness (i.e. marinate strawberries and blueberries separately). Let the fruit sit for about 10 minutes so that some of the sugar can be absorbed.

3. Roll out refrigerated crust and cut out circles with a 3-4 inch biscuit cutter, depending on what size tart pan you are using. If you are using a 2.5 inch pan use a 3 inch biscuit cutter, and so on. Mold cut circles to tart pans and freeze until hardened.

4. While dough is in the freezer, mash your marinated raspberries and blackberries and place in a small pot over low heat. Boil the fruit (together or separately depending on taste) until most of the liquid has dissolved. The fruit mixture should look similar to preserves.

5. Let the fruit mixture cool until room temperature or cold. You may put your fruit mixture in the refrigerator or freezer to speed up the cooling process.

6. Once the mixture has cooled and the dough has hardened you may place enough fruit mixture (or preserves) to cover the bottom of your mini tart. Then you can place the diced fruit pieces on the fruit mixture. Feel free to mix and match the fruits as the flavors will meld together when baked.

7. Bake the tarts for approximately 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your tart. When the crust is browned and hardened and the fruit has released its juices, the tart will be ready.

The Healthy Baker

My name is Jessica Levine and I LOVE baking. I’m sure if you are reading this right now you are either a friend or family member and can most definitely appreciate the picture of this little boy happily devouring a cherry pie. As much as I like to bake, I like to eat and the messier the better!

As some of you already know, baking is a great passion of mine but HEALTHFUL baking is why I started this blog. Most people deprive themselves of delicious treats every day because they think that it will hurt their precious waistline. My blog is here to show you that baking can be both healthful and fun!

Please stay tuned for the latest batch of healthy recipes!