Category Archives: food

Attack of the Ginger Creatures!

Of course, the holidays mean many things to us, but it definitely means cookies.

I looked over dozens of recipes and ended up taking ideas from several, but the core recipe was from (of all places) Martha Stewart Living web site. (Keep your “jail house cookies” comments to yourselves.)

Here’s what I came up with for a final recipe, including some post-facto edits that I would do next time:

  • 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
  • 6 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses.

Supposedly, this makes 16 large cookies, but we did a double batch and made cookies of various sizes so I can’t verify that. I edited the recipe to add nutmeg, more cinnamon and ginger as I wanted even more flavor in the cookies. I also changed to a smaller amount of black pepper (it gives a nice after taste to each cookie bite). The dough turned out to be very dry so I think we cheated and added about two tablespoons of milk near the end of the mixing.

I whipped up (literally) some standard buttercream-like icing:

  • 1 stick of unstalted butter
  • one small box of powdered sugar
  • vanilla to taste.

As you can see, we also divided up the icing and added food coloring. With some hastily-fashioned wax paper icing bags we were in business. Here are the results:


Not pictured was the favorite, literature-themed cookie. The white whale. As you can see, creativity reigned, but we also kept the original goal in mind: get as much icing as possible on many cookies. (Mmmm, icing.)

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What am I doing with a whale, bunny, elephant and zebra cookie cutter? Like you don’t have some?

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Some cookies had a personality of their own and these three jumped out at me. Note the resemblances to Zoidberg at the Beach, a funky, hypnotized Santa and Sluggo (respectively).

Zoidberg at the Beach Cookie Funky Santa Cookie Gingerbread Sluggo

Don’t bother asking, they’re all gone.

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Home Made Pizza 2007

Another round (ahem) of home made pizza, this time with an ace, guest pie-maker at my place.

The dough was courtesy of the now famous “no knead” bread recipe:

No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Apply your pizza shaping skills to lay out the dough.

We used two kinds of pizza stones, a store-made pizza stone and some unglazed tiles from your favorite home supply store. (Yes, we went to your favorite home supply store, where were you?) Even better – I used my new, wooden pizza peel to drop the pies right onto the hot, waiting stones. (Lessons learned: it’s quite possible that the metal peel would be better, certainly less likely to warp after cleaning. I’m going to get one and try it out. Also, be sure and have some cornmeal handy to put on the peel before placing the dough on it to enable easy sliding into the oven.)



As you can see, they turned out great. We went for mozzarella and fresh tomatoes and basil on the first one. The second pie was thinly sliced parmesan, more fresh roma tomatoes, red onions and some spices (pepper flakes next time too).




This is really just a test to see if Ecto is uploading photos now into WordPress. As you can see, it is – with sprinkly goodness! Thanks to all who made suggestions. The winning tip was to change the image upload settings in WordPress>Options>Miscellaneous for the Store uploads in this folder setting to leave it as it’s default of wp-content/uploads and to uncheck the Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders option.

Salvation Pizza in Austin

Last night to cap off my weekend pizza frenzy, I made it over to Salvation Pizza. (They don’t seem to have their own Website.) They’re on 624 W 34th St. (half a block West on 34th from Guadalupe).

Salvation Pizza is located in a refurbished house, so it’s mostly on-street parking (unless the parking area next door is in fair play). On Sunday evening it was easy to park right out in front. They have a nice deck, which in warmer months must be great as you don’t hear traffic from Guadalupe.

Inside, the atmosphere is Austin-retrofit-house-hipster, which is OK by me. There are three dining areas, presumably a legacy from the former house layout. The room on the right had two families (i.e. children) and I don’t know if that was a conscious effort to make that a family area or not but I appreciated it (and avoided it). I sat in the main room, near the ordering counter where throughout the evening, several people came in to pick up to go orders. The third room is past the stairway in the back of the house/restaurant.

I ordered the house salad and a #1 pie – a white pizza with tomatoes, basil and garlic. The salad was fine, nothing special, with a standard sun-dried tomato dressing, but I would have enjoyed the whole salad a bit more if was in a bowl or they included a roll to work with. It took about 20 minutes for the pizza to arrive. It was truly a thin crust, that was both light and crisp. It was just slightly chewy but still rigid enough not to sag much when picked up. (I think folding pizza for eating is a sin.) The toppings were fine, very generous on the (pre-processed from a jar?) garlic with large, thin tomato slices. One issue was the basil (mostly full leaves) was a bit singed which isn’t the best way to get the full flavor out. I’d recommend chopping the basil to release more flavor and scent as well as taking the extra step of adding it to the pie in the last 90 seconds of baking. (Or something like that.)

The staff was very friendly and relaxed, they were busy keeping tables organized, answering the phone and filling to go orders. Along with some live Johnny Cash playing, it was a pleasant place to be. (I forgot to ask or check if they had wifi access.)

Would I go back to Salvation Pizza? Yes, and I’d try another of their ten or so different featured pies, or perhaps devise my own from a large list of ingredients.

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Home Slice-o-Rama Pizza Carnival

Saturday, I went with friends to the Home Slice Pizza Slice-o-Rama Pizza Carnival

I had not been to Home Slice before, and this was a great excuse to get there and try out some pie. For some reason, in the last year or so Austin seems to be getting serious about pizza. This is good news for all of us.

The Carnival was a charity event for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, with tickets for the booths that included a few games of skill, a dunking booth, cotton candy, beer (but not beer-flavored cotton candy), and a fortune teller called the Great Calzoni. In the back of Home Slice there is a patio, which was a surprise and they were featuring a team of dough-tossing acrobats called the World Pizza Champions.

What would a carnival be without feats of skill? Well, they had them here too. The most interesting activities were the largest pizza dough contest where local pizzerias could send their greatest dough tossers and shapers to see who could make the largest (in diameter) pizzas.

Largest Pizza Contest

Measuring the giant pizza doughs

Next, was the contest for making five pizzas (dough only) the fastest. It was amazing to see them at work.

Speed pizza making

Speed Pizza Making

Oh, we ate some pizza too. Our pizza karma was waxing and we got a booth inside (from the outside you’d never know it’s so roomy) and proceeded to order. I started with the greek salad, which was served on a room-temp tin pie plate. It has small, diced bits of cheese in it, with the usual leafy add-ons such as peppers and just a few very tasty Kalamata olives. A few garlic knots were included with the salad, just the thing to help with eating the salad and to sate my wait for the pizza. I went with my benchmark pizza, the margherita. Here’s what this beauty looked like:


The pizza was wonderful. The dough was hot, fresh and crisp but also chewy with some singed spots and just the right amount of bubbling in the dough. The tomatoes were very fresh and diced with generous amounts of garlic and basil.
Also at the table was the traditional pepperoni pie:

Pepperoni Pie

While I didn’t try the pepperoni, it was going fast and the look of meat-eating bliss was apparent. There was more cheese on this pie, which looked just gooey enough to be sinfully good. (I also put my life in danger as it took me a few shots to get this picture just right and at least someone at the table wanted pizza NOW and didn’t want to wait on my untouched pizza pic.)

Would I go back to Home Slice? You bet – let’s go right now.

Labor Day means Pizza

I’ve been working through Peter Reinhart’s book American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza and working on my own quest for perhaps not the perfect pizza, but some very passable options I could make myself.

With Labor Day freeing up a little more time, I tried out two batches of pizza dough. This time I pitted two different flours against each other, with the constant of the bread machine as the dough prep system. (If it is possible to get passable dough from a home machine is a bigger test indeed.)

The first batch came out pretty good, but was perhaps a little heavier than expected, perhaps from the fresh basil and dried oregano I minced and mixed in with the dough. Here’s what I came up with (I forgot to get a picture before I started to cut up the pie):

pizza dough experiment 4, no cheese

While this pie was quite tasty, the key wasn’t the dough, it was the roasted red and yellow peppers (not hatch chiles, just peppers this time). If it looks a bit odd, note that I forgot to buy some cheese, but the majority of the time I don’t like most cheeses on pizza anyway.

The second dough batch was with a “bread flour” that I also partly sifted. I also tweaked my recipe by adding about 1/4 tsp. more EVOO. This time I added just a bit of dried oregano and some rosemary to the dough, but much less overall than the spices from the previous batch.

Here’s what I came up with, forgive the oddlly-shaped final form:

pizza dough experiment, no cheese

The key to this one? Chopped jalepenos and more fresh rosemary with slightly over-ripe roma tomatoes. Tasty. I also have to improve my abilities to evenly distribute toppings. The dough was definitely better, lighter and cooked just a bit better on this other pizza stone.