Walnut Basil Pesto Pizza

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

One of my biggest kitchen struggles has been good pizza crust. I have an old gas oven (love it) but my crusts had time after time come out soggy. I tried a pizza stone but to my despair, it left all crusts limp. All I want is some crispy, browned bottomed crust! Too much to ask? I tried my faithful cookie sheet and I think that was 50% of the crispy battle. This lovely pizza dough recipe comes from the amazing Andrea Bemis’s new cookbook, Dishing Up The Dirt!!! So excited for this girl! Get yourself a copy. It’s a treat for the eyes and the stomach. It makes my heart so happy to see her in her element, getting down and dirty with real food. She’s seriously inspired me to live on a farm. I will have chickens one day or my name isn’t Cuoco!

This crust is super!! Thin and crisp. It’s almost focaccia-like. My favorite part is that you can do it all from the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook, so there’s little to no mess. All you need is time! While the dough is rising you can get other tasks done, so don’t worry. Look at you go, you multi-tasker! Own it. Be wonder woman in the kitchen and don’t let anything scare you. Thank you Andrea for this tasty dough recipe!!! Congratulations, lady! #DishingUpTheDirt #DUTD

Yield: A little less than 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 large thin crusts

For the Dough:

  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water, more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl
  • 1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Pesto & Cheese topping:

  • 1-1/2 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • wild arugula
  1. In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in water warmed to 110 F. Give it a good stir. Proof for 10 minutes or until frothing.
  2. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and the flours until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and knead it on low for 6 minutes. If the dough appears too dry, drizzle 2 tablespoons more water.
  3. Rinse out the large bowl, pat it dry, drizzle it with oil, and use a bowl to rub the oil all over the bowl. Return the dough to the large bowl and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer the dough back to you stand missed and knead it on low for 3 minutes.
  5. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover it with the damp towel, and set it aside to rise for an additional hour, or until it has doubled in size again.
  6. Slice the dough in half. Freeze one half for a rainy day! (see note below). Take the half you’re going to use and roll thinly onto a oiled baking sheet.
  7. Add basil, olive oil, walnuts, parmigiana region, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Grind until smooth, about 30 seconds. Taste it… devious all on it’s own! Spoon half of the mixture onto the pizza and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 500 F for 10 minutes. Top with wild arugula and serve.

*Be sure to transfer your frozen dough to the refrigerator the morning before you plan to use it. Remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you make your pizza so the dough can come to room temperature.

Dough recipe (Chesua’a Perfect Pizza Dough) is from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt, 2017. Pesto recipe is from Saveur Magazine.

Vanilla Bean Caramel Apple Tart

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Although March is not apple season, we’re a week away from Spring and my heart is already thinking about Autumn! I picked up pink lady apples and decided to try out this tart. What could be more simple and delicious than store-bought puff pastry? Almost nothing. When you’re in a pinch, it’s texture can’t be beat. It’s a beautiful canvas for just about anything. The apples are slightly cooked in a little caramel sauce and baked till super soft, contrasting beautifully with every bite of crispy pastry. You can try this with any tart apple like honeycrisp, granny smith or braeburn. Quick, easy and with so much reward. This is my new breakfast on rotation.

  • 5 tart apples (such as pink lady) peeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 sheet fresh puff pastry (14 oz package)
  • all-purpose flour, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut apples as close to core as possible into three lobes. In a small, heavy pot, add sugar, water, and scrape in vanilla seeds; discard pod. Cook over medium heat until sugar comes to a boil is dissolved, as it starts to caramelize, 6–8 minutes. Keep at a boil (under 375 degrees with a candy thermometer). Don’t stir! When it becomes a nice amber color, remove from heat immediately and shock pot in an ice bath. Stir in butter, vinegar, and salt.
  2. Add apples into a skillet and cook until they start giving up some of their juices and shrink slightly, 5–8 minutes. Remove apples from skillet and combine with  caramel, pouring into prepared 9″ baking dish. Carefully turn apples so the cut side is facing up and scoot them together so they overlap slightly. (The apples will shrink more as they bake, so they need to be tightly packed.)
  3. Gently roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface just to smooth out creases; cut into a round that will fit snugly inside your pan. Drape puff pastry over apples.
  4. Bake until pastry is puffed and starting to brown in spots, 20–25 minutes. Reduce heat to 350° and bake until apples are tender and pastry is golden brown and cooked all the way through, 20 minutes longer. Let rest 5 minutes before inverting onto a platter. Don’t wait too long to invert or else the apples with stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.