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Tips for Making Perfect, Top Chef Canada-Worthy Fresh Pasta

Perfecting pro-level pasta at home may seem like a daunting feat, but we’ve got you covered with these tips from Top Chef Canada’s recent pasta-making elimination challenge, plus a few recipes to get you started in your own kitchen. From soft and supple gnocchi to tender ravioli, this advice from professional kitchens will get you rolling in no time.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Homemade Fettucine

The Best Flour For Homemade Pasta

The lucky cheftestants got to work with freshly milled flour from urban mill Brodflour, but chances are, you’ll have to settle for supermarket flour. Nonetheless, a few wise choices will help your success rate when making pasta. The specialty flour known as 00 or tipo 00 is the traditional pick when it comes to making pasta, due to its fine grind (this attribute also make it a good option for pizza dough). Depending on the kind of pasta, which dictates other factors such as the amount of eggs added, coarsely ground semolina or all-purpose flour can also be used in forming pasta dough.

Related: This Week on Top Chef Canada…

Eggs in Fresh Pasta

For some types of pasta, especially fresh egg pasta, the golden yolks lend a sunny hue to the finished product. Recipes vary in terms of the number but it is generally around a 1:1 ratio of eggs to cups of flour. Some kinds of pasta dough, such as tagliatelle, use a combination of two whole eggs and four egg yolks per four cups of flour for added richness.

Eggs also play a crucial role in the elasticity and texture of fresh pasta, although dried pasta is often made with no more than flour and water.

Related: Get Funky With 10 Fermented Foods

Methods For Making Homemade Pasta

Although the tried-and-true method of making a well in the flour and adding the wet ingredients in the centre, then drawing the flour slowly inwards, works well to combine the ingredients gradually, this process can be automated using a stand mixer or other equipment (Alton Brown has an easy food processor method for his ravioli dough, for example). The dough is then kneaded, shaped into a disk and rested before rolling through a pasta machine or by hand using a rolling pin for flat types of pasta such as fettuccini, or shaping using molds or one’s hands with smaller shapes, such as pici.

Related: Get the Recipe for Valerie Bertinelli’s Homemade Pici Pasta With Carbonara Sauce

Homemade Pasta Shapes and Tips

There’s still more choices awaiting you: pasta shape dictates cooking method, time and even which type of sauce you should use. In a stressful double-elimination, the remaining five chefs had to choose their pasta types, make their own dough and create their best dish for guest judge Danny Smiles (a former Top Chef Canada contestant himself and now owner of three restaurants including Osteria Fortuna, planned to open in June 2020). Adding to the pressure was the freshly milled flour, which will cause pasta dough to oxidize (changing colour and flavour) if made too far in advance. As a result, chefs couldn’t use the one hour prep time the day before to make their dough, instead needing to make it the day of the Eliminate Challenge.

At home, however, you have the advantage of all the time you need to tackle a fresh pasta project. Take some inspiration from each of the Top Chef Canada contestants and their dishes to create your own prize-worthy creation.

How to Make Homemade Orecchiette

Orecchiette is made by hand, with the pasta maker’s thumb forming the distinct indents that give each piece its distinctive “little ears” shape (Francis used a non-traditional method of forming it on a paddle, giving the pasta small ridges). Although he had never made orecchiette before, Francis’ precautions in making a test batch to experiment with the fresh flour and his technique paid off. The judges raved about his version with broccoli sauce, crunchy broccoli stems, fried spelt grains and an Asiago emulsion. Judge Danny Smiles observed that the dish adhered to its roots from Puglia, where orecchiette and broccoli are frequently used together.

Pro tip: Francis put his pasta dough in a vacuum bag to take the air out and speed up the resting process. If you have a vacuum sealer at home and are in a hurry, you can try this technique as well.

Get the recipe for Orecchiette With Homemade Ricotta And Cherry Tomatoes

How to Make Homemade Gnocchi

Due to the time constraints, Stephanie didn’t have time to make the traditional potato-based version of gnocchi, which requires cooking and cooling potatoes before putting them through a food mill, combining with flour and eggs and shaping into individual pieces. Instead, she opted for Parisian-style gnocchi, beginning with a choux paste (similar to eclairs) where butter and water are cooked, then combined with flour before putting it in a stand mixer to beat in the eggs. The mixture is piped into a pot of boiling water to cook. The judges liked the softness of Stephanie’s gnocchi, although they felt that they were a bit lost amidst the cornucopia of other ingredients in her Parisian gnocchi with pattypan squash, white asparagus, wild rose harissa and white asparagus sauce with ricotta.

Pro tip: When combining the eggs in the stand mixer, add them slowly one by one to ensure a soft and tender, eggier dumpling.

If you’d like to try a potato-free version of gnocchi, take a look at these Ricotta Gnocchi from head judge Mark McEwan.

How to Make Homemade Ravioli

Lucy’s first job on her first day as a chef at Terre Rouge was making pasta, so it’s no wonder that her cashew, caramelized onion and Gruyère ravioli won favour with the judges for its texture, winning her a place in the finale. Ravioli is made by running pasta dough through a pasta roller to achieve a thin, smooth sheet, then dolloping spoonfuls of filling in a single row across the bottom half. After folding over the top and pressing gently between sections of filling to remove excess air and seal each ravioli, a pasta cutter is used to trim each piece.

Pro tip: Listen to sound of the dough in the stand mixer — it will tell you when the dough is reaching the right consistency (you are looking for a stiffness similar to play dough).

Want to tackle your own ravioli? Try this Short Rib Ravioli and Creamy Mushroom Sauce, or Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli.

Related: How to Host a Top Chef Canada-Worthy Drag Brunch

How to Make Homemade Agnolotti

This pocket-sized filled pasta (or “little cute pillows with a beautiful pocket of filling on the inside”, as Imrun described it) starts out the same way as ravioli. The dough is rolled and dots of filling are piped onto the sheet of pasta, but before the final cuts are made, imprints are pushed into the sides of the filling to create a pillowy dent. Although Imrun’s use of nutritional yeast to top his kabocha squash and mascarpone agnolotti mystified the judges, they loved the thinness and execution of his pasta.

Pro tip: Using a piping bag to fill the agnolotti ensures even distribution and neatly centred dots.

Try one of these tasty ravioli recipes and adjust the method and filling size as described above to try them with agnolotti.

How to Make Homemade Tagliatelle

Rich with added egg yolks, tagliatelle’s long, flat ribbons make it a tender and versatile pasta. Adrian discovered the perils of deviating from the traditional recipe when he attempted to substitute squash purée for eggs, resulting in a soggy dough that stuck and broke in the roller during his first attempt. His second try was also too wet, forcing him to roll out the dough by hand, which ended up with tagliatelle that “looked more like spaetzle”, according to head judge Mark McEwan. Overall, although the judges liked the flavour of his butternut squash tagliatelle with butternut béchamel and scotch bonnet cremini mushrooms, the errors in executing the pasta itself sent Adrian home.

Pro tip: Be careful when substituting ingredients or adjusting your recipe, especially when using wet ingredients such as butternut squash that add moisture to the dough and can disrupt the water to flour ratio. Try making it yourself with this recipe for Homemade Tagliatelle.

Once you’ve made your fresh pasta, try one of these 50 Best-Ever Pasta Recipes for Easy Dinners. Watch Top Chef Canada Mondays at 10ep and stream Live and On Demand on the new Global TV App, and on STACKTV. Food Network Canada is also available through all major TV service providers.

Save That Leftover Pie Dough and Make These Cinnamon Pinwheel Cookies!

Several pie crust recipes yield enough dough for the top and bottom of a pie, but not all pies require both. When you find yourself with leftover pie dough, don’t let it go to waste. Turn it into a new dessert: cinnamon pinwheel cookies. They taste like mini cinnamon rolls! They’re super simple to make and are so good that you might just find yourself going out of your way to have “leftover” pie dough.

Leftover Pie Dough Cinnamon Pinwheel Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 12 to 15 minutes
Total Time: 27 to 30 minutes
Servings: 12 pinwheel cookies

Ingredients:

½ batch pie crust, chilled
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch fine salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll pie dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle.

3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt until well blended.

Related: Start Your Morning on a Sweet Note With These Gooey Cinnamon Buns

4. Spread the prepared filling evenly over dough. Tightly roll the dough, beginning from the 12 inch side. Press the seam to seal. Trim and discard the ends, about ½ inch on each side. Cut log into ¼ inch thick slices and transfer to prepared baking sheet.

5. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to chill. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until edges begin to brown.

Looking for more fun at-home baking projects? Try these lemon meringue cupcakes and secret ingredient carrot cake.

This Easy Recipe for Soft Rolls Uses Less Than 10 Pantry Ingredients!

There’s nothing quite like breaking into freshly baked bread, beautifully golden on the outside, warm and pillowy on the inside. What’s even more rewarding is making it yourself! These soft dinner rolls are incredibly easy to make and require just a few ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. I promise once you try these Baking Therapy soft rolls, it’ll be your go-to bread recipe time and time again.

Easy Soft Dinner Rolls

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Resting Time: 45 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 80 minutes
Servings: 2 x 6-inch round loaves

Ingredients:

Dough
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 ½ Tbsp instant yeast
2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 ½ tsp kosher salt

Egg Wash
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Pinch flaky salt (optional)

Related: No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread That Looks Fancy (But is Super Easy)

Directions:

1. In a stand-mixer bowl with the hook attachment, mix together the milk and instant yeast. (If you’re using active dry yeast, make sure to proof in warm milk at about 100°F to 110°F). Add the sifted flour, oil, sugar, egg and salt. Mix on low speed, until the dough pulls away from the bowl, about 5-7 minutes.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, cover with the bowl and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. The dough will rise to about two to three times its original size.

Related: From Homemade Bread to Pickles, 20 Recipes to Master While Indoors

3. Grease and line with parchment paper two 6-inch round pans (or pan of your choice).

4. Portion the dough into equal portions (10 x 75 gram balls). Roll each piece of dough against a non-floured surface to create smooth, round dough balls.

5. Place five dough balls into each of the prepared pans, cover and set aside to rest a second time for 15 minutes.

6. Preheat oven to 420°F. Prepare egg wash by mixing egg and milk.

7. Brush the dough balls with egg wash and sprinkle with flaky salt.

8. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Want more easy at-home recipes that use pantry ingredients? These meals that start with macaroni  and canned salmon recipes will have you cooking up a storm.

Watch out for Sabrina’s baking videos on the Food Network Canada Instagram account.

No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread That Looks Fancy (But is Super Easy)

Trust us: This no-knead bread recipe will make you feel like a professional baker. The secret? It’s a super simple, fool-proof recipe that you really can’t mess up, unlike other breads out there. While it does require a bit of time to allow the dough to rise, all good things take time, right? After that, you’ll be off to the races. You can flavour this bread however you please, but we find the combination of our favourite Middle Eastern spice, za’atar, with salty kalamata olives is the perfect marriage of flavours. 

We chose spelt flour because that’s our preferred healthy flour of choice, but you can use a combination of whole- and unbleached-wheat flour, or AP flour. When made only with whole-grain, the bread will be dense, so we recommend combining a light or unbleached variety to give it airiness and levity. Now go impress yourself and your friends, and get baking!

Related: How to Make the Perfect Sourdough Loaf (Bread Baking for Beginners)


No-Knead Olive Za’atar Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Proofing Time: 6-18 hours
Bake Time: 75 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups light spelt flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp za’atar
½ tsp dry active yeast
1 ½ cups room temperature water
¼ cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives

Directions:

1. Place dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, including the yeast.

2. Make a small well in the middle of the ingredients, and pour in the water. Mix slowly to incorporate, then fold in the olives. A shaggy dough will begin to form. Do not over-mix. 

Related: Conquer Brunch With This Make-Ahead Veggie Strata and Sourdough Bread

3. Once the dough mixture is shaggy, cover the bowl with a towel and let rest anywhere from 6-18 hours. The longer you wait, the better the dough.

4. After the resting period, the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place a large oven-safe pot with a tight lid into the oven. We prefer a dutch oven. Leave it there for 30 minutes. 

Related: How to Make Everything Garlic Bread Knots

6. While the dutch oven is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place it onto a floured surface. The dough will be very sticky, so be generous with the flour. Begin to roll it into a ball, but remember, this is no-knead, so there is “no need” to start pounding it or folding it. Simply round it into a ball and leave it alone.

7. Lightly oil the bowl and place the dough back into the bowl. Cover it with a towel and let sit for the remainder of the 30 minutes that your pot is heating up.

8. After 30 minutes, remove the pot from the oven (it will be hot so be careful!). Remove the lid and place a piece of parchment paper into the pot and drop the dough in. Put the lid back on and bake for 30 minutes.

9. Once the 30 minutes is up, remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes.

10. Then, take the freshly baked bread out of the oven and place it onto a cooling rack. You will be so impressed at how artisanal it looks, not to mention that you actually made it yourself, from scratch!

11. Enjoy with butter, ghee, olive oil or on its own.

Now that you’ve conquered bread from scratch, pair it with one of these healthy Middle Eastern recipes you’ll make on repeat.

S'more Cookie Pizza Featured Image

5 Genius Ways to Hack Store-Bought Cookie Dough

Chocolate chip cookies deserve praise for their modesty and simplicity, but sometimes you want to shake up your dessert game. We’ve got five recipes that use store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough and surpass the humble beginnings of just a plain ol’ cookie. So grab a log of that dough and get ready to give your chocolate chip cookies a new groove.

Cookie smore tart pie

Chocolate Chip Cookie S’more Tart
Press a log of cookie dough into a 9-inch pie plate and up the sides in an even layer. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes. Bake in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. Let cool. Set oven to broil. Place marshmallows over cookie base to fill the pie. Place under the broiler for 10 seconds. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chucks over top of marshmallows to melt.

Oreo Cookies

Oreo-Centered Cookie
Wrap 3 Tbsp of cookie dough around an Oreo cookie. Bake in a 350°F oven on greased cookie sheet until edges are golden, about 10 minutes.

banana cookie muffins

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins
Let a log of cookie dough come to room temperature. Line a 24 cup mini muffin tin with paper liners. Mash 2 ripe bananas into dough and stir to combine. Divide mixture into liners and bake in a 350°F oven  for 15 minutes or until golden and baked through.

Cookie brownies

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies
Prepare the batter of boxed brownie mix as per package directions. Pour into a 9×9 inch baking pan. Break up log of cookie dough into 2 inch pieces. Disperse throughout brownie dough. Bake as per brownie directions, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

cookie dough pizza

Milk and Cookies Pizza
Roll out cookie dough into a large circle 1/2-inch thick and bake in a 350°F oven until cookie is cooked through and edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Beat 1 stick of butter with 1/4 cup malted milk powder and 1 1/3 cup icing sugar. Smear over cooled cookie leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Top with chocolate, or toppings of choice.

Looking for more delicious ideas? Learn 5 Ways to Hack a Can of Cinnamon Rolls.

Take Babka to the Next Level with These 3 Twists

Babka is a delectable giant pastry typically filled with chocolate or cinnamon. In the first recipe, we transform this traditionally sweet treat into a savoury masterpiece. Sheets of soft dough get rolled up with plenty of ooey-gooey cheese and tomato sauce to make a pizza babka. And If pizza isn’t speaking to you, maybe the cherry cheesecake or chocolate hazelnut versions will satisfy your sweet cravings.

This babka dough recipe is extremely versatile and easy. Get creative and let your babka dreams come true!

pizza-babka-new

Pizza Babka

Prep Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 9 hours 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

Dough
1/2cup milk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp (8g package) instant yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 large egg

Pizza Filling
1 cup very thick tomato sauce
10 fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
1. Combine milk, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand undisturbed until small bubbles form on the surface of the milk, about 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup flour, salt, butter and egg, stir until combined. Add the remaining flour and stir until a raggedy dough forms. Turn the dough onto a clean surface and begin to knead until a ball of dough forms. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If dough is sticking to surface, add more flour 1 Tbsp at a time. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. Dough will rise, but less than double in size.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a rectangle about 12 x 20 inches. If dough is very elastic and won’t easily roll out, let rest for 5 minutes and then continue.
3. Spread tomato sauce over rectangle in an even layer from edge to edge. Scatter the basil leaves over tomato sauce then sprinkle mozzarella.
4. Beginning at a long edge of the rectangle, roll the dough into a long rope. With flat palms, rock the rope back and forth to reinforce the roll.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll in half lengthwise. Face both cut sides upwards and twist the two ropes by alternating one rope over, then under. Spiral the twisted ropes into the cast iron pan starting in the center. The dough will be flimsy. Don’t worry if it loses form as you place it in the pan. Tuck in any loose filling or dough into a tight spiral. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 325°F. Remove plastic wrap. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over babka. Bake on the centre rack of your oven until babka is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the dough comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Cherry Cheesecake Babka

Filling Variations:

Cherry Cheesecake Babka
1. Smear 3/4 cup of softened cream cheese over rolled out dough. Spread 2/3 cup of cherry pie filling or cherry preserves over cream cheese. Proceed with recipe. Rather than laying the dough in a cast iron pan, you can also place twisted dough ropes on a lined baking sheet. Let rise as per recipe above. Bake for until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Chocolate Hazelnut S’more Babka
Smear 3/4 cup of chocolate hazelnut spread over rolled out dough. Scatter 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows over dough and sprinkle 1/3 cup graham crumb over chocolate hazelnut spread.