Tag Archives: Vermont Gourmet Foods

Pizza Night!

Making my own pizza dough has been on the to-do list for too long.  It became a higher priority after our recent visit with Karen and Jim, and we enjoyed awesome homemade pizza baked in their neighbors’ outdoor pizza oven.  Nice!  A family dinner on the calendar provided the perfect opportunity for our own pizza party.  I had bookmarked a recipe for pizza dough from Annie’s Eats months ago and noted several of Annie’s hints for success.  First, don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour.  Bread flour’s high-gluten content gives pizza crust its structure and satisfying chewy crunch.  Second, weigh the flour for best results.  You also might want to take a moment to read Annie’s tutorial about making pizza dough.  It really helped me work through the process with confidence.

King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour was a must-have for the experiment.  If you have read our site for very long, you know our affinity for King Arthur products and their employee-owned corporate culture.  It’s been very exciting to hear that some of you have switched to King Arthur flours in your own kitchens!

IMG_1281Basic Pizza Dough


  • ½ cup warm water (about 110°)
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups (22 oz.) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl


Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed.  Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms.  Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate it.

To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal.  Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil.  Top as desired.  Slide the dough onto the pizza stone.  Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes.  Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

Because I was making multiple pizzas for dinner, I doubled the recipe, then par-baked three crusts about 5 minutes before adding the toppings.  I froze one portion of dough for another time.  We had a marinara-pepperoni-sausage-cheese pizza for the traditionalists, an alfredo-mozzarella-romano pizza for the cheese lovers, but the star of the buffet was the recreation of an unusual pie we had enjoyed at an upscale pizza restaurant in the Dallas area.  It was super-easy and mega-delicious.

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

  • Spread a par-baked pizza crust with fig preserves (Bonus:  I had some of Mom’s homemade preserves!  Alternatively, try Dalmatia Fig Spread.)
  • Top with prosciutto
  • Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles

Bake for 5-6 minutes at 500°.  After removing from the oven, top with fresh arugula and drizzle with balsamic glaze.  I used glaze I had purchased, although you could certainly make your own.

The result?  The crust was perfectly crisp and chewy.  The sweet fig preserves were balanced with the tangy goat cheese, while the salty prosciutto paired fantastically with the sweet balsamic glaze.  It was a smashing success, to be repeated often!

Image 2

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Small Business Week Salute to King Arthur Flour

King Arthur Flour started as a family business four centuries ago, and has evolved into an employee-owned business with a world-wide footprint.  It has also done a stellar job of staying true to its small business roots.  Company employees share tempting recipes and baking tips on its baking blog, and respond rapidly and courteously to questions and an occasional complaint on its Facebook page.  A telephone hotline and online baker’s chat help home bakers achieve success.  I recently chatted online with one of King Arthur’s baking consultants while using the company’s Gluten Free Bread Mix, and the conversation was as cordial as if I had called a friend for advice.  (More on that baking experience later.)

Check out this video showcasing King Arthur’s company culture and success, then head over to my favorite biscuit recipe using King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour and try them for yourself!

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Lake Champlain Chocolates Rum Caramel Dark Chocolate

I hope no one ever asks me to choose my favorite chocolate, because I just couldn’t.  If you have been following our quest for artisan and gourmet foods for any amount of time, it’s probably obvious that chocolate is my favorite dessert and we’ve enjoyed some really great chocolates. As we savored the flavors, we’ve come to love the artisans’ stories, too.  Lake Champlain Chocolates emerged from a thoughtful gift of chocolates that went a little south.  Jim Lampman owned a successful Burlington, Vermont restaurant on the Lake Champlain waterfront, and regularly gave his staff boxes of expensive chocolates.  His pastry chef finally broke the news to Jim that the chocolates weren’t good.  In fact, the word “terrible” came up.  Jim immediately challenged him to produce better chocolates, and Jim was soon serving truffles to his restaurant patrons.  After a very enthusiastic response, Jim founded Lake Champlain Chocolates to sell wholesale truffles.

Word quickly spread about the new business operating in a tiny alley location, and retail customers started knocking on the door to buy the chocolates directly.  Jim sold the restaurant and turned his full attention to producing small batch chocolates using natural ingredients, many from Vermont.  The chocolates contain no preservatives or shelf-life extenders, and all except the maple candies are Kosher-certified. The business has expanded from its small beginnings and now operates in a 24,000 foot facility with as many as one hundred employees at peak season.  Jim’s son and daughter have joined him in the venture, and the family continues to produce innovative flavors in small batches.

I found this Rum Caramel Dark Chocolate bar at Whole Foods, and I was intrigued right away.


One of my all-time favorite pies contains chocolate and rum, so I had already bought into that combo.  The addition of caramel would have to take it over the top, wouldn’t it?  The chocolate bar was beautiful (although broken in transit, so I only photographed a portion of it).


The taste was definitely one to slowly savor.  The dark chocolate was superb, and the caramel tucked inside was thick, creamy and delicious.  The dark rum flavor was the last to be noted, and the combination was even better than I had anticipated.  This chocolate bar is really something special!

The company’s website offers an amazing selection of gourmet chocolates.  Vogue Magazine called their Caramel Five Star Bar “the ultimate chocolate bar”.  The company partnered with a popular Vermont rock band to create their Grace Under Fire dark chocolate bar with an interesting flavor profile of red pepper and pistachio nuts.  Of course, the truffles that started this chocolate adventure are available, too.  We will be trying more of them soon.  Just don’t ask me to choose a favorite!

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King Arthur Flour

There are so many things to love about King Arthur flour that it is hard to know where to start, but  the statement at the top of the bag that the flour is milled from 100% USA wheat is definitely a plus in our book!  The company, founded in Boston, is almost as old as America.  The statement on the back of the flour bag expresses the company’s philosophy very well:

King Arthur Flour, founded in 1790, is America’s oldest flour company – and is wholly owned by us, the employees.  The business is based on three pillars:  people, planet and profit.  We do what’s right for our customers, for ourselves, and for our environment.  We are a founding B-Corporation, using the power of business help solve social and environmental problems.  We’re motivated by knowing that, every day, people like you count on our flour – on us – to make their baking the best it can be.

The company’s website is a wealth of information from recipes, baking tips, videos, and tutorials.  King Arthur maintains a baking hotline and online live chat to answer baking questions.  An extensive line of baking products and supplies is available on their website, including gluten-free selections.   They also have a company store in Norwich, Vermont.  Don’t you love this company already?

King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour is as impressive as the company itself.  For those who might not know, unbleached flour is not subjected to a chemical bleaching process.  Unbleached flour has more protein than flour that has been bleached.  It also has a more complex, robust taste.  Although some bakers recommend unbleached flour for breads and bleached flour for delicate pastries, King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour works well for most baking needs.  A pan of “from scratch” biscuits is a great way to get acquainted with King Arthur Flour.  This recipe comes from fellow East Texan Barbara Richardson McClellan’s cookbook, “From My Kitchen, Once More”, and she credits a cookbook titled “Georgia on My Menu” as the original source.

Just one final note – after making the batch of biscuits pictured above with King Arthur flour, we made the same recipe using another national brand unbleached flour.  The King Arthur flour batch was clearly superior in appearance, taste and texture.

Duke Dining Hall Biscuits

Servings – About 5

  • 2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450°.

Mix dry ingredients, and cut in shortening.  (A food processor works great, but you can use a pastry blender, or 2 table knives.)  Add the milk all at once, and stir only slightly.  Place dough on slightly floured surface and knead very gently for only a few seconds.  Roll into 1/2″ thickness.  Cut with a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter or small glass, dipping the cutter into flour before each cut.  (Note:  press the cutter straight down; do not twist it back and forth.)  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden brown.  Makes 8 – 12 biscuits, depending on size of the cutter.


Filed under Pantry Products