Tuesday, May 29, 2012


      So if you haven’t guessed, my ultimate dream is to open a restaurant. I would love it if people came from miles around just to sample my fare. To be recommended by you to your friends and by them to their friends. Have a lazy Sunday breakfast at “Shep’s Place”. Grab a quick lunch bite at “Jim’s Diner”. Maybe even a dinner with the family at “The Shepherd Family Eatery”. But then I noticed that every time my family goes out to eat everybody wants something different. Or the menu is so varied that it takes 45 minutes for us to figure out what we want to eat. Obviously I would need a niche and a simplified menu that would also serve the masses.
     I was struck with inspiration one night while making pizza for dinner. I asked my son Sean what he wanted on his pizza and I think I insulted him. “Dad, I have the same thing on my pizza every time we have pizza.” Now, this is the kid who will take about three days to decide what flavor of Blizzard he wants yet he knows exactly what he wants on his pizza.
     Everyone has their pizza. Their “go-to” pie. Whether its ham and pineapple, pepperoni with extra cheese or the folks that like mushrooms and artichokes, you know what you are getting before you even walk in the door. And everyone likes pizza. Ever heard the expression "Pizza is like Sex. Even when it's bad...its still pizza."?  So with a simple menu and a focus, I just needed a name. And now it was my wife’s turn to inspire me. “Hey Babydoll, how do you want me to cook your pizza?”
     “Um…in the cast iron like always, ” she said with a roll of the eyes. Whenever I make a deep dish pizza, I use an 11 ¾” cast iron skillet that was handed down to me from my grandfather that used it when he was a cook for the rail road in the 1930’s. It’s well seasoned and gives a pizza crust a nice even bake with just the right balance of softness and crispness. Ding! Ding! Ding! "Shep’s Skillet Pizza" was born! So now I have a menu in mind, a niche and a name. All I need now is a rich, long lost uncle to pass away and leave me a fortune so I can buy a building, equipment, supplies, hire staff, and advertise. Don’t suppose you guys know anyone looking to adopt a very lovable me do you? No? Never hurts to ask.
     So until I have a restaurant to invite you to, I figured I’d give you a pizza recipe that you may see in the not too distant future at “Shep’s Skillet Pizza.” Enjoy.

Heidi's favorite: Canadian bacon, pineapple and bacon.

2 1/2 Cups All purpose flour
1 Tbs Olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast
1 Cup Warm water ( about 110 deg)
1 Tbs Sugar
Corn Meal to prevent the dough from sticking to the pan
Olive Oil

Basic Pizza Sauce:
1 28oz can Crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp Salt
1 clove Garlic, crushed
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
Adjust the seasoning as you see fit for your particular taste.

Desired toppings


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, now is the time to put it in the oven.

Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Combine the flour, salt and olive oil in a large mixing bowl. Add water mixture to flour and knead for 6-8 minutes
Cover and let rest in a warm place for 20-30 minutes then divide. Roll each dough ball out on a lightly floured surface to the desired size of pizza.
The Madison Seal of Approval
Sprinkle your cooking vessel (cast iron skillet, pizza pan, pizza stone [CAUTION: pizza stone will be HOT!]) with corn meal and place your rolled dough in. Poke several holes with a fork to let moisture escape from the inside of the dough during cooking. Lightly spread some olive oil on the dough to prevent the sauce from penetrating the dough and making it soggy.

Combine all the sauce ingredients and adjust seasonings to taste. Spread about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sauce per pizza evenly over the dough. Top with one layer of cheese, then desired toppings and a bit more cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the crust.
Sean's favorite: Sausage, salami, bacon and pepperoni

 Note: With this recipe I can make a 12 inch deep dish, an 8 inch deep dish and a 14 inch thin crust.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Debunking "Satan's Sweetener"

      So I totally meant for this to be a weekly thing, and while that is still the goal it just takes a bit to get going. I figured I'd drop a few words, share a recipe and that would be it. It's a bit harder than that. For me anyways. I have a whole new respect for people who blog every week and especially those who blog everyday.
     This week's recipe is a new one for me. You see, I love sugar. Brown sugar, white sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, etc. I have always shied away from sugar free or reduced sugar recipes because of previous bad experiences with what I like to call "Satan's Sweetener" or artificial sweeteners. But something presented itself to me the other day while planning our monthly birthday potluck at work. My friend Angie is diabetic and can't have a lot of sugar. I was asked to make something with reduced sugar or sugar free. Since I want everyone to be able to enjoy the food I make, especially the desserts, I figured I'd give it a shot.
     Also the theme for this month's potluck was Mexican food. So with that theme in mind I figured a Tres Leche cake would be on the money. Light, sweet and even if you make it with sugar, it isn't alot. So this week I give you what was described by my friend Angie as "The best Tres Leche cake I've ever had."
Photo by Heidi Shepherd

Materials, ingredients and directions

Parchment Paper
Cookie sheet or platter with at least 1/2in to 1in sides
Electric mixer
Extra refrigerator space

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I like to grease my cake pans then flour them. For this recipe I used two 9 inch cake pans
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbs baking powder
4 large eggs separated
1 1/2 Cups Splenda
1/2 Cup whole milk
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 12oz can evaporated milk
3 Cups heavy cream divided
3 Tbs orange liqueur (one little airplane bottle of Grand Marnier was perfect)
2 Tbs powdered sugar
Cinnamon (optional)
Mandarin oranges (optional)

First combine the flour and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.

Next, in a large (and preferably deep) mixing bowl, use an electric mixer, with a whisk attachment if you've got one, to whip the eggs whites until frothy. Gradually add the Splenda until you have stiff peaks. Proceed to put in the yolks one at a time making sure you are well blended after each yolk. Finally alternate adding the flour and whole milk until fully mixed.

Pour the batter into the waiting cake pans and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Flip the cake pans onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and they should come right out. Take a thick skewer (I used my instant read thermometer) and pierce holes throughout the cake.

Combine the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, orange liqueur and 1 Cup heavy cream in a medium bowl. Pour the milk mixture over the cake, cover it and refrigerate for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

All that's left is to take the remaining 2 Cups of heavy cream and 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Mix the ingredients together until soft peaks form. Place the whipped cream into the refrigerator until ready to spread it on the cake.

When the cakes are ready remove them from the refrigerator and place one on a platter and spread some whipped cream on it then place the second on top and go nuts with the whipped cream. Once you've covered the cake you can either garnish with cinnamon like a traditional Tres Leche cake or garnish it with mandarin oranges to help bring out the orange flavor in the milk mixture that has soaked into the cake.

I was going to have my wife take more pictures of the cake once I had garnished it with oranges and taken a slice out so I could show off the inside as well. The cake got eaten way too fast to even think about trying to save some for a photo op. Maybe I'll make another one and hide it so I can take pictures of it. In reality, I'll make another one and hide it so I don't have to share.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Anybody like cupcakes?

     So my wife and several friends have told me that I should start a blog to help get things off my chest or that I should be a chef so that I can put things in their belly. So I figured I'd start a food blog and see how things turn out.

     For my first trick I submit to you Seahawk Cup Cakes. I made these for some friends at work in honor of the NFL Draft last weekend. Plus I'm a die hard Hawks fan so I figured what the hell. Pretty easy to make and pretty freaking awesome.

Ingredients and Directions:

Preheat oven to 375

Sift together:
3 1/2 C cake flour*
1 Tbs plus 1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Combine in a separate bowl:
1 C milk
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
In another large bowl, beat until creamy:
2 sticks of butter
Gradually add:
1 2/3 C sugar
Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add the flour mixture in batches, alternating with the milk until beating on low speed until nice and smooth.
In another large bowl** beat on medium until soft peaks form:
8 large eggs whites
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
Gradually add while beating on high speed:
1/3 C sugar
Beat until the peaks are stiff and not dry.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in about 1/3 of the whites into the batter mixture. Once combined add the rest. The next step is where the magic happens.
Stir in:
1 oz Wilton's Royal Blue gel icing color (WalMart)
2 drops Wilton's Violet gel icing color
Once it's all combined you should have a really bold blue color. It will lighten up a little during baking so if you want it darker or lighter just play with the color combination a bit.
Line your cupcake pan with paper liners and put about 1/4 cup into each one. Bake at 375 for about 22 minutes and then check them with a toothpick in the middle. If it comes out clean then your done. If not just bake them a bit more, checking every 2 minutes or so til done. Remove from oven and place on a rack to fully cool.

*If you don't have cake flour, you can make your own by sifting together 3/4 C plus Tbs of flour and 2 Tbs of corn starch for 1 C of cake flour
** If you use a chilled metal bowl, the eggs whites will stiffen quicker and have a fluffier texture
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together:
3 C powdered sugar
1 C butter
Mix on low until blended then mix on high for about 3 minutes. Then add:
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 Tbs heavy cream
Beat on medium for about a minute and add up to 1 more Tbs of cream if needed for a smoother consistency
Now you can stir in:
2-3 drops Wilton's Black gel icing color
Like I said: I'm a Seahawks fan so I was going for a grey icing. mine actually turned a little purple so I compensated by using Duff Goldman's Cake Graffiti. Its' like silver spray paint for cake decorating. Worked like a charm. So either try for the grey frosting or just use the Cake Graffiti

Put into a heat safe bowl:
1 package white chocolate chips
Heat on the stove, stirring constantly, until almost boiling:
3/4 C heavy cream
Pour hot cream over the white chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Now you can add:
20 drops neon green food coloring
Stir in until fully incorporated.

Now that everything is done and the cupcakes are cool you can remove them from the pan. Scoop out a little bit of the center of the cup cake making a well and set it off to the side (my kids fravorite little snack). Spoon some of your neon green ganach into the well until flush with the top. Do this until all the cupcakes are full. Now just frost them with your grey or white frosting and spray them with Cake Graffiti. Here is where I put mine in the fridge for a few hours to let the ganache set up fully. Once they get to room temperature serve 'em up and enjoy. Now you have a very moist cupcake with a smooth frosting and tasty chocolate surprise in the middle. Feel free to customize them to any team color you want...except the Raiders