Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Pizza: everyone's favorite pie

Ordering out pizza was once a cheap option. But these days I have to shell out $25 for a pie that's usually tasteless and soggy. Recently, I started making my own with Trader Joe's pizza dough—it costs only $1. Sometimes, I even kneed my own dough. This makes for an even more delicious crust—and there's no packaging so I'm limiting my impact on the earth.
I recommend buying a pizza stone so your crust comes out of the oven perfectly crispy across the bottom and chewy along the edges.

Makes two pizzas.

First step: the dough

If you're using Trader Joe's dough skip to Step 2. If you're making your own dough, start about 1 hour or more ahead of time because it needs at least a half-hour to rise. I have used both a food processor and a mixer to make the dough but prefer the mixer. If I have to grate cheese, I'll use the food processor so I clean only one tool.

Dough recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten. I've only made the dough; I've never tried the full recipe. And, I always use whole wheat flour—not that all-purpose stuff.

For the dough:
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 packages dry yeast or buy bulk yeast (it's 2 1/2 teaspoons per package)
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the mixer or food processor fitted with a dough hook or blade. Add 3 cups flour and then the salt, and mix. While mixing, add 1 more cup flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead the dough on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Second step: preheat and the toppings

Put the pizza stone in the oven and preheat at 450 degrees. While dough is rising and the oven is preheating, I chop, cook, and grate cheese. When I first started making pizza, I'd always forget to preheat the stone. I want the stone hot enough to cook the dough while I'm adding the ingredients to the top.

Prepare two low-moisture mozzarella cheese balls in the food processor with the grater attachment. Two mozzarella balls gives me enough for a second pizza later in the week. For the toppings, I pick and choose from almost anything that I can find in the frige. Leftovers are great for piling on top of pizzas:

Goat cheese
Corn
zucchini
Peppers
Onions
Spinach

Chop and cook in a olive oil: onions, peppers, zucchini, and corn. I want everything cooked before I put it on the pizza. If I use spinach, I steam it before adding it. I also like to chop it after steaming; otherwise, it's a little stringy for Mikey.

Third step: roll out dough

Roll out the dough. If I made my own, I pinch the dough ball into two pieces. I use one and refrigerate the other.

Fourth step: make the pizza

Pull out the pizza stone, place the dough on it, drizzle with olive oil, and then add a light layer of sauce. I like to use my homemade pesto but you can also make it with the more classic tomato sauce. Add a light layer of the grated mozzarella cheese. Scatter topping from frying pan and the spinach from the cutting board onto pizza. Add clumps of goat cheese. Stick in the oven for 10 minutes.

Mikey typically eats one slice. He loves pizza night!

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