Wednesday, January 12, 2011

pizza redux!

finally: restitution! yours truly has conquered the art of pizza dough making! well, i suppose, put only slightly more humbly/accurately: i recently learned how to successfully make a dough from scratch that is light, crispy, delectable and (honestly, most importantly) digestible.

i know, i know: julia childs, watch your back. the hobbit chef is gaining momentum and it's just a matter of time before i'm whipping up coq au vin with a side of steak au poivre on a daily basis.

in any case, it was my dear mother who inspired me to take on the (what had become) dreaded pizza dough and try and find something that was manageable and delicious. i have to admit that there is something very satisfying about enjoying a complete meal you yourself brought together from lots of raw ingredients. and it definitely helps when the end product is better than any premade dough you find in a grocery store. which, coincidentally, is exactly what this is!

i did a bit of internet scouting and ended up finding my way back to the trusted smitten kitchen blog. while her list of pizza recipes is extensive, i must admit that i was, in all my vulnerability, drawn to her allegedly really simple homemade pizza post... to which i can only say: wow, was that a good decision. it's very easy and requires only brief bouts of concentration and limited ingredients. mostly, you just need a few hours at home. if you're not making it on the weekend, you could also make it one evening on the side and eat it the next. the dough will certainly stay good in the fridge for a few days.

her recipe makes one small thin crust pizza. naturally, i doubled that to make enough for 4 people (and 3 puppies, all of whom spend the bulk of mealtimes scurrying rapidly underneath the table competing for my dad's charitable scraps).

you'll need:

1 1/2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil

stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a bowl. add in the water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. if it's still a bit flakey, go ahead and add an extra tablespoon or two of water. dump all the clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a cohesive ball.

the all-time best tip mentioned in the recipe is to simply take a brief pause if this step is getting frustrating and the ball isn't well, balling. leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 5 minutes. the dough will somehow, in these 5 minutes, have realized the error of its stubborn ways and be much more willing to cooperate.

knead it for a couple of minutes. grab the bowl you were using and coat with a light spritz of cooking spray. put the dough in and roll it around so all sides are coated. cover it in plastic wrap and leave it in peace for about two hours, until it has doubled in size.

put it back on the floured surface from before and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for another half hour. if you're going to leave it longer, you can put it in the fridge after that half hour to keep until you're ready to go.

put your pizza stone in a cold oven and preheat your oven to its top temperature (heat is your BFF when making pizza!). this also helps the stone absorb the heat evenly. roll out the pizza and throw on your preferred toppings and seasonings. this time, we started with a thin layer of tomato sauce followed by red onions, black olives, broccoli, and spinach and mushrooms (which have been cooked and drained before). and then (most importantly?!) cheese: a three cheese blend of mozzarella, asiago, and jack.

bake it for about 10 minutes until the dough is crispy, the cheese sizzly, and you just can't take it anymore.