Sunday, October 2, 2011

First Pizza of the Quarter

 
One thing you will learn if you spend much time around me is that I love food. I'm not one of those people who is adept at describing smells and tastes and hints and overtones, but I love trying new foods and trying to cook them. And while this isn't going to be a cooking blog, I do intend to post some of my recipes here periodically. So, for my first "real" blog post, I thought I'd share with you my recipe for white pizza. But before we can get to the deliciousness of the pizza, you'll need the dough. Here is the recipe that I use, but feel free to use your own or the store bought kind.

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
3-4 cups flour

Steps:
  1. Heat water to about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I microwave it for about a minute to get it the right temperature. You should be able to stick your fingers in it and hold them there for a few seconds.
  2. Add the yeast to the water along with a large pinch of sugar and give it a stir. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes, or until it foams. I like to do this step in my mixing bowl (less cleanup later).
  3. Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture in a mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Continue to add flour (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup at a time) until the dough isn't sticking to the bowl.
  4. Flour a work surface like a counter top or cutting board and turn the dough out onto it. Flour your hands and knead the dough for 2 or 3 minutes, adding flour as needed. Then test it by poking it gently with your thumb--if the dough bounces back, you're done with this step. Oil the mixing bowl and roll the dough around inside to coat it. Then cover it and let it sit for at least 1/2 an hour, until it has doubled in size.
  5. Punch out the air in the dough and turn it out on your work surface again. At this point, you can divide the dough into however many pieces you want. You can make about 3 medium pizzas with this recipe, or 6 personal pizzas or calzones (I used 1/3 of the dough for the pizza in the picture). Form each piece into a ball and cover with a towel. (If you want to freeze the dough, this is the time to do it.) Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it, stretch it, toss it, or do whatever you have to to get it into the shape you want. Coat a cookie sheet or pizza pan with nonstick cooking spray and put your dough on it.
  7. Add toppings and then pop it in the oven for about ten minutes or so. Let cool (if you can), cut, and enjoy!
  8. If you want to make calzones, add your toppings to half of a dough round. Fold the other half over top, pinch the edges or press with the tines of a fork to seal, and brush with olive oil or beaten egg before baking.
 So that's it for the pizza. Oh wait, you want to know about the one in the picture? Well, that's a whole other story...

I basically made up this version of white pizza. I wanted pizza but I had no sauce or pepperoni or other traditional toppings. But I did have some olive oil, some spices, some mozzarella, and a couple of lovely tomatoes. And the results were delicious. So, while you're waiting for your dough to rise, you can get ready to make the white pizza toppings. For one pizza:

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
Spices
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tomatoes, sliced

Steps:
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan. Add the garlic and cook for about two minutes. Add your spices. I used crushed red pepper, dried basil, and an Italian seasoning blend. Cook for another minute or two. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. When your dough is ready to go, drizzle the oil on top and spread it around with the back of a spoon.
  3. Cover the pizza with mozzarella and Parmesan. 
  4. Arrange the tomato slices on top. Top with a little more cheese and a sprinkle of basil. Bake and enjoy.
And voila! The pizza was really delicious. You can tell because I had already started eating it before I thought to take the picture! The only problem was that it didn't rise much so the crust was very thin. This could have been a problem with the yeast or just my impatience in not letting it rise as long as it needed to. Either way, it was delicious.

Pizza is one of my favorite things to cook, partly for the reason that it is so very forgiving. Yes, I would have liked a thicker crust, but it turned out pretty awesome anyway. And you can throw whatever toppings you want on it. (Seriously, it's like the best food ever.)

I also sincerely enjoy the process of making it. The mixing and the kneading and the stretching and all of that. It is cathartic. I'm at a stage in my life known as "Poor Graduate Student" where I'm supposed to eat Kraft Mac & Cheese and Ramen noodles for every meal. And although I enjoy both of those things (in moderation of course), I like being able to prepare something from scratch. I like having that connection to my food, and there's a sense of pride that comes from making it yourself. Lucky for me, I have now 4 more balls of dough in the freezer so this pizza is only the first of many.

Now, who's hungry?

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