I've been in the market for a good pizza dough recipe for ages. Usually, when we decided to do homemade pizzas, we opt for the Trader Joe's pre-made dough, and it works just fine. It's not the best dough in the world, but it's cheap and made from decent ingredients. I even tried the Pastaworks dough one time, just for variety. It was good, but not something I'd go out of my way to get. Plus, I love making stuff from scratch.
When my friend Alia had us over for dinner one night, she presented us with a couple of lovely homemade pizzas. She'd made the dough herself, and it was thick, chewy, puffy in all the right places, and very tasty. When it comes to pizza, everyone is really picky, of course. Personally, when I go to a restaurant for pizza, I like the thin, slightly charred, chewy-crispy crust- like the famed Apizza Scholls makes. But, when making pizza at home, I accept the limitations of my small oven and opt for a more bread-like crust.
So, when pizza made its way onto our grocery menu for the week, I decided that I'd go ahead and whip up a batch of dough myself. I emailed my buddy and asked for her recipe, and through a convoluted series of attempts to connect, I ended up heading over to her house with a bag of flour and a packet of yeast, ready to be coached through my first pizza dough.
Her recipe comes from Vegan with a Vengeance, which surprised me- frankly, it's never been my favorite cookbook. I've never gone through it recipe by recipe, but the few things I've tried didn't really blow me away. Of course, I'm not vegan, and I never have been. I understand the scavenger-hunt like enthusiasm vegans have for trying to find good recipes, but it gets kind of old when things that are just vegan by default (salads, smoothies, etc.) start popping up. BUT! This was an excellent, easy-to-follow recipe (even though the instructions are way too long- even the author pokes fun at herself by titling the recipe, "Pizza Dough: A novel.) and I'm keeping it in my recipe box as my official pizza dough.
Pizza Dough: the condensed novel
From Vegan with a Vengeance, transcribed in my chicken scratch as a bare-bones recipe, then re-elaborated at home.
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 (1/4 oz) packet of active dry yeast (the book says "not the rapid-rise stuff!" but that's what I used and it was fine.)
2 tablespoons olive oil (and more for drizzling)
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
cornmeal for dusting
In a small bowl, proof the yeast for 10 minutes by stirring in into the cup of warm water. If your yeast doesn't foam up within 10 minutes, it's dead and you should start over. (Apparently this doesn't really happen anymore, but just so you know.)
In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk together. Add yeast water and oil, and mix up until a dough forms. It will form quickly, and if you have leftover flour at the bottom of the bowl, just set it aside. Knead for 10 minutes until dough is elastic and somewhat firm. If it's too sticky, you can add in small amounts of flour. When finished kneading, form into a tight ball.
In another large, oiled bowl, place the ball and turn to coat the entire thing with a thin film of oil, then cover bowl with a damp cloth. Let rise for 1 hour, then punch down (it feels so good to punch dough, haha!) and knead for another minute, dusting with flour if necessary, until dough begins to feel less like a sponge (it should be spongy) and more like dough. Form into a ball again, place back in the bowl, and let it rest for AT LEAST 10 minutes, but really more like an hour or two. You can also freeze it and use it another time!
When it's time to make pizza, cut the dough into equal sections (you can do 2 medium sized pizzas, 1 really big one- tonight we made 3 smallish ones) and roll/stretch out into shape. This dough rolls GREAT- I rolled it out into super thin pies and it puffed up pretty nicely anyway.
Preheat your oven to 500ºf, (preheat your pizza stone if you have one. I wish I had one!) slide your pie onto a baking pan, and let it go until it's done- 8-10 minutes.
I think it goes without saying that you can put whatever you'd like on a pizza, but if you're curious about what you see above, I'll tell you. We made 1 traditional-type pizza with red sauce (it was just classico pasta sauce, haha) and mozzarella. We did a white pie with garlic paste (garlic smashed up with salt), olive oil, caramelized onions, and mozzarella. (Go easy on the garlic, I overdid it and I was a little bummed.) And lastly, a pesto pie, because why not? It only takes a few seconds to whip up a pesto, and now I have some leftovers kicking around my fridge for later.
3 small pizzas happily fed 3 adults and 2 toddlers, but you could probably even squeeze in one more person and if you served it with a big salad, everyone would fill up.
Also, on the recommendation of several readers, I picked up a copy of Real Food: What to Eat and Why from the library and I'm really enjoying it so far. It's a pretty fascinating read, especially as a former vegetarian. If what she has to say is true, (that buttered bacon is delicious AND HEALTHY, in a nutshell) its kind of shocking to realize how much misinformation we are given about our diets growing up. I'm hoping that it will help me get over some of my food neuroses. It definitely reinforces most of my ideals about food- now if I could just find a book called, "IT'S OKAY, WHITE FLOUR IS STILL GOOD FOR YOU. EAT PIZZA AND PASTA EVERY DAY FOREVER." that would rule. Maybe I should just write one and see if I can sucker my body into agreeing with me?
ALSO! My friends The Klines are having us over for dinner this weekend to share the bounty of their first ever asparagus harvest! Holla! I can't wait to eat some home grown asparagus. Apparently it takes like 3 years after planting before you can actually harvest any, but after that it comes up every year like clockwork. Yum! I will post pictures, for sure.