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Project Pizza

My grandmother always used to say: “Pizza isn’t dinner. It is a snack.” While that probably explains why I was a chubby kid, it certainly isn’t true — pizza is a great dinner especially if you swap out some ingredients for a healthier version and serve it with a salad.

In high school and college, I used to make a lot of pita pizzas. They were quick, easy and fairly healthy. But I’ve never made “real” pizza. This month’s Food and Wine has a Pizza and Wine feature – two of my favorite things. I decided to swap out their dough recipe with one from my friend Danielle. I practically grew up in her kitchen where everything was fresh and homemade. Her recipes don’t disappoint.

This was a baking challenge for me. With the size of my kitchen, I had little to no counter space to roll out the dough and I had a husband who insisted on sharing this small space with me to clean and recycle. He left the kitchen covered in flour – a small payback for interrupting such genius at work.








In the end, my pizza was good – but not great. I inadvertently cooked the dough at too high of a temperature for the first 4-5 minutes, which resulted in a doughy center for half of the pie. Since I had extra dough, I made another small square pan pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella and olives (it was the only thing I had in the house). Ironically, the afterthought pizza was actually better than my basil, tomato, mozzarella version. Sensing my panic, my husband ran out and bought himself  a bag of chips in case the meal was a disaster. By 2 a.m., both pizzas were gone (they were small) so clearly they weren’t that bad. Pics are coming. For some reason, our camera is holding them hostage at the moment. If you are a novice pizza maker like me, I found some tips that will help get you started.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Thaw the frozen pizza dough: Let the dough defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or let it stand at room temperature for 3 to 5 hours. To defrost in a microwave oven, heat for 1-minute intervals at 20-percent power until the dough is soft, 4 to 5 minutes total. If the dough feels hot, turn down the setting.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Preheat a pizza stone: Set a stone directly on the oven floor or on the lowest oven rack. Allow at least 30 minutes for the stone to fully preheat.

Work the dough: If the dough pulls back after you roll or stretch it, let it relax, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, then try again. Check that the dough isn’t sticking to the pizza peel before you add the toppings. Gently shake the peel or baking sheet back and forth. If the dough sticks, lift it up and sprinkle a bit more flour underneath.

Bake the pizza: Allow up to 10 minutes of extra baking time for pizza cooked on a baking sheet instead of a pizza stone. Reheat cold or soggy pizza directly on the rack of a preheated 350° oven until the top is bubbling and the crust is crisp.

Danielle’s Pizza Dough

1 packet of yeast
2 cups whole wheat (King arthur’s)
2 cups white flour (unbleached)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp sugar
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups of warm water

Stir together the flour, salt, sugar and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the warm water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment). Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Pizza with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped (I made my own fire roasted tomatoes for this pizza but canned will work too)
1 pound room-temperature pizza dough
10 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced
16 basil leaves, torn

1.      Put a pizza stone on the oven floor and preheat the oven to 500°, allowing at least 45 minutes.
2.      Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat, stirring a few times, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Season with salt.
3.      Cut the pizza dough into 4 pieces and pat each one into a disk. Transfer the disks to a floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.
4.      On a lightly floured work surface, roll 1 disk of dough into a 9-inch round. Transfer it to a floured pizza peel or flat cookie sheet. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the tomatoes over the dough. Top with one-fourth of the mozzarella and drizzle with olive oil. Slide the pizza onto the hot stone and bake for about 4 minutes, or until browned around the edges and bubbling. Transfer the pizza to a work surface and sprinkle with 4 basil leaves. Cut it into 4 wedges and serve immediately. Repeat with the remaining pizza dough, tomatoes, cheese, olive oil and basil. 

And because this is from F&W Magazine, I’m sharing their pairing suggestion for this pizza. The straightforward flavors here are best matched with an equally straightforward, fruity wine. For a red, turn to the soft, spicy 2003 Morgante Nero d’Avola from Sicily; for a white, try the 2003 Marisa Cuomo Ravello Bianco from Campania.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I salute you for the effort you put into your culinary awakenings….you might consider a spot on local TV for those who are struggling to have good nutrition laden meals…..or a youtube short… could be famous….? really , I am sincere…and you have what it takes. keep ’em coming, Even tho We need out meat fix, some of those recipes look scrumptious!

    October 19, 2009
    • cherala34 #

      Thank you so much. That really means a lot to me. I hope I can keep folks interested!

      October 29, 2009

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