Making Pizza

We eat a very healthy diet in our house: mostly lean meats, vegetables, some vegetarian meals, and few snacks. From time to time, being human after all, we get a craving for that all-American favorite: pizza. Since the restaurant chains we’ve tried seem to offer varieties which we find too salty and greasy, often overdoing it on cheese, making our own pizza suits us just fine. You can really get creative, too, in the version you make at home—which I hope this posting will encourage you to do.

The first thing to decide on is the type of crust you want to have. I know that there are many options out there, including packaged mixes and pre-made, ready-to-use crust. If I’m feeling lazy, I go to the supermarket or the bakery and pick up a bag of frozen dough, which naturally has to thaw before use. But it really isn’t difficult to make your own, though it is time-consuming. Here is a recipe for a delicious, homemade pizza crust that I’ve had for years. Dissolve a teaspoon of sugar and one package of instant yeast in one cup of lukewarm water. (The trick here is that the water cannot be cold, but cannot be hot or else it will kill the yeast.) Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes; it should have grown considerably in volume by that time or else you may think of starting over. Then add in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 2 cups of flour. Gradually incorporate another cup and a half of flour, then put the mixture into a bowl which has a tablespoon or so of oil in it, turning the dough so that it’s coated with the oil on all sides. Now cover the bowl with a dishtowel and let the dough rise for about 2 hours. Often, in winter at least, I place the bowl in a 200 degree oven (which has been turned off) so that the dough has a warm place to double in size. When the time is up, punch the dough down with your fist and start stretching it to fit the size of your pizza pan; there is no need to throw the dough up in the air, but please try it if you’re feeling extra-confident that day. (You could also cover the bottom of the pan with cornmeal, if you want.) I usually cook the dough at 425 degrees for 5 or 6 minutes before adding the sauce and toppings.

Sauces for the pizza can be varied to suit your mood. Recently, I sliced some fresh garlic (2 or 3 cloves) into a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and let it sit for a half-hour or so before slathering it on the partially cooked dough. This was great topped with goat cheese and grilled red peppers and onions. A quick red sauce that I regularly make starts with a can of tomato paste. I doctor it up with minced herbs, garlic, and parmesan, and dilute it to the desired consistency with chicken broth. You can then put the sauce, grated mozzarella and parmesan, as well as your favorite toppings onto the crust. The pizza then goes back into the oven for another ten minutes or so before it’s done.

Years ago, on a trip to The Purple Pub in nearby Watervliet, our family tried their Mexican Pizza. Ever since, I’ve been making my version of this very tasty cross-cultural meal. I use a cup or so of Mexican salsa as the sauce and cheddar cheese. I brown about a ½ pound of ground beef for the topping, adding in sliced green onions, sliced black olives, chopped jalapeños, as well as cumin and chili powder to taste. This, according to my husband, is the best homemade pizza ever! If you like Mexican food, you just might agree!

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Julia said...

Well, I love all your comments and ideas Jayne, but you won't be surprised to see me waxing eloquent about French pizza at the moment. They have that wonderful thin thin crust and just a few select ingredients -- new favorite, tapenade! A little tomato sauce, some emmenthal, and tapenade thinned with olive oil of course. Bon mangez!

Besides, at $1.42 per €euro, it's one of the few ways we can eat out! Julia

Mme Boisvert said...

Salut, Julia! So good to hear from you! I'm not surprised about the euro putting a crimp in your style--that'll happen to us this summer. :( Have some French pizza for us.

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