Friday, 4 January 2008

Here Comes the Sun! - Pizza

I am feeling pretty cheerful today. I'm starting to notice that the days are getting longer, and when I pulled this pizza out of the oven, it shone up at me like a miniature sun. But tastier.

For a while, I have been wondering if I really do have problems eating wheat or if my ate-wheat-rash is actually caused by something that is added to the wheat. I am doing some experimenting. And very enjoyable experimenting it is too. I have been missing pizza badly. I confess my flour is not local, it's imported from Italy (it appears that European wheat doesn't cause my rash - go figure.) Whether it is the flour, or the recipe, I'm not sure, but this pizza dough has a soft, cakey quality to it.

Homemade Pizza Sliced
I made a very simple cheese and onion pizza, mainly because my fridge is pretty empty at the moment, except for ham stock. What toppings you put on are up to you, but I have concluded that pizza cooks quickly enough that it is often better if vegetable toppings are cooked or partly cooked before they go on. Some - mushrooms, tomatoes, green peppers - are fine raw. Greeny vegetables in general, such as broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, or spinach are probably better blanched. They don't need much; just put them in a colander, pour boiling water over them and drain well. Onion slices I sauté in a smidge of oil until soft but not browned. Eggplant should be thoroughly cooked. Rare eggplant, bleaugh.

So... what are your favourite toppings for a home-made pizza, and how do you prepare them?

Homemade Pizza
Makes 6 slices; make of that what you will
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time, not all at once.

Making the Dough:

1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons fast-acting yeast

2 2/3 cups hard wheat flour (unbleached or whole wheat)
1 rounded teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Put the water, which should feel pleasantly warm but not hot to the touch, in a medium sized mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Set aside as you prepare the flour.

Measure the flour and mix the sugar and salt into it. Put the oil into the bowl with the yeast and water, and mix in about 2/3 of the flour. Pour the remaining flour onto a clean counter or board, and when you have more-or-less mixed the remaining ingredients, turn them onto the pile of flour.

Knead the dough, working to amalgamate all the flour on the board. Once it is all in, knead until the dough is smooth and just slightly sticky. All this should not take long, just 3 or 4 minutes. Put a little oil into another bowl, add the ball of dough and turn it around to coat it in the oil. Cover it with a tea-towel and put it in a warm but not too hot place to rise until doubled in size; about 1 hour.

It can also be oiled and put in a plastic bag, and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days before being flattened out and baked - just be sure that it has doubled in size before you press it out. It will continue to rise, but slowly, in the fridge. Just keep an eye on it.

Forming and Baking the Pizza:

1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano

1 medium onion
2 teaspoons olive oil

300 grams mozzerella cheese, grated

Other toppings ad-lib: more cheese, cold cuts, thinly sliced vegetables, etc.

Preheat the oven to 500°F. Mix the oregano into the tomato sauce - any plain, not-too-thin sauce will do. Peel the onion and cut it in thin slices. Sauté them gently in the oil until soft but not browned.

Meanwhile, press the dough out to a flat disc on a 16" perforated pie plate. It should pretty much cover the plate evenly. Start from the middle, and work your way out.

Top the dough evenly with the tomato sauce and then the cheese. Sprinkle the onions over the top. Add whatever other toppings you like, keeping in mind that a little will go a very long way. We are partial to very thin slices of zucchini, if it is available, tomatoes, also fresh mushrooms and basil, and even thin blanched slices of broccoli. And - whisper it softly - garlic, anchovies and hot peppers.

Bake the pizza in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes. Let it rest at least 5 minutes before slicing it - if you can!


Peter M said...

The pizza looks delicious. Once again, simple is best!

Kevin said...

That cheese and onion pizza looks really good. I made a roasted red pepper and grilled chicken pizza with asiago cheese pizza at home. Both the peppers and chicken were cooked before going on the pizza. I have been meaning to try making more pizza at home. I will have to get down to coming up with some tasty topping combinations.

Bellini Valli said...

My pizza likes and dislikes change on almost a daily basis. Today I would feel like a margarita pizza with some buffalo mozzarella. Yours does look like a ray of sunshine!