Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For Stephen

This winter we've participated in several gatherings with family and dear friends. We're blessed to have among said family and friends people with dietary preferences (recent studies say they were born that way it's not a preference) and restrictions and ages ranging from the very young to older, way older - granna and grandsons with some parents and strays in the middle. To please all of these dear ones you have to be creative yet go for the familiar. The answer is a simple meal of make your own pizza and salad. So some can have their penchant for cheese please and the adventurous others can just be them.

Pizza crust is the base of all things wonderful in this meal. It's actually pretty easy with a mixer and a little time. I make it ahead and freeze it in portions for an individual pizza or the size for a pizza to share. The other nice thing about this is that pizza crust is inexpensive. Note to parents and others concerned about health: You can make this a fiber fantasy by substituting 1/3 of the flour used with a whole grain flour. King Arthur makes a very nice white whole wheat flour that unsuspecting young ones would never know provides additional nutritional benefit. I also add some grain mixes to the flour mix for more sophisticated palates. King Arthur makes and sells those as well.

Pizza Crust

Read the recipe through several times before you begin. There are explanations that are critical. This is an inexact science which requires some speculation and wonder.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
7/8 to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (divided)
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour ( 1 C. white whole wheat can be substituted for 1 C. of All-Purpose flour)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

The goal is a soft, moist almost sticky dough. It should be soft and somewhat loose.

In the bowl of the mixer, place 1/2 C. water, a pinch of sugar. Stir, then sprinkle the yeast on top. In about 5-10 minutes the yeast should "bloom" on the surface of the water. Stir and add 3/8 C. water and remaining ingredients. Mix on low to medium. If the dough is dry add the remaining water. Mix. If you are making this dough in the winter you may need to add still more water particularly if you added the whole wheat flour. Add a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition to assess the dough. It will come away from the sides of the bowl into a ball, clinging to the beaters.

Next you will knead the dough. You can do this by hand - great for a stress reliever or in the mixer. If you knead by hand remove it from the mixer and sprinkle some additional flour on the place where you will be kneading the dough and a little over the top of the dough. Take your hands and place in the middle of the dough. Push away from you, flip the dough over and give it a half turn and repeat. Keep doing this until the dough is smooth and silky. No lumps under the surface. If you're doing this in the mixer just mix at medium speed until smooth and lump-free. Parents can use the image of a baby's behind although not as firm.

Rub a large bowl with oil to lightly coat. Place the dough in the bowl and then turn it over to coat the dough with a little oil. Put a towel over the bowl to cover the dough and set it in a warm place to rise. (not hot, heat will kill the yeast and no rising if the yeast dies.) It will take a couple hours to rise so play, read, cook, drink. Now you can either package the dough and freeze, put it in the fridge to wait for the company coming later or start making pizza now. If you freeze or refrigerate it you will need to bring it to room temperature before you can shape the crust. This could take a couple of hours is frozen.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. I use a stone or a pizza pan. If you are using a stone you probably know this but you preheat the stone while you preheat the oven.

Place a piece of parchment larger than the estimated size of the pizza on the counter. Take the dough and roll or push it into the shape, size and thickness of the pizza you envision. Put the parchment with the pizza dough on top of the stone or on a pizza pan. If you are making an individual pizza 8" bake it 5-8 minutes. If larger 12-14 minutes. You are pre-baking the pizza so that when you add sauce and toppings and put it bake in the oven to finish the crust will be baked completely. The crust should not be brown but more like crust than dough.

If you are using parchment on stone support the crust with a flat, edge-free pan as a pizza peel. You'll need to keep the pizza on the pan while you adorn it and then put it back in the oven. Eli says Granna needs a peel for Christmas.

Pull it out and adorn your pizza. If you are a no sauce person just drizzle a little olive oil and spread. If you are a sauce lover spread thinly it's a condiment not spaghetti. Then add your toppings. Finish with cheese. Return to the oven and bake until bubbly with little brown spots. The crust should be brown on the edges and if you lift up the edge of crust the underside is lovely and not stark white. Remove, serve with a great big smile and a bottle of something red and Italian. Chat, cry with laughter or joy and love.

Addendum: This is already a long post. A quick red sauce in the blender: a can of Italian tomatoes, a couple T. of olive oil, garlic (you know you love it) and a 1/2 -1 t. of herbs. Whirl and you're done. Presto!


  1. Odd that you would have this particular recipe idea. I was just talking with my friend and neighbor, Grace, over the phone and we were trying to come up with a special dinner for her son and his girlfriend. AND, we decided individual pizza would fill the bill. I'll have to send her your recipe and ideas.

  2. you are a gem. and thanks for recipe. i believe almost anything can be atop a good pizza crust. well... anything edible. hey folks, this crust is just too good! henry knows her stuff!