Saturday, February 14, 2009

Just a Little Pizza

One of the conflicts of this busy time is that if I spend as much time puttering over dinner as I like at the end of a long day, that'll be the whole evening, and we won't eat until midnight, which doesn't feel healthy. But what else can I do when I get home at nine, ten, or eleven, starving and full of a day's worth of vague what-to-have-for-dinner dreams?

Clearly I'm going to have to get a little better at planning and advance prep, and maybe a little more resigned to eating simply on school nights. Still, we need dinner, cooking is one of the pleasures of my life, and if I cook dinner, I usually save money the next day because I can bring leftovers for lunch (and dinner, if I'm out until 11). I am a bag lady who carries around a lot of plastic containers. I find this really tedious sometimes, but I am trying very hard to not buy lunch, especially overpriced, not very good lunch.

Dinner the other day was a start at one good solution to this problem. I woke up just a little earlier than usual on Thursday, and made a quick batch of whole wheat pizza dough, riffing on this recipe. When I came home worn out and low, it was waiting for me in the refrigerator, and it was very easy to top with whatever was around, slice, and eat.

The dough was very easy to handle, and made a very thin crust, so I'll include the recipe here.
The only really difficult step is getting the prepared pies onto the baking stone. At some point I might cave and invest in a peel. At this point, I just count a few slightly misshapen pies and scattered ingredients as collateral damage.

Thin Crust Pizza Dough
adapted from Jeffrey Steingarten via Makes about four medium pies. The original recipe made double this amount, and all I've done was cut it in half. Pizza dough is easy to freeze, though, so you might want to consider doubling it right back. This is a bread dough, so exact proportions will change anyway.

3.5 cups of flour (a mixture of whole wheat, all-purpose, and cornmeal/semolina is good)
3/4 tsp instant or active dry yeast
2.5 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups cold water

Mix the flours, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until dough comes together. Beat it around for a little while, and maybe leave it for 20 mins to absorb some water and become easier to knead. Then turn out onto a floured board and knead for a while. It's a wet dough, your fingers will get sticky. Keep them floured or oiled, but avoid adding too much extra flour to the dough. The dough is ready when a small floured piece stretches out easily without breaking into a thin sheet.

When your dough is ready, fold one side over the other and let it rest for 10 mins. Then put the dough into a well-oiled bowl to rise until double in size--about three hours. (You can also put it in the refrigerator at this point--morning to night or overnight is a good rough rising time.)

When you're ready to make pizza, preheat your oven to its highest setting (at least 500 degrees farenheit), and allow the pizza stone (or overturned pan, or whatever you have) to heat up for a half hour or more.

While it's heating, cut the dough approximately four pieces. Stretch it out gently by draping it over your fists (see any pizzeria for the technique) or roll it with a floured pin into as flat a surface as possible. You want the dough no more than 1/2 a centimeter thick, and it can be thinner. Sauce and top the pizza, and then find a way to get it onto the pizza stone. The site where I got this recipe recommends removing the hot stone from the oven and actually creating the pie on it, but my stone is too unwieldy for me to feel comfortable with that.

Bake in the hot oven until it looks done (usually under ten minutes). Remove from oven, rest a second, and slice and eat.

This week, our toppings were tomato sauce, artichoke hearts, fresh garlic, dried sweet basil, fresh mozzarella, and mystery greens from the CSA.

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