Monday, May 12, 2008

Its the sauce

I made homemade pizza earlier this week. The basic crust recipe I used was very simple - basically flour, water, honey, oil, and salt (see below), and a good crust is an important part of a good pizza. However, I feel that a good sauce is critical to the flavor of a good pizza. I typically make enough sauce for at least two batches of dough, and sometimes more than that.

For the sauce, I begin with a large can of crushed tomatoes. This is heated in a saucepan over medium heat with 3 cloves of minced garlic, about a quarter cup of olive oil, a tablespoon (approximate) of oregano, a teaspoon each of basil and rosemary, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste. After about 15-minutes I let it cool a bit before using it (I usually do this while the dough is rising).

This is what the pizza might look like (this one has red onions and peppers, chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, an pepperoni - Z's had bacon, asparagus, and broccoli in place of the pepperoni and chicken).

With the leftover dough, I decided to take advantage of other leftovers and combined them into a new treat - Mexican pizza. We'd made Mexican lasagna earlier in the week, and had some left over sauce (tomatoes, ground beef, black beans, onions, chili powder, cumin, etc.). So, I used this as my pizza sauce (mixed with a little of the sauce above to thin it out), replaced the mozzarella cheese with cheddar, and threw on some of the left over toppings from the night before (jalapeño pepper bits, red onions and peppers, and mushrooms), creating Mexican pizza. This probably was not one of my favorite dishes of all time, but it was a good way to get rid of leftovers, while still being friendly to the taste buds.

Finally, a note on a project Z has been working on for the past week or so. She organized our collection of recipes into two handy binders. The binders a both filled to the brim with recipes, and the clear sheet protectors are very nice (keeps me from getting the recipes too messy in the kitchen). This was a lot of work, as our recipes were not really organized in any sensible way - we each had some recipes in our own "storage systems" (boxes or folders that were not organized in any way), plus she recently cut out a lot of recipes from magazines so that she could get rid of the magazines. Here are the binders:

As I said, the organization has been wonderful - we've already taken advantage of having these recipes at our finger tips, and have also reminded ourselves what all we could possibly make (I guess no excuse now for having no ideas for dinner).

Pizza Dough Recipe (adapted from the Bread Bible, one of the best books on the topic):

1 to 1-1/2 cups warm water
1-tablespoon yeast
2-tablespoons honey
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2-3 cups bread flour (can also add wheat gluten to increase the protein content of all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt to taste

Add water, yeast, honey, and a dusting of flour to a large bowl to let the yeast activate - about 15 minutes. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and 1-cup flour. Gradually add in additional flour until
you've got a sticky dough. Move to a flat, floured work surface and knead for a while, gradually adding flour as needed. You're looking for the dough to get relatively firm, but not as firm as you might for in a baguette dough (generally around 10-minutes, but probably much quicker if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook).
Place dough in a greased bowl to rise for about 90-minutes (cover with saran wrap or a wet towel). After the dough has risen, you could shape it for one large pizza, or multiple smaller ones (my typical option). Throw on the sauce, toppings of your choice, and cheese(s) and bake in a preheated over (as hot as your oven will go). Pizza is great because you can go simple with simple combinations like pepperoni and mushroom or tomato and fresh basil, or get more creative like the ones you find at artisan pizza places, using funky sauces and flavor combinations
A baking stone is something that will definitely make the pizza better - it gives the crust a nice crispiness that I absolutely love. If you're going to do this, once you've shaped your dough, place it on a pizza peel dusted in corn meal to transfer onto the pre-heated baking stone. On a baking stone, the pizzas don't take very long (6-10 minutes, perhaps more if you're going with a very thick crust), but they definitely take longer on a regular baking pan.

No comments: