Pizza, for all those who like the three principle tenets of Italian cuisine, tomatoes, bread, and cheese, is a wonderfood. It can staunch a craving, it can feed the masses, it can comfort one from just about any malady.
That said, so much of the pizza available in this here ole U S of A is fairly terrible.
Though pizza made in a standard oven will not be as crispy, lightly charred, bubbly, and chewy as the crust of a brick oven, it is perfectly customizable, cheaper, and far far tastier than whatever you might have delivered. I, as a major veggie eater and cheese lover, enjoy particularly the freedom of endless possibilities when putting together pizzas. Each one is a blank slate to dazzle and excite your tastebuds. Get in it.
For ultimate crust optimization, make the dough about 18 hours in advance, then refrigerate until about an hour before you plan to assemble. That said, the dough can be made on as short notice as 45 minutes or purchased if circumstances call for it. You can get as fancy as you like, but the dough can be very simple and low maintenance; just flour, yeast, salt, water, and a splash of oil.
Top your pies with everything in your fridge and pantry. Not all on one pie, but get creative. It tastes good.
Makes 2 10-14 inch pizzas. Double, triple, quadruple as needed.
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 c water
1 tsp salt
1 tbs olive oil (or any oil, or none at all!)
4-6 c flour (any sort you like. AP is easiest/most reliable, but I always use a mix of whatever I have on hand)
Dissolve yeast in warm water, let sit for 10 minutes.
Stir in 1 c of flour, then add oil and salt. Mix again, then add flour in 1 c increments until a sticky mass is formed, but still stir-able/movable with a spoon or spatula. Coating your hands in flour, dust the dough with more flour and begin to knead, either in the bowl or on a counter or cutting board, for about minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to your hands and can be formed into a ball. Place back in bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for at least one hour, or up to two days (refrigerate after an hour if not using that day.
When ready to assemble pizzas, preheat oven as hot as it goes (most stop at 550 F).
Split dough into equal pieces, reshape each into a ball. Flatten and let sit for a minute or two. Return to each ball three to five times, gently stretching it into a large and larger circle.
Top and bake for 12-18 minutes, depending on oven fluctuation, placement, vessel cooked on, preference, etc. Keep an eye on those babies and let them cool 2-5 minutes before attempting to slice--it will save you much drippy cheesy mess.
Gather any and all ingredients in house that sound tasty. These might include but are not limited to:
Cheese (all kinds. Really, Get funky, though less is sometimes more--with non-gooey sorts a dab here and there or a thin swipe can lend a whole lot of flavor with minimal ounce-age)
Fruits (think thinly sliced apple, figs, pear, the world is your vegetarian oyster!)
Roasted or fried veggies (Again, any and all. Cooking the veggies prior to poppin' them on a pizza enhances flavor and reduces water, meaning your pizza will be packed with flavor and not swimming in weird steamed-broccoli water)
Nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, really anything fairly soft makes for a nice crunchy contrast and toast deliciousness!)
Caramelized or pickled onions, roasted garlic
Spreads (pesto, olive tapenade, white bean spread...endless salty possibilities)
Arugula salad. For after the goods are baked, naturally. This addition will change your world, so be prepared.
Because we wouldn't want to eat the same bread (or food) every day now, would we?
This loaf is soft but dense, lightly perfumed with lemon and rosemary. it is chewy, excellent toasted, and hearty enough to make a meal out of toast. Who doesn't want toast every day, every way? Crazy folk, that's who.
Rosemary Lemon Tahini Loaf
2 c water
2 tsp yeast
2 tbs tahini
4 c wheat flour
1 sprig rosemary, chopped to your liking
zest and squeeze of one lemon
1 ½ tsp salt
Dissolve yeast in warm water, set aside for 10 minutes. Stir in tahini, salt, lemon zest and juice, and 1 cup of flour. Add rosemary, stir well, then incorporate flour until the dough begins to stick together. Cover dough in bowl, and let sit for at least one hour in a warm place.
When dough has doubled, remove from bowl and knead briefly, forming into a ball or log shape. Roll the mass until the seam has flattened out, then place gently in a loaf pan.
Let rest for 20 minutes as the oven preheats to 425ºF. Put a small vessel (pan or pot with non-plastic handle, ceramic bowl, oven-safe glassware, etc.) with 1 cup of water on a lower shelf of the oven, then the bread above. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove and allow to cool before slicing.
To make these toasts, I mashed an avocado with salt, lemon juice, garlic powder, pepper, and red chili flakes.
While the bread toasts, sautee three large handfuls of spinach in 1 tbs olive oil and two cloves of chopped (diced, minced, sliced, however you like!) garlic. When wilted but still soft and wet, turn off heat and add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon.
Layer toast (slathered in butter or more olive oil if you like to live a little) with a large dollop of avocado mush and press a portion of spinach into the bed of guacamole.
Eat. Get avocado all over your face, repeat.
Bonus points for hot coffee or tea, or iced coffee or tea in the sunshine.
This is a loose recipe. I find great pleasure and ease in working with dough, and while the process is not so relaxing for some, there is a connection to be made when working with dough. It shags, it clings, it sticks beneath your nails for days, but it is also forgiving, and soft, a playmate and a dinner companion. Challah is a particularly comforting bread. It is welcoming in scent, texture, and taste, and also a constant on celebratory tables of all kinds in Jewish homes around the world. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil to make it pliable but also retain its shape, making it easy to form to your liking. The traditional form is braided, and the more comfortable you become with the process the more strands can be added to the plait.
1 ¼ c warm water
2 tsp yeast
1/3 c sugar
¼ c oil
4-5 c flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg + 1 yolk
Dissolve yeast and sugar into warm water. Allow to sit and foam for 10-15 minutes, then stir in 1 c flour. Once incorporated, add egg, one yolk, oil, salt, and vanilla. Stir well, then add flour in 1 c additions as it is absorbed. This is when the process becomes important to feel out—begin to knead the dough with hands when it clears the sides of the bowl without sticking too much. Add more flour as needed, but work the dough for 5-10 minutes until it becomes elastic and smooth. The surface of the ball will change and firm up a bit.
Let the dough rest, covered, in a warm place for at least 1 hour, up to 8 (if longer, refrigerate and thaw for 20-30 minutes before continuing).
When dough has roughly doubled in size and keeps a thumbprint, knead for 5 more minutes, then divide into equal pieces for the number of strands desired. Slightly taper the ends of each rope to create is a batard-shaped loaf is you like. Lay the strands next to each other, about 1 inch apart, on a counter or baking sheet, then weave across. When the length has been woven, pinch the strands together at both ends and tuck beneath the loaf.
Beat egg yolk and brush on top of braid.
Let the loaf rest for 20 minutes, then bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes, or until the bottom sounds hollow when knocked.