Sunday, November 2, 2008

Avoid the Noid

I admit it. I am a terrible blogger. And going back to work hasn't helped, especially since my job involves lots of writing and staring at a computer screen, so that's kind of the last thing I want to do when I'm not at work. But I'll do my best.

Pizza is my favorite savory food. (I say savory because I think ice cream and cupcakes might have it beat in a favorite food contest.) I could seriously eat it every day. But it has to be GOOD pizza. The frozen, grocery store varieties can sometimes suffice, and I have definitely made pizzas using bagels or English muffins for crusts, but homemade pizza crust it my favorite. Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck with the ones I've tried to make.

A few weeks ago, I made yet another attempt. I have tried no fewer than 10 different recipes and variations on them to try and find pizza dough that was good. When I lived in the US, I used to just buy pizza dough from the grocery store, but they don't have that here in London. Apparently most pizza places will sell you raw dough if you ask, but I've never tried that. I had a couple of recipes I used in the US with my breadmaker, but those weren't that great - the crust always ended up too tough, didn't rise enough, didn't roll/stretch out well, was too yeasty, or just somehow wasn't right. And then I stumbled upon my new favorite cooking blog (seriously, it is my go-to cookbook now), and it had a recipe for pizza dough, as well as a pizza 101 posting that gave me the brilliant tip about warming up the oven and turning it off to reduce the time it takes for the dough to rise.

So I made Smitten's pizza dough (doubled the recipe and used half wholemeal flour) and had pizza dough for two thin crust pizzas. Each was enough to feed 2 hungry people. This is fast food and make-ahead because you can make the dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge. I thought maybe overnight would be all you'd want, since the yeast keeps on working and the dough rises more, but after a look around the internet, I see that apparently you can store it for longer - different sites say anywhere from 3-6 days. Just put the dough in a resealable plastic bag sprayed with cooking spray. You can also freeze it; from what I've read it seems like the best thing to do to preserve the texture is to roll out the dough and par-bake it before freezing.

We chose to top our pizza with an American classic, and my favorite pizza topping combination: pepperoni, mushrooms and mozzarella. Slice the mushrooms very thinly, and with pizza topping, less is more definitely, otherwise you end up with a watery, gooy mess.

I also made my own pizza sauce, but you certainly don't have to. To do this, I sauteed some onions and garlic in olive oil and added jarred pureed tomatoes - what they call passata in the UK (I guess in the US you could use tomato sauce or canned pureed tomatoes, depending on how chunky you want your sauce to be). I let it cook for a while, seasoned as needed, and added chopped fresh basil in at the end. I've also done this with peeled fresh tomatoes, which I think is better, but is more time consuming and requires good tomatoes.

Once your pizza crust is rolled out and topped, pop it in a pre-heated oven (my pizza stone lives with my brother in the US now, so I just put it on parchment paper, sprinkled with cornmeal, on a baking sheet) at HIGH heat and cook for about 10 minutes (but check it often starting at 5 minutes because ovens vary a lot and you don't want it to burn).

Mmmmmm....I want to make this again NOW...

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