Hello, all! Being that I have been away for a few weeks I feel like I should jump right into todays featured post. I’ll start by saying although I’ve been gone the blog has been on my mind constantly. Specifically, what post I would return with. Savory? Sweet? Meat? Spring vegetables? I spent much of the last week hunched over my dining room table, surrounded by the latest food magazines, cookbooks and saved clippings from food articles hoping that something inspiring would jump out at me. And there was coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
As excited as I was for the arrival of Spring and fresh vegetables, I’m not finding motivation in asparagus, spring peas or rhubarb at this moment. There’s still time before the season ends so I’m sure that soon I’ll be craving some pasta dish loaded with spring vegetables.
I wanted the return post to be colorful as well as delicious and easy to make. By now you’ve notice the blog has a new format (those of you who looked over the weekend got a sneak peek). I’m very happy with it and there is so much more to this new format but we’re still in the getting to know each other stage. Anyway I wanted the first post to “pop”. To grab your attention and get you in the kitchen cooking. Eventually the outcome of all that searching just led to anxiety and stress.
Later and less anxious as I went over all the scribbling’s in my notebook I noticed more than anything else lots of notes for donuts, all types of breads and cinnamon buns. Baked goods made using yeast. I had found my return post, but all those aforementioned items although delicious and no doubt would make lovely pictures were by no means easy. If I’m going to introduce you to cooking with yeast it has to be something a little less intimidating like pizza dough for making pizza at home.
Lately I have been making pizza like a fiend. Leaving my kitchen in disarry and not a cabinet crevice untouched from the dustings of flour. I found a user-friendly recipe for easy dough and now every time I want pizza instead of going out to get some I just whip dough together, let it rise and throw on the toppings.
Now I know just about everyone-except professional bakers-is scared to death of cooking with yeast. The usual fears: you don’t know how to use it; you think you’ll kill it if you combine the ingredients incorrectly. Yes, yeast is a living thing but not in the sense of eyes, nose and other parts-it’s a microscopic single cell organism. And it makes breads and donuts and pizza dough taste out of this world.
Get over your fear of working with yeast by working with the simplest of yeasted dough. Pizza dough is one such simple dough and because it’s mostly flour and water you can afford to mess up and start all over again a few times.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’m excited about making pizza from scratch. Making pizza at home gives me the freedom to put whatever toppings I want on my pizza and not have to worry about people who don’t like anchovies or green stuff on their pizzas.
Today’s post just includes a basic pizza with fresh mozzarella and homemade tomato sauce, but you use whatever you like just don’t overdo it and weigh the dough down with too much topping. Successful pizza making at home does not require you to have a pizza stone or peel but you do need to have your oven up to its highest temperature (most ovens go up to 500 degrees which is ideal for the crust to cook properly). Later in the week I will have a “How-to” for quick pizza sauce. That will give you time to get familiar with this recipe and even try it.
When I get the chance I will share with you different toppings for pizza. Pizza dough can be grilled on an outdoor or indoor grill so don’t think you have to suffer under the heat of a cranked up oven. I haven’t tried grilling this particular dough but I will and then report back in the meantime I’m glad to be back and happy eating! Kat
Recipe: easy pizza dough
½ cup water
½ cup whole milk
1 package active dry yeast
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
sauce and toppings of your choice
Directions:Put the oven rack in the middle of your oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Have ready a large rimmed baking sheet, lightly greased with olive oil. Do not preheat the baking sheet it is not necessary.
In a small saucepan over low heat warm the water and milk. If you have a thermometer this should be about 110 degrees. Be careful the milk heats quickly so I suggest you stand right by it and after a minute or so carefully stick a finger in. The mixture should be warm to the touch NOT hot.
When the milk mixture is ready pour it into a small bowl and sprinkle over the yeast and then the ¼ teaspoon of sugar. Stir just a little. Let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes the top should be foamy. That’s how you know it’s ready.
While the yeast is sitting put the flour into a large bowl. Sprinkle over the salt and mix it in with your fingers.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the yeast/milk mixture, add the tablespoon of olive and with a fork or wooden spoon carefully and gently mix everything together. Dump the mixture onto a lightly floured, clean counter and gently gather everything into a ball. Very gently with the heels of your hands push and knead the dough for about 10-15 minutes. Be careful to not over knead the dough. The dough should still remain soft.
Shape the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled glass bowl large enough to hold the dough as it rises. Cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise for three hours in a warm area, away from drafts.
After dough has risen (doubled in size) divide dough into 2 equal pieces and shape into balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes. While the dough rests you can make the sauce and prepare other toppings.
Stretching out the dough and cooking:
After the dough has rested take one ball and place on top of the greased cookie sheet. Using your finger tips stretch the dough out into a 10 inch circle (leave about ½ an inch of the edge thicker than the center if you like a thick crust). Drizzle over a little olive oil and add your sauce and toppings leaving about a 1/4 inch border. Carefully place in oven.
Cook about 8-12 minutes in preheated oven until crust is browned and toppings bubbly. Let rest about 2-3 minutes before cutting-pizza and toppings will be hot.
Note: on the pizza pictured above I used fresh mozzarella and don’t like it to be browned just melted. I’ve used bagged shredded grocery store cheese many times before on this pizza and it seems to brown and bubble quickly so watch carefully.