Hey, wanna start a fight? Ask any group of people what they think the best pizza in the world is. For every five or six people you’ll get seven or eight answers. For me? I like a lot of different kinds of pizza, and lets be honest, there is rarely a piece of pizza that I will turn down. Having said that, and even though I’ve been in St. Louis for almost a year, I still can’t wrap my head around this provel thing. But pretty much any other kind of pizza? I’m gonna eat it. I’m not saying my standards are low, I’m saying that I have an appreciation for pizza as a genre, which is why I am so pleased that I’m getting pretty good at making it at home.
Yesterday afternoon, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up something for dinner, and I didn’t have a plan. When you go to a farmers market you can pretty much just wander around until you find something that looks delicious. At a regular grocery store, this is more of a problem. I settled on a package of hot Italian sausage that looked good, planning to make a quick pasta dish when Dr. Fiance got home. As dinner time approached, however, I started to feel less and less like another bowl of pasta was going to make me happy.
The good thing though, is that the sauce I was planning to make for the pasta, and the sausage, and the ball of mozzarella in my cheese drawer, all would do perfectly on a pizza. Best thing about my pizza dough recipe is that it is quick, and can be thrown together in as little as an hour before dinner time (although two hours gives you a lighter dough). This isn’t an over-night Rheinhart dough that will make the angels sing, but it certainly gets the job done for this busy photographer. And Dr. Fiance also loves it, bonus!
I like to throw some sort of herbs or spices into my dough, to give it a little kick. I pretty much open my spice drawer, see what my brain finds appealing and toss some into the dough as I’m mixing it. Last night I went with some dried chives harvested from my herb garden a few weeks ago. Then I top my pizza with whatever I have around. Last nights was home made tomato sauce, spicy sausage and mozzarella. Often it’s just olive oil, parmesan and thin slices of onion. Maybe some basil leaves … pretty much anything will work as pizza toppings.
Quick Pizza Dough
I find that putting an some sort of dry spice in the dough and then using minimal toppings like lightly brushed olive oil, thinly sliced onions and some Parmesan on top of a basil dough is sublime.
1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder, basil, oregano, thyme or other dried spice (optional)
1/2 cup lukewarm water (100°-115°F)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Stir flour, salt, yeast, and spices (if using) together in a large bowl. Make a small well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the water and olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough is in one big flaky clump and all of the flour has been incorporated. Dump it out on a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two until the dough is smooth. If the dough seems wet, dust with flour periodically until smooth. If the dough seems overly dry, run your hands under a warm tap and shake excess water off, then continue to knead. The tiny amount of dampness on your hands will make a big difference.
Form the dough into a ball and leave to rest for a minute on your kneading surface. Wash and dry your bowl using hot water. Using a warm bowl will help the dough rise. Lightly oil the bowl, using butter or olive oil. Put your dough ball in the bowl and turn it so that all sides are coated. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm, draft-free space until it has doubled in size. This usually takes an 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your space.
When it has doubled in size, dump the dough back onto your counter and press the air out of it. Without too much additional kneading, form it back into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes. At this point you can get all mamma mia and use the toss method to shape your dough, but I find that a rolling pin works just as well. Form the dough into the desired shape and thickness. Press a groove around the edges if you like a puffier edge crust.
Place your dough on a pizza peel that has been sprinkled with corn meal or polenta, top with your favorite toppings and bake on a pizza stone that has been preheated to at least 450°F. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until it is blistered and your toppings are bubbling and amazing.
Notes about the pizza
For a pizza of this type keep your toppings light-weight and thinly sliced. If you prefer a thicker crust pizza that will hold more toppings double the dough recipe.
My stove hits about 500°F without freaking out, but I find that this pizza will cook just fine at 450°F. A pizza stone is a must for good pieces. A cheap one can be had for $20. Worth every penny for both pizza and bread.