Friday, March 02, 2012

Pizza Inspiration

Inspiration comes from lots of places. I like to see what is going on in Kitchen Stadium on the Food Channel, what other food bloggers are up to, I read lots of cookbooks and sometimes magazines like Bon App├ętit that focus on food.

This month's issue had a gorgeous pizza on the cover and a suggestion inside that a pizza party is fun to have, with enough dough for everyone to top their pizza their way.

Since I'm just starting to feel like I'm not breathing underwater, the energy required to host a party is way beyond me, but I did like the idea of freshly baked pizza with my own toppings. The dough recipe in the mag was for no-knead dough but I really like the sourdough pizza dough I've made in the past and I did have some toss-off from feeding my sourdough starter. I fed it, allowed it to sit out for a few hours, then covered it and let it sit overnight.

Yesterday I turned it into pizza dough. Because I had the time I let it rise once, punched it down and let it rise again. I also used bread flour in the dough instead of all-purpose flour. The result was a dough with good gluten strands

and one that baked up crisp where the dough was thin and chewy where it was thicker, just the way I like it. It didn't flop like it sometimes has in the past but was nice and firm so I could pick up a piece and eat it out of hand.

For toppings I made two veggie and two with pepperoni and mushrooms.

The veggie one had plain Greek yogurt, shredded mozzarella cheese, asparagus coated with olive oil and a little garlic salt, and baby spinach which had been pre-wilted to release some of the excess moisture. Fresh chopped Italian parsley and some fresh thyme leaves added just enough herbal zing. Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top was the perfect finishing touch.

For the meat ones I started with a very small amount of pasta sauce, some of the Greek yogurt, the same herbs, very thin slices of pepperoni and thinly sliced mushrooms. Parmesan on top here, too. For the second meat one I also added some shredded mozzarella over the pasta sauce and I liked that additional melty cheese a lot.

These were excellent pizzas even if, because each was baked separately on the baking stone, I was up and down a lot while they baked. I liked the veggie ones the best but Sweetie liked the meat ones best. If you make these you can top them with whatever toppings you enjoy, just be sure to go lightly on the toppings if you want your pizza to have a good crust. Too many toppings overwhelms the best dough. If you don't have sourdough starter, there are lots of good pizza dough recipes online.

Homemade Pizza

Sourdough Pizza Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup barely warm water
1 cup sourdough starter

½ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 ½ cups bread flour
Make a slurry of the flour and water. Mix the sourdough starter with the slurry and whisk to combine thoroughly. Let this mixture sit at room temperature for two hours. If you will be making the rest of the dough another day, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate this starter mix.

When you are ready to make the dough and make pizza, put the starter mix into a stand mixer bowl and stir the sugar, olive oil and salt into the starter mix.

Using the dough hook, gradually add the flour until a dough forms. Knead with the mixer for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour a tablespoon at a time as needed.

(If not using a stand mixer, put two cups of the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the mixture of starter, sugar, olive oil and salt that you’ve whisked together in another bowl. Stir to mix the wet mix into the flour until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a smooth and elastic dough which can still be a little sticky.)

Once dough is smooth and elastic, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute, adding flour if necessary to fully blend the dough.

Form dough into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl or other container good for dough to rise in. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

When it is about 45 minutes before you plan to bake the pizza, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F and if you have one place a baking stone in the oven to preheat, too.
On a lightly floured surface place one quarter of the dough. Using floured hands, stretch the dough into a rough circle, keeping a rim of thicker dough around the edges. Some people like to toss the dough to do this, but mine always ends up on the floor if I do, so I just push the dough or hold it by the edge and work my way around.

Sometimes I let the stretched dough sit for a couple of minutes, then stretch it some more. Place the stretched dough (about 9-10 inches in diameter) on a piece of baking parchment.

My Toppings:
1/4 - 1/2 cup pasta sauce - if too watery boil until thickened
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella
1 oz thinly sliced pepperoni
1 oz thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian Parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or use oregano)
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
6 stalks fresh asparagus - washed, dried, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon olive oil
sprinkle garlic salt or salt
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, steamed for 1 minute, then drained

Top the dough as desired, leaving the outer rim untopped except for when sprinkling the final Parmesan cheese. I used a tomato based sauce that included canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, onions, basil, oregano and garlic, all cooked together over low heat for an hour until most of the liquid had evaporated. The topping over the sauce for the meat version was dollops of plain Greek yogurt, thinly sliced pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, chopped fresh Italian parsley and fresh thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese.

For the veggie version plain Greek yogurt was thinly spread over the dough and a few dollops of thicker yogurt added here and there. Shredded mozzarella cheese was sprinkled over that. Previously I had washed, dried and thinly sliced on an angle about 1 cup of fresh asparagus spears. I put these in a bag and doused them with 1 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkled on a bit of garlic salt, then shook the bag to coat the asparagus pieces with oil and seasoning. This allows them to stay moist in the high heat needed to cook the dough. The asparagus were distributed evenly over the mozzarella, some lightly steamed baby spinach leaves were added, then a sprinkle of freshly chopped Italian parsley and fresh thyme leaves (just like the meat pizzas) was added. A final snow of grated Parmesan cheese left them ready for the oven.

Baking notes: The high heat and baking stone really combine to make a nice crust. I left each pizza on its piece of parchment and slid it onto the baking stone with a pizza peel. After 5 minutes I used the parchment to turn the pizza 180 degrees and baked it for 4 minutes more. I baked one of the veggie ones first, then kept it warm in my toaster oven while I baked the meat one. We dined on those two while the other two were baking.

If no stone is available, turn a jelly roll pan upside down on an oven rack in the preheated oven and immediately slide on the parchment paper holding the pizza.

Bake pizzas until golden brown. Your timing may be different as ovens differ. Remove from oven to cutting board, cut and serve. If you are making more than one pizza (recipe makes 4 crusts) prepare it on another piece of parchment and once you remove one pizza, put the next one in the oven.

1 comment :

  1. For whatever reason I've been thinking a lot about pizza ... just haven gotten there again yet. Yours look fan-tabulous!
    Yes, I think it's great fun to see what inspires us. Sometimes it's a thought that seems to come from no where and other times it jumps in front of us.
    I think I be in your camp on the veggie pizzas! That seems just perfect.