Homemade Pizza

pizza

Yummy!

One of Hubbs & I favorite dinners to make is homemade pizza. This recipe has had an interesting evolution: It began by using Boboli pre-made crusts & pizza sauce (better than delivery), morphed into using Pillsbury canned pizza crust & a square baking pan (decent) to making our own pizza dough & sauce at home (excellent!).

Compared to buying a pizza for take-out, this recipe is laughably cheap & if you already have the dough prepared (more on this later), it can be cooked from start to finish faster than the delivery guy can make it out of Dominos. Also, you get total control over your choice of toppings, which is very important when you live in a household of mushroom eaters (I love ’em!) & non-eaters (although I think they are finally starting to grow on Hubbs).

So, the first step is to prep your dough. This should be done approximately an hour and a half before you plan on eating. Otherwise, you may end up having a very late dinner! Here’s the recipe I use. It’s from Cook’s Illustrated, although you could probably use any recipe that you happen to have laying around.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface & hands (All Purpose flour will work here too, your crust just won’t be as “chewy”)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl

Directions:

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

2. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. (You could also do this in a food processor or by hand, but I love using my Kitchen Aid).

Here's the mixed dough, prior to rising

Here's the mixed dough, prior to forming it into a ball

3. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Here's the dough after the yeasties have done their work

Here's the dough after the yeasties have done their work

4. Press the dough to deflate (Or, if your Hubbs, punch the dough like it insulted your momma).

This recipe makes enough dough for three medium (2-person) pizzas. So, after the dough has finished rising, we divide the dough into three equal balls (we use a scale, but you could just eyeball it). Whatever dough you don’t plan on using right away, you can wrap in plastic & then put them inside a freezer-safe bag & freeze until you want pizza again. Then, just take your dough out the day you want to use it and place it in a greased bowl covered in plastic to thaw (we take it out around noon & its thawed-out for a 6:30 dinner time).

The sauce is even easier to make. Just heat some olive oil in a sauce pan until shimmering. While the pan is heating,  whirl 1 can of diced tomatoes & their juice in a food processor, about 8-10 pulses, depending on whether you like a chunkier or smoother sauce. When the pan is hot, add some crushed garlic (we like 2 cloves), red pepper flakes (for spice!) & tomato paste and cook, stirring it all around, until it smells good, about 1 or 2 minutes. Then add the processed tomatoes and stir it all up. Bring to a steady simmer for about 15 minutes & then set aside until you are ready to sauce your crust.

For your toppings of choice, just cut them all up into bite sized pieces and saute them over medium-high heat until all the moisture has been drawn out. Our go-to toppings are red bell peppers, mushrooms, and jalepenos. But leftover chicken or sausage also are really nice. Go with whatever you like. When they’re done, spread them out on paper towels and pat to soak up any remaining moisture.

So, once you have your dough ball ready, just stretch it out on some parchment paper into a good sized pie (depending on how thick or thin you like the crust). Preheat your oven to 475° and when ready, slide in your crust for 4 minutes. If your concerned about bubbles forming, you can poke the dough all over with a fork prior to baking. Also, a pizza stone, while not a necessity, really adds something extra to the crust!

Once the crust has cooked for a few minutes, take it out and sauce it with your sauce & add your toppings and cheese.  If you love garlic, like we do, then rub half a garlic clove all over the crust prior to saucing it. Then return to the oven for another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Then just slice and enjoy! 🙂

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Published in: on January 8, 2009 at 8:00 am  Comments (1)  
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Black-Eyed Peas

So, being a good southern girl, I know that you have to eat Black-Eyed Peas on New Year’s day in order to bring you luck for the whole year to come. And this year I decided that I would attempt to make them myself.

I was so lucky to receive How to Cook Everything, 10th Anniversary Edition, by Mark Bittman, for Christmas. So I busted Mr. Bittman out and started flipping through his “Beans” section. And low & behold, he has a recipe for “Black Beans, Southern Style.” Yeah!

So, I would like to tell you how good this recipe was….but I can’t. Because the store was out of dried Black Eyed-Peas. Guess that’s what I get for trying to buy them on New Year’s Eve! Oh well. Lesson learned – planning ahead is good.

Instead, after a quick re-arranging of our meal plan at the store, I settled on Whole Roasted Chicken with Potatoes & canned Black Eyed Peas. The can is alot smaller than a whole pound of beans would have been, thus our luck for the New Year has already been severely diminished. Sigh. Guess I will just have to hope for something more than luck.

Anyways, as you can see, here is what we ended up eating. Not too bad, if I do say so myself. The chicken & potatoes were also by Bittman.

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This can barely be called a recipe. But here’s what Bittman calls for:

Roast Chicken with New Potatoes, How To Cook Everything, 10th Anniversary Ed.

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, rosemary , marjoram, oregano, or sage leaves or a combination, plus more for garnish (I chose rosemary – it’s my favorite!)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat
1 1/2 to 2 pounds red or white waxy potatoes, the smaller the better, or larger potatoes cut into 1/2-to 1-inch chunks. (2 pounds may seem like alot, but these go fast! We used the whole amount & ended up devouring almost all of them, with just enough for a leftover lunch. Yummy!)

Directions:
1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Mix together the olive oil, herb(s), and some salt and pepper. Put the chicken, breast side up, in a roasting pan (on a rack if you prefer). Toss half of the herb mixture with the potatoes and scatter them in the pan, then put the pan in the oven. After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, spoon some of the herb mixture over it and the potatoes. Shake the pan so the potatoes turn and cook evenly.

2. Shake the pan and baste the chicken again after another 10 minutes; at this point the breast should be beginning to brown (if it isn’t, roast for a few more minutes.) Turn the heat down to 325°F; baste again with the remaining herb mixture, and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155-165°F. Total roasting time will be 50 to 70 minutes.

3. Remove the chicken and taste a potato; if it isn’t quite done, raise the heat to 425°F and roast while you rest and carve the chicken; it won’t be long. Serve the chicken, garnished with herbs, with the potatoes scattered around it, hot or warm.

Overall, I really liked this dish. Unlike other times when we have roasted chicken, this recipe didn’t fill our whole apartment with smoke. I’m not sure if that is because of the potatoes, or the lower temperature, or what, but I appreciate it! The chicken was super juicy (we let it rest about 10 minutes) and the potatoes were so good. The skin was pretty crispy and a pretty golden color (although we usually don’t eat the skin…kitty seemed to like it though).

Finally, this was super-easy to do & cooked up quickly. I could totally see doing this on a weeknight. Of course, the variations on this are endless, but I think next time I will try putting some spices under the skin (paprika is one of our favorites). This dish will definitely be made again.

Published in: on January 2, 2009 at 10:01 am  Comments (1)  
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