December 24, 2007

Can home-made pizza be fast?

Well, now, it depends on your definition of fast. In light of how long it can take to make pizza, yes, this recipe seems pretty fast to me. Is it easy? I think so but you'll have to decide for yourself. There are always short cuts for anything. No leftover pasta sauce in the fridge? You can always keep some emergency cans of pizza sauce on hand. Don't want to blend up a vegan cheese substitute? You can always buy some vegan mozzarella (Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet is a good choice) And there's the wonderful bread machine.

I once laughed my friend Deborah out of the house when she first rhapsodised about a new appliance that had just come out - the bread machine. Understand, she was talking to someone who had once taken a pottery class to create a huge bowl in which enough bread dough could be made to create four loaves of bread. I still have that bowl but it hasn't seen the light of day in years. I love my bread machine and without it there would probably be no pizza at our house. So, yes, making pizza dough seems quite do-able to me.

(I have a bread-making book called "The Bread Maker's Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart and it's an amazing book. Not fast. Not easy. It's an all-day (sometimes two-day) approach to making the best bread you've ever tasted. Sometimes I use the recipes and adapt them to my machine (just for making the dough, not for baking). I'm telling you this because if you really want to learn about bread-making, you might want to read this book.)

I'm about to simplify something that's not really so simple and that I've been trying to perfect for about 30 years. Anyway, I'm going to give the recipe I've been using pretty successfully and hope that it works for whoever tries it. Before scooping the flour into the measuring cup be sure to stir it up well to lighten it. And level off the cup with the flat side of a knife or chopstick.

into the breadmaker (I have a Breadman) put:
1 cup semolina flour (the yellow, sandy stuff meant for noodles and baking)
1 cup unbleached white flour (you can substitute 1 cup unbleached white for the semolina and just use 2 cups unbleached white)
2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 Tablespoons evaporated cane juice (like Sucanot)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking yeast (the kind called "instant yeast")
1 1/3 cups water
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Set the machine to make pizza dough. This will make enough for two large pizzas.
When the dough is ready, I put it into a bowl, spray with oil, cover with plasic wrap and a towel and let rise if I have time. If I'm in a hurry I just use it right away. Divide it in half and cover the part you're not using. Turn on the oven to 500˚. (I keep a baking stone in my oven at all times and bake my pizza on it. You should too.)

Sprinkle cornmeal on a large wooden board and roll out the dough very thin. I make it about 15" diameter to fit on my stone. I then put it onto a cornmeal-sprinkled wooden pizza paddle and cover it to rise while I cut the veggies. (The cornmeal sticks to the dough and prevents it from sticking to the stone. NEVER oil the stone. This is very important.) If you don't have a stone, put the dough on an oiled pizza pan to rise. I then thinly slice mushrooms, broccoli and onion. To use the Follow Your Heart cheese, slice about 1/2 of a bar as thinly as you can. It's easiest to slice across the end. This will be enough for two pies.

Spread sauce (you know, that leftover pasta sauce or stuff from a can or jar.) lightly on the dough. Use less than you think you'll need. Too much sauce makes a soggy pie. (Last night I made the best pizza ever and I was sure there wasn't enough sauce.) then arrange the cheese slices in a pattern around the pie. Next arrange the onion, then the mushrooms and broccoli. Sprinke the whole thing with oregano and spray with olive oil. Ease it onto the stone with the help of a spatula if necessary (or put the pan in the oven, near the bottom or on the bottom) and set the timer for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, lower the temerature to 350˚ and set the timer for 10 more minutes. Check the pizza and if it's all brown and delicious looking take it out. Or bake a little longer if it's not quite done. Cut and EAT.

As soon as the first pizza goes in the oven, start assembling the second so it can go in when the first comes out. Good luck.

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