April 06, 2008

How I learned to make pizza

When I was a pre-teen/early teen, my late father owned an Italian restaurant. Other than pizza and shrimp salad, I have no memory of what was on the menu. Those were the only things I ever ate there and pizza was the main thing. I really loved the pizza. When I discovered that my father was making big vats of pizza dough in the restaurant basement, I was shocked. No one had ever told me that HE was making it. I couldn't believe it. My father was not a cooking - cleaning - help - around - the - house kind of guy. He was a man who prided himself on never having changed a diaper for any of his three children. He went to work and came home and we kids were mostly supposed to not bother him.

When I found out about the pizza dough I was beside myself. I couldn't stop pestering and begging him to make pizza at home. After a couple months of incessant nagging he finally agreed, and this was the start of pizza making at our house. He made the dough and it was my job to grate the cheese (in those days real cheese) and make the sauce. I was probably about 11 or 12 at the time but I still remember it perfectly. It was an uncooked sauce that doesn't sound good but made a delicious pizza. I put tomato paste into a bowl and thinned it with water until it would drop from a spoon. I added garlic salt and oregano and a little sugar until it tasted like pizza sauce. It had to be a little more seasoned than usual so it would be flavorful on the baked pie.

Of course, now I prefer to have some yummy leftover tomato sauce on hand when I make pizza but if I don't...well... I'm not above opening a can of tomato paste and quickly making a sauce. I use granulated garlic or fresh smashed and minced garlic, chili powder and oregano. Maybe some dried onion flakes will be added or some hot pepper flakes. But a jar of Enrico's Pizza Sauce or Muir Glen organic pizza sauce are also reasonable alternatives to homemade.

I still love pizza, and have posted a recipe before this one. It was made with a dough based on Peter Reinhart's mimimal-yeast, slow-rising recipes from "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," a book I love, love, love, and highly recommend to serious and aspiring bread bakers. The breads and pizzas I bake based on the recipe I've worked out for my bread machine (forgive me Mr. R), are stellar. The pizza is fast, but the breads, while not requiring much hands-on time, take all day to rise before I bake them on my stone. The pizza is the thin and crispy crust type and incredibly good.
Here's another idea for a crust based on a fast and easy bread I've been experimenting with lately. It makes a softer, but delicious crust with little fuss - no bread machine needed. I used my variation of the recipe, but the original recipe and instructions are found here. To make pizza, you should let the dough rise once in the bowl, and then form the crust. I used a pizza pan for the crust because I thought the dough was too soft to get it easily onto the pizza stone, especially covered with all the toppings. Let the crust rise about a half-hour before adding the toppings. I used tomato sauce, Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet mozzarella, crimini mushrooms, broccoli, onions and sausage crumbles. I pre-heated the oven to 475 and baked the pizza for 3 minutes before turning the oven down to 350 and baking until done - about 20 minutes. Bake the pizza near the bottom of the oven for the best crust and check it for doneness before the whole baking time is up. The recipe makes two breads so I made one pizza and one bread.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Andrea!
    Wow, have I ever missed a lot of cooking over here--everything looks great. How lucky are you that your dad owned a restaurant??! I drooled over all the pizzas. (Oh, and those mini doughnuts--super yummy looking. Did you ever post the recipe?).

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  2. I didn't post the recipe because the original is available on vegan yum yum, and I haven't yet measured exactly how I changed it to be whole grain. One of these days...The taste and texture reminded me of the baked doughnuts my mother used to buy in a package at the grocery store – only better, of course...Thanks for your comments!

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