Thursday, April 16, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Pizza is one of those meals that everyone loves and it brings back good memories too. From reward pizza parties in elementary school to college, eating pizza in dorm rooms and so much more, a comfort food.

My husband was a youth pastor at a church when we were dating and first married. Once we made homemade pizzas for a fundraiser. We made prebaked crusts, cooled them, added sauce and did simple toppings. We had earlier gathered pizza orders for the kinds we were making. We then packaged them up in plastic wrap and pizza boxes and had people pick them up on a certain day.

I don't remember if we made much money or even if the pizzas were popular, but I do remember the memories. And at the request of a former youth (who now is married and has a family of her own!), I am posting the recipe for the pizza crust that I use. I include ideas for toppings as well.

Homemade Pizza (This appears in the "More-With-Less Cookbook" as Cheese Pizza. I have made my own variations on the ingredients.)

Combine in a large bowl:
1 cup warm water
1 package yeast (scant Tablespoon of bulk yeast)

When dissolved, add:
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil (optional)
1 1/4 cup whole grain wheat or spelt flour

Mix well, until smooth. Add:
2 cups additional whole grain flour, or enough to make a stiff dough (may not need full amount)
(may use part unbleached flour to make a lighter crust...100% whole grain dough is great and fine, but many people will want to ease into this and start out slowly...using some unbleached flour is a good first step)

Knead until elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in oiled bowl and let rise until double, about 30-45 minutes (depending on room temperature and humidity). Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Form 2 balls for a thin crust, or use the full recipe for a thicker crust. You do not need a round pan. I often make pizza with my jelly roll/cookie sheets. Pat out or use a straight, tall drinking glass (or a special pastry short rolling pin) for rolling out directly on a oiled pan. Take a fork and prick dough (not edges) Let rise 10 minutes.

I will pre-bake the crust by itself for about 5 minutes at this point. If I'm making it a thin crust (one batch of dough to two large pans) there's no need. Just make sure that you aren't putting too many toppings on. Otherwise it won't bake well all the way through. (Note on crust in photo: This was made with about half and half unbleached flour and freshly milled whole spelt four.)

Topping Ideas It's best to only have 2-4 toppings for each pizza if thin pizza...if you have a thicker, prebaked crust, turn down the heat to 400 degrees and don't overload the pizza. The photo above shows a pizza made with the thick option (one recipe batch of dough for one jelly roll/cookie sheet pan size - this makes a very thick crust). Toppings that day: fennel seeds, minced fresh garlic, diced onions, broccoli, mashed and seasoned tofu, and fresh pineapple. So good!

Tip: don't have overly wet ingredients or the crust won't bake properly

Sauce: Any homemade or prepared sauce you prefer...doesn't need to be a tomato sauce either. (I like to sprinkle some fennel seed on the pizza. If you decide this option, layer sauce first on the crust, then the fennel seeds, then the other toppings.)

onion (red is nice)
bell peppers
mushrooms (not just white button)
hot peppers
fresh or sun dried tomatoes
spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and squeezed dry)

black (ripe) olives
pineapple (yes!)
anything you might like to try on a creative!

Once assembled, put a sprinkling of oregano on top and put into the hot oven. Depending on thickness, bake for about 20-25 minutes or until done. Don't forget to put red crushed pepper on the table for people to add if they like. Enjoy!