Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Italian Night - Pizza Making & What To Do With That Left Over Dough...

Making homemade pizza is really fun and can be a nice stress reliever with kneading the dough. It's fun for the kids to help knead and then to decorate their special little pizza!

I love to make a very basic recipe that doesn't use any sugar or salt. The dough is a bit plain, but if you add your special toppings, you won't miss them one bit.

The basic dough recipe does call for tweaking, but the general ingredients are as follows:

1/2 oz (15g) fresh yeast or 1 package of active dry yeast
2/3 - 1 cup (150 ml) of lukewarm water (make sure it's not cold)
2 - 2 1/2 cups (300-375 g) unbleached flour (or gluten-free variety, etc)
You will also need a little extra-virgin olive oil

First, combine the yeast and 1/3 cup of lukewarm water. Mix well with a fork and let sit for about 15 minutes, until the yeast is a bit foamy.

In a large bowl, place your flour, making a small hole in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture and add between 1/3 and 2/3 cups of water - depending on the type of flour you use. I like to mix the dough with a fork before removing it from the bowl and kneading by hand.

In general, if your dough is too sticky, add more flour. If it is too dry, add more of the water - but do it slowly as a little goes a long way. It took me several tries before I got a firm handle on it.

Keep in mind, you can add healthy ingredients to your dough, like ground flax seeds, etc.

When you knead the dough, roll it into a ball and then take the flat palm of your hand and push the dough away from you, then roll it back toward you and turn the dough and begin again (pushing it away from you with the palm of your hand). I also like to roll it a bit in various places when kneading and then I always give it two hard slaps on the table to really activate the yeast. Of course, you can use a commercial mixer, but doing it by hand really gets it mixed well and is very satisfying.

After kneading, shape it into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Cover it with a clean dishtowel, letting it rise for about an hour. It should double in size, but I've had some bum yeast in the past and it never rose like it should - I used it anyway :)

While the dough is rising, you can prepare your toppings. For meat eaters, fry up your sausage and add your veggies - mushrooms, onions, green peppers, etc.

The twins and I don't eat cheese, so the girls just like sauce and olives on their pizza. DH likes his loaded with cheese and meat, so he and I section off what we like.

After the dough has risen, I like to pour a bit of organic extra-virgin olive oil on my baking stone and rub it in with my hand. I then "wipe" my hands on my rolling pin so that it is covered with a bit of oil so the dough doesn't stick. Using a rolling pin, roll out your dough over your stone.

If you like thin crust, roll it hard and thin it out, moving the excess dough past the edge of your stone. Using a butter knife, cut off the excess dough and put it aside.

Then roll the ends of your dough around the edges to create a lip, spread your sauce (homemade or store bought) and start loading on your toppings.

With the excess dough, you have a couple of options. The first one was handed down to me verbally by my Italian father-in-law. His mother used to save the extra dough, refrigerate it overnight and then in the morning, she would make it into the shape of Italy and fry it up for the kids, sprinkle with powdered sugar and the 5 children would have it for breakfast - all fighting over who would get the boot!

I've tweaked it a bit as follows - give the dough to the kids. Let them roll it out and give them some cookie cutters.

Let them cut out shapes or create them with their own hands.

Put them on a plate and then fry them in a frying pan with a little oil. Take them out and let the kids sprinkle them with powdered sugar for a nice dessert.

If you're avoiding sugar, then you can always eat it plain or sprinkle with another spice, like cinnamon.

Otherwise, instead of making a dessert, take the excess dough and roll it up again, place it on an oiled baking sheet and shape it into a ball or oval. Using a knife, make a few slits along the top for aesthetic purposes, sprinkle a little flour on top, cover with the dish towel and let it rise for another hour.

Heat your oven to 450 F/ 230 C and bake it for about 35-40 minutes, depending on how large it is. Let it cool, and voila - you have fresh bread that you didn't even really have to make :) You can even spread some buttery product and some garlic powder (or cloves) and you've got garlic bread to go with your pizza!

If we eat the loaf the next day, I wrap it in foil and place it in a ziplock back to keep it moist. The girls gobble it up and I feel good knowing it's made with love and extra dough that we wouldn't have eaten!

Here is a shot of our finished pizzas. I will have to scrounge up some shots of our recent homemade breads, but will try to post them later. This is fairly easy to make and tasty to boot! We love Italian night at our house and will put the Italian music on, which certainly adds to the ambiance!


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