When I'm not cooking or engaging my computer screen in an hours-long conversation of slow blinks, I work at a pizza restaurant. Though I don't work in the kitchen, I come home nightly saturated in the scent of cornmeal and pizza grease--yet somehow I haven't gotten tired of pizza. (Though this is the same girl who has eaten a PBJ with a side of Cheetos and grapes every year for her birthday since she was 8...some foods just remain delicious.)
It's just such a versatile dish, with so many possible styles and toppings, that it's hard to think of a world in which I'd say "As God is my witness, I'll never eat pizza again."
Until last night, all I'd made within the realm of pizza was flatbread topped with swiss, pancetta, and caramelized onions and a chicken alfredo pizza baked on panini bread. But I just came into possession of a pizza stone and was ready to tackle the actual dish. Not on my own, though. My co-chef (graduated from sous-chef) was able to offer some of the expertise he gained living in Italy for a total of seven years, for which I'm endlessly grateful.
Not that our pizza was full-on authentic, obviously, but we weren't trifling with no Lunchables, ya heard?
We decided to make the dough from scratch, despite my past tragic battles in this arena, because it's just more fun and rewarding, I think, then getting a pre-baked crust or a tube of dough. And how else are you going to learn if you don't just throw yourself in? (I'm going to move on quickly from this train of thought, before my blog starts sounding like a Grey's Anatomy end-of-episode pep talk.)
For the dough, we combined a cup of whole-wheat flour, active dry yeast, warm water, oil and brown sugar. Stirring this together, we then added three cups of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon and a half of salt, and the fresh rosemary, which Andy stopped me from throwing in before it was fully chopped and de-stemmed. Thank you, Andy! (To be said like the Dude addresses Donny after being informed that his phone is ringing. But for real, my co-chef is a blessing.)
I stirred this up with a wooden spoon, which was a little unwieldy, but doable. Afterward we turned the dough out onto a highly floured work surface. Do not skimp on flour! This is the main lesson I've learned. Otherwise everything falls apart and the dough tries to become your new skin instead of staying put on the counter.
I then kneaded the dough until it was well-combined and hardly sticky, just elastic. We then oiled the bottom of a medium bowl, set the dough inside, and then turned it a few times to coat. The bowl was set in a warm place with a dish towel over it to rise for about 45 minutes to an hour (I believe we let it go for about fifty minutes.)
After the dough's been rising for fifteen minutes, we put the pizza stone in the oven and preheated it to 500. The dough recipe advised that we preheat for at least an hour.
Now on to the toppings! (I'm so sorry about the length of this blog.) I seasoned the chicken breast with cumin, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper--using the helpful advice of a commenter on Allrecipes--and cooked it in a skillet. The original recipe called for the chicken to be cooked in bowling water, but that just seemed so bland to us.
|The chicken, mid-cook|
For the base, Andy melted butter in a small skillet. Once the butter had started to melt, he added chopped green onions, dried basil, and minced garlic. We had placed a bowl in the freezer to chill it, then retrieved it, poured in the herb butter, and put it into the refrigerator to set.
The dough had doubled by now, so I turned it out onto the now-oiled work surface and pressed down on it gently with my (not naturally) oily hands. Then I cut it in half. I divided one of the halves again, formed them both into balls, and stored them each in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for up to three days (though we already used one last night to make a second smaller pizza).
I formed the remaining dough into a "ball" (picture way, way above), covered it with a towel, and let it rest for twenty minutes. This was perfect time for the butter to set, the cilantro and tomatoes to be chopped, and the Parmesan to be freshly grated.
(Here I was going to rant about how Parmesan is just not a pretty cheese, but I'm certain I am barely holding on to your patience.)
The set-dough had a really nice texture to it--a little drier but still very elastic--and it was easy to push out into a thin flat circle. Andy kept calling for it to be thinner--Italian-style--and the crust and I conformed as much as we could.
For the toppings, we spread the herb butter over the pie using the back of a spoon. Next came the diced chicken, then I dotted clumps of ricotta all over, followed by the tomatoes and then the chopped cilantro. Over all this, Andy sprinkled a few handfuls of Parmesan cheese.
With all this, we still had plenty of toppings left for the second, smaller pizza we made. All we had to do was remake the base.
|The original pizza.|
We awkwardly relocated the dough from the work surface onto a sheet of foil. The second time through, we made sure to do this before adding the toppings. Learn from your mistakes.
The dough recipe called for the pizza to cook for 8 minutes, but ours was in there for about eleven and the crust was perfectly crispy without burning at all.
The crust was ohhh, soooo yummmmy too. I'm usually not one for finishing the crusts on things, but I could not get enough. Flavored crusts are definitely the way to go.
So there you have it! Choose your crust flavors and toppings and bake away.
Whole Wheat Rosemary Pizza Dough (via Pinch My Salt)
1 1/2 C. warm water
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. brown sugar
1 C. whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast or 2 t. instant yeast
3 C. all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 t. salt
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
Chicken Garlic Pizza (via Allrecipes.com)
- 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast half
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 (10 ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
- 2 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- garlic powder
- ground black pepper