Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trash Pizza

Clockwise from top left: avocado-mushroom-Sriracha, spinach-artichoke, red pepper-olive, and butternut squash-sage pizza

Friday pizza nights of my Trash Salad childhood were true genius, serving the dual purposes of temporarily pacifying my sister and my cravings for terrible food which we weren't ever allowed AND could also be used as a catch-all for random leftovers remaining at the end of the week.  My mom always made pizzas from scratch using frozen bread dough and while I love this idea, I'm not really blessed with the skills/patience required to stretch the tough pre-made dough out into perfect 16" thin crust circles.  This has resulted in some creative efforts on my part, like pizzas on a base of stale naan bread, tortillas, or rice cakes (not recommended for a toaster oven, fyi).

But!  I threw together a batch of from-scratch dough in under ten minutes over the weekend (using more or less the 101 Cookbooks recipe, a simplified riff on Peter Reinhart's Breadbaker's Apprentice) and don't think I'll be returning to quesa-pizzas anytime soon. 

Obviously the Kitchenaid mixer helped immensely, but it's really not that hard to knead dough for 5-7 minutes if you are less lazy.  Divide up dough, stick it in the fridge, leave for 1-3 days.  This step is the autolyse phase, or resting the dough so the flour can thoroughly hydrate and form strong and stretchable gluten proteins.  Take out of the fridge, leave for 2 hours on the counter, and you're in business.  The dough you create is super easy to instantly stretch out for topping.  Rolling pins and swearing not required.

Now, I am a thin-crust lover by trade.  If you prefer a more Chicago style variety (ick), I would recommend dividing the dough in the recipe into maybe 4 and not 6 sections and patting it straight onto a cookie sheet or whatever you're using because the more you lift the dough and get gravity involved, the more it will stretch the heck out of it.  You'll also have to bake thicker crust a lot longer to ensure it's cooked through, which can lead to burned toppings.

Some tips for making pizza dough from scratch:
  • From troubleshooting some of my own recipes, the biggest problem with the dough is usually too much flour.  This is especially a problem if you knead the dough by hand since it should be stickier than instinct would dictate (and dough stuck under your fingernails is more attention-grabbing than dough stuck to a dough hook).  So err on the side of caution and start with 3 1/2-4 cups of flour to 1 3/4 cups water, and keep your hands just lightly floured while kneading.  It's easy to add more flour in, but adding water to correct things isn't, especially if you're kneading by hand.
    Bash n' Chop
    Image via Amazon
  • Similarly, the dough will seem very sticky after you rest it on the counter before using.  Flour the counter and your hands well, then kind of form your dough pancake into a more manageable ball for transport.
  • I recently purchased a Bash 'n Chop similar to this one from one of those school fundraiser order form things that seem to be the way of the future.  Very handy and works great as a dough cutter and maneuverer/pastry scraper/counter cleaner.  If you are guilted into spending money for someone else's kids, why not get something useful out of it instead of yet another tin of caramel corn?
  • When moving your bases from the counter to your baking surface, don't over-work the dough.  I.e. if you overstretched and ended up with holes, it's easier to patch it up than to attempt to roll out the whole thing again.
  • If your base is truly vakakta and needs reforming, let the dough rest and work on another section in the meantime.  The dough will loosen back up after 15 minutes or so and you won't have to resort to the awful rolling pin method.

And some awesome toppings of late:

  • 1/2 roasted butternut squash mashed with 1 teaspoon dried sage, sliced roasted red pepper and onion
  • 1/2 ripe avocado mashed with 1/4 cup red sauce, fresh mozzarella, sliced mushrooms and green onions, Sriracha drizzle
  • olive-oiled crust, fresh spinach, ricotta cheese, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts
  • old spaghetti sauce, fresh mozzarella, sliced green olives and roasted red pepper

1 comment:

  1. I have fond memories of your moms glad you are passing on the tradition! Also, you had ZERO junk food in the house...except for that one box of sugary cereal you got to pick for your birthday!