Recently, we got a pepperoni pizza from Papa John's for dinner. Mike was craving it, and we never order pizza. Our dial-for-dinner days ended when I bought a food processor and figured out how easy it was to make my own crust. Since then, I've just about perfected the recipe, experimented with all sorts of toppings and never looked back.
There's nothing wrong with good old fast food pizza, and I will admit that Papa John's was much better than I thought it would be--I love when thin slices of pepperoni get a little charred around the edges. With the weekly coupons we receive in the mail, I don't think we will let years go by this time before calling the Papa again.
So, has all the time and effort I have spent making my own pizzas been a waste? No way! Here's the thing: the pizza I make and the Papa John's takeout-or-delivery version are two totally different foods--apples and oranges. Papa John's satisfies a craving for nostalgia, taking me back to eating pizza and drinking soda (a special treat!) on Friday nights when I was a kid, or in college on the way home from a bar. My homemade pizza on the other hand represents the way I like to eat now: nutritious, fresh, topped with the flavors and ingredients that I love. You just can't get a pie topped with arugula, figs or sauteed shrimp from the Papa.
The recipe here is one of the favorites that we seem to go back to when we want something different. It is perfect in summer when corn is flavorful and crisp right off the cob and cherry tomatoes are sweet and inexpensive. This is my standard crust recipe, but I often substitute different flours depending on what I have. All-purpose flour will work and so will whole wheat pastry. You could do this with only white flour, but all whole wheat would probably be a little too intense and heavy.
As often as I make pizza, I've only written about it once on the blog. This fig, caramelized onion and prosciutto pizza is one of my favorite meals (the dough recipe in the fig post is essentially the same, but I have simplified and streamlined the directions in the updated version below). Make it now when fresh figs are in season.
One more note on homemade pizza: it sounds a little daunting to proof yeast and measure flour yourself, especially now that you can buy pizza dough in many grocery stores. I promise that once you do this two or three times, it will be the simplest baking you can imagine. It becomes second nature--something you'll start to fit into your day like taking out the trash or defrosting a chicken. You can do it the night before or if you are at home during the day, make the dough at lunch time and let it do its rising while you go about the rest of your life. Active prep time for this dough is 10 to 15 minutes, including cleanup. Even if you're on a first name basis with the pizza delivery kid, I'm betting you will get addicted to your own homemade creations after a couple of go-rounds.
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
This recipe makes enough for two pizzas, each one serving 2 to 4 people, depending on how hungry you are and what else you’ve got going. The dough is thin with a chewy, slightly crisp texture. I love that I can make dough once and freeze half so that my next pizza is as effortless as defrosting the dough. My method for measuring flour by volume is to fluff it up, then lightly spoon it into measuring cups without packing it down or shaking the cup causing it to settle. I always eyeball the oil and honey measurements. This recipe could also be made by hand or in a stand mixer.
1 1⁄4 c. warm water
1 tblsp. granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast
2 c. whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour)
1 1⁄2 c. bread flour (I like King Arthur Bread Flour)
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1 tblsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating the bowl
1 tblsp. honey
Pour the water into a bowl, add the sugar, then gently stir in the yeast. Let it sit for 5 to 8 minutes or until the yeast forms a foamy layer on the surface of the water. Meanwhile, add the flours, and salt to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse to combine. Add the olive oil, honey and yeast mixture. Process until the dough comes together, forming a ball. This should only take about one minute. If your ingredients get stuck, you may need to open the lid and move them around a bit so they can come together properly. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and lay a kitchen towel on top. Let it sit in warm, non-drafty place until the dough doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured cutting board and knead for 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Let the two balls of dough rise for the second time on the cutting board, covered with a kitchen towel, for an hour and a half. Knead each piece 2 or 3 times, then proceed with the pizza. At this point, you can also refrigerate the dough in a Ziploc bag to use within 24 hours, or freeze it to use within 3 months.
Another option, especially if you are making the dough before bed or in the morning before work is to let it rise for the second time in the refrigerator, well-covered, for at least 8 hours, after which you can knead it for a few seconds, transfer it to a Ziploc bag, and keep it for use that day or freeze it. Always bring the dough to room temperature before rolling it out.
To make the pizza: Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of cornmeal on a large rectangle of parchment paper. Flatten one ball of dough into a disk, place in the center of the parchment paper and roll it out with a flour-coated rolling pin to form a large oval, about 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle more cornmeal around the border of the dough, if desired. Cover with your toppings to within 1/2 to 1 inch of the edge. Use the parchment to lift the pizza and place the parchment directly onto the pizza stone in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through (the bottom of the dough should just barely take on some color). Transfer pizza to a cutting board, discarding parchment. Let it rest for 5 minutes, cut and serve.
Shrimp and Corn Pizza
Note: special equipment that I use for cooking homemade pizza is parchment paper and a pizza stone. The directions for rolling out the pizza are repeated here so that both recipes may be used independently.
1/2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 lb. medium or large shrimp, shelled and deveined
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 tbs. coarsely ground cornmeal for dough (optional)
1 cup grated fresh mozzarella cheese
fresh corn kernels, cut from 1 to 2 ears
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (just under 1 pint)
1 red bell pepper, cut into very thin strips
6 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and cook until opaque, turning once, 2 to 3 minutes total. Transfer the shrimp to a cutting board and chop into 2 or 3 pieces each.
Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of cornmeal on a large rectangle of parchment paper. Flatten one ball of dough into a disk, place in the center of the parchment paper and roll it out with a flour-coated rolling pin to form a large oval, about 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle more cornmeal around the border of the dough, if desired.
Top the dough with the cheese, corn, tomatoes, shrimp, bell peppers and scallions. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to suit your taste. Use the parchment to lift the pizza and place the parchment directly onto the pizza stone in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until cooked through (the bottom of the dough should just barely take on some color). Transfer pizza to a cutting board, discarding parchment. Let it rest for 5 minutes, cut and serve.
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