Handmade Pizza

What I consider our first date–my fiancée and I’s–occurred over pizza.  I meant to take him to a cute little Southwestern restaurant but ended up at my favorite local pizza joint instead.  Come to find out later, he didn’t think much of the Southwestern restaurant, so apparently I made an excellent choice.

And while my favorite pizza restaurant in town is certainly not his, we do eat a lot of pizza together.  We live in a college town, after all.  After about a year of pizza-critiquing the local restaurants, and somehow finding each wanting in some way, (This one’s crust is just bland, I don’t like that one’s sauce, the other one has boring toppings, etc.) we decided to go into business–the handmade pizza à la us–business.

I discovered homemade pizzas during my first years in college, when my grandma sent me off with a bread maker, which made great dough, but not great bread.  It was just one short step from pizza dough to pulling out of the oven goodness, and any toppings that were lying around in the fridge were fair game.

Fast forward several years, and I’ve discovered the crust and the sauce.  You know, the one’s that blows all the local pizza restaurants out of the water.  What’s more, Will and I finally agree on pizza.  We like this one best.

While we may finally agree on dough and sauce, we still haven’t come to terms on toppings.  In particular, as you can see–one of us tends to go for a heavy hand with the cheese.

Favorite Pizza Dough (adapted from The Art of Simple Food)
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup  + 3 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • Stir 1/2 cup warm water and yeast together in small measuring container.  Add in 1/2 cup flour and mix well.  Cover this container and set it for about 30 minutes.  Make sure your container is large enough to allow for big expansion of flour/yeast mixture!
  • When this mixture is quite bubbly, pour it into a large bowl with remaining flour and salt.  Mix well with cold water and olive oil.  You may need to add more flour or water, depending on the temperature and moisture in the air.  Once ingredients are incorporated, pour out on floured surface and knead for five minutes.  
  • Once kneading is complete, put dough back into oiled, clean large bowl and give it a couple turns to cover dough with oil.  Cover and let rise for about two hours, until doubled.  You can also put it into the fridge in the morning and let rise slowly all day.  This develops even more flavor in the dough.  If you do this, make sure to take the dough out of the fridge approximately two hours before baking.  
  • Once ready to form into pizza, split dough in half.  Use either your hands or a rolling pin to form a circle and place on a pizza stone or circular baking sheet.  
  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  When sauce and toppings are on, pat a small bit of olive oil around the edge of the crust and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over toppings.  Bake the pizza for 10 minutes.
Favorite Tomato Sauce (adapted from Joe Bastianich in Runner’s World Magazine)
2 1/2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, no salt or seasoning added.
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
  • Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium-heat.  When it sizzles, add garlic and sauté until just golden.   Add tomatoes and spices and turn to low.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes, and then puree in a blender for a smooth consistency.
For this particular pizza, we layered sauce, a small handful of cheese, onions, mushrooms, green bell peppers, and artichokes.  We followed with a good amount of cheddar and Parmesan cheese.  Feel free to experiment with toppings!
Hint:  This tomato sauce is also are signature stand-by for a quick pasta dish.

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