October 29, 2010

Herblicious Pizza Dough

Who doesn't love pizza night? A couple years ago, we discovered that it's way more fun- not to mention cheap and healthful- to make pizzas at home than to order in. It started out more as an assembly than actual cooking: we bought fresh dough and toppings at Trader Joe's, and could have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. Brilliant. Pizza night quickly became my favorite night. 

But. Trader Joe's broke my heart when they discontinued the Whole-Wheat Garlic Herb crust last year, and we've been making due with sad substitutes ever since. How could I go back to just plain crust after being spoiled for so long?

Turns out, pizza dough really takes very little active prep time to pull together, and zero ingredients that aren't normally already in my kitchen. You do have to plan ahead to give it time to rise, but  it really only takes about 15 minutes of actual attention. Also, it helps to have a boy on hand to clean up the kitchen afterwards.

I'm a huge proponent of the I-cook-you-clean rule.

Cleanup aside, though, this recipe's a cinch. Not counting seasoning (which you can adjust based on what's in your kitchen right this very minute), you're looking at four ingredients. 

This, plus flour and water

Side not: The purple in that herb dish is actually basil. According to the man at the farmer's market, most people use it just as a garnish. And it is lovely: deep, dark purple with green-tipped leaves. However, I live with boys. So at my house, food is usually being consumed before the plate has a chance to touch a single surface. Not a lot of time for garnishing, so I cook with my purple basil.

Combined with a liberal dose of dill, a dash of garlic, and some freshly snipped rosemary, and you end up with a  rich, savory crust that doesn't need a a ton of toppings. I don't know if you're like me, but my tendency is to go a little nuts with the veggies on top. I'm talking roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, back olives, mushrooms and spinach kind of nuts. I'm trying to learn to be more restrained. Keeping the toppings in check leaves you with a pizza that just more                  pizza-y somehow.

I think this crust works best pretty thin, so the recipe below can make two big pizzas, easily enough for three hungry people with leftovers for lunch. We don't have a pizza stone or pan in the new casa yet, so we've rolled this amount out to completely cover two cookie sheets before. This time around, my pizza (the cute round one) was a little to think and doughy for my taste, but the boys' was pretty perfect.

Herblicious Pizza Dough
adapted from Smitten Kitchen:
We like our crust thin and crispy. A problem we had for a long time making pizza at home is that the center of the crust while not necessarily soggy, was always a little too doughy. Our solution for perfectly crispy pizza dough: cook the dough first. I really do cook the dough completely, and then pop it back in the oven after saucing and topping just long enough to get the cheese bubbly. If you're using a pre-heated pizza stone, your dough will be cooking as soon as it hits the stone, so this step probably isn't necessary.

And feel free to adjust the ratio of whole-wheat flour. I wouldn't add any more, but scale back if you want a lighter, less substantial crust. Or, y'know, if you run out.

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon dill
5-6 leaves fresh basil, chopped (purple optional)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl (at this point, I would taste to check the seasoning. It's easiest to add more at this point than any other). Add water and olive oil, and mix into more or less of a ball. Dump it onto a lightly floured surface (you can try to minimize mess by doing this on waxed paper, but I find that it rarely works out). 

Form ingredients into a ball, and knead for just a minute or two. Grease the inside of the bowl (with butter, oil, or Pam), and plop the dough ball back in there. Cover in plastic wrap, and let sit for about two hours until it has doubled in size.*

Knead gently for about a minute, pressing all the air out of the dough ball (it will shrink back down on you, that's normal). Put it back in the bowl and re-cover for the second rise, about 20 minutes. If you're using a pizza stone, put it in the oven during this rise

Preheat oven to 400 (if not using a stone. If you are using a stone, follow those directions from here on out) and roll out the pizza dough on a pan that's either been buttered or dusted lightly with cornmeal. Bake with no sauce or toppings until crust is just a bit crispy on the bottom, about 8 minutes in my oven. Add sauce, toppings, and cheese, and bake for another 3-4 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and you can't resist the smell for another minute.

* There's actually a fair amount of flexibility in this. My kitchen is pretty cool, so it takes about twice that long to rise in a corner out of the sun (perfect to go to class and come back for dinner). I usually don't plan ahead very far, so I like to pop the bowl in the oven set to warm, and that only takes about 45 minutes. Alternatively, I've heard that you can leave it in the fridge overnight for a slow rise, but I have no personal experience with that.

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  1. Love homemade pizza!! And we haven't made it in ages for some strange reason. Couple thoughts:
    1) You should try some roasted eggplant(I also usually add a pesto drizzle or two..and I may or may not be recreating a CCF pizza...)
    2) I don't think I've ever actually had dough rise in the fridge...it doesn't seem like that would even be possible? But you CAN store dough in the fridge over night and then warm it back up to room temperature before kneading it a bit and baking.
    3) I am so excited to try an herbed crust! I have no idea why we've never done that before.
    4) Also, it made me think about creating a normal crust, and then brushing an herbed butter over the crust before baking.
    5) You are so right on about baking the crust before putting on the toppings. Otherwise the center is very sad. :(

    I know what we're making for dinner one day this week!! :)

    P.S. You can also freeze pizza dough for quite some time until you're ready to bake it! However, if your freezer gets all frosty on the inside like our last one did--I don't really recommend that!

  2. Hahaha, I love that your thoughts are so organized! Couple responses:
    2) I'm skeptical, too, but I've read it on several websites (I'm pretty sure smitten kitchen Deb has said that it works).
    4) If I leave much of a crust, I'll brush it with melted butter with grated Parmesan and garlic powder. It's delicious, and it takes less than a minute to pull together.
    5) Don't you HATE sad, soggy pizza middle?! Blech. Failing at pizza is such a bad feeling.