As mentioned in my very first post on lemon balm pesto pizza, I am a spoiled brat when it comes to pizza. I grew up in a town that was very heavily influenced by Italian immigrants, and by “heavily influenced,” I’m not talking early 1900s immigration. I’m saying most of my classmates had an Italian-speaking grandmother who lived in the basement and emerged only to cook, to babysit neglectfully, or to yell at her daughter/son-in-law in Italian. So, my idea of good pizza is unattainably high. The cheese has to be the right blend. The sauce can’t be too peppery, too sweet, or too oregonized. And the crust MUST be the perfect balance of crunchy to chewy, not too yeasty, but not too crackery. If it’s not any of those things… meh. I’ll eat it, but I won’t like it.
Now that I live out where chow-chow is easier to come by than a good pizza, usually we got our pizza dough out of the bread machine, which works fine but produces yet another “meh.” Then one day I did a random search using the term “quick pizza dough instant yeast” (because that’s what we have on hand–sorry yeast-snobs). After a bit of experimenting? JACKPOT. We now have a crust recipe that is crisp yet chewy, sweet but not cloying, and it makes a pizza or four in less time than it takes to have one delivered out here to the cornfields. And the price comparison? I’m tempted to say “fugeddaboutit,” but I’m holding back. Self-respect and all.
Quick Pizza Crust (can be doubled or halved)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 c lukewarm water (bathwater-temp)
1 T olive oil
2 1/2-3 c bread flour
1 tsp salt
sauce & toppings to your liking
Preheat oven to 425F. Place sugar and yeast in the bowl of a food processor fitted with dough blade, and pour water over all. Let yeast bloom for five minutes, then add olive oil, 2 1/2c flour and salt. Process until the dough comes together in a smooth ball that rotates around the bowl. Touch the dough; if it’s sticky, add another 1/2 c flour and process until smooth and just slightly tacky to the touch. Remove dough ball from food processor bowl, and let rest 5 minutes. Then stretch dough to fit a greased 12″ pizza pan or large cookie sheet, or divide into smaller balls and stretch to fit smaller pans. If you like a higher crust around the border, “dock” the dough by piercing with a fork at 1″ intervals, leaving a 1″ edge undocked. Now, here’s a little Mackerelsnapper secret on how we like to keep pizza toppings from browning too much: bake the crust UNTOPPED at 425F for 10 minutes. Then remove the parbaked crust from the oven, top as desired, and return to oven for 10 more minutes. Let it cool enough that mouths don’t burn, and nosh away.
If you want to skip the parbaking step but don’t want burnt cheese… freeze your cheese. Seriously! Shred cheese, put it in the freezer, then sprinkle the shreds on top of your pizza before baking. You’ll thank me. And I’ll say “you’re welcome.” One of my favorite, non-classic ways to top this crust is with olive oil, goat cheese crumbles, sliced crimini mushrooms and thyme leaves. So good.
Thursday I asked facebook friends if we should make pizza or McIndian food, and my friend and fellow papist Mary answered with the quote I used for this entry’s title. So this was last night’s dinner:
Half plain, half mushroom, baked on a stoneware pan
Just mushroom, baked on a round cast iron griddle
Lemon balm pesto alfredo pizza, baked on a “personal” pan, at the request of the oldest two saints-in-training
Anyway, I still haven’t found the perfect sauce or been able to mimic the cheese blend from back home, but what we have is so good that I’m not sure I’ll put too much effort into the rest. In the meantime, I hope you’re still enjoying Christmas. Yes, Christmas. Yes, still.