Thursday, August 9, 2012

Pizza, including a vegan suggestion

Pizza is a great option for nights when you have about 1/2 hour earlier in the day and then will be away until it is nearly time to serve dinner. The pizza cooks in minutes and assembly can be just as fast if you have the toppings ready.

Traditional Pizza Dough
2 ½ cups/12.5 oz flour (may use up to 1 cup whole wheat)
1 ½ tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 cup warm water

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a mixing bowl. Pour the water over the top and stir until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Uncover the bowl and kneed the dough for 8-10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. If it is necessary to prevent the dough from coming off on your hands or failing to gather around the dough hook add flour 1 Tbsp at a time as necessary but try not to add more than ¼ to 1/3 cup. For round pizza, shape the dough into two balls and place them on lightly greased plates cover and allow them to rise in the refrigerator if you have time. For one large pizza, shape the dough into one large ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk in the refrigerator if possible.

For my tomato sauce I like to use diluted tomato paste because it does not require so much reducing to get to the desired consistency. Place about 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat and add tomato paste by tablespoon until the desired consistency is reached. A freshly pressed garlic clove and salt to taste are nice additions.

Pesto is a great addition to just about any pizza, either as the primary sauce or as a compliment to the traditional tomato sauce.

I often bake my pizza for about 5-7 minutes before adding the toppings. For this first stage of baking spread the top of the pizza with garlic-infused olive oil. To make said oil, press a couple of cloves of garlic into about 1/4 cup olive oil.

I like to try different cheeses with my pizza. It is good to make sure you pair stronger flavored cheeses with mild cheeses so that the pizza is not overpowering. I once had a gorgonzola pizza in Salzburg, Austria that was too heavily laden with the rich cheese. The first couple of bites were heavenly but subsequent bites began to be torturous. I did not finish it.

A little drizzle of olive oil and grind of salt and pepper over the cheese can inch it up just a notch.

I love sweet-savory combinations, such as the classic pineapple-Canadian bacon combination. Pizzas with thinly sliced fennel and apple have been good experiences for me.

For a nice vegan pizza, use nut cheese (see below), crumbled over the base sauce of choice. Add sundried tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Shave zucchini (just the peeled flesh, skip the seeds) over the pizza. It's really quite good.

For pizza with a crispy crust, use a pizza stone and preheat the oven to 500-degrees for at least 30 minutes. Form the pizza on a liberally floured pizza peel or rimless cookie sheet and slide it directly onto the stone.

For pizza with a softer crust (more favored by most children) fit the dough into a jelly roll pan or two pizza pans. Preheat the oven to 425-degrees.

For any pizza, liberally poke the dough with a fork and bake the crust for 10-12 minutes before adding the toppings.

Nut Cheese
2 cups blanched nuts (I like Brazils, cashews, and macadamias best)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika

Chop the nuts to a medium chop and pour the water and lemon juice over them. Mix to combine and allow the nuts to soak for 3-6 hours. Place the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides, until the nuts are finely ground. Drizzle the olive oil into the nuts and add the nutritional yeast, salt and paprika. Continue to process until a smooth paste is formed. Refrigerate unused portion.

GLUTEN NOTES: I expect that pizza dough would work just fine with gluten-free flour substitute, but I have not tried to do it yet.

© Katherine C. Otterstrom, August 2012

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