Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pizza Dough

Pizza with spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini. Yum.
As far as take-out goes, I think pizza has the lowest amount of waste, as long as you don't get one of those little plastic tables, and you compost the box afterwards. There aren't any extra napkins, ketchup packets, or plastic forks to worry about, which is nice, because going zero waste doesn't guarantee you'll always have the energy to cook.

While take-out or delivery is nice, sometimes I just don't have the dough for it, so I have to make my own. That's where this super-easy pizza dough recipe comes in handy. The first time I made it I had to go to the store to buy a jar of yeast, but it's now become a staple in my kitchen and I always have the ingredients for a tasty pizza on hand, unless somebody wants specific toppings like pineapple or anchovies. Personally I like to slice up a lot of vegetables, saute if needed, and layer thickly over my pizza, though plain cheese makes me happy too. This is also a nice recipe to start with if you aren't used to working with yeast in dough. It's fairly simple and fool-proof, and quickly gives you an idea of what baking with yeast is like.

I'd have to say my favorite part about this recipe is the versatility. I can make one big pizza or a bunch of personal pizzas, which is handy in a house full of picky eaters. As long as I have tomato sauce and cheese in the house (and I always do), I can make a pizza, then let everyone else find the toppings they want. In short, this recipe is a lifesaver; something that gets made at least once a week, and a food that everyone is almost always happy with.


Pizza Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or the equivalent of one .25 oz packet of yeast. I buy yeast in a jar for less waste)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup warm water

Pizza Sauce:
About half a can of tomato sauce
Italian seasoning, or whatever seasonings float your boat

Shredded cheese (I like a mix of mozzarella and cheddar)
Whatever your heart desires.

Mix the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, then pour in the vegetable oil and warm water. It's important to mix the dry ingredients before you add the wet ones, or the yeast will all stick in one place and be a pain to disperse through the dough. As you stir in the liquids the dough will become lumpy and sticky; just make sure it's consistent-feeling and you'll be fine. I like to let my dough rise for a half an hour or so, but if you're pressed for time it's fine to bake it right away. If you do let it rise, it's nice to cover it with a damp tea towel so it doesn't dry out. Alternately, if you get side-tracked, the dough is fine even if you let it sit for several hours.

When you're ready to make your pizza, punch the dough down then turn out onto a floured surface and flatten into a circle, or whatever shape you want your pizza to be. I admit, sometimes I'm too lazy to flour my counter, so you can spread it out on a pan, it just won't be as even. I find that rolling the dough out to about 1/4 an inch works well.

Mix the tomato sauce and about a tablespoon of Italian seasoning together. I like to mix my own out of thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, and sage, using whatever ratios taste right to me that night. Sometimes  I'm too lazy to do this (have you figured out that I'm lazy yet?) so I just put half a tablespoon of basil in and mix, then add additional basil in pinches until I like the taste. My family sometimes likes to use regular spaghetti sauce from a jar. Whatever you choose, spread the pizza sauce over your prepared dough, then top with cheese and toppings of your choice.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes. This recipe makes enough dough for two 10--12 inch pizzas, or about enough to feed four adults.

On a persnickety note, transfer your pizza off the stone or pan to a cutting board before you slice into it. This will keep your baking surface smooth and serviceable, and will drastically increase the lifespan of your pizza cutter or knife.