Oh, toppings. Something about seeing a list of toppings makes my eyes gleam. I tend to want too many. On a veggie burger I want caramelized onions and a sharp cheese and mushrooms and pickles and jalapenos. On an ice cream sundae I want walnuts and hot fudge and strawberries and whipped cream and broken bits of oreo cookies. Basically, I convince myself that if I choose just the right combination of toppings, I’ll have the most fabulous dish ever. Or, maybe I’m just greedy.
This worries Hrishikesh. At Indigo Deli, where we sometimes have lunch, the prices of toppings are ludicrously expensive relative to the cost of a burger, and usually add up to be more than the veggie burger itself. At Brightlands, the pizza toppings are similarly priced. So I limit myself to two, (ok, sometimes three), toppings per dish.
But when I’m making pizza at home, I can have as many toppings as I like. What fun, and what freedom. Hence this excessively topped pizza, which was indeed fabulous.
We make pizza at home pretty often, and it’s very easy as long as you make the tomato sauce in advance. We made a whole ton of this sauce and froze it in various containers, and every time we want to make pizza, we defrost one of the containers for an hour or two on the kitchen counter top, until it’s sitting in a pool of water. We love this sauce- it’s rich and lively and you can eat it plain, it’s that good- but we just exhausted our stock of it, and I’m going to try this one next.
So as long as you have the sauce ready, the only real work you have to do is make the pizza dough. Making pizza dough might sound daunting but it’s superbly easy- at least the recipes we use. When we’re feeding a lot of people, we usually make both the whole wheat pizza dough from the New York Times Recipes for Health blog and Smitten Kitchen’s take on Mario Batali’s pizza dough from Otto. Many people (myself included) prefer the taste of the SK/Otto pizza dough. It calls for white flour, wine and honey and these ingredients make it delicious. However, the other night, it was just three of us eating and in an effort to be nutritious, we only made the whole wheat dough, which tastes nuttier, and is a bit chewy, and takes a longer time to bake.
To make pizza dough, all you have to do is:
1. Activate the yeast with warm water and sugar, and eventually mix in some olive oil.
2. While that’s happening, whisk together the whole wheat flour, white flour, and salt in a bowl.
3. Add in the yeast mixture, and mix with your hand (or in a food processor) until the dough starts to form into a ball.
4. Then knead it for a few minutes on a counter top until the dough looks shiny, plop it into an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour and a half.
5. When the dough is poufy, split it into two balls and let it sit on a tray, covered with the plastic wrap again, for fifteen minutes or so.
6. Then roll it out with a baking pin and start topping!
Such simple steps for a great, customizable result.
What’s left now is to pick your toppings, which is actually not work at all since it’s so much fun to be able to have exactly what you want. This combination we tried the other night was killer: red pepper rounds which roast into sweetness while the pizza is cooking; thinly sliced red onions;, slivers of garlic (and since it’s green garlic season here, we chopped up the green garlic stems and sprinkled those on, too); a big handful of chopped spinach that adds a wonderful, fresh flavor to the pizza; semi-firm goat cheese pieces that impart a creamy milkiness (choose a good cheese); and then, to finish it off, just a dusting of fresh Parmesan. Yum. The three of us finished the pizza and then spent the rest of the evening reclining. (Actually, we made two pizzas, one with an egg on top of it, and finished that one too. We’re pigs.)
Whole Wheat Pizza with Goat Cheese, Red Pepper, Garlic, Spinach and Red Onion
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
adapted from The New York Times
(Makes TWO 12-14 inch pizza doughs)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the pizza crusts
1 1/4 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional if necessary for kneading
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1. Combine the yeast and water in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Add the sugar, and stir together. Let sit two or three minutes, until the water is cloudy. Stir in the olive oil.
2. Combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice. Then, with the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture. Process until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove from the processor (the dough will be a little tacky; flour or moisten your hands so it won’t stick), and knead on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding flour as necessary for a smooth dough.
3. Shape the dough into a ball, pinched at bottom and rounded at top. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, rounded side down first, then rounded side up. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and leave it in a warm spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. When it is ready, the dough will stretch when it is gently pulled.
4. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Put the balls on a lightly oiled tray or platter, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel, and leave them to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward, the dough balls can be placed in a wide bowl, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to three days. Alternatively, you can wrap them loosely in lightly oiled plastic wrap and refrigerate them in a resealable plastic bag. When you are ready to roll out the pizzas, you will need to bring the balls to room temperature and punch them down again.
5. Preheat your oven to its highest setting. Roll or press out the dough to a 12- to 14-inch circle. Lightly oil pizza pans, and dust with semolina or cornmeal. Place the dough on the pizza pan. With your fingers, form a slightly thicker raised rim around edge of the circle. Brush everything but the rim with a little olive oil, then top the pizza with the toppings of your choice. Bake until the crust is browned and crisp, about 18-25 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
1 large handful chopped spinach
3 red onions, thinly sliced (our onions are quite small, you might need only 1 or 2)
3/4 red bell pepper, sliced into rounds
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 handful garlic greens (the long green stems of garlic), chopped (optional)
1/2 sliced semi-firm goats cheese
1/8 cup grated Parmesan
Spread the pizza with sauce. Then scatter the garlic, and place the 3/4 of the cheese on the crust. Spread out the spinach, and top with red pepper, onion rings, and green garlic, if using. Then add remaining goat cheese and dust with Parmesan. Bake for 18-25 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and crispy.