I never liked pizza when I could have it, but as soon as I found out that I was allergic to wheat and cow dairy, it seemed the greatest injustice in the world to be unable to indulge in everyone’s favourite fast food – pizza. Even then, I understood the irony. The grass is always greener, right?
Luckily, my mom – always game for anything baking related, especially if it contained yeast – took up her dough hook and would make homemade pizza dough for the occasional treat. I don’t think I helped once in this process, while still at home. So that once I got to school and had that pizza craving, it was inextricably linked to a longing for home.
Four years later, I no longer get so homesick, but I’ve made pizza quite a few times – mostly using our trusty recipe from the New Balance Cookbook – and I wonder what took me so long to join in the fun. If you have never played around with yeasted dough before, do it. Seriously, what’s stopping you? Is it the kneading and rising and the instructions that say that the dough should be ‘springy’? I’ll be the first to admit, having only become fully comfortable with breads and other doughs after working in the bakery, that it’s easier to learn these things from an experienced hand. In person. The in person bit can be key. But, pizza dough is a great place to start. It’s extremely forgiving and sometimes even no-knead, like this one from Jim Lahey of Sullivan St Bakery. If you’re ever in New York, GO! And try his take on a sourdough – it’s out of this world.
Plus, you get fresh, homemade pizza at the end of your experiment, and a compliment from your Italian (former) flatmate. What could be better?
Jim Lahey’s Pizza Crust
from My Bread. I found it on Dinner: A Love Story [which is a fantastic blog – you should check it out!]
Yield: 2 balls of dough for 2 thin pizza crusts
3 3/4 cups flour (I use a mixture of 2/3 white and 1/3 whole spelt)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup room-temperature water
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky.
Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
Divide the dough in two and shape each into flattened balls. (Dough can be frozen at this point.)
When you are ready to make a pizza, preheat oven to 500°F (260C) roll out one ball of dough in a rectangular shape and place on an oiled cookie sheet. I generally sprinkle some cornmeal on the bottom of mine, instead of oil, and it works fine.
Top with desired toppings (my personal favourite is just a tiny bit of sauce with sautéed mushrooms and onions, topped with fresh tomatoes mozzarella and basil) and bake at 500°F (260C) for about 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on the cheese and crust while it bakes to make sure it doesn’t burn.