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Homemade Pizza: Family-friendly recipes for soggy days

Mar 10th, 2011 | Category: Cooking

Yogi Berra once said “You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”

Pizza. It’s a dish that nearly everyone can appreciate, any time of year. It can come in all flavors and sizes, and a variety of calorie and fat checks – from the very health-conscious to those thinking “The game is on, let’s have pizza and beer.” The toppings are endless: cheeses, veggies, mushrooms, herbs, meats, seafood, etc. The underlying sauce can be a traditional tomato base or perhaps an olive oil mixture, or maybe even nothing at all. Or maybe you like your sauce on top of the ingredients, dusted with delicious parmesan. It’s a dish for anyone.

Into the oven: This pizza is topped by late winter ingredients including a variety of local cheeses, kale, garlic, onion and a handful of potatoes. PHOTO BY BECCA SCHWARZ COLE

Making the pizza is an event itself. From mixing the dough and allowing it time to rise, to rolling it out and fixing toppings, the time allotted from start to finish is at least two to three hours. Making pizza becomes one of those staple “projects” good to do with kids during an afternoon or early evening, especially during soggy weather. Our kids really enjoy rolling out the dough, cutting up the toppings, “decorating” the pizzas and watching it bake.
The two recipes at right are to create a very basic pizza crust. One is a general recipe, the other is gluten-free and both can be vegan, so these recipes can fit any family’s dietary needs.

Making pizza is fun, so the added benefit of doing this at home is that you put any kind and any amount of toppings on your pizza to fit each family members’ favorites. The basic crust recipe yields two crusts, so we create three or four different kinds of mixed toppings and sauces on our two pizzas. For example, we have a “very extra cheesy” celebration (a blend of 3 to 4 cups of locally made cheeses such as parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella, and others) over a “sauce” of olive oil, garlic and seasonings, next to a side of tossed kale, garlic, onions and tender potatoes over a traditional tomato sauce. Another half is topped with local meat or seafood ingredients such as salmon, bacon or chicken. My husband likes mixing local chicken and feta.

As the spring growing season emerges, ingredients such as arugula, shaved carrots, fennel, garlic scapes and other greens can also make great veggie toppings, as well as mushrooms and herbs. And, of course, as the sweet summer days come, nothing beats fresh tomatoes for sauces and a few chopped pieces mixed in with the other toppings. Delicious.

As a general reference, once you’ve topped your pizza crust with sauce and toppings, place it in a 450 degree over for a good 10-12 minutes (or until golden brown). Tasty pizza awaits. Enjoy.

Basic pizza crust

Basic pizza crust

1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour (or omit and use all white flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 to 2 tablespoons mixed dried
herbs (dried basil, garlic
powder, oregano, etc.)

Mix 1/4 cup of warm water and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on the surface and let sit for one minute, then blend. Leave for 10 minutes while the yeast “proofs” (should be somewhat bubbly).
Pour the mixture into a larger bowl and blend in the remaining water, and oil, flour, salt and seasonings. Mix the dough (use a wooden spoon) to form a ball. Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
Coat a large bowl with oil and place the dough into the bowl, then flip it so that all sides are slightly covered by the oil. Cover with wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes.
When ready, punch the dough to deflate, then knead a few more times. Divide the dough into two (for two pizza crusts). On a lighty floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the dough on it.
Cover with sauce and toppings of your choice and bake in 450 degree oven about 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Gluten-free pizza crust

1 tablespoon dry yeast
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons powdered milk (or dairy alternative)
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 teaspoons seasoning blend
(dried basil, garlic powder,
oregano, etc.)
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
In medium bowl blend all ingredients on low speed, then beat on high for 2-3 minutes. If the dough seems too stiff, add a tablespoon of water (one at a time as needed) to soften.
Lightly grease a 12-inch pizza pan or 11 x 7-inch pan. Press the dough into the pan, then liberally sprinkle rice flour on the dough (it may stick to you hands so use as needed). Bake the pizza crust for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and cover the pizza  crust with sauce and toppings of your choice. Bake another 20 to 25 minutes or until top is nicely browned.

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