The Reluctant Blogger

Dark Days Week 16: Pizza
March 29, 2011, 10:23 am
Filed under: Dark Days, Vegetarian

Homemade pizza has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Eating out was rare for my family, and if it weren’t for the Pizza Hut collaboration with Book It! that kept this young (voracious) reader in a steady stream of personal pan pizzas, I may not have ever encountered pizza away from home before I hit high school. Though it has been years since I last ate at Pizza Hut, I still think of their pizzas fondly, but I know I make better pizza at home now, thanks to a lifetime of practice and a few years of serious obsession. The pizza I make now bears only a faint resemblance to the pizza my mom made (and then taught us to make), but her pizza got me started in the right direction.

Chances are pretty good if you’ve been a guest in our home in the past year, we’ve served you pizza. Chances are also pretty good if you’re a return guest, we’ll serve you pizza again. And even when we don’t have guests, pizza makes a regular appearance. Not weekly, but certainly monthly, and more than once a month is not unusual. That (plus the books about pizza piling up on my nightstand) would be the serious obsession part. When I first started making pizza on my own, I made it the way my mom did: on a pizza pan from her collection that she sent me off to college with, with a quick dough and piled with toppings. Over the years, my method has evolved, eliminating the pan, shrinking the pizza size considerably, and adding a pizza peel (made by my husband!) and a thick baking stone to the process.

Although the dough recipe I use started out as my mom’s recipe, I have been experimenting with my dough a lot and have made some substantial departures. The ingredients are almost the same (though I don’t use oil in my dough anymore) – just flour, water, yeast and salt – but the technique is pretty different. Where my mom would throw all of the ingredients for her dough into the food processor and then roll out her crust immediately, I’ve found that a wet dough made in advance – while harder to work with – is absolutely worth it in the flavor department. For Saturday night pizza, I try to mix the dough Thursday after getting home from work, then dump it in a large tupperware and make space for it in the fridge. Sometime Saturday morning, I’ll pull the dough out of the fridge so it has ample opportunity to come up to room temperature (we keep our house fairly cold, so I try to give the dough at least five or six hours out of the fridge). Letting the dough slowly develop in the fridge really boosts the flavor and the texture of the cooked crust.

Just as my dough has evolved, our favorite toppings have evolved over time. The pizzas I make have, by necessity, fewer toppings – pizzas piled with ingredients “the works” style would never make it from the pizza peel to the oven intact – and with experience and changing seasons. Most of the pizzas we make now have at most three or four toppings, and more likely will only have one or two toppings in addition to the cheese. We’re still talking about a roasted chanterelle mushroom pizza we made last fall; sadly, we won’t get to make it again until fall rolls around again, but I did roast and freeze tomatoes and padron peppers, so at least we have a few out-of-season options available. This week we made a white pizza with garlic, mozzarella, parmesan and olive oil; a “Margherita” with sauce, mozzarella, roasted tomatoes from the freezer, parmesan and basil; mushroom with garlic, mozzarella, and parmesan; and a padron with roasted padron peppers from the freezer, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. Next time we make pizza – probably only a few weeks from now – I’m hoping to utilize some of the nettles popping up like crazy in the backyard. Come on over!

Sources for this week’s meal:
Homegrown & canned roma tomatoes
Mild French garlic from my in-laws’ garden up the street (via basement “cold storage”)
Mozzarella from Greenbank Farms Cheese, Preston, WA (purchased at Pike Place Market Creamery)
Beecher’s Parmesan, Seattle, WA (very excited to find this in the case at the Beecher’s store in Pike Place – this is the first local parmesan I’ve found)
Homegrown & dried roma and black zebra tomatoes (via the freezer)
Roasted Tonnemaker Hill Farm padron peppers (via the freezer)
Basil from my windowsill (the plant is miraculously still limping along!)
Mushrooms from Champs Mushrooms, Abbotsford, B.C. (just inside of my 150 mile circle; by way of Full Circle box)
Flour from Montana, as in past posts
Exceptions: cornmeal, salt, yeast, olive oil


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