May 27, 2011

Mediterranean Pizza with Homemade Crust

I used to be a full serve gas attendant.  No, really. That little get-to-know-Sarah fact has nothing to do with pizza or this recipe but I thought it just might get your attention. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the last person on earth to whom you would expect to say, “Fill with regular.” I would run out, rain or shine, smile on my face, and I would even ask, “Can I check your oil for you?” I am so happy to report that those days are over.

Those of you who know me might also know that I used to work at a little joint in downtown Kelowna called Goochie’s Sushi, Pizza and Ice Cream Parlour. That’s right, all three. Yes sushi and pizza. No, not like Gucci. Goochie.

The point being, I have been making (and eating) pizza like a pro since I was in high school.

Ahhh, za. Who doesn’t love it? I have all sorts of favourite spots to go get a slice, and certain kinds I like too. It’s Spicy Perogy at Boston Pizza, Ham and Pineapple at Pizza Hut, Veggie Lite at Pizza 73, and so on. But… nothing, and I mean nothing, beat fresh baked, at-home pizza.

The following recipe is for a Mediterranean-style pizza, which is my favourite. However, you can use this awesome, no frills pizza dough recipe for any kind of pizza – just tailor your toppings!

Makes 2 pizzas

Pizza Dough
4 cups of flour
1 envelope of instant yeast
1.5 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 cups of warm (not hot) water

Pizza Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

Pizza toppings (for 2 Mediterranean pizzas)
½ cup pizza sauce
¼ cup of parmesan, shredded
8 slices prosciutto, torn
½ cup pitted kalamata olives
½ cup Marinated artichoke hearts
½ cup cocktail size bocconcini cheese
2 tomatoes, sliced and cut in half
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

1. With a food processor: Using the dough blade, pulse flour, yeast and salt to mix. While the processor is running, add oil and then water until a rough ball forms, about 30 seconds. Let rest for 2 minutes. Run the processor again for 30 seconds. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes, until a nice smooth ball forms (using flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and counter.) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with saran wrap and: a) put in fridge for up to 16 hours OR b) let rest at room temp for 1.5 hours.

Without a food processor: Follow the above method but use a whisk to mix dry ingredients. Use a spatula to incorporate the wet ingredients. When kneading, increase time to 10-15 minutes.

2. Make the sauce, which can be kept in the refrigerator up to 4 days in advance. Heat the garlic and oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until just sizzling. Careful not to burn the garlic. Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened. Set aside or refrigerate.

Shaping crust on parchment paper allows you to just drag
the assembled pizza onto the preheated pizza stone.
3. If the dough has been refrigerated, let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. After the dough has risen as per above, transfer dough to lightly floured surface and separate into two equal parts. Knead into a nice smooth ball, put it back into a lightly oiled bowl and cover again with saran wrap. Let dough balls sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

4. While your dough is sitting, put a pizza stone in the oven on the lower-middle rack and preheat the oven to 500F. It should preheat for at least 20 minutes. If you don’t have a stone, you can use a large baking pan, but it is better with a stone.

4. When ready to assemble pizza, put one dough ball on a piece of parchment paper and use your knuckles to press it into a round, flat pizza crust. Here’s a good way to do this: knuckles to make a flat circle. Then, with one hand flat on the centre of the circle, lightly stretch the edges out, rotating the pizza and stretching all four quarters. Then, flatten the big edges with your knuckles.

5. Add about ¼ cup of pizza sauce, then the parmesan and the rest of the toppings, except for the basil. Here you can add whatever toppings you like to the pizza.

6. Carefully transfer pizza to oven by sliding it and the parchment paper onto the preheated stone. Bake until the edges are golden brown and cheese starts to bubble, about 10-13 minutes (but watch it because all ovens are different.) While one is baking you can start the other pizza and repeat the process from step 4.

Serve and prepare to take your praise!