This weekend, we got the first snow of the season in New York. It was heavy and wet, and melted by midnight, but for the first time, it actually felt like winter. On Saturday night, after a few hours at the Whiskey Ward with an old friend, I went home to a cold apartment. Wanting to turn on the oven, but also aiming for something effortless, I opted for homemade pizza.
I'd never made dough from scratch before, but knew that the dough was simple: flour, yeast, water, salt. (Olive oil for flavor.) If I've learned anything in the past few months, it's that the simplest things are often the most difficult to execute, as they rely on a perfected balance of few elements. Case and point: my crust. The flavor was amazing; I used Mark Bittman's basic dough recipe, and added fresh garlic, thyme, basil and rosemary. The herbs grounded the more robust and earthy flavors of the toppings: eggplant, squash, and roasted red peppers. The sauce was one I'd canned a few weeks ago, and was spicy with chili and slightly sweet from reduced balsamic.
The texture of the crust was less successful, and the whole thing stuck to the pizza stone. The edges of the crust came out fully baked, crispy on the bottom and doughy on top. The center, however, was too wet, and didn't brown on the bottom. In the future, I would pre-bake the crust for at least 5 minutes, and I would well-oil the baking surface. I'd also pat all the vegetables dry.
Here's to hoping for future success:
basic pizza dough
1 tsp (1/2 packet) active dry yeast
3 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 to 1 1/4 c water
2 tbs olive oil
fresh thyme, oregano, garlic (1 clove), basil
Add the yeast, flour, and salt to the food processor and process for a minute until well-mixed. Add the herbs, and process again. With the machine on, add the 1 c water and 2 tbs of oil through the feed tube.
Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm area until the dough doubles in size. (*You can cut this time short, if you like and are in a hurry, or slow it down by placing the bowl in the refrigerator.)
Once risen, place the dough on a well-oiled baking surface and, working from the center, push the dough out to form the crust to the thickness of your liking. Brush the edges with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake, with toppings, for 10 - 15 minutes (or to your desired crispness).