Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Many Faces of Pizza

Pizza is always there - in Hungary, Vienna, England, Italy, Slovenia, and Bulgaria. When the paprikash or scones or wiener just get to be too much, pizza awaits.

When we first moved to Bulgaria, I became a pizza-lover for the first time. I learned to say "moje li pizza vegetariana bez muslini y bez luc?" around the same time I learned that nodding means no and shaking your head means yes.

I've since discovered my favorite pizza in the world in Lake Bled, Slovenia, but never mind that
(I can't afford to dwell on the memory too much), today is about making pizza crust, and the many things you can do with it.

Not only is pizza always there, but it can be whatever you want it to be. I've made deep dish, thin crust and regular crust pies with essentially the same recipe for dough. I first found it at Smitten Kitchen, and now I just adapt it to my thickness preference and top it with whatever seems right -
pesto and pine nuts, chopped tomatoes and basil, pepperoni and a truckload of fresh mozzarella for my husband. Tonight I also made bread sticks and rosemary knots with leftover dough. So if you choose to follow in my kitchen tracks, you too can have pizza (with any and all the toppings of your choice), bread sticks, and rolls from just one quick batch of dough.

Rosemary Pizza Dough
(adapted from the Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves chopped

1. Put your warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set in a warm place and cover with a towel for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve yeast.

2. Stir together the wheat flour, brown sugar and oil. Add yeast and water.

3. Add the flour, salt, and rosemary.

4. Knead 5 minutes IN THE BOWL (why mess up your counter?), adding a bit of flour here and there to keep it from sticking to your hands or the bowl. Then lift up the dough and dribble a generous dash of olive oil into the bowl, using the dough to spread it. Turn over the dough so it is now coated with olive oil too. Cover the whole shebang with a towel and place in a warm kitchen corner for 1 1/2 hours.

Now's a good time to make your pizza sauce: in a small saucepan, combine 1 can crushed tomatoes, 4 leaves basil (optional), 1 TSBP of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Let simmer while the dough rises, stirring occasionally if you remember.

6. When your remove the towel, your dough should be nice and poofy (and your sauce should be starting to smell nice on the stove). Gently deflate the dough and divide it. If you'd like to make thinner pizzas, divide in 4. For thicker pizzas, or to make one pizza and some bread rolls as I did, divide in two.

7. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Oil your pizza pan(s). Press the crust down into your pan, pulling up thick ridges at the edge for a deep dish pizza (as pictured here). Coat with your prepared sauce and whatever toppings suit you. Since shredded mozzarella hasn't hit Bulgaria yet, we slice up the mozzarella balls that come in bags of water at our Austrian grocery store. Your pizza may look at bit different at first, but it all comes out the same once the cheese melts.

8. Bake about 20 minutes, until tapping the crust makes a hollow noise and when you lift up an edge with your spatula, you see the bottom is cooked.

9. Let sit for a few minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

And if you have the energy...

Rosemary Knots and Breadsticks
(loosely inspired by Emeril Lagasse's Garlic-Knots)

1. Lightly flour your counter and preheat your oven to 350 F.

2. Roll out your remaining pizza dough into a big rectangle. Lightly brush it with olive oil.

2. Use a knife to cut the dough into strips about one inch wide and six inches long. Tie half the strips into loose knots. Roll the other half into ropes and then twist pairs of them together to form breadsticks.

3. Lay them out on an oiled baking sheet and let rest (and rise) for 30 minutes, covered with a damp clean towel.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, brushing on more olive oil after 5 minutes if you'd like a deeper golden hue to your final product.


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