Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pizza for Any Night

I am rarely in the mood for pizza. Un-American, one might think. When I am in the mood for pizza, I usually go for a veggie type. One of my favorites is spinach pizza, though I have made many styles and combinations. All that aside, lately it seems I have gone off the deep end. Ever since I made the little English muffin pizzas for the Winefest event in late March, I had some of the mixture (pizza sauce, minced pepperoni and Parmesan, with just a bit of green pepper) in the refrigerator. The bottle was filled to the tippy-top, and my assumption is that because there was really no air space, it lasted far longer than it might have. So a couple of weeks ago I made some pizza using that mixture, plus a few more pepperoni strewn over top and then cheese. And then I made it again. And yesterday, while the pizza mixture was long gone, I was still in the mood, still had some pepperoni in the fridge and a fresh batch of grated cheeses. 
Hamburger Pizza with Green Pepper and Mushrooms

My husband loves pizza. Hardly a week goes by that he doesn't come home with a box and have it for snacking on. While he does not generally go for pepperoni pizza, it is okay to have some on it. His favorite is a meat-lovers type, of course. When we make pizza here at home, he usually chooses a combination of hamburger meat, green pepper and mushrooms. While I like this mixture on pizza, as I said, I usually make one with things I prefer. No crossover. 

Yesterday however, I had the hamburger out and mixed up a sauce, made the pizza dough and we had pizzas. This time I made them both the same. And they were delicious. For us, this is a nice pizza for any night. Nothing fancy. Nothing prim and proper. Nothing outlandish.

Last October I'd gotten in the mood to try a Buffalo Chicken Pizza, which, as something different, was really tasty. At that time I had created a recipe for pizza dough for one large pizza. Lately, I have been doubling that recipe and using it to make our separate styles of pizza. I will say, the weather has been exceedingly dry up here, and I have found this makes a huge difference in the flour to water ratio in my bread recipes. Even from October to now, it has been so dry that I had to add a half cup more water to the dough to get it to hydrate at all!  As a refresher, this is the recipe:

Pizza Dough
making pizza dough

for two large (15 - 16-inch) pizzas
(start at least 4+ hours before serving)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, 80 - 90 degrees
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 2 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cups water, if needed
the Sponge (above)

SPONGE: In a heavy duty mixer bowl, or in another large bowl, combine the flour and yeast and mix together. Add the lukewarm water and oil and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (80 degrees) for 1 1/2 hours, until bubbly. (When in a cooler climate, setting the bowl in the oven with just the oven light on creates a nice warm environment. Some oven lights are too hot and will begin to cook the dough. In this case, leave the oven door ajar so some of the heat escapes.) 

DOUGH: Once bubbly, if the sponge was made in a heavy duty mixer bowl, add in two cups of flour and the salt. Set the dough hook in place and begin kneading on low speed until combined, 2 - 3 minutes. If making by hand, add the flour and salt to the sponge and mix by hand. Once well mixed, determine if more flour is needed. If the climate is very dry, you may have to add water. Start with a little and add more as the kneading progresses Once the flour and salt are mostly incorporated, knead for 4 to 5 minutes more with the dough hook, or 5 to 7 minutes by hand, until the dough is smoothly elastic and not too sticky. In the mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but still puddle a little on the bottom. Grease a bowl and set the dough in, turning once to grease all sides, cover the bowl and set in a warm place to rise for another 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. 

The dough can be patted out and placed on a cornmeal coated piece of parchment (to later slide on to a pizza stone) or on a greased 15 inch pizza pan. If the dough wants to spring back too much, allow it to rest for 10 minutes and try again, stretching to desired diameter. Top with your choice of flavorings and bake at 400 degrees (375 on Convection Bake) for 20 to 25 minutes. 

Slices of Hamburger Pizza

Once the dough is started, you can begin prepping the ingredients for toppings. I like to make some garlic-steeped olive oil to brush on the bare dough once stretched on the pans: combine about 4 - 6 tablespoons olive oil and 4 - 6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced finely. Set this in a small saucepan over the lowest possible heat to steep for at least 15 minutes. It should absolutely not boil. You want a nice garlic flavor: not raw and not browned. Set aside to cool until needed. When ready to make the pizzas, use a pastry brush to brush this mixture over the dough, before any toppings. I mixed up a batch of "pizza sauce"; simple, but good and then began prepping the other ingredients to have everything handy.

These pizzas came out very good. I did not think to use the bottom oven rack for the first pizza, and the crust was more soggy than I liked. Remember to use the bottom rack for a crispier crust. The heating element in ovens is in the bottom, so the closer to the element the pan is, the more browning of the crust.

Pizza Sauce 

for 2 large pizzas

1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano OR 1 - 2 tablespoons fresh, minced
2 tablespoons good Pesto, OR 
  -  4 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
  -  1 tablespoon olive oil
  -  1 clove garlic, minced
a package of pepperoni slices, if desired

Combine ingredients in a bowl and set aside. Divide between the two pizzas when ready to bake.

Hamburger Pizza Toppings
Just baked and sliced

enough for two large pizzas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound hamburger meat
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves OR 2 teaspoons fresh leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves OR 2 teaspoons fresh oregano minced

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 green bell pepper, cubed
2 small (4-ounce) cans mushroom stems and pieces, drained
16 ounces shredded cheese of choice (mozzarella or combination)
olive oil for pans

In a large heated skillet, add in the olive oil and the chopped onion and cook until the onion is softened and golden. (If you prefer raw onion, eliminate this step and use the onion raw on the pizza - my husband will not accept raw onion on the pizza!) Remove the onion to a place and set aside. Add more oil if needed and fry the hamburger until it is well browned, adding in the salt, thyme and oregano during cooking. Add the onion to the meat, stir, and set the meat aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To assemble the pizzas, stretch the dough to fit two (oiled) pizza pans as directed above. If the dough will not cooperate, allow it a 10 minute rest and stretch again. If needed, do this again, until the dough will fit the pan. Brush the steeped garlic and olive oil onto each pizza round. Divide the Pizza Sauce between the pizzas and spread out evenly. Sprinkle half the Parmesan over each of the pizzas. Strew on the meat mixture, dividing equally between pizzas. Strew on the green pepper bits and the mushrooms. If using pepperoni, set slices, as many as desired, over top of the meat. Top with half the cheese per pizza. Bake the pizzas one at a time on the bottom rack of the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes.

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.