Pizza Crust Recipe
I’ve been asked to write down the pizza dough recipe that I’ve been using. It’s not that I’ve discovered this wonderful recipe or that I’ve invented a new dough. I just did a lot of reading of pizza dough recipes and took the common core of them and all worked out. The main point of my exploration was that our dough recipe that we had been using was a focaccia dough. It makes a thick, bready crust, requires a food processor to knead, and has a forty-five minute rising time. All good things on a weekend but not a weekday where you want to have faster results. The recipe that I came up with requires no rising time. I’ve let it rise and the results were the same. I use a rolling pin to roll it out. It’s that forgiving to man-handling. And it bakes to a thin, crispy crust.
1/2 cup very warm water
1 1/2 tsp active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
Heat the oven to 450ºF and put your pizza stone on the bottom rack in the lowest position. If you have two racks, like I do, get the other one out of the way. Move it to the top or remove it.
Whisk the first three ingredients in a mixing bowl. Let the mixture stand while the yeast proofs (gets foamy). It takes about the amount of time it takes to get the rest of your pizza ingredients ready; grate cheese, slice zucchini, slice onion and mushrooms, prepare sauce. Speaking of sauce, I’ve long added re-hydrated sun-dried tomatoes to my pizza sauce. Put two pinches of sun-dried tomatoes into a ceramic bowl and add enough water to barely cover them. Put a ceramic plate on top of the bowl and microwave for two minutes. The bowl will be very hot and most of the water will be absorbed by the tomatoes. Pour that into a blender, add a can of tomato sauce and some oregano and puree.
Once the yeast has gone a little foamy, add the oil and salt. Stir, then add all the flour. My clean hands method is to use a slotted spoon for all the stirring until there’s no more liquid apparent. Then I get my hands involved and knead everything until it all comes together into a nice dough ball. Here, you can let the dough rest if you want. Go and saute that onion that you cut up earlier when your yeast was proofing. Turn down the heat on your skillet and add the sliced mushrooms. Let that go until the mushrooms start giving up their water. Then turn off the heat and let it all cool.
Now roll out the dough. If you’re worried about sticking, try rolling it out on baking parchment or wax paper. I use a cutting mat and throw some flour down on it. Then, in the air, I hand-form it into a rough circle before I start into it with the rolling pin. Once I start rolling, I just have to decide how big of a circle I want to make. I shoot for a size somewhat smaller than the 15″ pizza stone. Once it’s the right size, I’ll roll or pinch the edges back up into a crust. I don’t own a pizza peel. But I do own some air-bake cookie sheets. You should rub some corn meal or flour all over the cookie sheet. You may think that your dough is well behaved but it will still try to stick to anything that has the least amount of moisture on it. Transfer the proto-pizza to the cookie sheet and spread your sauce on it. Then transfer it to the pizza stone. Sometimes all that I need to do this is just a flick of the wrist. Sometimes I have to use a spatula to get it to start moving.
Bake that for 5 minutes.
Transfer the neo-par-baked-pizza back onto the cookie sheet and take it over to a work area. Now add everything else that’s going to make it a pizza, like those onions and mushrooms from earlier. Throw on some protein and dairy if desired. I’ve made a salmon-arugula and a tuna-radicchio pizzas as well. It’s all good.
Transfer the soon-to-be-dinner-pizza back onto the stone and watch it for another 7-10 minutes, letting your mouth water the entire time. (it’s good for your teeth and gums according to my dental hygienist.) Bake until the outer crust is golden brown or just a little beyond. Some people don’t go by the crust but by the cheese, if there is cheese. They would have you cook it until the cheese bubbles and browns. I’ll leave it to you to decide what ‘done’ is.
The Cupcake Paradox
I made cupcakes from a German Chocolate Cake mix on Valentine’s day and ran into an iteration of the hot dog paradox. Most people are familiar with this one; 10 hot dogs per pack and only 8 buns. In this case the number of servings per box according to the cake mix was 10. And the number of cupcakes per box is 24. Therefore the correct serving size per box of cake mix when making cupcakes is 2.4 cupcakes per person. When making a sheet cake you obviously would have to cut it down the middle then into fifths, yielding pieces of cake that would be 4″x2.4″. If you are making a layer cake, you would still cut the cake in half and then fifths but you’d have a wedge that was 2.5″ plus a little. And all of that gets terribly complicated when the store-bought frosting says that it has 12 servings per container. So if you divide the frosting equally amongst the 24 cupcakes, you wind up with half a serving of frosting on each cupcake. That seems right. Except that then you have to eat the .4 cupcake serving of your 2.4 servings according to the cake box from only the bottom of one of the cupcakes. Done twice, that leaves a .2 cupcake serving with a .5 frosting serving which quickly becomes .4 cupcake servings with 1 serving of frosting and you don’t have two unfrosted cupcakes to make up the difference because you frosted all the cupcakes. Maybe there’s a way of evening out the cupcakes per box serving and the frosting per container serving but I bet it involves not using all the frosting (which just ain’t happening in my house).
We employ a wide variety of plastic containers both in size and in quality. Some of them we over-use and wind up abusing. One such container had some microwave blemishing on it and was left on the counter to soak the food particles out. When we were shutting down the kitchen for the night, half of its water was on the counter. We didn’t see anything wrong with the container itself. So as a test, it was rinsed and refilled with water and put into another bowl and left overnight. In the morning, Thea announced that it was still full of water. I went to inspect it. Since it was morning, I first prodded the water to make sure that it was liquid. Then I ran my fingers around the container to make sure that it was still a solid. At some point where I was brushing my fingertip along the outside of the container, it began to leak. Then it stopped. I brushed my fingertip over it again and it leaked some more. Satisfied that I had found the flaw, I placed that container in the ‘to be recycled’ pile. It had developed an ‘ephemer-hole’