Pizza! It may be man’s greatest invention ever. I discovered recently that pizza is an excellent solution when you have to feed meat-lovers and meat-abstainers, but you still want to share a meal rather than have separate dishes for the two groups. I admit that when it comes to family-style meals, I am not a huge fan of separate options for the vegetarians. To me, it takes away from the cozy, communal quality of the meal.
Pizza, with its ability to segregate ingredients on top of the same pie, is the perfect communal food. It’s delicious and endlessly adaptable for different palates. It’s a fun homemade dinner option for the cook who can never make the same thing twice, because not only are the toppings of pizza infinitely flexible, but there is also a wonderful array of crust options. I’ve told you about two pizza dough recipes in the past, a traditional recipe (with whole-grain options) and an almond flour pizza crust, both of which are great. But because I am a curious cook and because I am susceptible to the promise of a shiny new recipe, I tried a new pizza dough recipe this spring. And I liked it. The recipe comes from someone else who is always stockpiling new recipes to try, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. She has an incredibly useful page about making great pizza, and what caught my attention about her dough recipe is not that it seemed better than all the other ones out there but that it made enough for a pizza that served two people. It seemed like such wonderful simplicity—pizza for two, or pizza for one with leftovers for the next day’s lunch. How perfect for us single cooks!
However. I can’t really say anything about Deb’s recipe because I didn’t follow her recipe. Typical, right? I can never leave well enough alone. I had a packet of this pizza dough yeast lurking around in my cupboard, and I wondered if I could pull the old switcheroo to make a fast, weeknight pizza crust using the Smitten Kitchen recipe. The answer, of course, is yes. Or is it? Was this another episode of “Watch Rose-Anne Eff Up Her Dinner”? Maybe the crust was gummy and weird, or maybe it was flavorless and disappointing? Should I stop trusting my instincts and start following the damn recipes, for heaven’s sake?
Nah, that would be too easy! And the pizza crust was great. It was a little crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and thoroughly delicious. Flavorwise, it tasted the way a pizza crust should taste: like really good bread. My position on pizza is that the flavor of the crust should be good without overpowering the toppings. In this sense, the crust should be more neutral than the sauce, cheese, and any other goodies that are lucky enough to grace your pizza. In the photo above, I topped my pizza with the usual suspects (sauce and cheese) along with thinly sliced zucchini and a few dabs of ricotta cheese. I ground some black pepper over the whole thing, popped it in the oven, and out came a gorgeous pizza for two.
Busy-Day Pizza Dough
Adapted from this recipe on Smitten Kitchen
Makes enough for the perfect pizza for two
For the flour, I like to use about 1/2 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour with 1 cup all-purpose flour. I don’t want my crust to be too heavy, so that’s why I don’t use more whole wheat flour, which can make baked goods and breads dense and heavy.
And about that wine: I think it adds a little extra flavor to the dough. I always keep white wine on hand for cooking, and I recommend that you do too. Even if the wine has past its prime for drinking, it will still work well in cooking as long as it isn’t ancient. If the wine actually tastes foul, then it’s over the hill—don’t use it! Open a new bottle, or just use water instead.
1 1/2 cups flour (see note above)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pizza dough yeast, such as Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast!) plus a little more if needed
1 tbsp. dry white wine
1 tbsp. olive oil
Cornmeal for sprinkling
1) In a medium or large bowl, mix together the flour(s), salt, and pizza dough yeast. Add the water, wine, and olive oil, and mix everything into a dough.
2) Lightly flour a countertop, dump your dough on top, and knead for a few minutes until the dough feels smooth and moist without being extremely sticky. I have a habit of overflouring my dough, so I say err on the side of letting the dough be a little sticky. If it feels too dry, sprinkle the dough with a little water and knead it into the dough.
3) Using the bowl in which you mixed up the dough, spray it with cooking spray, place the dough in it, and cover it with a plate or plastic wrap. Set it aside for a few minutes.
4) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F or the highest temperature your oven will allow. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Prep your pizza ingredients.
5) Lightly flour a countertop, or use your previously floured spot, and roll out the dough to your desired thickness. Move it to the prepped baking sheet, and top the pizza with your toppings. Bake the pizza for 10-11 minutes. Serve hot or warm.