For the past few years, my heart for pizza has been divided between two great loves: Shakespeare’s Pizza, the No. 1 college hangout here in Columbia (seriously, just ask Good Morning America) and Monetti’s Pizzeria Ristorante, a little Italian restaurant in my hometown of Warrensburg. One’s classic American fare, done right with fresh ingredients, and the other’s classic Italian, with thin, chewy crust I could eat by pie-full. It’s impossible for me to name a favorite between the two because they’re so different. They’re like apples and oranges that way.
Because I have these two great loves in my life, I’ve been hesitant to spend too much time on homemade pizza. None of my efforts ever came close to the good stuff (i.e. Shakepeare’s or Monetti’s), so for a while, I abandoned the quest. However, not too long ago, when I developed a minor obsession with whole-wheat flour and its many possibilities, I decided to revisit the pizza-from-scratch idea.
Of the past few attempts I’ve made, this Mark Bittman recipe from the New York Times Essential Cookbook has, by far, had the best flavor. I mixed the dough yesterday in the food processor (which, by the way, is the absolute easiest peasiest dough-making process in the entire universe) and let it rise during the day. Then at dinnertime, I divided the dough in half, cooked one that night and froze the other for later in the week. I’ll let you know how it tastes after a few days in the igloo.
Here’s the dough recipe for your pizza-making pleasure. We topped ours with a simple pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, Parmesan, black olives, basil and cherry tomatoes, but you can make adjustments to suit your taste buds. Consider this dough your canvas. Now, get painting, Picasso!
Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough
Adapted from New York Times Essential Cookbook (Amanda Hesser, p. 371)
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup whole-wheat flour (The original recipe calls for 3 cups all-purpose flour and no whole-wheat flour.)
• 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
• 2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 cup water
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
Using a food processor, combine flour, yeast and salt. Turn the processor on, and add water and oil through the feed tube. Add ¼ cup water at a time until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to touch (if too sticky, add a bit more flour).
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead a few times to form into a smooth, round ball. Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it doubles in size (1 to 2 hours at room temperature or, preferably, 6 to 8 hours in refrigerator). The dough can then be used immediately or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and frozen for up to one month (defrost in covered bowl in refrigerator or at room temperature).
Divide dough in two, and roll each piece into a ball. Place on lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or towel until slightly puffy, about 20 minutes.
Press each dough ball into flat round on oiled baking sheet. Pat the dough as thin as you like. Once you’ve loaded on the pizza toppings of your choice, bake for 10 to 12 minutes in a 500-degree oven, or until crust is golden brown.
I’ll admit my heart will always pitter-patter for the Shakespeare’s and Monetti’s of the world, but it is nice to know I can make a homemade crust in my humble abode that’s worthy of some love, too. This crust has a nice crunch to the outside but is still soft on the inside, which is pretty perfect in my book. Jared mentioned that adding a tablespoon of honey would add a nice sweetness, so we might try that route next time around. Oh, the possibilities.
Do you have a favorite local pizza joint? Or a favorite homemade crust that you’ve perfected? Do tell!