The Hungover Gourmet

 

How About a Nice A-pizza A-pie?

There are certain food stuffs that we've gotten duped into buying rather than making ourselves.

Is it really that much easier or quicker to stop and buy a hamburger from McDonald's than it is to make one at home? Okay, it IS easier, but let's face it -- the quality of meat you're gonna use is far superior to whatever's in those patties served up by the Golden Arches, and the attention and love you give your burger far surpasses what some acne-ridden headbanger is going to provide.

But, since we're all friends here and honesty is a virtue, if I'm in the mood for a Filet-O-Fish I'm gonna stop for the real deal because I can't recreate that kind of beauty in the THG Test Kitchens. Not yet at least.

It's only recently, though, that I've made a major, startling discovery -- I've been paying waaaaayyyyy too much for pizzas all these years!

First, some background info: despite the widely-held belief that pizza was created in America, research has suggested that the first pizzeria opened in Naples, Italy around 1830. By the late 1880s cheese made its first appearance on a pie, thanks to a baker making a pizza for Queen Margherita. And finally, the first American pizzeria was opened in New York City in 1905, although they didn't become commonplace until after World War II when soldiers returning from Italy wanted to introduce the delicacy to friends and neighbors.

Whew...big enough history lesson or what boys and girls?! Enough of that, let's talk economics...

Pizza GuyFor years, I've been dishing out $10, $12, $15 at a pop when I've been in the mood for a nice a-pizza a-pie. Even spending $6 here and $8 there for a decent frozen pizza that's been processed beyond belief and placed into a plastic wrap coffin.

Never again.

While pizzeria owners would love to convince you that making pizzas at home is messy, time-consuming, and uneconomical, The Hungover Gourmet is here to dispel that myth. With a few simple tools -- a baking stone, pastry board, rolling pin, and hand-held mixer with dough hooks -- you can make 'zas that are way tastier and far healthier than those you'll find down the street. (You may also want to invest in a pizza screen while you're at it.)

And even if you don't have the time to make your own crust, you're better off picking up a prepared crust (like Boboli) and adding your own toppings.

Here are some recipes for a basic dough and a couple simple, but very tasty, pizzas!


Basic Dough

1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 cup warm water (110° to 115°F)
1/4 oz. active dry yeast (1 envelope)
3 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm tap water (water that's too hot will kill the yeast, water that's too cold will not activate it...it should be like the temperature of a warm bath). Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until it dissolves. A smooth, light-brown color should result. Let the water stand in a warm part of the kitchen until a thin foam covers the surface -- this should take about five minutes and indicates that your yeast is active.

Combine 3 cups of the flour, salt, yeast mixture, and oil in a large bowl. Use a large wooden spoon to beat the dough until it is well mixed (about 1 minute). Use the dough hooks to knead the dough until it's smooth and elastic, which should take about 5 minutes. If the dough is sticky, add a little bit of the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and mix until the dough loses its stickiness. If the dough is too dry, add a tablespoon of warm water at a time until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a well-oiled bowl and turn coat on all sides. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free warm place until it doubles in bulk -- which should take about an hour or so depending upon the type of yeast used.

After the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down with your fist to prevent overrising. If you can't bake the pizza within 2 hours of rising, punch the dough down again, place in a bowl and coat with oil again, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can punch the dough down four times and refrigerate up to 36 hours before the yeast is spent. Let the dough come to room temp before proceeding to the next step in the recipe.

PizzaCheese and Tomato Pizza

Basic Dough Recipe (above)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups Shredded Mozzarella or Sargento Double Pizza Cheese
2 lbs. plum tomatoes, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1 tsp. dried basil

Preheat the oven to 500° for 1 hour with your baking stone inside. Roll out your dough to about a 12" diameter and place on a lightly oiled pizza screen. Brush the surface with olive oil and then cover evenly with the shredded Mozzarella or Double Pizza Cheese. Top with tomato slices and sprinkle with oregano. Top with Parmesan and sprinkle with basil. Place the pizza screen on the baking stone and bake for 10 minutes until crust is golden brown and puffy. If you don't have a baking stone, place the screen on the top rack of the oven to prevent bottom crust from burning and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pizza to a cutting board and lightly brush the crust with olive oil. Slice and enjoy. Serves 4 to 6.

Chicken Pesto Pizza

You can use the basic dough recipe, or if you're pressed for time grab a thin crust Boboli bread shell -- it's also a great recipe to double up!

Basic Dough Recipe (above) or Thin Crust Boboli Bread Shell
1/4 cup prepared low-fat Pesto
1/2 pkg. Perdue Short Cuts Mesquite Chicken
6 oz. shredded Pizza Cheese
1/2 cup. shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil

Preheat the oven to 500° for 1 hour with your baking stone inside. Roll out your dough to about a 12" diameter and place on a lightly oiled pizza screen. Brush the surface lightly with olive oil and then spread evenly with the pesto. Sprinkle 3/4 of the shredded pizza cheese on top. Top with the chicken pieces and the remaining pizza cheese, the Parmesan Cheese and the dried basil. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown and puffy. If you don't have a baking stone, place the screen on the top rack of the oven to prevent bottom crust from burning and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pizza to a cutting board and lightly brush the crust with olive oil. Slice and enjoy. Serves 4 to 6.



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