Just the other night I made pizza for three teenage girls about to jump off the cliff of summer into the bottomless pit of the school year. They’ve been inseparable these last days, as they strengthen their friendships to better withstand the shock of early mornings and lots of homework. The word pizza had them saying “Youpi,” and they dressed for the occasion.
I love to make pizza because the dough is a virgin canvas. Sometimes I decorate it with tomatoes or freshly made tomato sauce, garlic, and cheese. Another favorite is lots of onions, cream, and tiny lardons (this is a direct copy of an Alsatian Tarte Flambée). I also love potato and rosemary pizza, drizzled at the last minute with Tuscan olive oil. Each is simple, pure, and sure to please.
With leftover dough I make breakfast for the following day. I roll it out and pour cream over it, then sprinkle it with sugar and cinnamon, and strew thinly sliced apple over all, if I’ve got one. I roll it up, let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes, then it goes in the oven. While we are enjoying savory pizza, the house fills with the aroma of caramelized sugar and cinnamon.
The other night was no exception. The pizza dough was slathered with tomato sauce made from those amazing Andine Cornu’s I got from Baptiste a couple of weeks ago. Atop that was lots of Gruyere cheese (this is a French pizza, after all!), and then fresh tomato slices. In it went to a very hot oven, and out it came half an hour later, crisp and golden at the edges, tender and moist in the center. There was no room for the cinnamon log….it disappeared the next day!
Maria’s Pizza Dough (ITALIAN FARMHOUSE COOKBOOK, Workman Publishing 2000)
*Sometimes I add 1 substitute 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for 1 cup white flour. You can play around with this. To make pizza, roll out the dough so it is ¼ inch thick, place it on a floured baking pan. Let it sit while you slice onions or otherwise prepare topping. Bake 425F until crisp at the edges, about 35 minutes.
1-1/3 cups very warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (SAF brand is best)
½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 4-1/2 cups (700g) all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1. In a large bowl or the work bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the water and the yeast. Add the oil and mix well. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix until smooth. Stir in the salt and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Because of the oil, the dough will feel somewhat slippery, and it may not be a homogeneous lump at first. Knead, adding as little flour as necessary, until it comes together and is satiny and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should be moist because of the oil, but not wet, and it shouldn’t stick to your clean finger.
2. Place the dough in a clean, unoiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise at room temperature (68-70F) until it is doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch down the dough, roll it out, and top it with your favorite toppings.
Makes enough dough for about 3 pizzas