Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Alchemy of Cooking

I love the magic of cooking. I love how you can take the most simple of ingredients; a sprinkle of yeast, a bit of sugar, a few cups of flour, mix it together, let it sit for a couple hours and voila - a beautiful bread dough

I made pizza dough with a delicious recipe that I've had around for awhile. It is very simple to make and very easy to work with once it's risen. Pizza is a great thing to try at home as there are endless possibilities for toppings. I like to divide the pizza into two parts; one with a meat choice and one vegetarian side. Tonight's pizza included tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese topped with a dry salami on one side and garlic olive oil, mozzarella, Parmesan and a sprinkling of fresh basil on the other side.

Really, homemade pizza is a fairly quick dinner once you have finished the dough and it has risen to all of it's glory. Just spread or roll the dough out onto your pan, slap on the toppings, pop it into the oven for 15-20 minutes and there you have it.

Pizza Dough
1 Tbsp dry active yeast (1 envelope - I use fast acting)
1 1/4 cup warm water (under 110deg F)
1/4 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive plus a little extra for greasing the pan
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt

Place the yeast, 1/4 cup of warm water and sugar into mixing bowl. Stir and set aside until the yeast foams, about 10 minutes.
From This - a few ingredients - yeast, water, sugar.

Add the remaining water, olive oil and cheese. Using the dough hook of your electric mixer, mix on low speed just to blend. Still on low speed, add the flour one sixth at a time. Add the salt and continue mixing until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 3-4 minutes. While the dough is mixing, flour your work surface and grease a large mixing bowl with some oil.

Remove the dough to the floured work surface and knead for a minute or two to form a smooth ball. Place the dough in the greased bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
To This - a lovely, soft malleable dough. It's magic!

Once the dough has doubled in bulk, turn it out onto a floured work surface, roll it or stretch it with your hands into a circle or square until the dough is approximately 1/4 inch thick. Place dough onto a greased baking sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal (I omitted this step and it came off the pan just fine).
The Pizza ready for the oven.

Distribute your topping choices over the pizza dough and set the baking sheet in the top third of the oven which has been set to 450 degrees. Bake until the crust is golden brown the the cheese is bubbling, approximately 15-20 minutes. Enjoy a wonderful, flavorful pizza!

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