I haven’t spent a lot of time going into the details of my pregnancy here. That’s mostly because this is a food blog and I have always been very much on the fence about making it a “lifestyle” blog, so I didn’t really see a place for most of those details on these pages. Of course, since having a child [cue Greek chorus] really does change everything, my place in our new family dynamic has really highlighted the many intersections of food and lifestyle. All that to say, I get it. (But it’s still not a lifestyle blog… yet.)
In fact, I confess there were a few months where – along with all the pre-worrying about what kind of parent I’d be – I truly began to wonder if I’d come back to the blog. My tastes changed SO. MUCH. during that time, I could count on one hand the familiar foods I still felt like eating. My hormones and tastebuds teamed up to fully convince me that my tastes had changed forever. It was over, this romance with food. The spell was broken and as of now, I’d just adopt a standard American diet of takeout and boxed stuff. So yeah, pretty depressing.
What made it worse was that my energy specifically toward the kitchen also did a complete 180. It’s not that my tastebuds began demanding new home-cooked foods; it’s that if I’d had my way, most days I’d survive on cheddar bunny crackers and chocolate milk. Maybe a burger if I was feeling wild. But even then, the smell of meat cooking would make me nauseous, so I developed a very special relationship with Portillo’s cheeseburgers (and Danny developed a close relationship with their drive-through). The most I could squeeze out of an average kitchen visit was grilled cheese and tomato soup from a can.
Oddly enough, the one food I still felt joy in cooking and eating was also based on a recipe that I reformulated while pregnant. YES YOU GUESSED IT BIG SURPRISE IT’S PIZZA.
Now, it’s not because I had a hormone-fueled flash of genius in the night, angels leading me to the kitchen and dusting me with inspiration and flour.
No. It was a visit to a grocery store near me that happens to carry a pretty big inventory of ethnic foods, including a brand that makes a very reasonably-priced 00 flour from Italy, as well as a double-milled semolina flour I hadn’t noticed before. Not having my usual wits about me, which normally would have meant standing in the aisle for 10 minutes debating the merits of all the specialty flours ever, I put both in my cart and waddled off.
A few days later, I looked at myself in the mirror and said sternly, “That dough isn’t going to make itself.”
So off I went to my (for once in our lives) very clean kitchen to make pizza dough, and made it the way I’d been suspecting it should be made:
- With a tad more salt
- With a tad more oil
- With 00 flour
- With semolina flour – ideally, semolina rimacinata if you can find it
The salt, of course, adds a bit more flavor and I suppose is optional if you like to load up your pizza. At home, we do white pizzas about 98% of the time to let good cheese/nice tomatoes/caramelized onions/whatever really shine. The recipe below does not result in an overly salty crust – just a flavorful one.
The oil keeps the dough moist in a VERY hot oven, and gives the finished crust a gorgeous sheen. And yes, it’s an additional carrier of flavor.
The 00 flour and semolina rimacinata are both milled specifically to be super-duper fine. You can make a fabulous pizza dough without either of them (and I did for a long time, and told you about it), but I think you’re really going to fall in love with the result if you do use them. The dough is a dream to work with – not super sticky, rolls out beautifully smooth and thin – and the finished crust is just chewy enough to be satisfying but is still light.
- This recipe makes 6 balls of dough, which can be frozen individually until you need them. Thaw on the counter for a few hours, or in the fridge overnight.
- I roll ours out to about a 14″ diameter, and it feeds 2 hungry people. It’s lovely with a salad on the side, but I’m also not judging if you just crush this solo one night.
- For those of you who remember my first post about pizza dough, my other tips remain the same. Press the moisture out of your fresh mozzarella (a great task for a kitchen helper, big or small), and thoroughly layer your peel with cornmeal to ensure maximum slide. This dough is meant to yield a thin crust.
- If you’re after something bready, I wanna know! I grew up a Chicago pizza kid, which doesn’t mean what you think it means. Deep dish is for tourists and special occasions. Real Chicago pizza is super-thin cracker crust that stands up to a blanket of cheese and maybe one or two other well-chosen toppings. So, I know thin pizza, and that’s what I crave and make at home.
- Finally, the brand(s) of flour I use most often are either Granoro or Caputo. You can find them online if you can’t locate them locally.
- 5 cups 00 flour
- 2 cups semolina rimacinata
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
Special equipment: pizza stone; pizza peel; kitchen scale (optional)
If you are using the dough right away, preheat your oven to 500F. Place an oven rack at the lowest level, then put your pizza stone on the rack.
In a large bowl, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and let sit. Meanwhile, combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl. Once the yeast mixture is foamy, after about 10 minutes or so, pour it into the flour mixture. Combine with a wooden spoon initially, then finish with your hands, kneading any excess flour into the dough.
Once everything is as combined as you can get it in the bowl, dump it out onto a clean countertop dusted with flour. Finish working the rest of the flour in, then knead with your hands for about 5 minutes.
Put the dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let it rise for at least an hour, or until the dough has about doubled in size.
Remove the towel, make a fist, and press the dough down slowly with your fist. Turn the dough back out onto your workspace, which you should dust again with flour. I like to knead it very lightly againhere to regain some smoothness. Divide the dough into six equal balls, using a scale if you like.
If you’re using the dough right away, prepare the pizza peel with a small handful of cornmeal. Then, dust more flour on your countertop, and roll out the dough to your liking. As I said, this yields a thin-style texture, so take it as far down as you want. Gently lift the rolled-out dough off the counter and on to the peel, placing it evenly in the center. If you give your dough a little shimmy on the peel, that is a good test to see where or whether you need a bit more cornmeal in some spots.
Top the pizza with whatever you like. My favorite combination is fresh (pressed) mozzarella, some dollops of ricotta, and some sauteed greens or halved grape tomatoes that I’ve marinated for a few minutes in olive oil, salt, pepper, and powdered garlic. Cook for 7-9 minutes, depending on your oven. (Mine hits perfection at 7-8 minutes, but sometimes I think I have a hot oven.) Do put a timer on this – the time goes very fast and it’s easy to forget (and burn!).
The frozen dough will keep for several months.