By Emma Doenier
Ironically, I’ve never enjoyed following recipes. At most, I’ve always thought they should be considered “guidelines,” not steadfast rules. However, I do appreciate recipes, not for their instructions, but for the ideas they inspire; cooking is my form of artistic expression.
Due to my penchant for breaking recipes, I’ve avoided baking for the most part (although my roommate could tell you a few horror stories about some monstrous microwave concoctions I’ve made in our apartment).
When my dad, an avid baker and follower-of-recipes, gave me a baking stone for Christmas, I was both ecstatic and skeptical of my ability to:
1) not break the board
2) not burn down the apartment
3) not accidentally poison my roommate.
However, I think I’ve since learned how to skirt the recipe within reason, at least when baking bread. Now, my dad says my bread looks better than his. This testament to my progress has spurred me to experiment with my baking skills, and so, the baking novice has become the mad baking scientist. My baked goods are edible though, even delicious.
The following recipe calls for both a little recipe following – though by all means, please experiment – and creativity. I encourage everyone to make this recipe his or her own!
*makes two 13-15 inch pizzas
1 cup warm water (~110°F)
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoon olive oil
Dissolve the yeast in water. Let stand for five to 10 minutes; you should see a little fizzing/ bubbling. Add salt to water/yeast mixture and swirl.
Put flour into a bowl. Make a well in the flour and add half of the yeast mixture.
Work in the yeast mixture with your fingers, then add the olive oil and work in. Add the rest of the yeast mixture and knead vigorously for approximately 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
If you have a food processor, add half of the flour to the processor. Add the yeast mixture and pulse until homogenous. Add olive oil and pulse. Keep adding remaining flour to food processor and pulsing (five to seven minutes), until dough is smooth and elastic.
*Add some chopped rosemary to dough (one to two tablespoons. to taste) and knead in for more flavorful dough; depends on type of toppings you want later though, so choose wisely!
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Place a damp cloth over the bowl and cover with a plastic bag. Let the dough rise for 45 to 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500°F with a baking stone inside. If you don’t have a baking stone, an alternative could be a large cookie sheet.
Lightly flour a work surface. Divide dough into two equal halves. Roll each half into a 13 to 15 inch circle (~1/8-inch thick). Liberally flour/cornmeal a pizza peel (or whatever you have on hand to get the pizza easily into the oven – I use a plastic cookie sheet).
Fold the dough in half, then in half again, and transfer onto the floured pizza peel. Unfold.
Now rub a thin layer of olive oil (approximately one tablespoon) over the dough surface and top each shell with you favorite pizza toppings, leaving some space around the edge for the crust! You can also freeze one of the dough halves for a later date.
White Cheddar Pesto:
1 1/2 to 2 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil (add more if needed)
1/3 cup walnuts
2 to 3 garlic cloves
½ cup sharp white cheddar and/or parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients in food processor and blend. Add more olive oil if needed.
Toppings for pesto pizza:
1 garlic clove, chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
5 to 10 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces (to taste)
~½-1 teaspoon oregano
1/3 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup mushrooms
meat of choice (I like Italian seasoned turkey meat, or Italian chicken sausage)
salt to taste
1 package goat cheese or feta
Sauté all the ingredients, except the cheese.
Scoop pesto onto pizza shell and spread evenly, leaving about one inch edges for the crust. Spread the sautéed ingredients over the pesto. Dollop goat cheese onto pizza evenly.
Ease decorated pizza off of pizza peel and into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then check the pizza. Keep checking it every couple minutes if not done until the pizza has a golden brown crust.