Given my kitchen activities over the past few weeks, today’s post could well be about how I managed to turn microwave mac-and-cheese into a gluey mess. Or about how “pasta surprise” happens when I have four nearly-empty boxes of different pastas and cook them together and top them off with some sauce from the freezer. We’re in a bit of the cooking doldrums here, people, and I cannot say I have a ton of inspiration to offer.
And then I think back to last week when inspiration did strike. Necessity, is, after all, the mother of invention. It was rainy, and Husband was away, and the kids weren’t interested in napping. I had very few groceries on hand, and no interest in attempting a shop with an overtired entourage. It was time for a project – something that the wee ones could help with, and something we’d all like to eat when all was said and done. I had flour. I had water. I had yeast. I had little hands looking for something to play with. I had … an idea, at least, and a plan, at best!
This is Todd English’s pizza dough recipe, as shared with Martha Stewart eons ago. It’s really easy – if you have a standing mixer and enough time to let it complete its one rise. It uses some whole wheat flour, which gives it greater depth of flavor, and – I guess – slightly less unhealthy for you than pure white flour doughs. It makes four balls of dough that are super easy to work with, and that bake up into thin, crispy and toothsome pies that serve one or two people each. Any extra balls freeze well, making this a great recipe to make ahead for nights when you had all of the problems I had, but none of the time to solve them.
I topped the kids’ pizzas with my favorite homemade tomato sauce, which itself comes together with three ingredients and 30 minutes of your time (more on that another day) and some shredded fresh mozzarella. It was delicious. For my own pizza, I got a little more creative, topping it with a combination of the mozzarella and some chevre, slices of steamed fingerling potatoes, asparagus spears, and some garlic oil.
When all was said and done, the kitchen was flour-covered, our hands were messy, and we were all happy and deliciously full.
Pizza Dough with Whole Wheat Flour
Makes 4 seven-ounce balls, enough for 4 eight-to-ten-inch pizzas
(adapted, barely, from marthastewart.com)
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling
2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough-hook attachment, combine the whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yeast, salt, and sugar.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the oil and 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water. Knead on low speed until the dough is firm and smooth, about 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into four balls. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place two balls on each sheet, and cover with a damp towel. Allow the dough balls to rise in a warm spot until they have doubled in size, about 2 hours.
To roll out the dough, cover your fingers with flour, then place a ball on a generously floured work surface. Press down on the center of the ball with the tips of your fingers, simultaneously stretching the dough out with your hands.
When the dough has doubled in width, use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out until it is very thin. The outer border should be slightly thicker than the center. Transfer the dough to a pizza peel, pizza stone, or baking sheet sprinkled with flour or cornmeal – the dough will be more oval than round. If any holes have appeared, pinch them closed. Top and bake as desired.
Potato and Asparagus White Pizza
(Makes one 8 to 10-inch think-crust pizza; inspired by epicurious.com)
1 7 to 8-ounce ball of pizza dough (see above recipe)
3 or 4 fingerling potatoes, sliced and steamed
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, pressed
4 scallions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup grated fresh mozzarella
Soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled, to taste
8 to thin 10 asparagus spears, trimmed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 450°F. Sprinkle rimless baking sheet with cornmeal or flour. Roll and stretch pizza dough to 10-inch oval. Transfer to baking sheet.
Mix about 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic in small bowl. Brush garlic oil over dough. Sprinkle half the scallions over the garlic oil, then the mozzarella, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Top with potato slices and goat cheese. Toss asparagus in remaining oil, then scatter the asparagus over pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then lightly with salt and generously with pepper.
Bake pizza until crust is browned and asparagus is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer to cutting board. Sprinkle with remaining scallions and cut into pieces.