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How to Make Pizza (and more importantly, why?)

Pizza Dough (adapted from Food & Wine Magazine)

1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (90° to 105°)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil

MAKE THE DOUGH In a large bowl, mix the yeast with 1/2 cup of the warm water and the sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of warm water, the 4 cups of flour and the kosher salt and stir until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead, adding flour as necessary until a silky, but soft dough forms, about five minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and brush all over with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; punch down and divide into 4 pieces. Form each piece into a ball. Rub each ball with oil and transfer to a baking sheet. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place for 1 hour.
PREPARE THE TOPPINGS Meanwhile, set a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500°, allowing at least 45 minutes for the stone to heat. Prepare toppings of your choice. Remember to pre-cook vegies or meats that need longer than 10 minutes to cook. Sky’s the limit here. Use your cook’s intuition and imagination. Experiment!
BAKE THE PIZZA: On a lightly floured surface, stretch one ball of dough into a 13-inch round; transfer to a floured (you can also use cornmeal) pizza peel, adding flour where the dough sticks. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Bake the untopped dough for 5 minutes to lightly brown it and firm it. Remove from oven, top, and bake 5 - 10 minutes more, being careful to check the bottom of the crust so that it doesn’t burn.


Okay, back to food. This pizza costs approximately $3.50. It’s a potato, roasted garlic, olive, ricotta salata cheese, roasted tomato pizza. Sounds good, right? You can do it too, and you will be rewarded if you do, because it will save you money. But more than that, it will save you. Even if you are one of the fortunate ones who are wealthy right now, it will still save you, because we spend too much time in the virtual world, and in motion, running here and there, working, a blur of production and distracted incomplete thoughts. Come home. Get your hands in some dough. We humans need to touch. We need to be IN touch. And you can’t get a pizza like this on Facebook. Even if you find a good artisan pizza maker, you won’t get the memory imprinted in you of satiny dough under your palms, of the light coming through the olive oil as it streams from the bottle, of your body making the thing that you will eat. And that’s good for the soul. Too busy? Tips for fitting it into your crazy life here:

Make the dough in the morning or the night before and fridge it. Slow rise is actually good for bread dough. Tastier. Take it out from the fridge when you get home from wherever it is you go all day. Let it sit while you heat the oven to 400 degrees F for roasting vegies and other toppings of your choice. That said, it is very quick to make pizza dough upon arriving home from work if you’d rather. While the oven preheats is a good time to check email, greet family members, pet the dog, meditate, read, flop down on the couch for 15 to 20. Chop up some toppings, toss them in olive oil and kosher salt (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, etc.) Spread them on baking sheets, pop into preheated oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. Go do whatever else prevents you from cooking each day . . . come back and get the toppings out, or set the timer for a few minutes more if necessary. Punch down the dough. Shape it. Let the toppings cool for a bit while the dough rises a bit. Do some more chores or cross a few more things off your to-do list, or sit down and zone. Top the pizza (kids love this part) and bake it. There, it’s done, and you probably had fun too. Enjoy.

see also: Tomatoes at my Front Door

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