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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lazy pizza crust

When I was growing up, my mom was very frugal and we didn't eat out or get tasty junk food very often. She did, however, keep the cupboard well stocked with the basics, and teach us how to make stuff from scratch. This is perhaps one reason that my brother and I ended up as foodies who cook.
Like most kids, we wanted pizza all the time, and often had friends over for dinner. Somewhere along the line the Biddy family pizza 'recipe' was created by my mom and I; I don't remember exactly but I think it happened around the time that Price Club opened up and giant blocks of mozzarella and bags of yeast could be be purchased cheaply. Anyway, the recipe is something like this. (Lest you think there's not enough detail, this is how we roll when my mom cooks.)
Mix some warm water, a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of yeast. Let the yeast get activated, add a splash of olive oil and a dash of salt and then mix in flour until the dough is the right consistency. Knead it briefly and let rise for 45 minutes or so. While you're waiting for it to rise, grate some cheese and make tomato sauce. Flatten it out and stick it on a big cookie sheet that was dusted with a bit of flour and cornmeal, and top with tomato sauce*, lots of cheese (whatever kind you have), and whatever else you have and bake.
It wasn't the least bit gourmet. No one would pick it over a good slice of NY-style thin crust or CA style wood-fired pizza, or even Dominos. But it was better than no pizza, and, after 25 years of independent pizza testing, I would still pick it over most deep-dish pizzas, frozen pizzas, things with store bought pizza dough and anything from Pizza Hut. What can I say - I was deprived of processed food as a child and really don't like the taste of preservatives and dough conditioners...
I'm not dieting this weekend and I got an urge for pizza. I tested out the Cook's Illustrated thin crust pizza recipe and found it to be complementary to the Biddy family non-recipe recipe. The CI recipe is essentially the same recipe except with actual amounts given and has a different type of rise...and a lot more attention to detail. It is mixed in the food processor and stored in the fridge for 1-3 days (it will rise then). When you want it, bring it out, let it sit for an hour at room temperature and then shape it. If you want to kick it Mama Biddy style and not wait a day, use more yeast, skip the fridge, let it rise and then shape it. I don't have a food processor, so I used my stand mixer. I also used part whole wheat flour, doubled the recipe and divided the dough into 4 portions. I put two of the dough balls in the freezer, one in the fridge for later, and baked one. It was very easy to shape and didn't stick to the pizza board. I topped it with proscuitto and red mini bell peppers slices.

Lazy pizza dough a la Old Biddy

(makes 2 13 inch thin crust pizzas, or one large cookie sheet thicker crust pizza)

3 cups flour (I used 1 c whole wheat and 2 c white, but use what you have and like)
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
1/2-1 tsp yeast (1 packet)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt

Mix water, sugar and yeast and let stand for 10 minutes. Add salt and oil, and then add flour. If you're using a stand mixer, let it mix for 10 minutes while you go drink a beer. If you don't have a stand mixer, knead it for a few minutes.
Put it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and store in fridge overnight. Divide dough in half, let it rest at room temperature for an hour, and then shape, add toppings and bake @ 500F. If you don't want to wait, skip the refrigeration step, let dough rise for an hour or so, and then shape and bake.

* biddy family style sauce - tomato sauce, dried oregano, and garlic powder.

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