Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pizza Pie

I have never made pizza before and, as you all know, the past few weeks have found me in the kitchen, experimenting with recipes/cookbook/forgotten kitchen equipment.  I decided that pizza was an important stop on my journey to learning how to cook.

The other day, on television, I saw a recipe for a pizza dough made with whole-wheat flour and sweet potatoes.  I tracked the recipe down on the Internet and made myself some pretty decent (and surprisingly healthy) pizza. 

The dough is easy, if a little time-consuming.  Peel, chop, and boil a large sweet potato until past fork tender.  This should take between 15 and 20 minutes.  Drain the potato and mash it immediately until smooth.  Put the mashed potato in the refrigerator (or, if you're in a rush, the freezer) to cool.  

While you're waiting, you can always make an easy tomato sauce.  It amazes me how readily most Americans fall back on canned tomato sauce when making one's own is so incredibly easy.  I like to use a combination of diced and crushed tomatoes (crushed tomatoes are close to a puree in consistency) for better texture.  Make a base with olive oil, garlic/white onion/shallot/a combination of all three and once the veggies have become translucent add your canned tomatoes.  Last night, I used only diced because that's what I had on hand.  Add spice.  I ripped up some fresh basil and added dried oregano, salt, course ground pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Add alcohol.  What I happened to have open was Amontillado, a dry and nutty sherry.  Add a dash of balsamic vinegar for depth.  And last but not least, add some kind of sweetening agent to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.  I threw in about a tablespoon of agave nectar, but any sugar or sugar substitute will do.  That's it.  Leave the pot uncovered to thicken for about 10 to 20 minutes and you have a better sauce than Ragu could ever produce. 

Moving on.  Once the sweet potato has cooled, put it in a large bowl and add to it two cups of whole-wheat flour and two teaspoons of baking powder (this will allow the crust to rise slightly).  Also add some kosher salt to taste, ground black pepper, and dried oregano.  Mix this together either by hand or with a wooden spoon.  Once it comes together, add nine tablespoons of cold water mixed separately with two tablespoons of olive oil.  The dough should be moist, but not sticky.  If it is sticky, add a bit more flour.  

You can use the dough right away or you can coat it with a thin layer of olive oil, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it.  For my pizza, I used only 1/3 of the dough.  Half the prepared dough would yield a large pizza.

Place the dough on a floured surface and roll out from the center.  I like a very thin crust, so I rolled out until it was quite large.  Place rolled dough on a baking sheet that has been oiled or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  In order to prevent soggy pizza, I recommend par-cooking the crust first, about five to ten closely-watched minutes in a 400-450 degree oven.  Once the pizza looks slightly brown at the edges, remove it from the oven and top with sauce, veggies (I used red onions and orange and yellow peppers), fresh basil, and thinly sliced fresh mozzarella.  Cook until the cheese melts and the vegetables wilt at 375 degrees.  

You can freeze leftover dough for another occasion, or you can pre-prep a second crust for the next night's meal.  I left my ball in the refrigerator for use later in the week.  The crust didn't taste like sweet potato at all, and although it wasn't quite as toothsome as the pizzeria variety, it went down just fine.  

No comments: