5 p.m. yesterday found me in the kitchen, chopping carrots into snack-sized sticks and trimming the ends off uncooked green beans so that we could have a snack. And then I laughed because what could be more of a New Years cliché but raw crudités and the promise of a healthier tomorrow. Yawn. Or, at least yawn to the traditional notions of health food; I actually made us pizza and an enormous salad for dinner.
But first, a small detour. Alex and I went to brunch at a friend’s apartment in the Upper East Side yesterday, stopping at Eli’s on the way home for dinner provisions. I used to love this store but yesterday it just left a funny taste in my mouth as I think I’m less their ideal customer than I once was. Day-old chocolate cake? Premade pizza dough? But it’s so so easy to make. Maybe recipes make it too intimidating?
To wit: Three-quarters of a teaspoon of yeast, one teaspoon of salt, one and a half cups of flour, half a cup of lukewarm water and a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir. Knead. Let sit for one to two hours, until it has doubled. Deflate. Wait twenty minutes. Roll. Add toppings and seasonings. Bake at your oven’s top temperature for about 10 minutes. Eat the best pizza for two, ever, brimming with self-satisfaction.
Except now I have a huge hankering for Zabar’s Health Salad — also called Eating My Words as it is the one prepared food I am physically incapable of resisting the purchase of whenever I’m in either neighborhood, and they had none available yesterday. Have I tried my hand at it in my own kitchen with great success? Does the salad cost about $4 for forty-two cents worth of ingredients? Why can’t I see the big picture and stop buying it when I can make it myself? Er, ah… Well, it tastes better after it sits for a couple days, and I’m not that patient. You see? We all have our reasons, and I promise, I’m not judging yours. But, do hope you try my pizza dough, at least once, and see if it makes a convert out of you. And I’ll do my best to come up with a fail-proof formula for that crunchy salad. [Update: I did!]
Really Simple Pizza Dough
- 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) lukewarm water, plus 1 or 2 tablespoons more as needed
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- Pizza sauce and toppings as you like them
If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.
Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.
Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. (I always err on the side of skimpy with toppings so to not weight down the dough too much, or if I have multiple toppings, to keep them very thinly sliced.)
Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.