Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pizza Therapy

I know I have mentioned this before, but cooking and baking is a part of my life that brings me endless amounts of joy.  Chopping vegetables and mixing spices requires the perfect amount of cognitive strength to keep me focused, yet calm.  One of my favorite things to produce in the kitchen is bread.  Something about feeding yeast and watching it rise as it fills the room with that intoxicating "fresh bread" smell gives me the feeling that all is right with the world.  Sound kooky?  Don't knock it till you try it.

If you are intimidated by bread-making, start with this simple recipe for homemade pizza dough.  Yes, this requires more steps than talking to the delivery man or opening the freezer.  However, you might be pleasantly surprised by the difference in taste and the sense of accomplishment that comes at the end.

You will need...
-1 packet of fast acting dry yeast (I use Red Star Quick Rise)
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1 tbs oil
-1 cup hot water (hot to the touch, but not burning hot)
-4-6 cups flour (whole wheat or regular)

Step One: Feed the yeast
In a glass, combine sugar, salt, oil and water.  Add yeast and stir.  Let this sit for about 20 minutes until it becomes quite foamy.  If you do not see foam, the yeast are not active and you need to start again with either cooler or warmer water.

Step Two: Knead the Dough
Add the yeast mixture to a bowl filled with 4 cups of flour to start out with.  White flour works fine, and whole wheat flour makes a tougher dough that does not tend to rise as much.  I like to mix white flour with wheat (half and half).  That way, the dough is still fluffy and moist but has a hearty flavor!  Mix the yeast mixture with the flour until you can safely transfer it to a floured surface.  Knead the dough, adding more flour to it as it sticks to your hands.  I usually knead for at least 10-12 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky and has a nice, elastic feel to it.  This video serves as a good model:


If you really get into bread making, you will want to get this useful tool (I give it the scientific name of "scraper").  It does an excellent job at getting the crusty, flour mixture off your countertop.

Step Three: Let it Rise
After you finish kneading, place the dough in an oiled container.  Flip the dough around in the container so it has a nice, light oily glaze.  Cover the container with a dish cloth, place it in a warm place, and let it rise for about 25-30 minutes.

Step Four: Spread on Pan
After 25-30 minutes, the dough should at least double in size.  Punch the dough not be shy!  Give it a solid PUNCH to show that yeast who's boss. (Has your stress melted away yet?)

Remove the dough from the container and spread on a greased pizza pan, or a greased cookie sheet.  The texture of this dough is amazing!  If you're in a hurry, go ahead and add your toppings and bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.  If you have some extra time, let the dough rise again once it is on the pizza pan.  This double rising time makes a fluffier crust!  

Before Baking

Mr. PT and I had some unexpected, yet lovely, dinner guests last night, so luckily we had an extra store bought crust to use for a smaller pizza.

Step Five: Decorate
Get creative with toppings!  On the larger pizza, we did half "super veggie" and half "light veggie with pepperoni."  On the smaller pizza, we used BBQ sauce with tomatoes, peppers, cheese, and pepperoni.  They both turned out to be delicious!

Step Six: Watch it Disappear
This pizza will taste so good, you might consider going into the pie business yourself.  So pick a night when you have some extra time, strap on an apron, turn on your favorite tunes, and feel your stress melt away.  This recipe is also very kid-friendly, so let them have some fun too!

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