In my last post I talked about whole foods and how eating food that is as natural as possible can be healthy and fun. This week I would like to talk about one of my favorite whole foods, and a favorite of many other people as well, pizza. This is a follow up to the first post I made about whole foods last week.
Pizza dough is fairly easy to make and uses basic ingredients. There is a blog out there called 100 Days of Real Food. And the author of that blog has a recipe for whole wheat pizza.
My pizza started off with my wife making the dough using our bread machine. The ingredients are basically yeast, water, flour, olive oil, and a little sugar for the yeast to consume. The sugar can be an organic cane sugar, regular white sugar, or even honey.
One of the best things about making your own pizza dough is you can spice it up a little bit. We frequently add dried herbs from our garden to the dough, such as basil or oregano. If you like a little spice in your life throw in some red pepper flakes or some dried chili peppers. Other things that be added are garlic, fresh or dried rosemary, or even shredded cheeses like parmesan. The sky is the limit and you can be as creative as you want.
For this pizza we used shredded mozzarella for our cheese. Mozzarella makes a great base cheese for pizza, and if you can find it fresh you can create the traditional Napoli style Margherita Pizza, which was created to honor Queen Margherita.
So, one thing you may ask is, what about toppings? How do I have a whole foods pizza? First we start off with the dough. Then if you have time grab some tomatoes for the sauce.
The sauce can vary according to your taste but they all start off the same. Vine ripened tomatoes are the best for taste and texture. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water and then, once the skins start to crack, place them in ice water to stop the cooking process and remove the skins.
Next remove the core and seeds from the tomatoes. We want a little water as possible for the sauce. When you think you have enough, go get more, you’ll be amazed at how much the sauce will shrink down as it simmers and thickens. After peeling, coring, and deseeding your tomatoes place them into a saucepan large enough to hold them and turn the heat on low.
The goal here is to reduce the tomatoes down to a thick sauce. Once the sauce is near completion and is thick enough to spread on a pizza, but not thin enough to use for spaghetti, it’s time to add the seasonings. Fresh basil, thyme, oregano, or rosemary can be added. These also work as dry herbs as well. The sauce will help hydrate the herbs. Continue simmering and give the sauce a taste. Continue adding herbs until well seasoned. Add a touch of sea salt to add a little more flavor.
So now the dough is done, the sauce is ready, and it’s time to make pizza! The best mozzarella is fresh mozzarella, but I frequently use the bagged version. Some day I want to make my own cheeses, but that’s for a later time. For now toss a little flour on the counter and place your dough on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on top and start rolling it out. If you’re adventurous you can always find a YouTube video on how to toss the dough into the air. I prefer not to do so since I figure cleaning dough off the ceiling, light fixtures, and cabinets would be a pain.
With the dough all ready it’s time to ladle on that delicious sauce. Again, this is all to taste, so if you’re like me dump a big ladle of sauce on that dough for a really saucy pizza.
Pizza Note: Pizza doesn’t have to have a red sauce if that’s not your thing. As a great alternative take extra virgin olive oil and spread it on the dough in place of the red sauce. Now just add the toppings on top of the oil.
The next thing after the is always the cheese. The cheese helps keep everything together and adds that melty goodness. If you’ve scored some fresh mozzarella slice it up and throw it on there. If you’re using shredded mozzarella layer it on.
And here comes one of the best parts. The toppings. Now to keep in with the whole foods goal these two pizzas contain toppings that are as natural as possible The Hawaiian style has home canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, and Canadian Bacon from Trader Joe’s.
Next up we went for more of the Margherita Pizza style and sliced fresh tomatoes for the topping. Due to a lack of fresh basil in the garden currently I substituted with some basil that had previously been dehydrated. I’ve got to say, even with the dried basil, it was delicious.
Now the pizza is ready, how do we heat up this yummy looking goodness? Well lets dive into some science real quick here. High heat and pizza dough. The two just go together to form the perfect combination. Heat your oven to at least 450 degrees Fahrenheit, (232 Celsius). If you are using a pizza stone, make sure to place it into the oven during the preheating stage to heat the stone up as well. If you plan on using a steel pizza sheet it does not need to be preheated.
The high heat helps steam form inside the crust and then expand evenly. Too low of temperatures and the steam inside will form pockets resulting in large bubbles in the crust. Wood fired pizza ovens will often achieve temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, (315 Celsius).
A great way to keep the dough from sticking to either a pizza stone or metal sheet is to scatter some corn meal on the sheet before placing the pizza on it. If using a pizza stone that’s in the oven use a wooden or metal pizza peel to slide the pizza into the oven onto the stone. Use the corn meal on the pizza peel to let the pizza slide off.
Let the pizza bake for at least 10 minutes before checking on it. The cheese will melt and start to bubble and the crust will turn golden. With a little practice you’ll end up with a nice crispy crust and hot melted cheese.
Pizza Note: When using a lot of toppings, especially water heavy toppings like fruits and vegetables, it’s best to let the pizza rest a minute or two after removing it from the oven. This allows some of the moisture to return to the toppings and not leave the sauce very watery.
Slide that pizza off your stone or sheet on to a nice wooden cutting board. Slice the pizza and get ready to feast!
Pizza can be a delicious whole food. And while making it from scratch may take awhile you can always take a page from my wife’s book. She made a large pot of pizza sauce and then frozen them using a silicon muffin tin so that we’d have serving sizes perfect for a pizza whenever we needed it.
One other thing to note. Many people like different meat toppings on their pizza. My advice is to read the ingredients and to find the Canadian Bacon, pepperoni, or Italian sausage, with the least amount of processing, and then use them sparingly. I never thought I’d enjoy a pizza without some kind of meat on it as a topping and then I discovered the Margherita Pizza and how much I enjoyed it.
Feel free to experiment or leave some of your favorite kind of pizzas in the comments below.
– Jason Snell