Monday, May 24, 2010

In Search of the Perfect Pizza Crust, Part 2

Before I dip into my whole grain pizza crust excursion, let me tell you that I tried another all-white crust. This is the Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. What a delicious Pizza Margherita.

In line with the goals of this cookbook, the Olive Oil Dough is such a simple recipe, far quicker to pull off than my all-time favorite recipe from Williams-Sonoma, which requires a lot of hands-on time. This would make a weekly Friday night pizza quite doable even for a family with many munchkins, like ours (barring a Friday night TBall game or other obligations of course). But, sadly, we lost a dear friend in our bread baking using this high-heat recipe. This one doesn't work so well without a stone, and we haven't been able to make this again.

Moving on with the "search" in my post title. In my goody-two-shoes effort to integrate more whole grains in our diet, I'm looking for the perfect crust that includes whole grains. Note that I do not require this to be a 100% whole grain crust. I realize that the textural issues I'll get to below may be ameliorated by the addition of some good old plain white flour.

My first try was a recipe from The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution. This one includes rye flour, which gave the dough a slightly grainier feel and the cooked pizza a much nuttier taste. Below we made a plain cheese and a cheese and tomato. Both were delicious, but the dough, as the kids pointed out, tasted "like bread." Indeed, this was very puffy, much more of a rise than I prefer in a pizza crust. But maybe I'm asking too much from this recipe, which really is quite delicious if not exactly what a child expects on pizza night.

As anyone who bakes with yeast may agree, handling the dough is one of the most luxurious sensory experiences. Some girls need a massage and a hot tub soak. I'll take kneading dough over that any day. (Minus the temporary carpal tunnel-like sensation you often have afterward.) Alice Waters' dough was fabulous in the hands! Just look at the photo below. Truly like baby skin. And I get my fair share of baby skin...

So, still moving on, and looking for something less puffy. I used the Friday Night Pizza recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.). This uses roughly half whole wheat and half white flour and made a delicious crust, again with the nutty and more crumbly texture expected from whole grains. The kids devoured this and noted that it was definitely not as puffy as our previous experiment. Among those kiddos that have the power of speech in this house, it was agreed that this is not a "favorite" crust, probably yearning for the days when mom was satisfied with just one attempt at pizza crust which would have left them with a lovely thin white crust. But, hey, mom has three kids now and a new career that involves eating, cooking, shopping for food, and writing recipes. These are the breaks.

Rounding things off with some steamed green beans. This lovely colorful finger food is actually sweet if you cook them within a couple days of purchase and don't nuke them to a mushy tasteless death. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add a large pinch of salt and the beans (you can also add the beans in a steamer basket - I know that preserves nutrients but it also gives me another dish to wash), and boil for 3 to 4 minutes. You'll have to take one out and taste it to know if they're ready to drain. While the beans are in the pot, prepare a small bowl of ice water. Then you'll be ready to pull those beans out with a slotted spoon or quickly dump them in a colander and then get them in the ice water. I top them with a small sprinkle of kosher salt after draining them from the ice water.

I also made my favorite pizza, a margherita with cheese, tomato, and basil. I prefer slices of mozzarella from the hunk you can buy floating in a little cheese water bath, but the kids think that's "weird." So compromises are made.

Here's the recipe, which I followed without tweaking, straight from the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website.

Do you have a favorite pizza crust recipe? Let me know in the comments, and I'll give it a try.

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