What would life be without pizza? Pretty sad. Pitiful, really.
Our weekly menu would feel empty.
Nathan and I would have to find a new Valentine’s Day dinner tradition.
And the Husker football game experience wouldn’t be the same.
You see, we have pizza every week at our house. Every year since we’ve been married, Nathan and I have celebrated Valentine’s Day with a heart-shaped pizza for dinner. And Valentino’s pizza and Memorial Stadium just go together. Trust. They do.
Oh, and I need to add the fact that we honeymooned for eight days in New York City. And we had pizza at least once a day for all eight days. But we just ate a lot of food on that trip. It was the best. We still talk about it, six years later.
Who needs a vacation? Me. Me!
I haven’t met a pizza I didn’t like. Ok, well unless it has anchovies. Surely I’m not the only one who has an anchovy aversion?
Pizza is one of those foods that allows anyone, regardless of cooking ability, to be creative in the kitchen. I’m a fan of traditional toppings like pepperoni, mushrooms, and mozzarella, but I also love unique-and-becoming-quite-popular toppings like cream cheese, cheddar cheese and bacon. And let’s talk about sauce for a minute. Red sauce, white sauce, ranch (what?!), no sauce. There are so many possibilities.
But I’m ahead of myself.
Before we can even discuss kinds of pizza, we need to get down to the basics. To where it all begins. The dough.
I’ve had my fair share of packaged pizza dough. The just-add-water kind, the just-add-toppings kind, the let-it-thaw kind (by the way, I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s has a great frozen pizza dough), and the homemade kind. While the convenience dough is truly that—convenient—homemade pizza dough, if you can swing it, is just so worth it.
I’ve been making this pizza dough for years, and it’s never failed me. The original recipe made two pizzas, so I scaled it back so there is only enough dough for one pizza. I found that we don’t need that much pizza at once. I mean, I do need that much pizza, but my skinny jeans tell me I don’t. If it’s there, I would eat it. So we pair our pizza with salad. I feel much better about myself when we do that.
I will tell you that before I started making this dough, I hadn’t cooked with yeast. I think partly because my mom never did (so that's all I knew), and I think partly because I was a bit afraid of it. I mean, it’s yeast. It’s got to have special powers to make dough rise, right? And it must be temperamental? Not to fa-reak you out, but yeast is a living organism. It needs a warm, moist place and food to grow. The science nerd in me told me I had to share that fact with you. Did you know my undergraduate degree is in food science? Food fascinates me.
I’m so glad I got over my fear. I now buy yeast by the jar. And if you fear baking with yeast, get over it. I say that with love, of course.
This dough is soft yet sturdy. It holds toppings really well, and it bakes nicely. And if you couldn’t tell, this is a thin crust pizza dough. It’s just all around awesome. I think if you try it, you’ll agree.
And stay tuned. I’ll post the recipe for that mouth-watering pizza soon. And many more in the coming weeks. Dough!
Simple Pizza Dough
Adapted from: Emeril Lagasse
1/2 cup warm (105-115 degrees F) water
3/4 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
1-1/8 tsp. active dry yeast
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl, combine water, oil, and salt. Sprinkle yeast on top, and stir well to proof. After 5 minutes, add 3/4 cup flour and mix thoroughly with a stand mixer and a paddle attachment. Add enough remaining flour, slowly, so that the dough is only slightly tacky. Lightly flour a surface and knead dough for 5 minutes, adding enough flour, as necessary, to form an elastic, smooth dough. The dough should not be tacky. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a bowl, and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a fist, punch the dough down gently and transfer it to a lightly floured pizza pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 minutes. Using hands shape the dough to the desired size, keeping the dough about 1/4-inch thick. Top with toppings. Brush crust with olive oil, if desired. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on toppings. Makes one 12-14-inch pizza.