FOOD: Delicious homemade pizzas with a farm-fresh flair
GOOD FOOD, GOOD LIFE
Free Press Food Columnist
This time of year the weather can be a bit unpredictable on the Western Slope of Colorado. Entertaining outdoors might spontaneously become an indoor gathering. So when planning your next outdoor event, you may want to prepare things that don’t necessarily beg to be grilled. The good news about this season is that there is still a variety and abundance of produce available at the farmers’ markets. I tend to overload on produce and subsequently have “produce anxiety.” Fortunately, this is a rather fun problem.
Late in the week, while trying desperately to use anything and everything, I’ll often make pizzas. They’re fun, casual, the combinations of ingredients are endless, and everyone loves pizza! The pizza dough below is very easy, nearly foolproof, and super fast. Bread experience and fancy equipment are not required here, and you don’t have to wait for it to rise. This dough keeps well in the fridge for a day or two and holds up well on a grill, a pizza stone or a pan. Also, you don’t have to have cheese on your pizza. There are many ways to add richness and depth of flavor.
For richness, my favorite pizza topping is caramelized onions. The more time you allow to caramelize them, the richer they will be. Be generous with the oil. Other rich flavors come from roasted or sautéed ingredients. These processes concentrate the flavors, but more importantly, the browning contributes a very satisfying richness. Roasted mushrooms are very “meat-y.” Roasted, diced or sliced eggplant, besides becoming flavorful, can become quite creamy in texture. Be sure that your ingredients can stand on their own and always salt to taste during the process. Cheese also contributes a familiar saltiness. I often choose to add salt by way of Kalamata olives. Other pizza topping favorites include:
Chopped spinach or kale
Thinly sliced tomatoes
Sautéed garlic and its oil
Chilis or chili flakes
Fresh herbs (added after pizza is cooked)
Quartered artichoke hearts
Experimentation has led to the following favorite pizzas:
Kale, Potato, Walnut Pizza with Herbs
Squash Puree, Fresh Sage, Caramelized Onion, and Pine Nut Pizza
Whatever you invent, you can choose to spend time preparing the components or just chop up what fresh ingredients you have and throw them on. Just have them ready to go when it comes time to make the pizzas.
MAKING THE DOUGH
Here’s your ingredient list:
9 oz. bread flour*
1.5 tsp. instant yeast **
1/2 tsp. salt
6.5 oz. warm water ***
Combine your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add warm water and stir with a large wooden spoon until it comes together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for a minute or so. If your dough is on the sticky side, add flour in the beginning of the kneading. This is normal. The amount of water that bread dough absorbs will vary from day to day. You may not need to but it’s easier to add flour into dough than to add moisture back into it, so better to err on the wet side.
Once your dough feels like a fairly elastic ball that no longer sticks to your hands, knead until it feels like it’s resisting you and springs back when you gently press it with your finger. Divide it into two pieces, form them into balls, and allow them to rest for 10 minutes. If making only one pizza, place one portion in a plastic bag after dividing and store it in the fridge.
ROLLING OUT THE DOUGH
I like to use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to get it nice and thin, sometimes even to just a 1/4-inch. It will puff up while it cooks and I prefer to have a thin, not too bread-y pizza crust. Roll out on a floured surface and dust with flour as necessary during the process. You may notice at some points your dough shrinks back. Find something to do for a minute, then continue. You’ll find it cooperates some more. The dough just needs to relax in its new stretched out shape before being stretched further. If you are not using a rolling pin, play with it in your hands to stretch it out.
MAKING THE PIZZA
Have everything prepped and ready and your oven or grill very hot in advance.
Grilling: Wipe your grilling surface with an oiled rag just before placing the dough on it. Quickly lay your dough across it and close the lid. Stand by! It will likely be ready to flip in under a minute (check every 10 seconds). You may choose to cook that side for a shorter time as it will continue to cook. You will be adding your other ingredients to that side.
When golden or browned to your liking, brush the upper side with oil before flipping or wipe grill with the oiled rag again before placing the other side down. Use a large offset metal spatula and/or tongs to flip the crust. On what is now the top, add your toppings and close the lid. You can also brush it with olive oil or garlic oil before adding the other items. I especially like to do this when using wet ingredients, like tomatoes. When the bottom has darkened to your liking, slide your pizza onto a large wooden cutting board.
If you have a pizza stone and it fits on your grill, be sure that the stone has been heating with the grill before putting your dough on it. If you have a pizza stone and you’re using your oven, preheat the oven with the stone in it.
I do not have a pizza stone. I have a tiny electric oven in a studio apartment. I have come up with a technique for getting an incredible pizza crust. Place an oven rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven closer to the broiler and preheat the oven to 500. Heat a large cast iron skillet on high on a large burner on the stove. Turn on the broiler in the oven. Add a generous amount of oil (grapeseed oil works well at high temperatures) on the skillet, swirl around to coat, and lay the dough in quickly before the oil begins to smoke. Turn the heat on the stove to medium. You may need to prick the dough with a fork to prevent the bubbles from distorting it too much. When the underside is golden brown, flip the crust, add the toppings, and transfer the pan to the very hot oven. It will also be under the broiler. This pizza will be done very fast. Remove it from the pan and transfer to a wooden cutting board. I have had consistent success with making a pizza crust this way. It is very crispy. If you have a state-of-the art kitchen, I still recommend this technique.
*If substituting whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour, you may want to add a 1/2 oz. more water. Wheat flour tends to absorb more water.
**Instant yeast is perfect for this dough and widely available. Other dried yeasts still work fairly well.
***You don’t have to have a thermometer to get an appropriate temperature. I use hot water from the tap. If you can hold you finger in it comfortably without burning, it won’t be too hot for the yeast.
Telluride resident Christa Moran lives and breathes fresh food. Since becoming a vegan in 2011, the accomplished chef has dedicated her free time to creating original dishes in keeping with a diet void of animal products. Reach her at email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
What: Ghost Walk 2021