If you’re a frequent reader of our blog, you’ll know that this week, I made it my mission to produce homemade pizza for the first time. I had a batch of research in my arsenal, a promised killer recipe for dough, and a list of amazing toppings in my head. Most of the time, our food kicks ass. Unfortunately, my first pizza did no such thing.
I entered the kitchen with confidence. I was sure this was going to be amazing. And, as I opened the kitchen cabinet to gather together the ingredients for the pizza dough, a brilliant vision came into view: whole wheat crust. We go to Brixx every so often, and I always order their wheat crust. I knew that different types of flour produce different results when it comes to getting some good old raw gluten, so I thought a half and half mix would be the best way to go. That would contribute some easy to break down white flour in the mix. I got the flour mixture ready while I set the yeast, sugar, and water aside to do their thing. Almost as soon as I started my stand mixer and began incorporating the yeast mixture, I could tell the results were not going to be exactly what I was hoping for. The mixture was dry and crumbly, so I began to add water, just one tablespoon at a time. It only took a few tablespoons before the dough formed a good ball. It felt a little dry to the touch, but I really attributed that more to the texture of the wheat flour than to anything else. So, I added the olive oil and kept up the process.
When I dumped the dough onto my white flour dusted board and started to knead I knew it still wasn’t right. The dough still wasn’t sticking together well enough and it was really hard to manipulate. Still, I persisted. I was sure that if I could just break down those proteins enough, I could get a good thing going. When the ball started to smooth out, I gave a bowl a good oil, made sure the dough had a light coating of it and covered it to rise. My hope was that the rising process would help soften the dough up a little more so it would do everything I was hoping for.
Now, let me talk for a moment about what really worked with this pizza…the toppings! As soon as I started thinking about making a pizza, I started contemplating topping ideas. I wanted something between completely traditional and the kinds of toppings we frequently encounter at another of our favorite pizza joints, Sticks and Stones. I definitely wanted a tomato sauce base. Most of the time, that is a pizza non-negotiable with me. I also knew I wanted some kind of protein, but nothing too high maintenance and a blend of mozzarella and some sort of non-traditional cheese. So, while the dough was rising, I put a head of garlic in the oven to roast. Then, I put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot with a teaspoon-ish of dried Italian seasoning (I couldn’t justify buying a bunch of fresh herbs for pizza sauce.) Once that got toasty fragrant, I poured in a 28 ounce can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes (yeah, I know these actually come from California, but they are still my favorite). I brought it to a simmer, left it for about 10 minutes and then pulled it off the heat and set it aside (and I have enough sauce left for 3 more pizzas). While that was simmering, I slivered a red onion and put it in a saute pan with olive oil over low heat to caramelize. I dug in the fridge and was thrilled to discover some prosciutto we had left over from a veggie dish the night before. I cut that into strips and sliced a tomato super thin. Once the garlic was out of the oven and the onion was finished cooking, it was time to deal with the dough again.
When I pulled the towel off the top of the bowl, it looked like things had gotten considerably better. The dough looked much lighter and I was sure it was going to stretch out perfectly for the pan. But, after I separated the dough into two parts and attempted to stretch it, I could see exactly how wrong I was. It was pretty stiff; to the point that I had to go ahead and pull the preheated cookie sheet out of the oven so I could use it to press the dough out enough for the pizza. However, I finally got it pulled out and was able to top it. It actually looked pretty good going into the oven.
After about 18 minutes in a 450° oven, the pizza was ready. The crust rose slightly, but overall, it was not even close to what I had desired. It was crispy on the outside and was definitely cooked all the way through. It wasn’t dry, it was just…dense. This pizza wasn’t close to inedible, as I mentioned before, the toppings really worked. It just wasn’t all I hoped for. And, it actually looked pretty nice.
I’m not giving up, I’m still after the perfect homemade pizza. And no, I’m not willing to give up the whole wheat crust!