The Underground Pizza Party: Whole Wheat Pizza Crust and 3 Yummy Pizzas

Pizza needs no introduction.

Italy and I are on much better terms now. After making my Honey Pickled Figs, I made contact with a very distant relative in Italy who offered his help in getting the documents I need, reminding me of the genuine hospitality I often encountered there from complete strangers. From that memory, the positive ones started to replace the negatives, and after having a few friends over for delicious homemade pizzas, Project I Love Italy was a complete success. Italy, I love you (But I might very well hate you again if there is another snafu). Thus is the nature of the love-hate relationship you inspire, especially Rome.

Making homemade pizza dough is so easy and so good, and serving up pizza made from scratch somehow never fails to impress. It gives the impression of hours of work, but as long as you have your ingredients organized well, actual hand-on time isn’t much and it’s fun. Plus, everyone loves a pizza party, and yes, I am talking about adults. I often have a few friends over to make pizzas and I’ll get the dough and ingredients ready, and everyone can build a pie they like. Or sometimes they just want me to feed them, which is okay too. Everyone always wants the crust recipe though, and before you know it, there is a bizarre kind of underground pizza party circuit (and if you are my friend Zach, who called me up for my pizza dough recipe and then secretly held several pizza parties, it becomes an exclusive affair. You owe me a pizza!). And so, a mighty tasty trend begins.

I adapted my pizza crust recipe from of the pizza dough recipe of one of many red-headed chefs in the US celebrity chef circuit–Bobby Flay (recipe). It’s really solid, and works if you only have all-purpose flour on hand. I’ve added whole wheat flour to the recipe and I take it through the fermenting process to give it better flavor and extra nutrition. This means, if your pizza meal is not a last-minute throw together, you should plan to make your dough about 24 hours before you actually serve it so it has time to ferment properly (I explain the easy process below in my crust recipe).

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 sachet dry yeast (7 grams/ .25 oz / 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (I use raw sugar but white sugar, brown sugar, and honey also work)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour plus extra for kneading
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons good salt
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil plus a few teaspoons extra for coating

1. In a large bowl, add lukewarm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to rest at least ten minutes, or until surface is covered in little bubbles.

2. In a small bowl, mix flours and salt.

3. Add olive oil to yeast mixture, then add flour mixture and combine. If it is too sticky, add a bit more bread flour.

4. Lightly dust surface with bread flour, and knead dough for a solid 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and very elastic. Add more flour to your hands and surface as needed. Roll dough into a ball.

5. Ferment: Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl in which it has enough room to rise by 2x its original size and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Put the bowl in the fridge and allow it to ferment for 8 to 36 hours.

(If you don’t plan to ferment the dough, leave bowl in a warm spot in the house, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise until doubled in size–about 1 1/2 hours. Separate the dough into 2, 3, or 4 pieces depending on how big you want your pizzas, roll into a ball, and allow to rest for 20 minutes under loosely fitted plastic wrap. Then they are ready to use).

6. The second rise: About an  hour before you want to serve your pizza, remove dough from the fridge. Gently push the air out with your fingertips, and divide the dough into 3 equal parts ( two for large pizzas, or 4-6 pieces for small pizzas). Roll the three pieces into balls, place on a lightly oiled tray and cover loosely with lightly oiled cellophane. Allow to rise again for about 45 minutes.

7. Pre-heat oven to the hottest it will get–most standard ovens will go to about 500 F. Roll out your dough to 1/4 inch thick or a bit thicker if you like a thick crust, brush with olive oil, and add topping. Bake until crust is nicely browned. (I make one pizza at a time, and we eat it before making the next.)

Other pointers:

  • Depending on the brand of  flour you use, the amount you need will vary. Always start with a bit less than the recipe calls for and add more if necessary. If you are using all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, you won’t need nearly as much. Start with half the quantity and add more as you go. I recommend using bread flour if you can find it though, as it makes for a much crisper crust, while all-purpose flour will give you a more chewy and somewhat tough crust. They stock bread flour in most supermarkets.
  • I roll my crust out thinly instead of rounding it with my knuckles, and the crust perimeter comes out nice and crisp. The hotter the oven, the crisper your base (put it on full whack), and pizza stones really help with that crisp bottom in a standard oven.
  • I usually make three pizzas with 1 crust recipe, and it easily feeds four people. Then again, if I make it for only me and Anders, we somehow manage to get through it on our own. Instead of baking three or four pizzas when it’s just the two of us, I make pizza with about half the dough, then par-bake a few pizza bases with the other half. I keep them in the freezer for when we get sudden pizza cravings and want to throw together a quick meal. To par-bake: roll or flip your dough into the size you want, poke it all over with fork, and bake it in the oven for 4 or 5 minutes. When it is completely cooled, lay it flat in a plastic bag and freeze it. When you are ready to use it, pull it out of the freezer and let it defrost (only takes about 20 mins), brush with olive oil, and add whatever toppings you want. Cook for 10 to 15  minutes at 425 F. I use my pizza bases within a month.
  • I make my crust the old-fashioned way–kneading. If you prefer to use a stand mixer, go to Bobby Flay’s pizza dough recipe where you can find stand mixer instructions.

Ideas for Pizzas:

Here are a few of my favorite Pizza combos. They make substantial pizzas that give you a meal that isn’t all crust and pizza sauce (which is good too of course):

Pickled Fig and Ricotta Pizza

 Ingredients:

  • Honey Pickled figs (follow link to recipe)
  • Plain or smoked ricotta cheese*
  • Milk (optional)*
  • Rosemary
  • Orange zest
  • Honey
  • Olive oil, sea salt, pepper

*I use good quality ricotta for this, and it tends to be light and creamy. If you are using denser stuff, you can mix it with a splash of milk to soften it up a bit before adding to pizza. In the past, I have also used cream and feta, or mascarpone and goat’s cheese with this pizza.

Pre-heat the oven to the hottest it will get–most standard ovens will go to about 500 F. Brush olive oil onto rolled out dough. Spread a thin layer of ricotta onto base, then place larger spoonfuls of ricotta on top. Scatter chopped pickled figs and fresh rosemary needles over ricotta.  Bake until crust is nice and brown. Drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with orange zest, sea salt, and black pepper before serving.

*If you are in NYC, you might be able to find smoked ricotta from Salvatore Bklyn. They usually carry it at Union Market. It adds an extra element to this pizza and I am definitely missing it! I plant to start making ricotta soon, so perhaps I will try smoking it as well… I’ll share if it is a success.

Fennel, Sausage, and Leek Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 free-range pork or chicken sausages, casings removed*
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 leek, halved lengthwise then chopped crosswise about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 red or white onion (optional), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • Mozzarella (I use sliced bocconcini, but shredded or chopped mozzarella are good too)
  • Parmesan
  • Olive oil

*If you are in the Brisbane area, Coles recently started carrying a line of affordable free-range pork products

1. Pre-heat the oven to the hottest it will get–most standard ovens will go to about 500 F. In a hot pan with just a little bit of olive oil, add sausage and break into small pieces with a spoon as you cook. Cook for about 4 minutes, til almost done, but still a bit pink in the center. Put pork to the side, add a bit of oil to the pan, and saute fennel, leeks, onion, and fennel seeds until veggies start to soften, 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Brush Pizza base with olive oil. Scatter veggies, sausage, and mozzarella onto base, and grate some parmesan cheese over it. Bake until crust is nice and brown, and serve.

Egg, Salami, and Olive Pizza

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 Eggs
  • a few pinches chili flakes (optional)
  • Pizza sauce
  • Mozzarella (I use sliced bocconcini, but shredded or chopped mozzarella are good too)
  • Salami, like sopressata or pepperoni, thinly sliced
  • Olives, halved lengthwise
  • Olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to the hottest it will get–most standard ovens will go to about 500 F. Brush a pizza base with olive oil, and coat with think layer of pizza sauce. Scatter mozzarella, olives, and salami over pizza and sprinkle with a few pinches of chili flakes if you want a bit of heat. Cook pizza until crust is almost browned and pizza is approximately  a minute or two from done. Remove pizza from oven, and gently crack 3 or 4 eggs onto pizza. Carefully put pizza back in oven, and cook about 1 minute longer for a runny yolk, or 2-3 minutes for a firm yolk. Serve with some fresh basil if it is in season.

Project I love Italy and Honey Pickled Figs

Pickled figs, blue cheese, and walnut salad

I love Italy, but who doesn’t? Fabulous food, amazing gelato, gorgeous people, beautiful cities and country side–but it’s also a country that can drive you to madness if you are trying to do something other than binge on mozzarella and admire the Pantheon. When it comes time to doing anything “official” in Italy, the challenge is on, and by the time you have gotten the task done, chances are you wish you could stomp on a pizza. It just so happens, I have been on a mission to get a document from Italy, and it is a stark reminder of all the challenges that brought me to the breaking point so many times while living there. But that’s not how I want to remember my time there. I want to remember my friendship with pizza, and suppli, and pasta, and the Bella Vita attitude that means showering and blowing out your hair at the gym before your workout. It’s the only place I know of where you can sit on the edge of a beautiful fountain and sip prosecco while watching a man eat fire. So for the next few weeks, I will remind myself of all the good times in Rome via food.

I’m going to start with pizza, but I can’t make pizza if I don’t have any pickled figs to make our signature Pickled Fig, Ricotta, and Rosemary Pizza (recipe coming very soon). I just finished my latest batch and I wanted to share this recipe with you because I enjoy them so much, and a few friends have asked me to pass it on. I discovered “pickled figs” when the head food stylist on a bruschetta photo shoot with Bon Appétit magazine a few years ago brought them in, and loved them so much I took the concept and ran with it.

Pickled and fig just don’t sound right, I know. But trust me on this one. You can have them on pizza or bruschetta, they are great chopped up in a salad, they are even good over vanilla ice cream. I also bring them along to get-togethers along with some tangy goat’s cheese.

Honey Pickled Figs

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3 or 4 rosemary sprigs
  • Juice of one orange, plus a few strips of zest
  • 3 cups dried Calimyrna figs (or other dried figs), halved or quartered, stems removed

Bring first five ingredients to a gentle boil. Add figs, bring back to a boil, and boil for two more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Spoon off any foam that might have formed on the top, remove rosemary sprigs and zest, then transfer to a glass jar or container. Store in the fridge. Your figs are officially pickled.

A rough guide to Pickled Fig, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Salad:

  • Chopped pickled figs
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • Toasted Walnuts, roughly chopped
  • Thinly sliced red onion
  • Mixed greens
  • For the dressing, mix some of the pickling liquid with olive oil and some black pepper.

Toss a few handfuls of mixed greens with some figs, walnuts, red onion, and dressing. Add blue cheese, gently toss again, and serve.

Buckwheat and Spelt Pancakes

My relationship with pancakes is up close and personal, like all or nothing, like once I start I can’t stop (refer to the photo for in your face effect). So in the same way say, an addict will keep an addiction, like smoking cigarettes after quitting crack, I have quit white flour pancakes in lieu of healthier and in the end, much tastier buckwheat and spelt flour pancakes with coconut milk and coconut oil instead of dairy.  My grandmother used make me buckwheat pancakes when I was a child, and perhaps it’s the nostalgia factor, but I actually prefer them to your standard white flour pancakes. The buckwheat based pancakes I have had in the past, however, have tended to be a bit on the floppy side, so I was aiming for fluff factor when I developed this recipe. And they deliver. They are fantastically fluffy, dynamic in flavor, and have a lot more nutrition than your typical syrupy stack.

Buckwheat and Spelt Pancakes

Makes about 8 largish pancakes

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white spelt flour
  • a generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tspn baking soda/bicarb soda
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • 2 tblspn melted coconut oil (or butter), plus extra for cooking
  • 1 tblspn honey
  • syrup, honey, fresh fruit or jam for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, mix first 4 ingredients. Then add coconut milk, egg yolk, 2 tblspn coconut oil, and honey, and whisk until just combined. In a separate bowl, beat eggwhite until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into batter.
  1. Melt coconut oil in a hot skillet, and pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. When many air bubbles have formed on the pancakes, flip them over, and cook a little longer before transferring to a plate and serve with your favorite topping. Turn heat down if pancakes brown to quickly.

Quinoa and Strawberry Salad

It’s strawberry season in Queensland, and on our way back from visiting friends on the Sunshine Coast, we popped into Rolin Farms off of Bruce highway to pick some ourselves (http://www.rolinfarms.com.au/).Right off the vine, they were the most strawberryish strawberries I have every had. They were so fragrant and sweet, and just slightly warmed from the sun. We had to stop ourselves at a kilo, but we also bought a 1/2 kilo pack of the “seconds”which I used in a vegetarian quinoa and strawberry salad that is a great side dish, or a vegetarian main.

Quinoa and Strawberry Salad
(vegetarian, gluten free)

Serves 4 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1 tblspn honey
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 small French shallot, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (I used Danish feta)
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • 2 tblspns olive oil
  • zest of 1 lemon and lemon juice to taste (start with 3 tbslpns and add more to get zingier quinoa)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Rinse your quinoa thoroughly in a sieve and cook according to packaging instructions. Add extra flavor by toasting the quinoa for a few minutes in the saucepan. When it’s cooked, transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking,  in a small bowl mix the tblspn honey with the strawberries, and let sit for at least 20 minutes.
  3. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts. Keep an eye on these and shake them around in the pan frequently, as they burn very easily!
  4. Add shallot, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, pine nuts, salt and pepper to the quinoa. Remove strawberries from small bowl, leaving behind any liquid. Tear basil into small pieces and gently fold the basil, strawberries, and feta into the quinoa.

Let the fermenting begin! Homemade Sauerkraut

To launch my blog, it is only fitting start with a cabbage recipe. Sauerkraut is really what got me into fermenting and pickling, and I have developed a true respect for the humble cabbage along the way. I make it often and it’s super healthy, easy to make, and way better than anything you can get at the store. The stuff you buy in the supermarket, unless specifically labeled as a “fermented product”, is usually just cabbage preserved in vinegar, and does not have the beneficial bacteria you will find in properly fermented kraut. When cabbage is fermented, it releases lactobacilli, a good bacteria that is naturally present in the gut, and vitamin C. It also just tastes really good when it is homemade, and you get to control how mild or funky you want it. The actual hands on time is pretty minimal but it does take some physical effort, and I like to make it with another person so we can tag team on the manual labor.

As you can see below, you only need two ingredients–cabbage and salt– so I think it is worth springing for quality, organic ingredients.

You will need:

  • Two big heads of cabbage, cored and sliced as desired*
  • Salt, preferably organic keltic salt or good kosher salt
  • A well cleaned bowl, pot, or plastic tub that can fit all the sliced cabbage with some extra space for cabbage wrestling….
  • A 3-liter glass or ceramic jar with a mouth wide enough to fit your hand through, cleaned thoroughly with warm, soapy water
  • A piece of cheese cloth large enough to cover your jar and a rubber band to hold it in place

*I like to use one head red and one head green, which makes a lovely purple kraut. You can also just use one head of cabbage, but ultimately it’s about the same amount of work to go with one or two cabbages, and I prefer to have extra. You can slice your cabbage into very thin slices, or even grate it. The result in taste will be the same but the texture will be different. I slice mine on the larger side, at about 5mm/ 0.25 inches thick, which I think gives the kraut a meatier texture then the thinly sliced kraut.

1. Bruising: Place your sliced cabbage into the large bowl and add a heaping tablespoon of salt. Using your hands, bruise the cabbage, as in squish, squeeze, basically abuse the cabbage to break it down and release the water. Taste the cabbage regularly to adjust the salt. Add more salt a little at a time, as you can always add more, but you can’t fix an overly salted batch without adding more cabbage to the mix and doing all the hard-labor again. Continue bruising the cabbage until you can’t break it down anymore. There will be a good amount of liquid and the cabbage foams up a little when you squeeze it in your hands. This takes me about 20 to 25 minutes of non-stop cabbage crushing, but I have seen stronger people do it in about 15.  If you’re not sure it has hit capacity, do an extra 5 minutes.

2)Packing: Place cabbage in the jar by the handful, packing it down as you go, and making sure to get rid of all air bubbles or pockets. Once all the cabbage is packed into the jar, pour any remaining liquid into the jar. The liquid should cover the cabbage by about half an inch. If your cabbage did not produce enough liquid from the bruising process, you can make a brine to cover it ( Use 25 grams of salt per 1 cup water).

3) Fermentation: Place the cheese cloth on top of the jar and put the rubber band around the rim to hold it in place, or use the the ring from a canning lid to hold it down. If you don’t have cheese cloth, you can also loosely fit a lid to the jar. The point is, the kraut needs to breath, and when it is fermenting, liquid might escape, so it is important you don’t seal the jar tightly. Over several days or several weeks, depending on the weather, your cabbage will ferment and become sauerkraut. Sometimes it takes about two days to get moving. You can tell it’s fermenting when the kraut bubbles up and  rises above the liquid. You don’t want the jar to be exposed to direct sunlight, and it’s best to keep it in a cooler part of the house, or if possible, outside (it doesn’t smell great during the fermentation process). It can develop more flavor if it has, say a week to ferment, as opposed to a few days, and if it ferments to quickly, you might end up with mushy kraut.

4) Maintenance: Once a day, make sure to pack the kraut back into the liquid, and start tasting it after a few days. Your preference on how strong and funky you like your kraut will determine how long you leave it to ferment. When you have it where you want it, just cover with a lid or pack into smaller containers and pop it into the fridge where it will last indefinitely. I have never had a batch of kraut go bad in the fridge, and I have kept it in there at least 6 months. You can also refrigerate smaller portions of your kraut at different time in the fermentation process, so you have a range of mild and funky krauts.

Homemade sauerkraut is great on it’s own, but you can also use it for:

  • Sauerkraut Soup (recipe coming soon)
  • Perogi (recipe coming soon)
  • On sausages/snags, pork and chicken
  • On a Rueben Sandwich!
1 3 4