What a weekend! I'm actually surprised that today is only Monday -- it was that packed! Sometimes I like my weekends to be totally void of any activity and full of sitting, but this was no such weekend. My sister and I were mesmerized like children at The Nutcracker yesterday. And Matt and I tackled 90% of our Christmas shopping on Saturday (hooray!). But, I kicked off the weekend on Friday with an old-fashioned girls only sleepover. There was a movie, an entire package of Oreos, chatting into the wee hours of the morning, and, who could forget, a game of MASH! Do you remember that game?! I think my fate had me married to Jake Gyllenhaal, living in a house with our 18 children, and driving a BMW... whew! Not so terrible, I suppose :)
The only quintessential things missing from our sleepover were sleeping bags and pizza! (And parents picking me up in the morning, ha!) In fact, Laura offered to buy a pizza for us but... woops! I had just eaten pizza before I got to her place. Not just any pizza, but a homemade breakfast pizza -- for dinner, natch:
Honestly, just looking at that picture makes me salivate. It was so good! To me, pizza is the ultimate comfort food. And everyone has his or her own take on it, and no two are alike. Think about your favorite kind of pizza... what adjectives come to mind? Extra cheesy? Simple? Greasy? Thick or thin crust? Pepperoni or veggies? Maybe sausage? Small slices or foldable monster slices? Do you prefer yours fresh or cold the next day? I could go on and on... topped with mushrooms, shrimp... but I won't, honest. Pesto, fresh tomato slices...
What makes pizza an even better comfort food is that it's available at the touch of a few buttons and at your doorstep in under 30 minutes. But, you see, that's where my story differs. My family loves to make pizza from scratch. So, the whole idea of calling Domino's, Pizza Hut, or local pizzeria doesn't really sit well with me. A while ago, I had a conversation with a good pal whose family also preferred to make their own pizza. We both agreed that, growing up, we would hear of friends' families who ordered their pizza out and, for that, we envied them beyond belief. "Why can't we go to Pizza Hut? Life isn't fair!" or something along those lines. The thought of that now, as (mostly) adults, embarrassed us slightly. We were so lucky! But hey, we were young and stupid. Now we're sage cooks who can appreciate our parents' culinary adventures and creativity that we can duplicate in our own kitchens.
Now for the process of making pizza. Make and roll out dough. Add toppings. Bake. Eat. What, you expected more details than that on a cooking blog? Oooooh, oh! My apologies. I know at least a few of you out there are thinking that you'd love to make pizza at home but the dough would just be too difficult to do on your own. Wrong! It really is so easy, and after watching my dad do it a few hundred times, I think I've stumbled onto a recipe that's just as delicious and simple as his and a smidge faster :) (Shh, don't tell him that.)
All you need to do is mix some yeast with water, honey, and olive oil. Add flour and salt, taking care to mix slowly at first before increasing the speed.
Mix until smooth (about 10 minutes), knead a dozen times. Cover and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes.
Roll out dough, top with sauce, cheese, etc. and bake! For my toppings, I went with chopped spinach, a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkling of salt and pepper, mozzarella cheese, crumbled cooked bacon, and two eggs. The bacon was heavenly, spinach and cheese chewy and gooey. And the homemade crust was light and flaky, not soggy and heavy like some of the unfortunate excuses for crust that you get at from a local pizza joint. Voila! You just made your very own pizza made from scratch. See? I told you it was simple.
Oh, and those eggs? They cook sunny side up and the yolk is a perfect dipping sauce for the crust. Granted, this requires you to have more than one slice, but hey, we all take one for the team when necessary, right?
Basic Pizza Dough
(adapted from Ina Garten)
-makes 1 large pizza
A few notes: One full batch of this makes enough for one 14 to 16-inch pizza. I split it into two and made two smaller pizzas, about 8 inches in diameter. Feel free to split further, making smaller personal pizzas. Also, this is a bare bones dough recipe, but I've dressed it up with some chopped herbs (added during mixing) and by brushing garlic butter on the edges before baking. Finally, you do not need a pizza stone to make this. A cookie sheet positioned on a rack in the lowest possible position in your oven will work just as well.
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast (NOT quick-rise!)
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Cornmeal, for dusting
In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, yeast, honey, and olive oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, carefully add remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Continue to mix the dough on medium speed for 10 minutes, until dough becomes a smooth ball. Sprinkle with additional flour if dough still seems to be sticking, but be conservative with more flour. Knead dough a dozen times. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Transfer dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Place bowl in a warm area (I use the top of my stove.) Allow to rest and rise for 30 minutes or so.
Preheat oven to 450F with rack in lowest position and, if using, pizza stone in place. Roll out dough to fit your baking vessel (rectangular cookie sheet or round stone). Lightly dust pizza peel or baking sheet with cornmeal before transferring dough to it.
Top dough with sauce, cheese, and other desired toppings. Brush the edge of the dough with additional olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is golden and crisp. Cut and serve hot. Enjoy!