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Pizza banishes blizzard blues

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The blizzard of 2014 is upon us. You braved the grocery store yesterday, battled the crowds and snagged several boxes of Cheerios and enough macaroni and cheese to last until March. But wouldn't being trapped under a foot of snow be more pleasant if you were able to eat a warm slice of pizza?

No, don't be that guy who orders from Domino's during a blizzard because the "30 minutes or it's free" slogan guarantees a free pie. Pizza from scratch is easy to make and with a little advance preparation, takes the same time as order-out. Further, homemade pizza can be customized beyond just varying the toppings; crafting whole grain dough or adding interesting inclusions such as sunflower or flax seed are just some of the ways to create an individualized pizza.

The two parts of a pizza that require the longest time to prepare are the crust and the sauce. The yeast dough for the crust can be mixed and proofed on a day when there is time to wait for the dough to rise, then it can be divided into two or three portions, wrapped in cling wrap and frozen for later use. Any good pasta sauce can be used for pizza, so keep a large jar of your favorite on hand or prepare a batch of Pasta Sauce and freeze it in portion-sized containers. When it's pizza day, remove the dough from the freezer and allow to thaw enough that it can be rolled out easily, and warm the sauce in the microwave to remove any ice crystals.

Pizza dough contains very little liquid and it can burn out the motor of a small electric mixer. A food processor or stand mixer has enough power to muscle through the ingredients and turn them into a beautifully smooth dough. If that kind of power isn't available, then hand kneading will be in order after the last addition of flour.

Basic Pizza Dough
2 pk. (1/4 oz ea) dry yeast
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/3 c. hot water
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive or other vegetable oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, salt, oil and 2 cups of the flour. If using a stand mixer, begin mixing slowly with the paddle blade and add the hot water slowly. Increase mixer speed to medium, and beat for 5 minutes. Change to dough hook, and fold in remaining flour. Mix with dough hook until all flour is blended in and dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto well floured surface and knead until dough is elastic and loses its gloss. Return dough to a large, well greased bowl. Cover with moistened cloth, place in a warm, draft-free area and allow to rise, about 2 hours.

Punch down dough. At this point, dough can be divided into 2 or 3 equal pieces, shaped into logs, wrapped in plastic and frozen. This recipe makes enough dough for 2 12" pizzas or 3 8" pizzas.

To make the pizza, roll out one portion of the dough to desired thickness (thin crust should be 1/8" thick, thick crust 1/4"). Pat dough into an oiled pizza pan dusted with corn meal. Spread sauce evenly over pizza dough, then add toppings.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake pizza for 20 to 30 minutes.

Tips:

  • Meat toppings such as sausage or hamburger should be browned and drained of grease before using to top the pizza.
  • Saute fresh mushrooms before using as topping. Mushrooms contain a lot of water and if used without heating, will release their moisture during baking to make the crust soggy.

Wednesday: White pizza (a no tomato alternative)

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