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Pizza: The Perfect Food

Here at Midlife Finance, we make sure we cover the serious issues in your life: money, retirement, kids, and much more. Here’s a look at an important issue we haven’t covered yet:

Pizza.  It may just be the perfect food.

Well-made pizza is easy on the budget. It can be a meal-in-one, and makes good use of fresh local ingredients. Best of all, good pizza is also easy to make.

     The Internet’s full of recipes for this crunchy, garlicky delicacy. Few, though, make a pizza that looks, as well as tastes good. Some tricks help:

     *Let your pizza dough rise at least a few hours (or more) before shaping.

     *Use a pizza stone — a specialized surface that simulates a professional pizza oven surface. (The version shownis from Home Innovations; others are out there to choose from.) Or try a large tile from a home supply store. Put it in the oven to heat before you actually start baking your crust.

     *Keep oven temps high: at least 450-500 degrees. Make sure the oven is full-on hot before sliding the pizza in. (A quick spray of water just before baking helps ‘proof’ the oven.)

     *Bake twice — first, the dough, rolled out and put on a pizza pan or stone. Then put the decorated pizza back on either stone — or put it directly on the oven rack, to crisp the crust and keep the center from going mushy. This last step makes all the difference between a mushy center and a crunchy one.

This recipe needs some time to rise, but the actual making and shaping is minimal — less than 30 minutes. It’s been adapted from Jim Lahey via Food 52, a source for all sorts of interesting questions. Even better: no kneading!

JIM LAHEY’S NO-KNEAD PIZZA DOUGH

  • 500 grams (17 1/2 ounces or about 3 3/4 unsifted cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) active dry yeast
  • 16 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 350 grams (11/2 cups) water    (Variation: add a tablespoon of sesame seeds)
  1. In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and, with a wooden spoon and/or your hands, mix thoroughly.
  2. Cover the bowl and let it rise at room temperature (about 72°) for 18 hours, or until doubled.
  3. Flour a work surface, scrape out the dough and divide it in four parts. For each portion, start with the right side of the dough and fold it over, at least four times. Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound, then dust with flour. (For even crunchier results, dust the balls in cornmeal.)
  4. The dough balls can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, wrapped in plastic. When ready to use, leave out a few hours first.

Shaping and baking:

     Preheat your oven to 450-500 degrees, and put in the pizza stone, if you’ve got one. Rub your hands with a little olive oil, then generously flour and stretch the dough in a circle. Place on the pizza stone, or on an oiled pizza pan — bake for approx. 10 minutes, until the pizza shell is set and barely brown.

     Take out the pizza shell. Sprinkle with your favorite tomato sauce or chopped fresh tomatoes (drain the latter), plus your favorite ingredients. (More on these in a bit.) Add Italian spices or chopped fresh basil, and generously top with chopped or grated mozzarella. (Some additional parmesan cheese adds flavor, too.) Slide back in the ovenput the shell back on the stone, or just let it sit right on the rack. Bake 10-15 min. more, until the pizza is baked and bubbling. Serve and enjoy.

Great ingredients for effective pizza toppings:

black olives, chopped onions (green onions look even tastier), sliced mushrooms, chopped green or red peppers and practically every kind of meat you can think of, especially chopped bacon, ham, sausage and sliced pepperoni. For a gourmet touch, add artichoke hearts or specialty mushrooms.

    Or make a ‘white’ pizza: substitute ranch dressing for the tomato sauce, then add chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and chopped chicken. (Or spread the lightly baked shell with pesto, instead — this is an excellent homemade version.) Add grated Swiss cheese or Monterey Jack to the mozzarella; fresh basil is an elegant touch.

Other good pizza recipes are out there, including Hungry Girl’s version of a thin ‘cracker’ crust, plus a cornmeal-accented dough Frugal Upstate relies on.

Surprise: pizza is also excellent grilled! Try this easy recipe, then invite your friends over for a dinner party. Serve with a glass of red and a large green salad, then sherbet or gelato for dessert.

Once you’ve had a slice or two of this crunchy delicacy, you won’t wonder why some people have eaten nothing but pizza for years!  Enjoyand happy summer.

2 Responses to Pizza: The Perfect Food

  1. I try not to eat that much dairy, but man a good pizza is hard to beat. I like Hawaiian, mushroom, margherita, or pesto pizzas the best. I prefer to pay someone else to make them though!

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