Have you ever experienced an epic cooking failure? Ok, that’s probably a bit dramatic, but that’s how I felt the other night when I tried to make pizza dough from scratch for a group of friends. It was especially important because we were getting together to watch GLEE. Yes, it was that important. Anyway, I had made the dough for what was supposed to be an incredible homemade pizza, only to find that it was a complete mess. The dough was too wet and there was no repairing it. Plus, I didn’t have the time to make another crust. I had to take the emergency route and ask that we order cheese pizzas from Domino’s and throw on all the deliciously prepared homemade toppings. Ugh. Disappointment city.
So, the following day I decided that I would get the crust right, thankyouverymuch. So, with new-found determination, I ventured into the land of baking just hours after my embarrassingly awful attempt. I made it double-risky by not using a recipe (gasp!) in the hopes that I could take what I already knew about making crust and do what felt right. On the up side, the crust turned out beautifully. On the down side, I may never be able to replicate the crust again! Curses!
The next step, when I knew the crust was in order, was deciding what on earth to put on top. I had some random vegetables in the refrigerator- cherry tomatoes, kabocha, celery greens, and a variety of herbs in the garden. So, I used tomatoes and kabocha on both of the individual-sized pizzas, but topped one with the celery greens and one with fresh tarragon. Celery greens? On pizza? YES! The tops of celery stalks are sadly taken for granted. Their fresh flavor is perfect in salads, or in this case, on top of pizza. They lend a quiet, refreshing bite. The pizza that was topped with tarragon also received a sprinkling of walnut oil (thanks Laura and Braden!) that perfectly rounded out the varying taste sensations.
Overall, I felt like I more than made up for my last two failed attempts at making pizza dough. There are so many factors that can impact the outcome- temperature inside/outside, level of humidity, etc. Hopefully I will be able to do this again! I included the steps I took to make my crust below, but please keep in mind that it may not be perfect. Here is another recipe that I have had success with the majority of the time from the White on Rice Couple. Good luck and happy pizza-ing! (If you happen to give this a try, let me know how it goes…)
Roasted Tomato, Kabocha & Celery Green/Tarragon Pizza
Makes 2 large pizzas or 4 small pizzas
For the crust:
2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 2/3 cup all purpose flour
Combine the yeast and warm water in a bowl. Stir gently to combine and let sit for 5 minutes until the top begins to look foamy. Add the salt, sugar/honey and olive oil to the yeast.
In a large bowl, mound the flour and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast into the well and slowly work the flour into the liquid with a fork. When it is mostly incorporated, use your hands to very gently knead the dough until the flour is worked in. The dough will not be completely smooth, but it shouldn’t be wet or have chunks of flour in it.
Place the dough on a cutting board or counter brushed with olive oil and cover with a bowl (also brushed with oil) large enough to hold the dough when it has doubled in size. Make sure the dough is in a warm place away from drafts. This should take between 30 minutes-1 hour.
When the dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth. This should take, at the very most, 30 seconds. At this point, cut the dough in half for two pizzas, or in four. If you do not plan on using all of the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the freezer. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Sprinkle a baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal. Gently flatten the dough with your hand, transfer it to the baking sheet and use your fingers to press the dough to the desired size/shape. Make sure the dough is at least 1/2 inch thin. If you want a thinner crust, try for about 1/4 of an inch thin.
Brush the dough with olive oil before adding the toppings.
For the toppings:
1/4 kabocha squash, thinly sliced using a mandoline or sharp knife
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of tarragon leaves OR celery greens
Heat the oven to 450F. Top the pizza crust with the squash and tomato halves. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of your pizzas, until the crust is golden brown. If you are using celery greens, place them on top of the pizza about 10 minutes before removing it form the oven.
Remove the pizzas and transfer to a cutting board. Top with the tarragon and walnut oil, if using. Serve immediately or at room temperature.