In the overflow cookbook cupboard in my kitchen, I keep a couple of worn and bulging spiral notebooks with quite a few tattered pages. They’re my “culinary journals” where I record recipes for something I’ve made, or most often, I paste recipes that I hope to try, recipes clipped from magazines and newspapers. My homemade kahlua recipe is here and one for the pepper jelly I once gave for Christmas gifts. Ten to one, the cut and pasted recipes outnumber my hand-written recipes. Cluttering both my office and the clear plastic cookbook holder on the kitchen counter are more loose recipes, waiting to be pasted, that I continually accumulate. I know I’m not alone in this recipe saving habit–I have read nostalgic musings by other food writers about their own, or their family’s recipe stashes. My first spiral notebook, begun in 1976, is falling apart. It has recipes like Broccoli Rice Casserole, Wheat Germ Zucchini Bread and Carob Pecan Brownies, reflecting my inclination to desserts made with honey and maple syrup as well as my vegetarian diet. Years ago I numbered the pages and indexed the recipes I turn to regularly. On page 94, dated 1/15/81, is Alta Special Saturday Nite Pizza. (I must have skied Alta that day.)
This whole-wheat pizza dough with its nutty whole-grain flavor is still the one I make. My notebook recipe included a simple homemade tomato sauce, but I confess–nowadays I use a store-bought tomato sauce. And my taste in toppings is fancier than 20 years ago–I often use basil pesto, feta cheese, and imported olives. Any of my suggested toppings are optional. You can skip the tomato sauce or skip the pesto–I often use one or the other. If you use neither, brush the dough with olive oil before arranging the other toppings. You can add sliced (or diced) fresh tomatoes, especially if they are warm off the vine. Try cubed eggplant sautéed in olive oil–yummy. Or a pizza with Southwestern flavors– mild enchilada sauce, diced green chilies, Monterey Jack cheese and chopped cilantro. A word of caution–use restraint with the toppings–the dough has a hard time cooking and holding it’s shape when it’s overloaded.
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant dry yeast
1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons warm water (105° to 115°)
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoons sea salt
Cornmeal, about 3 tablespoons for the wooden peel
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and honey, stirring to dissolve; let stand about 5 minutes. Add the olive oil, flour and salt. Use a wooden spoon and stir to blend, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand about 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl at least twice the volume of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Tomato sauce, homemade or purchased, about 1/2 cup per pizza
Pesto, homemade or purchased, about 1/4 cup per pizza
Cheese–mozzarella or feta or both, maybe 4 ounces per pizza, and Parmesan, a few tablespoons for the final sprinkle
Mushrooms, maybe 1/2 pound raw per pizza, sliced and sautéed in olive oil,
Olives, pitted kalamata or Nicoise, 1/4 cup per pizza
Onions, thinly sliced red or yellow, raw or lightly sautéed
Gimme Lean Sausage Style, maybe 1/4 pound per pizza, crumbled and cooked. That’s right–fake sausage and good enough to fool a meat eater.
To shape, top and bake:
I like to bake my pizzas on a pizza stone, which imitates a brick oven and makes the crust crispier. The stone–an unglazed clay tile–goes in the oven 30 minutes before the pizza so it’s very hot and retains heat when the oven door is opened. Preheat the oven and the pizza stone to 500°F. Gently fold the dough over and divide into 2 portions. Form each into a flattened round. On a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin, roll one portion into a large round, about 12 inches. Place it on a wooden peel that has been sprinkled generously with cornmeal. Spread with tomato sauce and/ or pesto. Lightly top with some of the cheese and scatter other toppings evenly. Finish with more cheese and finally with Parmesan.
Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the bottom is brown and the cheese looks nicely melted. Use the wooden peel to transfer the pizza from the oven to a serving plate. Then sprinkle more cornmeal on the peel and make the second pizza.
To serve, use a pizza wheel (or I use scissors) and cut into portions.
This recipe makes two (12-inch) rounds.