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You should make pizza!

Meet my friend, Sponge:

Sponge

Sponge sat on my counter overnight getting spongy, fermented and delicious, prior to getting kneaded into a ridiculous amount of flour, which then sat in my fridge for a while, before getting rolled out and turned into:

Pizza

I’m still amazed at how easy it is to make your own pizza dough. I seriously thought I messed this batch up because I’m pretty sure I kneaded way too much flour into it. Despite too much flour, not enough oil, and getting impatient during the last rise… It worked!

If you think pizza’s too hard, chillax and follow this recipe from Epicurious.

There may be faster ways to do pizza dough (this involves letting the sponge sit overnight, then letting the dough sit in the fridge for 6 hours, then letting the dough rise again at room temperature for another hour before assembling your pizza). The benefits of using this recipe despite this initial time factor, though, are that it’s apparently Elaine-proof; it’s tasty and has a good texture; there’s no added sugar; and it makes a crapload of dough, which can be frozen and brought out for quick and easy pizza making throughout the month. I separated the batch into four rounds of dough, three of which are wrapped snugly in plastic and tucked in the freezer. The remaining round I halved and rolled out to make two cute mini pizzas, probably 6-8 inches in diameter.

I’m sure there are healthier toppings we could have used, but for the first batch of pizza dough I’ve made since we lived in San Francisco, we went with the classics. Jarred pizza sauce, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and pepperoni.

I’m dying to do a pear, spinach and Gorgonzola version sometime soon, though!

I was surprised that making pizza gave me happy flashbacks to the single college semester I spent away from home, in Michigan. It was a really tough time for me, but I had some wonderful friends there. My roommate — who was sweet, talented and amazing — came from a big family that had a Friday pizza night tradition, and she was the sibling in charge of doing the dough. I remember her using leftover dough to make these adorable calzones, telling me about it with a huge grin on her face. She then told me that there’s a slight chance that canned olives will kill you (botulism), right after draining a can and adding olives to the dish. She was awesome.

Reminiscing aside, if you ever want to try a new recipe, check out Epicurious. The free iPhone app makes it incredibly easy to decide on something on the go and make sure you’re not forgetting anything at the store. My other favorite Epicurious recipe that I made recently was this awesome chicken salad, which tastes heavenly on toasted ciabatta bread (preferably from Truckee Sourdough Company).

I had so much fun with this overnight pizza dough, I’m tempted to look up sourdough recipes on Epicurious. I always thought that baking sourdough would be kind of like having a pet, what with babying your starter goo and all. (Feed me, Seymour! Feed me!)

I will grow up to eat you some day.

Do you bake your own breads?
Do you have a bread-baking tradition?

Update: Click here to read my follow-up on how to use the leftover frozen dough.

15 thoughts on “You should make pizza!

  1. I love making bread! I also like the long-rise breads. I’ll make a sponge first thing in the morning (yeast, dash of honey, 1/4 cup bread flour and 1 cup water), then let that sit while I take a shower and get dressed. Then I’ll make 2 cups of mixed grains — quinoa, teff, oatmeal is my current fave blend (1 cup grains, 2 cups water in a 4-cup bowl) and nuke it for about 2min or until it’s boiling and frothing. I let that cool while checking my email and doing the morning computer stuff. After about an hour, it’s cool enough to add to the sponge, so I do and then I’ll add 1 tbl salt, a healthy dash of olive oil, and more bread flour to make the whole thing pretty stiff like biscuit dough. Then I put the lid on and let it sit all day. I have a huge plastic bowl that I dedicate just for bread-making and I do all my kneading in the bowl — cuts down on counter mess.

    After 6-8 hours, I punch it down, add more flour — enough so that it isn’t sticking to my hands so much and I can shape it into loaves. Loaves go in loaf pans to rise double. When done, I’ll put them in a preheated oven at 350F and let them bake for about an hour or until they are pulling away from the sides of the pan and looking golden brown.

    I had a modest bread-baking business in college and my sourdough starter, Sam, was my trusty yeast friend who made all those loaves possible. I kept Sam right through my first marriage and divorce and grad school until I fell in love with a man who hates sourdough…and then Sam stayed in Baltimore while we moved to England.

    I learned how to make bread from a book called “Bake Your Own Bread” by Floss and Stan Dworkin. Now that we live in a house, my DH wants me to start making pizza again and gave me the book, “American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza” by Peter Reinhart for my birthday — which wasn’t great timing since I got my left hip replaced 4 days later… but when I can, I’ll start trying out pizza recipes.

    1. Wow Natasha! That sounds DELICIOUS!! And I love that you named your starter Sam. The Epicurious recipe on sourdough starters specifically recommends naming your starter, apparently the recipe writer named his Billo. 😉

      PS, Who can hate sourdough?! D:

      1. Bill hates anything that tastes slightly vinegary. Except kosher garlic dill pickles. So no mustard, vinagrettes, or sourdough. Sigh.

        The sourdough has a life of its own, esp. if you trap wild yeast (which I did)…I might try it again. Apparantly each geographical area has its own yeast with its own distinct flavor. Baltimore sourdough was pretty sour….

        1. I’m super curious to find out what a Reno sourdough would taste like! It never occurred to me that you could catch your local yeast until I read Omnivore’s Dilemma, where the author briefly talks about trying to do so for an uber-local dinner he was throwing for friends.

  2. I am a big fan of the lazy girl’s homemade pizza: Trader Joe’s has AWESOME pizza dough (I like the garlic and herb) that can be used when the inspiration strikes last minute and there’s no time for truly homemade.

    We also use pizza dough to make calzones that are basically the bomb diggity. Be careful to not overstuff!

    1. My bf is a fan of the Boboli make-your-own pizza kits. 😉 I’d rather try the Trader Joe’s kind — Boboli tastes kind of metallic to me for some reason. (Or maybe I’m imagining things?) I think Whole Foods lets you buy their pizza dough too, but I never thought about trying it!

  3. I started making my own breads products out of necessity a few years back (though knowing me I would have eventually done it anyway). I bake my standard sandwich bread nearly every weekend, and also regularly make pizza dough, tortillas, and occasionally things like english muffins, naan, pita, etc. when I need them.

    I’ve really, really wanted to do a sourdough starter since I first saw how on the Frugal Gourmet when I was like, 9.. but we just don’t quite eat enough bread for me to have actually buckled down and tried it. I do grow my own yogurt and kefir, though. Similar concept, different application. 😀

    1. I would love to have more food traditions, like baking the week’s bread at home. Especially after discovering how hard it is to find bread at the supermarket that doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup in it.

      And that is so cool about your yogurt and kefir! Cultivating edible colonies of fungi, etc., speaks to both my inner geek and inner botanist. 😉

      1. I love my little kefir colony. It’s having goldfish, only slightly more entertaining. <3

        ..and people don't frown upon eating them quite so much.

        1. I found a website (http://www.rejoiceinlife.com/kefir/kefirlistUSA.php) that lists folks who give away kefir grains (they kind of multiply) or sell them. I emailed a guy who lives in Encinitas (within my county) and I’m going to pick up a tbl sometime next week! Very exciting!

          My goldfish is telling me that she needs more food…

          Getting a kefir colony going sounds like it’s going to keep me entertained for a long time — adding the whey to kimchee and saurkraut, making fresh cream cheesecake, using the whey as a bread starter, making water kefir — a kind of natural soda, and lots of other stuff… it seems there are so many uses for this culture –can’t wait until I can drive again so I can pick up my colony and get started!

          1. Congratulations on your entry into the world of kefir cultivation! I have to admit I’m extremely jealous of relative ease of securing kefir grains back home. It took me a number of months and several failed online auctions here in Japan before I was able to get my own.

            Kefir is amazing stuff. It’s so refreshing to drink, does wonders for digestive health, and has helped ease the severity of my boyfriend’s allergies. It can take a while for the grains to adjust to their new home when you start them up, but once they adapt they do multiply quite a bit. I usually just eat my excess as it grows (I remove 5 grams whenever it hits 30 grams+ total weight and blend it in with my smoothies), since there’s not a whole lot of demand for them here.

            I recommend reading up on Dom’s Kefir in-site (google it) and other sources while you wait.

        2. Hi Maya, just found your blog! And I’ll look up Dom’s kefir in-site — I saw it listed, but was looking for free give-aways, so I didn’t actually look at it.

          I see you are in Japan — how cool is that! My college (earlham, richmond, IN) has a long tradition of student exchanges with Waseda and Japan Studies was one of the largest majors…but I focused on China b/c the language structure is easier and it had just opened up to exchange students when I was in college (1981-1985). Someday I will make it over to see Japan, but need funding first.

          Kefir looks really fun and since I love food history and kitchen chemistry, this is perfect!

          Thanks for the info and inspiration!

          1. Thanks for stopping by! I’m still getting set up, but hopefully I’ll get some interesting content up as I get used to it. 😀

            Sometimes I am envious of those who chose Chinese for not having to deal with, you know, grammar.. but I don’t think I’d trade my experiences here for anything. I hope you can make it over for a visit some day, I don’t know anyone who didn’t fall in love with Japan after visiting. 😀

          2. Maya, I was a high school exchange student in Tokyo. I totally fell in love with it too. 🙂 I still wish I had applied for JET or something after college.

            I love your guys’ Kefir conversation! I definitely want to experiment with that, now, too. Awesome!

  4. I’ve made my own yogurt before — it was super yummy. Of course, that was 18 years ago when weight was not an issue and I made it with half and half….but I’m thinking fortified milk (fat-free milk with added powder milk) might be good….and if you strain out the water, you have a cream-cheese-like yogurt that you can mix herbs or honey with to make a dip or spread.

    May start looking for cultures and recipes to see if I can do small quantites. It definitely speaks to my inner geek that always wants to know where things come from and how they grow….my DH isn’t much of a dairy person since he grew up in an Asian household….but don’t the Mongolians drink kefir or a kefir-like drink? If it’s something Genghis Khan would have had, I’m sure DH will try it…

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