Wholesome Pizza with Whole Wheat and Flax Seed Crust

December 28, 2011 § 4 Comments

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Everyone needs a basic from-scratch pizza recipe. This basic recipe can be adapted and re-invented in hundreds of ways. The basic formula for the crust, as told to me by my father 15 years ago: 2 parts flour + 1 part water + proofed yeast; mix with fork and let rise for an hour, mash into pan, top to your heart’s delight, bake until golden brown. Try this with any type of flour and a packet of yeast and you will have delicious pizza. If you’re eager to get to the recipe you can scroll to the bottom of this post.

My love affair with pizza began at birth, living in a household of cooks but also growing up in a resort town with at least 3 major pizza-slingers “downtown.” While living in New York my pizza palette became even more refined. Now in the Bay Area with authentic pizza being scarce, I have really honed my homegrown recipe to suit my own taste, as well as my 2 year-old daughters. (note: Rocco’s has the best beach pizza, Portland Pie is the best in Maine, in NYC it has to be Famous Ray’s on 6th Ave and 11th (John’s on Bleecker is OK if you’re into thin and crispy), and here in the Bay Area, Patxi’s Chicago Style takes the cake pie.

It is imperative for our family meals to be nutritious, and our lifestyle to be mindful of resources, so I’ll mention here that in most cases I buy only organic ingredients (99% of this pizza is organic, the yeast is not) and I mostly buy food in bulk. Since I don’t have a real pizza oven at home (oh, wouldn’t a wood-fired pizza oven be divine?) I have to rely on my ingredients for texture. For the base of this hearty pizza, I use (left to right) stone-ground whole wheat flour, unbleached bread flour, and ground golden flax seed. Remember, you can use any flour you want.20111230-204736.jpg20111230-204754.jpg

There is no fancy equipment required to make pizza. I proof my yeast right in the glass liquid measuring cup. I use a small spatula to stir a couple dollops of honey (probably 2T or so) into warm tap water, then stir in the yeast and let sit for 5 minutes or as long as it takes me to whisk my dry ingredients in a large pyrex bowl. When the yeast mixture is nice and frothy, I dump it into the dry ingredients, pour in some EV olive oil, then mix with a fork. If the dough is sticky (like in the top right photo here) I add more flour, about a tablespoon at a time, until it is no longer sticky and I can knead in the bowl for about a minute and form a ball. Many people transfer to a clean bowl to coat the ball with olive oil but I don’t, I do it right in the bowl and throw a clean cloth napkin over the top of the bowl (not touching the dough) and let it rise in a warm place.20111230-204818.jpg20111230-204832.jpg

My dad says pizza pans need to be seasoned, like a cast iron skillet. After years and years of agonizingly scrubbing to get the black bits out, I realized, he’s (mostly) right. Pizza will stick to a “like new” clean pan. I wash my pans, but I don’t scour them. Below (bottom) is the $2 cookie sheet I used for pizza for years – this is still my backup/overflow pizza pan. My favorite pizza pan is the standard round you see here – it is dark and well-loved, and probably 15″ or 16″. But you can use any pan you have.20111230-204844.jpg

When the dough is ready, you transfer it straight on to your greased pan – no need for punching, table-kneading, or second rise here! I use both hands to spread the dough evenly to the edges of the pan, and make a slight lip for the edge-crust. 20111230-204910.jpg

Pizzas are like snowflakes: no two are alike. Depending on your ingredients, the ratio, the temperature in your kitchen, humidity, how long your oven has been hot, the toppings you choose, the brand of cheese, the mineral content of the local tap water… I have probably made 500 pizzas in my life so far (no exaggeration) and I’d say there are plenty that are similar, but no duplication. That is what is so fun about pizza! This basic cheese pizza I made for my daughter and I cooked up in just 16 minutes.20111230-204956.jpg20111230-205007.jpg20111230-205036.jpg

RECIPE:
Wholesome Pizza with Whole Wheat and Flax Seed Crust

3/4 c warm water
1 T honey or sugar
2 t plus 1/4 t yeast, or 1 packet

3/4 c unbleached bread flour
3/4 c stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/4 c ground flax seeds
roughly 1/2 t sea salt (more/less to taste)
pinch garlic powder (optional)
2 T extra virgin olive oil

extra virgin olive oil
vegetable shortening

1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
6-8 oz shredded cheese, I use a blend (mozzarella, parmesan, romano, asiago, provolone)
4 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped, or 1/2 t dried basic or oregano
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

In glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine warm water and honey or sugar. Add yeast and stir. Let mixture proof while preparing dry ingredients, or for at least 5 minutes. Add more honey or sugar if you want a faster rise on your dough.

In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Pour yeast mixture into dry ingredients, and add 2 T olive oil (or pour f/ bottle counting to 3, not exact science here). Mix with fork until ball forms, adding flour by small handfull until dough is not sticky (I also scrape sides of the bowl w/ a rubber spatula). Use hands to knead well. Pour a little olive oil on dough ball and roll around to lightly coat dough. Cover bowl loosely with cloth napkin, towel, or plastic wrap and let set in warm area for an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 – 450 degrees (depends on your oven). My oven browns the pizza best at 435 degrees.

Coat pizza pan/cookie sheet with vegetable shortening. You can get organic, non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening at most health-food stores, or you can use Crisco. If you prefer, you can use olive oil but I have burned and stuck many a crust with oil… Dad’s rule is shortening and really, for this recipe, it does work best.

When the dough has doubled in size you can just dump it onto your pan and use clean, dry hands to spread into shape. Spread tomatoes evenly. Sprinkle basil or oregano over tomatoes, and red pepper flakes if you like them. Top with cheese as you desire, more or less than I suggest is fine.

Bake in middle of oven for 18 mins or so. I usually start it at 15 and keep checking after that. Pizza is done when it smells delicious and looks right to you – my family likes light brown edges and some bubbly browning on the cheese.

Another one of Dad’s golden pizza rules: let the pizza rest in the pan for at least five minutes before manhandling it. When you’re ready to cut, the pizza should slide very easily onto a large cutting board (use a spatula for assistance).

Cut into 8 slices. Serves up to 5 (but usually serves 4).

I hope your family enjoys this simple, hearty pizza as much as mine does. Do you have a favorite pizza recipe? Favorite toppings? Have you tried this recipe? Please leave a comment and share.

Happy nibbling,
Sarah

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