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December 21, 2010

Homemade Pizza, Down to the Crust

My dad was told by his doctor recently that he has to lose weight in order to become a candidate for necessary back surgery, so we're trying to find a balance this season between celebratory foods and healthy eating. I sent him a cookbook last month, and we used it this week to make some avant garde pizzas. It was one I came across at the Culinary Historians of Southern California's annual cookbook sale in the summer, published in 1993.


This was the first time I'd ever made pizza dough from scratch. I doubled the dough recipe so I could leave some in my folks' freezer for next month, when all the visitors have left. I made the dough one evening and the pizzas the next, since I knew there would be a lot of vegetable prep.


We chose one savory pie and one sweet for our first experiment. The savory was an eggplant and olive with tarragon and Jarlsburg pie on whole wheat crust. While I used the cookbook as inspiration and a guide, I was a little too impatient to measure out as I should, so I'm sure my pies weren't as "skinny" as promised.

Still, I'm introducing my dad to more and more whole wheat products, and getting my family to eat more vegetables and less meat. This recipe called for low-fat Alpine Lace cheese, and the closest swiss I could find in the shredded section was a Jarlsburg. I only put olives on half, because I can't stand them. And I dusted the pizza stone liberally with cornmeal for an extra crunchy-textured crust. I used a jarred pasta sauce--Classico's Sundried Tomato Alfredo--on both pies to save a little time and add moisture, though if I wanted to make a "skinny" pie I guess I didn't need any sauce at all since it wasn't called for in the recipe.

I have an eggplant dip that is part of my party/entertaining repertoire, but it's basically a roasted eggplant that is then pureed--there's very little prep to it. So I have minimal experience in working with eggplant generally. That was how I stretched my skills most with this recipe.

(before baking)

(after)

The sweet pie was half inspired by the cookbook and half from one I have often at California Pizza Kitchen, a pear and blue cheese pie with walnuts and Parmesean on whole wheat crust.

Besides adding the tomato/alfredo sauce to this, I added a cup and a half of Parmesean cheese. I wanted something different than the swiss on the savory pie, and I thought a dry aged cheese would pair well with the fruit. I didn't read the recipe once I'd gone shopping, and I forgot about the cinnamon or sauteing the pears. I did drench them in lemon juice after slicing so they wouldn't brown up while waiting as we ate the savory pie first. This made a perfect dessert pie.

(before baking)

(after)

What's your favorite pizza combo? Please leave a comment on the blog.

Whole-Wheat Pizza Crust

From "Skinny Pizzas" by Barbara Grunes
24 servings
makes 2 12-inch round crusts
or 2 9-inch x 12-inch rectangular crusts
or 12 6-inch to 7-inch round crusts

1/2 teaspoon honey
1 cup (scant) warm water (110 degrees F or warm to the touch)
1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil

Proof yeast by stirring honey into warm water in measuring cup or small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water and stir until yeast dissolves. Let mixture stand in draft-free area about five minutes or until yeast begins to bubble.

Meanwhile, mix flour with salt and oil in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, or in an electric mixer with a dough hook. (To mix dough by hand, use a bowl and a wooden spoon.)

Pour in yeast mixture and process until a soft, almost sticky dough is formed, about 5 to 10 seconds. If using an electric mixer, mix three minutes or until smooth dough is formed. If mixing dough by hand, mix ingredients until a smooth, slightly sticky dough is formed, about three to five minutes.

Knead dough by hand on a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth until smooth. If dough is too sticky, add flour by the tablespoon until it reaches the desired consistency. Put dough in a bowl and cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap and aluminum foil or a kitchen towel.

Let dough rise until it doubles in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour. Punch dough down and let stand five minutes. Knead for a few minutes more on a lightly floured board or pastry cloth. Dough is now ready to use.

Note: You can add various flavors to the crust to give it an extra special flavor. For example, you can add two tablespoons of honey mustard, lemon rind, curry powder, pesto sauce, and/or dried rosemary.

Eggplant, Black Olive, & Cheese Pizza

12 servings

1 large, well-formed eggplant (about 1 1/2 lbs.), trimmed, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds, unpeeled
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 Basic Pizza Crust (12-inch)
2 tablespoons celery seeds
canola oil or non-stick cooking spray
1/4 cup black olives, sliced, drained
1 cup low-cholesterol Alpine Lace cheese, shredded
3/4 teaspoon tarragon
1/4 teaspoons each: salt, ground black pepper

Sprinkle eggplant slices with salt to remove moisture. Let stand 20 minutes on paper towels. Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry with paper towels.

Heat olive oil and garlic in large fring pan over medium heat. Saute eggplant, covered, gently about 2 minutes on each side. Eggplant will be cooked when golden brown and soft.

Prepare dough according to recipe; when kneading, mix in celery seeds. Use a rolling pin or knead dough by hand on lightly floured board. Shape dough into 12-inch pizza pan that has been lightly oiled or sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Arrange eggplant pieces with garlic decoratively on pizza crust. Sprinkle on black olives, cheese, and seasonings.

Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Pear & Blue Cheese Pizza

12 Servings
(6 individual pizzas)

1 Whole-wheat Pizza Crust
Canola oil or non-stick cooking spray
1 tablespoon margarine
4 large, ripe but firm pears, cored, sliced thin
3 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

Shape and stretch dough by hand or with rolling pin on lightly floured pastry board. Divide into 6 individual pizzas, 6 or 7 inches each.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray frying pan and melt margarine. Toss pear slices with lime juice and cinnamon. Saute pear slices only one minute.

Arrange pear slices on pizza. Sprinkle with blue cheese.

Bake about 10 to 15 minutes or until pizza crusts turn light golden brown. Remove pizzas from oven and cut each in half. Serve hot.

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