Monday, November 29, 2010

Pizza at home! Conquering the 'yeastophobia'!

Does anyone remember (or have you been a part ) of the time when 'Pizza' was a very rare (if at all) treat? It was, when I was in my tweens.  We rarely ate pizza and never made at home, that is if you do not count buying Monginis base.
I would look at the small  ready to eat pizzas at the bakery and wonder why a sandwich, a round one at that, was left open and would *anyone* - *ever* want to buy something that looked so cold and (pardon me for saying this) ugly.
I don't remember the first time I ate pizza, but I do remember that I loved it! And then I was addicted, I could have eaten pizza everyday for every meal.
Pizza at home was a big affair, believe me, when I say this, not because of the effort involved- which was minimal, but because we were 'making pizza at home' the very idea and  a snack so 'foreign' in our totally Indian kitchen with it's usual, pohe, upma, idli-dosa and the likes.
We did not, for many years, have an oven ( does anyone remember these?) at home and  baking was out of the question, it was best left to Monginis and the like.
So, when we did make pizza, we hopped out to the nearest  Monginis or the grocery store and bought ready made pizza base the sauce and the cheese ( sometimes just cheese cubes, we did not really bother about mozzarella or cheddar or any type, indeed , I hardly knew about the different types! ) and used the good old 'tawa' to make and bake the pizza.
I used to help my Mother with the prep work and assembly and watch keenly, every nerve tingling in anticipation of the feast. I would gingerly lift the pizza  corner with a wooden spatula to check how evenly brown the base was getting and  wonder at the melting cheese. So different from what it is today, where one can walk into a pizza parlor and buy an entire pie or slice and not think twice or wonder and anticipate and enjoy every bite .
But over the years, I have grown weary of store bought pizza and have always wanted to re-create the magic at home, to once again feel the thrill I used to as a child. I wondered if I was capable of such enthusiasm now.
 For all those who have lately started reading this blog, I want to admit, I was afraid, *very* afraid of yeast and making breads. In my opinion, there was nothing as daunting as baking breads, for all the simple list of ingredients, I shied away from making pizza base at home, I would willingly walk a mile in tight shoes, but not bake. Yes, that about sums up my phobia! 
Then one day, the blogger in me reared  her head and demanded that I drop my cowardly attitude and swap it for the yeast packet and APF (all purpose flour) and use them up. What, if at worst can happen? a disaster, pshaw! so what, there is a large trash bin, dump it and move on....  Made sense. 
I popped in at the library and after a lot of pondering ( and finally using the 'in-pin-safety-pin' method) settled for this book on 'How To Bake'.
Leafing through the book I realized, I had picked the best book, for a person like me, who had limited knowledge and a lot of fear to deal with. The book outlines simple steps for making basic pizza dough and clear instructions. 
I bookmarked this dough and basic White Bread ( recipe to follow) as my favorites.
The Pizza base was *awesome*! It worked, I watched the flour yield to the kneading, I watched it rise, reducing my nails to shreds and listening to a drumming in my ear (which in a calmer moment I  realized was my heart) . I put it in the oven and watched it bake, yes, I did, I placed a small step stool in front of the oven and parked myself in front watching like a hawk. And boy! was I rewarded!  I sliced it up and gave M the first slice.... the  drumming was louder now, as he took his first bite and then the next and the next and gave me the thumbs up sign! I DID IT!  I MADE PIZZA AT HOME! I felt a rush of the thrill I had felt long ago. I was happy and this was a feast.

Here's how I made the Home Style  Pizza Dough: (Makes 1 - 101/2 x 15 1/2 inch Pizza)

2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour ( APF)
1tsp. Salt
1 Cup Warm tap Water
21/2 tsp. or 1 envelope Active Dry Yeast
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Stir the flour and salt in a 2 quart mixing bowl to combine and make a well in the center

Measure the water and pour onto a small bowl, whisk in the  yeast and 2 T Olive Oil

Pour the liquid mixture into the well  in the flour and stir with a rubber spatula, until a soft sticky dough forms
Beat the dough for a minute until it looks  smoother, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap  and allow the dough to rise doubled in bulk (about 1 hour)

Grease the jelly-roll pan  with the remaining  Tbsp. of Oil. Without stirring or folding the dough, use the rubber spatula to scrape it from the bowl into the oiled pan. Oil your hands and press, pull and pat the dough into the pan. If it resists, let it rest for 5 mins. and then continue. Let the dough  rise for 30 mins or until it puffs slightly

Prepare topping of choice ( I used a ready made sauce from Trader Joe's, red and green bell pepper and red onions and mozzarella cheese)

Set rack at the lowest and highest level of the oven and preheat at 450 F

Bake the pizza  on the bottom rack for 25-30 minutes 

(After about 10 minutes, lift the end with a spatula and check that the bottom is not burning, if it is  coloring too quickly, slide a pan under the first one.)

Remove the pizza, slice and enjoy! 

* Notes: 
I used a fork to poke small holes ( do not stab at the dough)  in the pizza dough, this is not a part of the chef's recipe, it is my own
I baked the pizza on a pizza stone. I ensured that the stone was heated through and this takes a great deal longer than the normal pre- heating, I'd say about 25 minutes or more. The end result is a crisp and amazing base! 
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  1. Reading this, what I felt is you do not need to be great cook to cook great,
    The all you need is the "Love, Will and Efforts" to make it happen.

    I am looking forward to Saturday to try my hands!!!!

    The blog is 5 Thumbs up!!!!

  2. Luks very tempting,love the toppings...

  3. Congrats Manasi ... You have not only overcome your fear but done a good job at it ... The pizza looks juz delicious ...
    I have yeast phobia too ... But your efforts are inspiring me

  4. You did good!
    May the obsession with yeasted baked goodies begin.

  5. The pizza turned out PERFECT..the yeast was no match for you after all :)
    Caution- once you get comfortable working with yeast, it is very very addictive :)

    US Masala

  6. gorgeous pizza. better than store-bought.

  7. Thank U Swapnil! I appreciate ur words. Hope u try and like the pizza.

    Thanks Premlatha!

    Thank U Kavita, please do try it if u have the time. I wwas SO thrilled when it turned out well:) and my friends also vouched for it and that is how it came to the blog.

    TC, thanks. U bet, I am now happier and confident, so let the next round begin :))

    Thanks Aipi, and yes it is addictive! I also bake bread, though noot very often, but my friends have tried and all of them have given me a 10/10 for it!

    Thank U Bee, I am glad I overcame my fear.

  8. I'm glad you conquered your yeastphobia. That pizza looks scrumptious.



  9. Lovely Pizza Manasi. I was on the same boat as well and coincidentally I baked my first pizza a few weeks ago !! Guess I share the same sentiments :-)

  10. lovely pizza.. perfect!i had done so many experiments with home made pizza, but urs look fabulous!

  11. Great post and the pizza looks yummy and kids surely would drool over it. Your efforts are certainly going to inspire others to start baking their own pizza base!

  12. yummm.......I miss the pizzas that I use to bake in my big fat oven while I was in US.

  13. great pizza !! yummy !!

    bisous from France!

  14. Hey Pizza looks yumm... for a long time I am searching for a good pizza dough recipe, yours look so fluffy and soft...will give it a try and thanks for leaving a comment on udipi sambhar, I am glad you remembered and made it from my blog and you both loved it too!


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