Every Student Should Know How to…make pizza!

Just in case it hasn’t been totally clear, I like to keep things under control. Yes, I have 24 different colour pens to work with. Yes, I have a filing system for all my school work, past and present. Yes, I update my agenda ~3 times a day. I grind my coffee the night before, follow the weather network, get anxiety if I think I’m going to be late, and have a pretty good idea what I am going to be doing for the next few years.

Does this mean I am tidy? As all my family members and past/present co-inhabiters know, that is not the case. I have been a self-described disaster for most of my life. I try to set standards, usually too high, that I am going to just continually tidy throughout the day, and never have to do mass cleans. This usually dissolves 2-5 days after the resolution, and I go back to dedicating a several hour block of time on the weekend to laundry, folding, sweeping, dusting (allergies!), sorting, bathroom cleaning, collecting of tea cups, clearing of backpacks, and picking up my stacks of scrap paper and clothes. Cleaning-self sometimes thinks normal-self is purposefully living in the most irresponsible manner it can because of a young-rebellious streak. In reality that is not the case- I just don’t notice mess for the most part! I swear, it goes totally unnoticed for days at a time. I know that if I don’t wipe up the table after cooking nothing is going to happen to it- it will not magically disappear and I will just have to clear it up later. I know that if I throw all my scrap paper and other recycling under my desk, nobody is going to move it and I will probably get my feet stuck to it every few seconds, but I still do it. Last week I emptied the laundry bin of our clean laundry to start filling it with the rest of the dirty stuff…and it stayed on the ground, literally inches from the bed and covering most of the floor, for four days. Sebastien and I just quietly lived around it, until one evening I looked around and realized what a disaster it was. Apparently it also ended up being used as an alternative blanket…

When I notice the mess, look out. I notice every single mess. Usually Sunday mornings, the one time of the week I really relax with a cup of coffee and take some time to put my feet up and flip through cookbooks, I can suddenly see every speck of dust and item out of place. I then go into full-flurry mode and get everything clean. The windows sills dusted, the tub scrubbed, all the food removed from the shelves to scrub the shelves, the fridge cleaned out, leftovers frozen or purposed, floor swept, clothes folded. Everything out of place become my enemy, and it must be conquered.

From this all-to-often experience of sudden consciousness of mess comes a valuable lesson. And yes, it can be applied to food. Food waste is a big problem. Throwing away perfectly good food that could have been turned into energy and utilized for its nutrients hurts me. It makes me grumpy. It makes me feel as spoiled as the food I’m tossing. Not everyone has the luxury to dispose of food they actively went out and purchased. It is also, plain and simple, a waste of my money. Every time I buy an item for $11, I think to myself “That took me an hour to earn at a summer job”. One hour of work went into purchasing this. Try thinking of your food that way, and it will go a long way to discouraging you from wasting it!

All it takes to avoid wasting food is to be conscious of what is in your fridge and cupboard. If you are stuck in a rut of throwing out food every week, you might want to take extra efforts and sit down every week after your grocery shop and write down everything you have that needs to be used up that week. Modify the list as you go, putting leftovers from meals on the list and a note of how long they will be good for (approximately). That way, before you even touch the handle, you know what is in there, available to you as an ingredient, and what needs to be used up or frozen soon. After a while, you will get used to monitoring your fridge and can save yourself the time of making a list.

One of the problems I find is that at the end of week, I have little odds and ends cluttering my fridge, but not enough to make individual meals. I also am short on “main meal” items, because it has been seven days since I entered a grocery store. This is the perfect trigger to pizza night for me! Half a green pepper, part of a red onion, a little bit of leftover meat…perfect pizza toppings. I always have flour, yeast, oil, and sugar so pizza is always close at hand! Making your own pizza is so simple, and SO much cheaper than buying frozen pizza. It is rare that I stand behind a uni student in the grocery line and don’t see a frozen pizza in their cart, and I just want to hand them a card with a dough recipe on it and put away that expensive trans-fat ridden pizza back in the freezer department.

Also, as you know, pizza topping can come from anywhere. Leftover curry? Use it instead of tomato sauce, and spoon the vegetables over top. Add some red onion and crumbled cheese. Leftover enchilada sauce? Make a tex-mex pizza, with corn, green peppers, leftover chicken, and green onions. Leftover baked potato? Chop up and put on with pesto, green onion, red onion, and bacon bits. Spoon leftover sour cream over. I also like to keep a little bit of pepperoni, Sebastien’s favourite, in the freezer, cut very thinly so it’s always a back up topping if the fridge truly is bare.

I have posted a pizza crust recipe here: http://easypi.blogspot.com/2010/09/placating-pizza.html
The other crust I posted is fantastically fast, but I’ve recently acquired a taste for a new crust because a) I never have semolina b) this one is whole wheat. It is a pretty standard recipe, and great to have in the repertoire. I got this from a friend who may have taken it from a cookbook, so hopefully I’m not copying anyone, but it does have a bit of my own touch in it! And that is… roasted garlic. You know those amazing little garlic knots that you sometimes get at italian restaurants? This pizza dough is like that, but there’s it has pizza toppings on it. Of course it’s totally optional, but if you have some garlic around, and you have a couple extra minutes to roast it, I would definitely recommend it! Be conscious that pizza dough needs 1 1/2 hours to rise, so mix up the dough when you get back from school/work and it’ll be just in time for dinner.

Roasted Garlic Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Again, the roasted garlic is totally optional, but of course a fantastic addition! This recipe makes four medium sized pizzas, but the dough freezes great so if there is less of you cut the dough into quarters, then freeze as many portions as you’d like. To defrost, take out of the fridge at least 3 hours before you plan on making pizza. I take it out in the morning when I know we’re having pizza!

1/4 c warm water
1 Tbsp active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 c warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
3 c whole wheat flour
1-2 c all purpose flour (you can use all whole wheat, the texture will be slightly chewier however)
2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt (if you have regular table salt, reduce to 1 1/2 tsp)
1/2 head garlic, roasted **, optional
2 tsp oregano, optional

1) Place the active yeast in the 1/4 c of warm water with the sugar. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Make sure your yeast is foaming- if it isn’t your yeast might be dead, which can happen if the water was too hot or your yeast was too old. Try again with a new batch if the first one does not foam. If it still doesn’t work, looks like you’ll have to buy new yeast.*

2) While the yeast is foaming, combine the flour(s), salt, and oregano (if using) in a large bowl. At first, only add 1 c of all purpose flour (or whole wheat if using all whole wheat), but keep some on hand to add if the dough feels too sticky.

3) Once the yeast is nice and foamy, add the rest of the water and the olive oil, stirring to combine.

4) Slowly pour the liquid mixture into the flour and use a fork to gently mix.

5) Once all the liquid has been added, gather the dough into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured (with all-purpose flour) counter. Knead the dough by pushing it away from you, then folding the furthest edge over. If you’ve never kneaded dough before, I’ve posted a youtube link at the bottom of the page ***. Keep 1 c of flour on hand, and sprinkle a bit on the dough if you find it is too sticky. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it is very smooth and elastic (from all the developed gluten you’ve been working on!). (Before and After photos below)

6) If you want to add the roasted garlic, I add it into the dough at the end of kneading. Simply mash the garlic into a paste with the back of a fork, then fold into the dough. Knead for an extra few minutes to really mix the garlic throughout. If it is “streaked” throughout the dough, that is okay too, it makes for great little garlic pockets!

7) Form the kneaded dough into a ball, and rub with some olive oil. Set in a bowl with a moist tea towel over it, in a warm place (I usually put it under a lamp that’s on). Let it rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

8) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

9) Split the risen pizza dough into four segments (or two for two large crust pizzas). On a lightly oiled surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin (or, if you don’t have one, a wine bottle). Flip the crust to roll out both sides several time. If the dough tears, simply push the two sides back together, flip it, and roll it out again. Don’t worry too much about getting a perfect circle.
10) Choose your toppings. You know what to do for this one. Make sure you remember to cover with cheese in the end. To get a crispier bottom, without a pizza stone, I place a cookie sheet upside down in a preheated oven. I let the cookie sheet get quite hot, then carefully slide my pizza onto it AFTER I’ve dressed it up with all the toppings. If this sounds like a scary feat, skip the preheating and put the pizza on the cookie sheet BEFORE putting the toppings on.

11) Bake until cheese is bubbling and the bottom of the pizza is firm and browned (take a peek by lifting an edge with a spatula). Should take about 20-30 minutes.

*Yeast Storage: Yeast is a unicellular little fellow, who needs to be alive in order to make your dough rise. Yeast should always be stored in the fridge, but if you are not using it on a regular basis, storing the yeast in the freezer is a trick to prolonging the life of your yeast.
**Roasted Garlic: This is a very easy way to tame the flavour of garlic, and a nice technique to learn. Soon you’ll be throwing roasted garlic in every imaginable sauce and spreading it on toast if you aren’t already! First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Take a whole head of garlic and pull all the outer layers or skin off, just using your hands, so you simply have the very inner layers of skin on the cloves (don’t worry if you miss a bit). Now, cut off the very top of the head of garlic, just a half-inch or so, exposing the individual cloves (this will make it easy to remove). Get a generous sized piece of tin foil and put the head on top. Drizzle it with a touch of olive oil, and wrap up the whole situation. Throw it in the oven for 30-35 minutes, testing by pressing the cloves and making sure they are soft.
*** Dough Kneading: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9KX4KFBj5w&feature=related


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