Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Faster than a Speeding Delivery Man

Tonight while the boys were winding down for bed, I took a few minutes and prepped what has become for us an at-home fast food option: pre-baked sourdough pizza shells. This isn't anything new; these are basically homemade Boboli crusts sans the preservatives, packaging, and price. When I get home from work, I grab one or two from the freezer, top them with pizza sauce and grated cheese for the boys and anything Phil and I are in the mood for -- goat cheese, spinach, prosciutto, whatever -- and pop them in the oven for about 15 minutes.

One of my friends freezes unbaked pizza dough that she just rolls out when she's ready to use it, but I love that these are pre-baked. The pre-baking eliminates both rolling out the dough and a bit of baking time. For those of you without kids underfoot, this relatively little timesaving might seem insignificant, but it's not. When making dinner with two hungry boys just in from daycare, every extra kitchen task is an opportunity for distraction when kissing boo-boos, righting sibling wrongs, or explaining why you can't go find the red Power Ranger right now. These pizzas are in the oven, literally, in about 90 seconds, and unless a head is split open or an arm broken in four places, a kid can wait 90 seconds for my attention.

Here's how to do it.

Sourdough Pizza Shells

2 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup warm water -- 110 degrees, or just slightly warmer than a warm bath
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup sourdough starter
1 tsp. sea salt -- or regular salt
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 cups, plus maybe a little more, white flour

Stir together the yeast, sugar, and water, and then let this sit for 10 minutes to get the yeast proofed and bubbly. Add in the olive oil, sourdough starter, sea salt, whole-wheat flour, and 1/2 cup white flour. Combine this well; now add the other cup of white flour, 1/2 cup at a time. If the dough is still sticky, add a bit more flour until it feels elastic and like Play-Doh.

Put a tiny bit of olive oil in a clean bowl, rub it around the bowl, and plop the wad of dough in. Flip the dough over so that it's covered on both sides with the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled.

Punch down the dough, and then cut it into four basically equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle. Don't worry whether you're making perfect circles; lopsided pizzas look rustic and pretty.

Bake these pizza shells for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. They should be solid but not browned. Cool the shells and wrap in plastic wrap; if you won't be using them in the next day or two, store them in the freezer.

When you're ready to use them, pull what you need directly from the freezer, top as you'd like, and back at 425 degrees for about 15 to 17 minutes, or until the cheese is nicely browned.

If you're not into whole-wheat flour, just substitute in all white flour for the mixture of whole-wheat and white. Once the pizzas are in the oven, be horrified to hear your mom's voice from 35 years ago coming from your mouth, stating, "I don't know where the red Power Ranger is; it's wherever you left it." Then go comb the house for the red Power Ranger.

This morning before work I finished Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, which is about her adventures as the restaurant critic for the New York Times -- including the costumes and personas she would assume to experience restaurants as they truly are, not as they are when the NY Times food critic is in attendence. All three of her memoirs (the other two being Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples) are so delightful. Despite poisoning T with one of the recipes in the book, I absolutely loved this book. Few people can write about food like Ruth Reichl. The second I finished it, I subscribed online to Gourmet, the magazine she edits -- a magazine I later wondered if perhaps it might be a bit beyond my abilities. Stay tuned...

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Anonymous Julia K. said...

Love this idea!

8:30 PM  
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8:34 PM  
Blogger Mie Helal said...

I absolutely loved every bit of it

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