The Other Pie Crust

The Other Pie Crust
Toppings aren’t the only versatile part of the pizza.

By JUDY ZEIDLER, Special to The Times

Pizza is described in one dictionary as a “baked, open-faced pie consisting of a thin layer of dough topped with tomato sauce and cheese.” In which century was that written? Somebody has to tell them about Thai barbecue chicken. By now everyone knows that pizza is infinitely flexible, adapting to almost any topping you’re wacky enough to put on it. But what you may not realize is that pizza dough is equally adaptable. You can use a basic pizza dough to make calzone, focaccia and even really incredible bread sticks.

What’s more, the simple yeast dough can be put together in as little as 10 minutes. Then it takes only an hour to rise before it’s ready to be used. Once it is finished, you will be amazed at all the delicious things you can make with it.

Try a Provencal pissaladiere-a kind of Southern French pizza made by combining sweet long-cooked onions and pungent anchovies. This is a wonderful antipasto to begin dinner.

Or make calzone, a cheese-filled turnover. Roll the dough out exactly as you would for pizza, place the cheese filling on one side, fold the dough over the filling and bake.

In Italy, focaccia is sometimes made from the same pizza dough, depending on the locale. I have included several versions of focaccia for you to try. In the seaside town of Forte di Marme, cooks make a version of focaccia that is baked in a wood-burning oven at an extremely hot temperature until the dough blows up like a balloon. Olive oil and salt are generously sprinkled on top and it is served piping hot. When the dough is pierced with a fork, this versatile focaccia turns into a flat cracker bread.

Another version of focaccia was introduced to us by friends Wolf and Bettina Rogosky, who live in Tuscany. They layer thin slices of tomatoes and onions in a pattern and sprinkle fresh rosemary over the focaccia before baking.

But one of the very best things to do with pizza dough is make grissini, crisp thin breadsticks. Just roll and cut the pizza dough very thin-a pasta machine and fettuccine cutter work perfectly-and coat the dough sticks in seeds or herbs to add crunch and a subtle toasted flavor. The baked bread sticks can be stored in plastic bags in the freezer and, when heated in the oven, they will taste as fresh as the day they were made.

Once they’re baked, fill several large water glasses with the bread sticks and place them on table for an edible decoration.

Pizza Margherita
Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 40 minutes plus preparation time for dough.
Save the leftover Marinara Sauce for another use.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with liquid
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, onions, bell pepper, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, the red wine, oregano, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring the sauce to a boil, cover and simmer until it’s thick, about 30 minutes. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer it to a bowl to cool, cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside. Makes 3 cups.

Basic Pizza Dough
2 cups Marinara Sauce
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Divide the dough into 2 equal balls. Roll 1 ball out on a floured board into a thin circle, about 12 to 14 inches in diameter. Dust a round pizza baking pan or baking sheet with cornmeal and slip the rolled dough onto the prepared pan. Spoon 1 cup of sauce in a thin coating on the pizza, spreading it with the back of a spoon to within 1 inch of the edge. Sprinkle the pizza generously with half the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of oil over the top. Repeat with the second ball and ingredients to make a second pizza.

Bake the pizzas in batches on the lowest rack of the oven until the crust is crisp and brown and the cheese is hot and bubbling, 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
2 pizzas, 4 servings each. Each of 8 servings: 506 calories; 723 mg sodium; 27 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 16 grams protein; 5.26 grams fiber.

Basic Pizza Dough
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour rising
This makes enough dough for 2 pizzas.
2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees), divided
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of the water and set aside until foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup warm water, the olive oil and yeast mixture. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, and salt mixing until the dough begins to come together in a ball. Spoon the dough onto a floured board and knead it until it’s smooth, elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. It is then ready to use.

Onion-Anchovy Pizza (Pissaladiere)
Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus preparation time for dough
Often we serve this delicious onion filling on mini pizza rounds as an appetizer.
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 large onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground pepper
Basic Pizza Dough
2 (2-ounce) cans anchovy filets, drained
24 pearl onions, boiled and peeled, for garnish

* * *

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion slices and garlic. Season them to taste with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook the onions on low heat until they’re pale golden, about 30 minutes. Stir them occasionally to avoid sticking. Do not allow the onions to brown.

* * *

While the onions are cooking, prepare the Basic Pizza Dough, divide it into fourths and roll the fourths out into 12-inch rounds. Set the rounds on baking sheets; you’ll need 4.

* * *

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Divide the onion mixture among the pizza rounds, spreading it evenly. Garnish each pizza with the anchovies and pearl onions in a circular pattern. Sprinkle them with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Bake the pizzas in batches until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

* * *

4 pizzas, 6 pieces each. Each of 12 servings: 298 calories; 573 mg sodium; 8 mg cholesterol; 12 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 40 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 3.65 grams fiber.

Bread Sticks (Grissini)
Active Work Time: 45 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 30 minutes plus preparation time for dough
Basic Pizza Dough
Olive oil
Nonstick cooking spray
2 egg whites
Coarse salt
Sesame seeds, caraway seeds or poppy seeds

* * *

Knead the dough on a well-floured board for 5 minutes and place it in an oiled bowl; oil the top of the dough. Cover it with a towel and let the dough rise for 15 minutes. Punch it down and let it rise for 15 minutes more; it will puff up slightly.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

For pasta-machine bread sticks: Spray 4 baking sheets with cooking spray. Pinch off a ball of dough 2 inches in diameter and flatten it with the palm of your hand to 1/2 inch thick. Lightly dust it with flour. Set the pasta machine rollers as far apart as possible. Guide the dough between the rollers and roll it through. Do this 3 times for each dough ball; place each on the baking sheets. Repeat with all dough. Change the pasta machine attachment to the fettuccine pasta maker. Push each piece of dough slowly through the cutter and catch it underneath. Place the dough on a baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been run through the machine. The pieces will be 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide and 10 to 15 inches long. It’s important to separate strands so that they’re not touching.

* * *

Lightly beat the egg whites and brush them over the bread sticks. Sprinkle them with coarse salt and seeds to taste. Bake them until they’re golden brown and crisp, 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer the bread sticks to racks to cool.

* * *

About 150 bread sticks. Each bread stick: 45 calories; 58 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 0 saturated fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.27 gram fiber.

Variation: For hand-rolled bread sticks: Divide the dough into fourths and roll out each piece on a floured board into a rectangle 1/3 inch thick. Cut each rectangle into 2-inch squares; roll each square with your palms into pencil-thin sticks about 10 to 12 inches long. Carefully transfer each stick to a foil-lined 15×10-inch greased baking sheet or jellyroll pan, placing the strips 1/2 inch apart. Keep the strips straight and pinch the ends down so they stick to the foil. Repeat until all the dough is used. Brush with egg whites and sprinkle with salt. Bake the bread sticks at 350 degrees until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.

Focaccia (Italian Balloon Bread)
Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 45 minutes plus preparation time for dough

This dough puffs up best-like a balloon-when baked on a pizza stone.It will puff up only slightly when baked on a baking sheet.

* * *

Basic Pizza Dough
Olive oil
Coarse salt
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a pizza stone or greased baking sheet on the lowest rack of the oven.

* * *

Tear off pieces of dough the size of plums. Place them on a floured board and press them into flat circles with your palms. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece of dough into an 8-inch circle about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

* * *

Place the dough round on the stone or baking sheet and bake until it puffs and is well browned, about 8 minutes. (Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.) Do not open the oven door during the first 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the breads from the oven, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately.

* * *

10 servings. Each serving: 213 calories; 267 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.30 grams fiber.

Variation: To make Rosemary Focaccia (cracker bread), knead 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary into pizza dough, and follow directions for focaccia but use tines of a fork to pierce dough all over right before baking. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, then brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Makes 10 pieces.

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour plus preparation time for dough
Cornmeal, for baking sheet
Basic Pizza Dough
2 cups mozzarella, cut into thin strips
1/2 pound fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh oregano or basil
Freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1 egg
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal.

* * *

Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Working with 1 ball at a time, roll the dough out on a floured board into a thin circle, about 10 to 12 inches in diameter. Place the mozzarella, goat and Parmesan cheeses on one half of each round, sprinkle the cheese with the oregano or basil and the pepper, and drizzle a few drops of olive oil over it. Fold the other half of the circle over the filling to make a half moon and press the edges of the dough firmly together with the tines of a fork. Repeat with the remaining dough and ingredients to make 4 calzones.
Place each calzone on the baking sheet; you may need to bake in 2 batches. Lightly beat the egg and brush it over each calzone; this will give the crust some shine when baked. Bake them until they’re golden brown and the filling is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

* * *

4 calzone. Each calzone: 1,028 calories; 1,574 mg sodium; 160 mg cholesterol; 54 grams fat; 26 grams saturated fat; 88 grams carbohydrates; 47 grams protein; 3.27 grams fiber.

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