The Magic of Cooking

One of things I love most about cooking- and which, I’m pretty sure, makes me one of the biggest dorks around- is how you can take the simplest ingredients that are nothing on their own and create….dinner. I know, I know, that sounds stupid but think about your favorite meal, one that you order in your favorite restaurant.  That delicious dish, well, it was once just ingredients. This is never more true than when you’re making something with dough, at least that’s what I think.  There’s something so, well, magical about the way yeast doughs grow and change as you make them.  And a good homemade dough beats anything you can buy.  Most people think dough takes forever so that dough-y things must be really complicated.  But that’s not true.

Take pizza.  You could go the easy route and buy dough from the supermarket, you know, the kind that comes in a can?  And then some jarred tomato sauce and some pre-shreded cheese and voila!  pizza.  Or you could go the slightly harder route and buy the dough from your local pizzeria, make tomato sauce and shred your own cheese and voila, slightly better pizza.

Or you could make this.

I made pizzas the other night and when we were eating it, we had a whole conversation about how ingredients turn into dinner and how it’s like magic.  I think it’s an amazing thing that an hour before these beauties came out of the oven, they were just flour, yeast, cheese and a few other things, just hanging out on the counter.  Throw them together and you have a yummy dinner, one that’s far better than anything you could have delivered.  And almost as easy.

See?  Cooking really is magic.

Easy Magic Pizza (mostly Ina Garten’s recipe with some modifications)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups warm (100-110 degrees) water

2 packages of dry yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)

1 Tablespoon honey

3-4 cups of all purpose flour

olive oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

5 springs of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dried oregano

1 1/2 cups of grated cheese (I used a four cheese mix from Trader Joe’s)

1 cup ricotta cheese

any other toppings you might want- veggies, prosciutto, etc.

Directions

In a stand mixer with the dough hook combine 3 cups of the flour, yeast, salt, honey and water.  Mix and as it combines watch it to see if you need more flour.  You want a sort of smooth, soft dough- nothing shaggy or too sticky.  You may use the entire last cup of flour or only part of it.  Once the dough is the right consistency, let the mixer knead it for ten minutes.  You may want to sprinkle it with flour to keep it from sticking to the bowl.  (I didn’t (because I’m lazy) but you might want to…)

After ten minutes, knead the dough by hand on a floured surface for a minute or two.  You want it to be smooth and elastic (according to Ina).  Put the dough into a well-oiled bowl and turn it once so that it’s coated in oil.  Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  It will magically get bigger.  Really.

 

The magic of yeast!

Put about 1/2 a cup of olive oil, the garlic, the red pepper flakes and the oregano or thyme into a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat for about 10 minutes but don’t let the garlic burn.  Just let it all simmer together and sort of infuse the flavors into the oil. 

 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (make sure your oven is clean otherwise the fire department will show up and you’ll have to share your pizza with them).  Dump the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 equal parts.  Cover them with a kitchen towel and let them sit for about 10 minutes at room temperature. 

Stretch and pat the dough into 8 inch circles.  As you can see, I wasn’t worried about perfect circles.

You can see my handprints in this one- I sort of pat it into shape.

 

Place each circle on a parchment covered sheet pan.  If you want to get really fancy, sprinkle some cornmeal on the parchment first.  Brush some of the oil on each dough round.  Put a few spoonfuls of ricotta on the dough.

Spread the ricotta out but don’t forget to leave an edge.

Top with cheese and whatever other toppings you fancy.*  I have a husband who enjoys meat on pizza and had some extra prosciutto to use up so on it went.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the crusts are crisp and brown.

Pull them out of the oven and marvel at the fact that a mere hour or so ago these beautiful pizzas were just…. ingredients.

*One of my favorites is caramelized onions which you have to cook before you can put them on the pizza.  SO. WORTH. IT.  Most veggies and meats are ok to just toss on and bake- experiment and get back to me on what worked for you.  I think if you’re going to use tomato, you should slice it thinly so that it’s not too watery on the pizza.

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