The changing months remind me how blessed the second part of the year has been, particularly this year with some long weekends falling back to back over the past 3 weeks. We had Ganesh Chaturthi fall on 18th Sep, the Friday, followed by Bakrid on 24th, the Thursday last week. It came as an advantage when the leave on Thursday was called off and pushed to Friday. As an unplanned holiday, we decided to make the best of a long weekend break, stayed home, sewed some teeny-weeny clothes for the little girl's barbie, napped well in the noon and baked some delicious pizzas for our dinner.
For a long time now, making pizza at home has not just been a menu of convenience and break from the usual course, but very therapeutic when made from scratch. Its a joy to watch the yeast act it's way through the dough, rise and double it up. Intimidating it may sound. But there's hardly anyway one can go wrong with a pizza flatbread if the yeast has played its part well.
Making the dough and sauce from scratch indeed calls for some pre-planning and can end up being time consuming if you are time crunched, but this is what makes the most delicious pizza, with slices that are endearing and smell of freshly baked bread, topped with molten lava of cheese to boast.
So, I've made pizzas several times at home. Combinations vary. Toppings change. Each time they evolve. Yet, every time they sing of freshness and subtlety. The flavors burst and melt with each bite. At times they are made quick, simple and unpretentious, on other occasions they can be fancy with a varirty of vegetable toppings. I decide toppings on a whim, unplanned and unprepared. But they hardly matter. When you have good cheese to camouflage, you always have sumptuous and satisfying slices on your plate and lips that curve into a smile. Don't forget, a well made crust and good cheese is the key, and you have a winning recipe.
There are several recipes available for a good pizza dough, but this recipe always works like charm for me, especially when I prefer to use whole wheat flour. It may seem unusual to use milk based bread recipe in a pizza dough, but I prefer it for the soft, supple and airy results it provides to a dough base that holds the sauce, vegetables and cheese well, yet doesn't lose its texture. The whole wheat flavor adds a healthy twist with a nice nutty backdrop to whatever toppings you want to layer on.
One of the reason why I love keeping the crust on the thinner side is that the dough doesn't require time to rise after proofing nor requires par-cooking. As the dough rests and doubles, you prepare the sauce, cook, simmer, season it and let it cool. Then you roll out the dough and let it rest on the counter while you prepare the toppings. For a recipe like this three cheese tomato pizza, all you need a good dough base and a fresh tomato basil sauce with three variety of cheeses you can get your hands on. Remember, mozzarella is a must for that gooey-stringy mess. The others are much upto your choice. I suggest you get the best fresh mozzarella possible. I chose a combination of cheeses with high, medium and low melting points. Ricotta has a low melting point, and I paired it with cheddar and mozzarella with medium to high melting points. That helps avoid this pizza disintegrate into a cheesy mess.
Tomato Basil Pizza Sauce
8-10 pods of garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup tomato puree
1/4 cup tomato sauce (optional)
1/4 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tsp. dry oregano (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Paprika to taste
Saute finely chopped garlic in oil for 2 mins till they turn transparent. Add the tomato puree and stir well. Simmer and cook for atleast 15 minutes or till it reduces and leaves oil from the sides of the pan. Add in the tomato sauce and stir well. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add in the freshly torn basil leaves, dry oregano herbs (optional), paprika and salt to taste. Stir well. Turn off the flame and set aside to cool. Use this sauce to spread over the pizza base.
Three Cheese Tomato Thin Crust Pizza
For the dough base:
Follow the recipe here or use a store bought thin crust pizza base
For the homemade sauce:
Homemade (recipe above) or store bought pizza sauce
For the toppings:
1 large tomato, de-seeded and sliced in rounds
1 onion, sliced
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
2 slices of cheddar cheese, torn
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Italian seasoning / Italian herbs
Pre-heated oven at 200 deg C.
For a thin crust pizza, roll out the pizza dough as thin as possible, about ¼ inch thick. Prick all over the pizza dough using a fork. Allow it to sit on the counter for 10 mins.
Place the pizza on the pizza tray. Top with homemade tomato sauce and slather it evenly. Top with sliced tomatoes and onions. Sprinkle drained ricotta cheese, followed by cheddar and topped by generous amounts of mozzarella cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 deg C for 20-30 minutes or till the cheese melts and the edges of pizza brown. Slice into wedges and serve immediately.