Aside from the ingredients mentioned in my shopping list, earlier, you’ll also find a couple large mixing bowls and a wooden spoon useful.
I promised to share my grandmother’s pizza recipe with a friend who’s trying to lose weight and lower their blood pressure, so here is the salt-free version of my grandmother’s excellent pizza dough recipe.
First thing to do: Take a large water glass (I’m going to use the measurements I find most convenient, because let’s face it, our grandmothers didn’t have a lot to spare, and they had to find ways to fix it when things went wrong. One of my foremost thoughts when I’m cooking is, “I’m sure I’m not going to fuck this up to a point where I can’t actually eat it.” This can be very liberating.). Pour the contents of one packet of Fleishman’s Yeast (It’s what I use, use whatever brand you want) into the bottom of the cup, and one teaspoon (either the measurement kind or the smaller spoon in your flatware set, it really doesn’t matter) of sugar in on top of that.
Now, turn on the tap and wait until the water runs hot. (Okay, not HOT hot, but like….hotter than warm, you know what I mean?). Fill up the glass of drinking water. Mix it with a spoon, vigorously, and don’t be afraid to mush clots of yeast against the side of the glass. You’re not going to hurt it. Once it’s more or less mixed in, put it aside. Really don’t worry if you can’t mix it all in, the chemical reaction will still be close enough that you’ll wind up with a result you can use in your first attempt without embarrassing yourself.
So put the glass with the water aside. No, like, where you’re not going to knock it over. Watch a music video, reply to your IMs. You have anything between 3-8 minutes before you need to worry about what’s going on in the glass. Why, you ask? Because all you’re doing is making sure the yeast hasn’t gone bad. If it hasn’t, then when you return to your glass of warm/hot water, you’ll find out that it’s got a thin foam (like the foam on a badly-poured pint of guiness) maybe ¾ inch thick, resting on the top. If it’s gone bad then nothing has happened and you should probably give up now (though if you’re like me, you already have the flour and olive oil in another bowl, so you’ve got to make the best of it…)
Hopefully at this point you have a few eighths of an inch in a water glass, mixed with sugar, with some foam on the top.
Take your bag of flour and pour a couple of cups (small coffee cups, 1 cup measures, or the rough volume of – the same space filled by – your hand. Obviously some of our hands are bigger than other hands. That doesn’t matter. It’s a general equation. We’re not cooking prize-winning loaves here, just pizza dough that won’t clog our arteries and bust up our wallets. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and this will be good enough to fool most people into thinking it is.
Now, pull out a bottle of olive oil. Unscrew the top of the bottle and shake out a tablespoon or two (these are roughly the size of soup spoons, but honestly, it doesn’t matter). You’ll notice the olive oil pooling in the flour, the viscuous fluid coated on its outermost layer with the powdery paste.
Tip about half the yeast-sugar-water into the bowl that holds the flour and oil. Normally, you’d dash some salt into the mix around here, but since we’re trying to reduce our sodium intake, we’re going to forego that small pleasure. If you’re using canned spaghetti sauce or regular mozerella cheese, and you have the patience to spread this dough really thin, you won’t taste the difference so much after the first week or so. (If you like doughy pizza, I’m sorry, but this is one of those sacrifices I feel is worth it for what you save in sodium intake).
Mix things. Vigorously.
It’s my understanding that there are mixing machines and attachments that will assist you in mixing the dough at this point. It’s also my understanding that a perfectly serviceable mix can be completed with a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl, which is what my grandmother had on hand on most occasions. It’s tiring. But in some ways this is a good thing; it lets you get in a little repetitive weight gym-type crap while you’re cooking, um, pizza.
Now the thing is, the mixing is the complicated part. It’s the part that you have to kind of practice, which is why I’m recommending you start off by using only half the water/yeast/sugar mix. You’re going to want to add more flour, unless you’re miraculously gifted when it comes to cooking (in which case, I think you’ll get better value buying an actual cookbook), so having some more liquid to balance that out may wind up being a good thing.
Ultimately, this is not (at this point) a fool-proof recipe, because in the end you need to figure out the best consistency for your dough. It’s better that the dough is wetter rather than being too dry. The dough should feel like a pale white girl’s drying skin when the weather’s just a little on the dry side because of winter (a poetic, if inspecific representation of the texture of the dough, I admit) when you’re done with it.
If you’re OCD-like-me, pat your dough into a nice, round, soft ball. Cover it up with saran wrap, or just a hand towel (if OCD isn’t your thing). Put it to one side for forty minutes (or much longer – I’ve left it on a radiator for upwards of an hour), and when you come back, you get to punch the dough really hard and watch it deflate around your fist. Once you’ve done this, you can leave it alone, or you can let it rise again, or you can spread it super-thin to the edge of your pizza crust – you want the ultimate width to be about a quarter of an inch after rising, which means paper-thin to the point of there being holes in the dough is okay once you spread it. Which you do after spreading olive oil all over the baking sheet you plan to use.
Anyway, I feel kind of bad about just leaving this blog because it’s just a recipe for pizza dough – not a real recipe for a meal. But at the same time I do think that cooking pizza dough is one of the things that enabled me to eat more healthily while living in the UK and USA, since I could control what went into a recipe.
If you do need to turn this into a pizza NOW, here’s what you do:
– Add sauce (your own from-scratch recipe or not, you’ve already saved hundreds of mg of sodium in making the dough and not including salt over buying something ready-made). I recommend sticking to a minimal amount, because when I eat pizza, I’m looking for more of the blend of flavors than quantity of the bled, so a thin coat should be fine.
– Scatter some shredded cheese on the top. In later blogs I hope you’ll all remind me to tell you about how to spread fresh mozzarella over a pizza crust, but for now, read the serving size and use that much times the number of people you anticipate eating the pizza)
Add some chopped fresh veg for flavor and let it cook at the highest heat your oven has available for slightly longer than you think it should. Your cheese may wind up a bit brown on top. That’s fine. Take a slice, turn the heat off on the oven, and slide the rest of the pizza back in. Ultimately it will look a bit brown on top, but it’ll be like slow-baked cheese on top of doughy goodness.
Enjoy your pizza, and remind me about what I should elaborate on from the above.