Over the winter, I got a pizza stone and tried making homemade pizza a couple of times. I always had some kind of problem — with the dough (usually not rising enough, or otherwise being too difficult to work with) or getting the pizza onto the stone, or winding up with something crispy on the bottom and not burned on the top. But at long last, I think I have found a dough recipe that works for me, as well as a neat new way of cooking it that is faster and easier than dealing with the oven (not to mention much cooler this time of year).
I got some fairytale eggplant with my CSA this week, and while I was looking in the index of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone I spotted a recipe for a pizza that called for eggplant. I decided that this time around, I’d at least be able to avoid the problems with the dough rising. The section on pizzas includes a great start with a dough recipe that I found came together very easily, and which I had no problems working with. Maybe it’s the practice I had with the bread I was making this winter, or maybe it was something to do with the directions. Whatever it was, I wound up with a lovely little ball of dough that rose beautifully (well, the summer and canning heat helped) and was very elastic and easy to work with.
Since I wasn’t about to turn the oven on, I decided to try out a technique I’d come across a while back — using a cast iron pan to cook the pizza on the stove top. My sense of this pan on my stove is that it heats slowly, so I cooked mine a little longer than the recipe called for, as I wanted to make sure that the dough was cooked all the way through. I think I did about two minutes on the first side, and maybe 4-5 on the second (basically, when I started to smell the delicious smell of burning bits of the bottom of a pizza crust). I cooked it covered for a couple of minutes (using a cookie sheet since I don’t have a lid large enough) but mostly cooked it uncovered, since the toppings were on the wet side and I didn’t want to wind up with a soggy pizza.
The pizza came out great – a little bit crispy, a little bit soft, and I was very happy with the toppings. Following a recipe in the above book, I broiled some rounds of my little eggplants, and they went on the pizza along with slices of some lovely summer tomatoes and a bit of whatever hard cheese it is that I’m currently using in place of Parmesan. The really great thing about this pizza, though, was the sauce — a very loose pesto, sans nuts. This was a breeze to put together with my stick blender and I think will be a new summer staple. Good thing I have four basil plants.