Whole Wheat Pesto Pizza

Do you ever have those days where you just want to eat bad, but you know that you will feel guilty later?  Yeah, that happens to me all the time.  I’ll come home from a long day at work where maybe I didn’t get much sleep the night before, didn’t have time to take a lunch and didn’t get a seat on the subway on my way home, and I’ll say to my husband, “I want to eat something that tastes so bad for me, but is healthy.”  You know what I’m talking about?  Yeah, I know you know.  You really want some greasy grimy slice of pizza with extra cheese and ranch dressing for dipping.  Well, let’s do it.  Let’s make some pizza, but let’s make badly healthy pizza.

This pizza is cheesy, flavorful, and you’ll for sure want seconds, but this is guilt-free seconds.  These are seconds that you can eat without having to loosen your belt buckle, without having to wear that lose fitting shirt so no one will know that you went for seconds, without having to skip breakfast the next day because you still feel guilty and full from the night before.  Ready to slice into something amazing?  Follow me.

First, we need to make our whole wheat dough (adapted from NY Times):

Whole wheat is by far better for you than white flour.  White flour has a high glycemic index which means that your body burns it really fast which in turn raises your blood sugar.  Whole wheat takes longer to digest and therefore keeps your blood sugar steady.  Diabetics are supposed to stay away from white flour as much as possible, it can have a worse effect on them than sugar itself.  If it’s white, it ain’t right.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (between 105°-110°, or warm to touch but not so hot that you can’t hold your finger in it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus some extra for brushing crust
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
Before we start, test your water to make sure it’s the right temperature.  Yeast is a high maintenance ingredient.  It likes to have it’s water just right in order to grow and be happy.  If it’s too cold, the yeast will just hibernate.  If it’s too hot, the water will literally kill the yeast, you don’t want to be a yeast-killer do you?  Didn’t think so.  Let’s make our yeast comfortable.
Perfect.
Now, back to making our dough!

1. Combine the yeast and water in small bowl. Add the sugar (this is food for yeast, they love it), and stir together. Let sit two or three minutes, until the water is cloudy. Stir in the olive oil.

2. Combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once or twice. Then, with the machine running, pour in the yeast mixture and let run until the dough forms a ball on the blades. Remove from the processor (the dough will be a little sticky, so flour up those hands before you grab it), and knead on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding flour as necessary for a smooth dough.

3. Shape the dough into a ball, pinched at bottom and rounded at top. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl, seam side down.  Brush the top of the dough with a thin amount of olive oil (this prevents it from sticking to the plastic wrap as it rises.) Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and leave it in a warm spot to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Wondering where a “warm spot” is?  Try on top of your fridge, or even in your bathroom (away from the toilet please). When the dough is ready it should have doubled in size and should bounce back when you poke it with your finger.

4. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Put the balls on a lightly oiled tray or platter, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a damp towel, and leave them to rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward, the dough balls can be placed in a wide bowl, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to three days. Alternatively, you can wrap them loosely in lightly oiled plastic wrap and refrigerate them in a resealable plastic bag. When you are ready to roll out the pizzas, you will need to bring the balls to room temperature and punch them down again.

5. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roll or press out the dough to a 12- to 14-inch circle.  The dough will be slightly tough because of the amount of wheat we put in it.  If it starts to fight you back, let it rest for a minute or two.  It needs time to recuperate!   Then try again. Dust a baking stone, or baking sheet with cornmeal (this keeps the crust from sticking to the sheet) . Place the dough on the pizza pan. With your fingers, form a slightly thicker raised rim around edge of the circle. Brush everything but the rim with a little olive oil, then poke with a fork (to keep it from getting bubbles while baking).

 Ok!  Now to the fun part:  topping the pizza! (adapted from The Brown Eyed Baker)
Despite what you may think, pesto can be healthy.  I know there is fat in there, lots of fat actually, but these are GOOD fats!  Yes!  Good fats exist!  Why am I yelling at you!?  Because I love exclamation points!!  And good fats!  Good fats help raise your good cholesterol, and lower your bad cholesterol.
Ok, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell at you.  I get a bit excited sometimes.  As I was saying, pesto is so tasty and garlic-y.  I love garlic too.  It keeps your heart healthy and your immune system up.  It also keeps vampires away.  See, you’ll live longer!  Now let’s spread some pesto on this pizza.
My husband made this pesto himself.  He likes to cook as well, but he’s a bit more shy about it.  Maybe I can get him to share his pesto recipe sometime.  Until then, you can get pesto at the store, but since we’re staying healthy today, you should probably read the label and make sure you can pronounce all the ingredients before you buy it.  We don’t want any unnecessary chemicals.
Now let’s add the mushrooms and onions.
To be honest I just started liking mushrooms so I couldn’t even tell you what kind these are.  I sent my husband to the store and this is what he came back with.  I sauteed them in a pan for a few minutes with some olive oil.  Because you don’t have to bake a pizza for too long, it’s always best to cook any heavy/thick ingredients prior to putting it on the pizza. I like crunchy onions, so I put those on uncooked.
Now for THE best part.  The part you’ve all been waiting for…..
CHEESE!  (and black olives)
I used a mozzarella and provolone mix, then topped it with some parmesan shavings and a sprinkle of kalamata olives.
Now let’s slide that baby into the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes.  Check it.  Is the crust browning and the cheese bubbling?  If not, bake for a few more minutes.  We want golden bubbly cheese and a nice tan crust.  When you take it out, let it cool for a few minutes (this is the hardest part).  Once, it cools and the cheese sets, go ahead and cut into it.
NOW EAT!
A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.  ~Old New York Proverb
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I’m going to a BBQ…

Have you ever played the Alphabet Game but starting with “I’m going on a picnic and I am bringing…”?  You name something starting with an “A”, the next person says “I’m going on a picnic and I am bringing..” then repeats what you said and then adds something that starts with a B.  You have to remember the entire list and add something each time.  It’s quite fun.  Try it.

Well anyway, today I went to a BBQ and I brought…

orechiette salad

Ok, it doesn’t start with an “A”…I am well aware.  But my name starts with an “A” so doesn’t that count for something?  However, each day leading up the BBQ I changed the menu for what I was bringing.  I couldn’t bring any dessert because I was going to a fellow baker’s house.  I could bring bread, but that was still something baked.  Now was my chance to make something savory for someone!  I pretty much played the Alphabet Game with myself until I finally settled on this wonderful summery salad.  Wanna learn how to make this simple but oh so flavorful salad?  It just so happens that I know the recipe.  Check it out.

Orecchiette salad with Pears and Bleu Cheese

adapted from Simple but Perfect Salads

serves 4

ingredients

  • 9 oz/250 g dried orecchiette
  • 1 head radicchio
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 2 pears
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 9 oz/ 250 g bleu cheese, diced or crumbled
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 4 tomatoes quartered
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 oz/ 55g canned corn (drained and rinsed)
for the dressing
4 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
Ready?
Bring a large heavy-bottom pan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and about 1 tspn of olive oil (to keep the pasta from sticking together).  Bring to a boil and cook until tender but still firm.  Drain, refresh in a bowl of cold water and drain again.
Chop (or tear) the romaine and radicchio and place in a large bowl.
Halve the pears and remove the cores.  A melon baller works great for this! Don’t forget to cut off the stems and butts, who wants to eat that?
Dice the pears into cubes about 1/4 – 1/2 and inch thick.  Place in a bowl and toss with 1 T of lemon juice.  We want our pears to stay fresh!  Who wants to eat a brown pear?  Since I was taking this to a BBQ, I put it into a plastic container to take with me…who wants a brown pear AND a soggy salad?
Quarter the tomatoes and slice the onions.  Put these in a separate container from the pears, or just place on top of the salad if you plan on serving this immediately.
I placed the corn, pasta and the walnuts in the bowl with the lettuce since I knew they wouldn’t oxidize.  At this point you can also add fresh basil leaves, but I am notorious for forgetting at least one ingredient and true to form, I forgot this part.  What kind of baker am I?  Who has two thumbs and forgets ingredients?  THIS GAL!
Let’s make the dressing!
Take one lemon.  JUICE IT!  Remove those pesky seeds.  Add an equal amount of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper.  TASTE!  Always taste before you serve to someone else…especially at a BBQ where you might not know everyone and need to make a good impression.   I don’t ever measure ingredients for my dressings I usually eye ball it, but if you are a measurer feel free to follow the dressing recipe at the beginning.
Once you get to your final destination, throw all the ingredients onto the radicchio salad mix.
Pour dressing over salad.  Toss and eat!
Then go back for seconds because it’s THAT good.  What!?  There’s none left?  I know, it’s because you made such a delicious dish.
Happy 4th of July!
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.
– Abraham Lincoln

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