At our house pizza is one of our favorites! After Matt finished school at LSU we moved to Houston. I was thrilled that we were finally starting our real “adult” lives. This meant moving into a real house with a yard. The park like yard became our sanctuary. It was lushly landscaped with the native towering pines, banana trees, and a flagstone patio built around a wood burning pizza oven.
I had never really made pizza dough from scratch before, but making the perfect pizza soon became a labor of love for me. I would start the dough, always kneading it by hand, and leaving it to rise while we built a blazing fire in the backyard. We would sit on the patio all night, eating our homemade pizza, sipping wine and watching our fire burn. It was like our own little Italy, and I loved it.
We left that house a few years ago, but I think of it often. I learned a lot about making the perfect pizza, like the hotter the oven, the better, and that molasses instead of sugar makes the best whole wheat crust. I eventually perfected my recipe, and nowadays it is second nature. Our pace of life has changed a bit though, so I no longer hand knead my dough (which I love doing), and we bake our pizzas in a conventional oven (although when it gets warmer I am planning on trying the grill). While the pizza will never be quite as good as one cooked in a wood burning oven, it is still infinitely better than any takeout. It may seem like a lengthy process, but it is kinda therapeutic, and oh so rewarding, so grab a glass of wine (I prefer red) and get to baking!
Arugula Pesto Pizza with Tomatoes and Feta
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (see recipe below)
¼ cup Arugula Pesto (see recipe below)
1 cup freshly grated part-skim mozzarella
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
¼ cup feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon cornmeal for dusting the pan
Preheat Oven to 500° F. Lightly dust a large baking sheet or pizza pan with cornmeal. Roll out the pizza dough onto the pan with a rolling pin. Spread the pesto over the dough. Top with the mozzarella. Spread the tomatoes evenly over the pizza in a single layer, and repeat with the shallots. Sprinkle the feta over top. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.
Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
2 ½ teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
1 cup hot water
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour, plus extra if needed and for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing the bowl
½ teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, combine the yeast, molasses, and hot water. Stir for a couple of seconds to combine and let sit until frothy (about 5 minutes). Add the olive oil, flour, and salt. Turn the mixer on to speed 2 and let mix for 2 minutes. The dough should come together and clean the sides of the bowl, but if it is too wet at this time, slowly add flour until this happens. Let the mixer knead the dough on speed 2 for 3 more minutes. Alternatively, if you do not have a stand mixer, follow the instructions above stirring until the dough begins to come together, and then hand knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 7 minutes. Lightly grease the bowl and a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to cover the bowl. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with the plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour. I place a small sauce pan with boiling water in the oven, and then place my dough in there. I find that this makes the perfect warm and moist environment for my dough to rise in.
1 packed cup arugula
1 packed cup baby spinach
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
Use the leftover pesto on pasta, or save for your next pizza. It should stay good in the fridge for a week.
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