Monday, May 16, 2011

Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Kalamata Olives

When I was a kid growing up in the midwest, I thought the spongey, greasy stuff they sell at Pizza Hut was pizza. I loved it.. until I moved to the Northeast and had really fantastic pizza.

Then I had the opportunity to go to Sicily. That really opened my mind to the potentials of pizza. To my mind, Sicilians used some very unusual toppings on pizzas. The one that seemed oddest to me was a pizza covered with lettuce -- and they baked it. It was delicious -- just unexpected.

One of my all-time favorite pizzas was from a mom-and-pop store in our neighborhood outside of Philly. It was a vegan pizza, smothered in caramelized onions... Yum! When we moved to Jersey, leaving this pizza behind was a sad, hard thing to do. :-(

Although the olives are my own added touch, this is my attempt to recreate that dish.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Kalamata Olives

  • 1/2 recipe Quick Whole Grain Pizza Dough or enough pizza dough for a 13"-14" pizza
  • Cornmeal for dusting (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • About a pound of onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • your favorite pizza sauce
  • Kalamata olives -- pitted and sliced in half lengthwise

Put the oven rack at its lowest position. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.
  •  If you have a pizza stone, let it heat up inside the oven. Dust a pizza paddle with cornmeal and set aside.
  • If you do not have a pizza stone, prepare a 12"-14" pizza pan by lightly oiling it or sprinkling it with cornmeal. Set it aside.
In a large skillet, heat the 1 Tbsp of oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, rosemary (if using), and sugar. Cook uncovered until the onions are very tender and light golden (about 25-30 minutes). Stir occasionally. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

On a floured surface, roll, stretch, and shape the pizza dough into a 12"-14" circle (to fit your pizza pan or pizza stone). Transfer the dough to the prepared pizza paddle or pan.

Spread a layer of pizza sauce onto your dough. Cover the sauce with the onions. Arrange the cut olives on top of the onions. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the pizza.

Bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown, and the bottom of the crust is crisp. About 12 minutes, give or take a few minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve.

Quick Whole-Grain Pizza Dough

My kids are picky eaters, but they like pizza. I use this to my advantage. I'm not above trying to sneak any kind of veggie into a pizza. I also make my own crust so that my boys get more than just simple carbs.

Unfortunately, I find that my kids revolt if I make a 100% whole grain pizza crust, but I'm willing to compromise. I use approximately a 50/50 mix of unbleached white flour and whole grain flour. The whole grain flour I use varies. It might be whole wheat flour. It might be a blend of flours. My dad gave me a flour mill, so sometimes I add a little ground oats, barley, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth... it all depends on my mood and what's in the cupboard. I do recommend staying away from very strongly flavored grains like toasted buckwheat (ok, that's a seed) because they can affect the flavor of the crust. and some kids may strongly object.

I use a stand mixer to mix my dough. I find that this just works well for me because it mixes easily, and if I need to adjust the amount of flour or water in my recipe, I can do so pretty easily and quickly.

One of the drawbacks of using various whole-grain flour mixtures is that the flour quality varies tremendously. Even humidity in my kitchen affects the dough. This makes it really hard to tell you how much flour/water to use. However, you want your dough to be sort of smooth and silky, and it should bounce back a little when you press it with your finger.

The yeast is really important in this recipe. My recipe calls for a generic instant yeast. However, the only yeast I ever use is called Fermipan Instant Yeast. I love this stuff. I order it in bulk from Honeyville Grain. I don't even proof it, I just toss it into the mix. I've never ever had Fermipan fail to rise. I can't say the same for Fleischman's.

Finally, some notes on cooking. I bake my pies on a pizza stone at 500 degrees F. In my oven, it takes about 8 minutes, but my oven is temperamental. Cooking times may vary in your oven. Also, if you use a metal pan, that may affect your cooking time, but I don't know by how much.

In short, I think any kind of yeast dough is equal parts art and science. After hundreds of pies, I work by sight and touch as much as by measurements. So if at first you don't succeed, try again, and modify this basic recipe to your taste. In any case, it's very hard to mess up this dough.

Quick Whole-Grain Pizza Dough

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose white flour or bread flour
  • 1 1/3 cup whole grain flour (can be whole wheat or a blend of flours)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seeds (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 -3 tsp olive oil
  • Approximately 1 cup warm water (give or take a couple of Tbsp)
Put all ingredients into a stand mixer. Use a dough hook to mix all the ingredients. (Note, you might want to start with 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp  water. Gradually increasing water until the dough looks right.) If the dough is too wet/too dry, add a little flour or water as necessary.

Let dough rest 15 minutes before using.

Makes 2 13" to 14" pizzas.
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