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  • Ball of dough at rest
  • Honey to activate the yeast
  • Toppings for tomato sauce and cheese pizza
  • Slice and serve

Cost Cutting

Kara Wille encourages saving money by raising dough

It’s all too easy to arrive home on a Friday night, take one despairing I-don’t-want-to-cook look at the kitchen and begin searching for the latest franchise pizza coupon. Which is not to say that a slab of commercial pizza can’t be good, but there is great, great pleasure to be had in making your own pizza to suit your own tastes.

Pizza from scratch is incredibly satisfying. For one thing, you can make it exactly to your own specifications. Unusual ingredients can be experimented with (the average pizza place doesn’t have thinly shaved fennel on their ingredient list and, trust me, it’s a wicked addition to any pie) and you can work to find the precise ratio of crust to sauce to cheese that elevates pizza from snack to perfection.

Secondly, there’s nothing quite like kneading dough to work out stress and tension. Had a bad day at the office? Punch some pizza dough. Its supple, slappable texture is really satisfying to the touch and it may, if you hit an air bubble, give you a resigned little squeak. Perfect.

Finally, pizza is cheaper to make than to buy. If you have flour, yeast, olive oil, water, tomato sauce and some decent cheese, you’ve got a great family dinner for far less than the cost of ordering in. Add a bottle of red, something velvety and Zinful perhaps, and your family dinner becomes something sublime.

So the next time you’re tempted to call an order in to the local pizza & wings place, try making your own and use the money you saved to buy a better bottle of wine.

Pizza Dough

Makes two 12-inch thin-crust round pizzas
Chef’s note: I make this dough using a stand mixer and dough hook, but it can easily by made by hand.

1 Tbsp (15 mL) active dry yeast
1 Tbsp (15 mL) honey
1 Tbsp (15 mL) salt
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
1/2 cup (125 mL) warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix yeast, honey, wine and water. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for 5 minutes. When you return to the bowl and remove the plastic wrap, the mixture will be a beige, slightly bubbly goop with a delicious yeasty smell.

Add salt, olive oil and flour and begin mixing using the dough hook attachment. The flour should incorporate with the wet ingredients to form a dough that will wind its way around the hook, clearing the sides of the bowl. If the dough’s too wet, add a bit of flour, if it’s too dry, add a bit of warm water. Once it’s clearing the sides of the bowl, knead the dough on medium speed for about 10 minutes.

Once the dough’s been thoroughly kneaded, it will have a springy, stretchy, satiny texture. Remove the bowl from your stand mixer, re-cover with the plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for about 50 minutes. The top of the clothes dryer’s a good spot, but more often I place the bowl in the sink and fill the sink halfway with hot water, then cover the whole thing with a hand towel or two. After 50 minutes the dough will have increased its volume by at least half. At this point you’re ready to begin preparing your pizzas.

Pre-heat your oven to 475º, ideally placing a pizza stone on the middle rack to heat up. If you don’t have a stone at this point, no worries, a heavy duty cookie sheet will do, but consider purchasing a stone if you think pizza making will become a regular menu item in the home kitchen. If you are using a stone, let it get nice and hot.

Sprinkle your kitchen counter with flour and turn the dough out of its bowl onto the counter. Knead it a bit with your hands by rolling the dough into a ball and pushing the heel of your palm across/through the ball. Then re-roll the ball and push again. Divide the dough into two balls, leaving one to rest.
Take one dough ball and place it in the middle of your floured counter. Punch it, right in the middle, with your fist. It should flatten in the middle and puff up around your knuckles. Punch the edges, going around until you create a disc of dough. Gently pick up the dough and stretch it over the backs of your fists, rotating the disc so that the dough gets uniformly thinner. If holes begin to appear, return the dough to your work surface, pinch the holes closed and use a rolling pin to further flatten out your pizza base until it’s approximately 12 inches across.

If using a pizza stone, grab your mitts and remove the stove from the oven and place it on your stovetop. Gently transfer your pizza base to the stone. Dress the pizza with your favourite combination of sauce, cheese and other ingredients and then return stone to the oven. While you’re baking the first pizza (for 7 to 10 minutes — keep an eye on your pie), resume punching/kneading/stretching the second dough ball and repeat the entire process.

Wines to Match

Seghesio Family Vineyards 2006 Sonoma Zinfandel
Sonoma County, California $35 (428417) Seghesio is one of the most reliable Zinfandel producers in California. This robust red has got some oomph. It’s round and rich with intense ripe dark fruit and potent depth of flavour that’s well worth the price.

Rancho Zabaco Winery 2006 Dancing Bull Zinfandel
California $11.95 (669499)
This lighter, fresher model of Zinfandel works well at the dinner table. It forgoes the super-octane alcohol and bold flavours typically associated with the varietal in favour of something a little more fruit-focused and food-friendly. This crowd-pleasing red is ripe, juicy and nicely balanced. Thirteenth Street Wine Corp.

2006 Et Ceteras
Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula $19
This blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese has a bright, juicy personality that makes it a great dinner companion. Its upfront berry flavours will make it a popular selection for entertaining.