Pizza dough and zeppole -- 03/27/11

Well, what this entry is about (or, at least, the inspiration for it) is responding to questions asked in the comments made about yesterday's entry. Sometimes I answer questions in the comments and then I wonder if anyone other than two or three people will be aware of that answer.

So today I thought I would answer in this entry...

Pizza dough: Having put in a few years cooking in pizzerias, Jeremy can make his own (very good) pizza dough, but he usually buys it from a pizzeria. He says many pizzerias will sell their dough. He has a couple of local places that he thinks make a good dough, so when he wants to make pizza at home he just stops at one of them and buys a bag of dough. He describes it as a win-win situation: he gets good dough for an inexpensive price and saves the trouble of mixing it up and the restaurant makes a nice little profit selling something that they mix up in huge batches anyway.

He sprays the aluminum foil with PAM (or any equivalent spray oil) and uses his knuckles to knead the dough out the way he wants it.
And above you see one of his pies ready to go into the oven. We have two pizza stones (one large and one small) and always use them when making pizza. (Note: you have to put the stones in the oven and turn it on well ahead of your actual pizza baking so that the stones are really hot.)

My method is different -- but I tend to buy pizza shells from the supermarket. I like Mama Mary's Pizza Crust -- especially their thin & crispy, although I also like their 100% whole wheat -- or the Stop & Shop store brand (which is so similar that I suspect may be made by the Mama Mary company). I like to take the pizza shell, place it on a sheet of aluminum foil (sprayed with PAM). I spread about a tablespoon of olive oil (extra virgin, of course) on the surface, sprinkle it with basil, oregano, and/or some Italian seasoning. Then I add a thin layer of shredded cheese (either mozzeralla or a mozzeralla/chedder combination). I then put them (I usually do two together) in the oven on the pizza stones (leaving the shells on the aluminum foil). After two minutes or so I take them out of the oven (still on the foil). This is when I add the tomato sauce, and the mozzeralla, and the toppings. I sometimes top the whole thing off with a bit of shredded parmesean cheese.) Then (after first making sure they are not stuck to the foil), I slide the pizzas from the foil onto the pizza stones and bake them.

I also like to sometimes take a loaf of ciabatta bread and slice it lengthwise, yielding a top half and a bottom half. I lay them crust side down and turn them into two pizzas. This is a handy way to use up some leftover tomato sauce, especially if you had sliced off a bit of the bread to go with the previous night's pasta meal but you still have most of the loaf left. Make those two ciabatta pizzas and put togther a nice salad while they are in the oven. Two glasses of red wine... mmmmm.

Hey, I've even made pizza with nann bread. It's good but you really have to be sure to eat it with knife and fork... and you can do the same thing with pita bread and make little individual-sized pizzas, especially good for lunch.

The photograph below shows a dessert pizza that Jeremy made to finish off the meal. No cheese or tomato sauce, just nuts and blueberries and a berry-based sauce baked on a very thin and crispy shell.

: I only snapped a couple of shots of those first three that Jill made. (She did post a cell phone photo on Facebook of a whole plateful.) The question was raised as to just what is a zeppole. Well, it's an Italian pastry but, as in so many cases, what exactly goes into it depends on what particular area your grandparends came from. (Or, since in our case, we have no Italian ancestory, what recipe Jill looked up and thought sounded interesting.) In general, they are sort of like a filled pastry with more stuff on top. The base is deep fried (although, in this case, we do not have a deep fryer so Jill used a skillet and she did not have the oil that deep so she had to keep turning them so they would brown evenly. They can be filled with custard or jelly or the same kind of filling as is used in cannoli.

They are traditionally associated with St. Joseph's day -- La Festa di San Giuseppe. As I noted yesterday, since that day is March 19th and it falls just two days after St. Patrick's Day, it is popular in places (such as Rhode Island) that have significant numbers of people of Italian ancestory. (Rhode Island has significant Italian and Irish and Portuguese and French Canadian and Cape Verdian, etc. populations.) The quahog.org website has an interesting article about zeppole and Rhode Island, including discussion of various flavors of fillings, etc.

Oh, and "breakfast sizzle" too : In response to Dick's question about where I ran a 5K race in Australia. It was in Roseville, a suburb of Syndey. I wrote about it in this entry.

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