Pizza, the way I make it, isn’t very labor-intensive; it only requires a little bit of advanced planning. Start two to three hours before you plan to eat. It’s way simpler than making bread, because there’s only one rising. Sure, you can buy a pre-made frozen crust, but good luck finding a whole wheat one. Chances are you’ll end up spending much too much money on a bunch of empty carbohydrates. Other advantages of making your own: kneading is a tremendous finger exercise, plus you can salt to your own taste. (Why is commercial pizza always so doggone salty?)
If you’re used to white-flour pizza, of course, this is a completely different animal. But I’ve been making this for years, and I’ve never had even the pickiest, most “non-crunchy” guests refuse to eat it!
To make enough for one 16-inch pizza or medium stromboli:
Heat 7/8 cup water (or 3/4 cup for a thinner pie — it will take a few minutes less to bake) to blood temperature.
Pour hot water over 1 tablespoon baking yeast in non-metalic bowl and let the yeast work for 5 minutes or so.
Add 1 tablespoon or more ground dried (or chopped fresh) rosemary, scant teaspoon salt, 1/3 c good olive oil, about 1/2 cup white flour (purists can eliminate, but it does make dough more elastic), and a cup or two whole wheat bread flour and stir everything up with plastic or wooden spoon.
Add more whole wheat flour in small increments and blend thoroughly with spoon or fingers, until dough just stops being sticky (it will still be somewhat oily, of course).
Turn out onto a bread board or counter top and knead for 5-10 minutes. This is an altogether different experience from kneading regular yeast bread, due to the absence of sugar, honey or molasses. You should find that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers or to the board — if it does, give a little dusting more of flour.
Return to warmed, freshly oiled bowl, cover with dishtowel and let rise until you’re ready to begin baking.
I strongly recommend the use of a stone to keep the pie from getting too hard. Remember to place the stone in the oven when you turn it on to preheat at 400 degrees F.
A half hour before dinner, punch down dough, knead it a little bit (less than a minute) and roll it out into the approximate size and shape of the stone (if using a cookie tray, grease the tray and roll dough out on it). Spin it if you’re good (I’m not).
Remove stone from oven (you’ll need one of those humungous wooden spatula things), place dough on it and stretch or roll to fit. You may need to sprinkle the stone with a dusting of cornmeal if it’s still relatively new. You can roll the dough so it overlaps the edge of the stone by a couple inches, then crimp it up to fit for a nice, thick edge.
Add sauce at this point, but no toppings. (The simplest sauce is just a half-can of tomato paste with a little salt, a dash of wine, and maybe some oregano and basil. For a Mexican-style pizza, use tomato salsa, pureed or whole, mix mole with tomatoes, or use straight guacamole. Or skip sauce altogether in favor of a layer of cheese, say, or grated tofu if you’re a vegan. The important thing is to have a thin, moist layer on top of the dough at this point).
Bake for 10 minutes at 400, remove and turn oven down to 350.
Add cheese (if any), toppings, and a sprinkling of additional cheese if desired, and bake for 5-10 minutes longer. You can test its doneness by lifting one side of the pie with a large metal spatula and feeling the dough to see if it’s hard enough. I prefer it when it’s still bendy, but not so soft that picking up the pieces is difficult.
For stromboli, obviously everything (cheese, sauce, vegetables, etc.) goes in at once, the dough is folded over into a crescent and pinched shut. Cut a few slits with a sharp knife, and stick it in at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. It probably helps if the filling is hot to begin with.
Note on herbs: they can be added to the dough, to the sauce and/or the sauteed toppings. The same is true with garlic, although I think the sauce is the best place for it. Of course, the rosemary isn’t an integral part of the recipe, but I almost never make pizza or stromboli dough without it.
An earlier version of this recipe appeared on my now-defunct Geocities site back in 2003.