The Quest for the Perfect Pizza!
I can honestly say I have sacrificed myself for the good of the all. I have eaten so much pizza this week that I almost got sick of it. Almost, but not quite. Pizza is high on my list of perfect foods. It has all the good things like bread, veggies, meat, cheese and you get to eat it with your hands. The one big hang up, we all know, is that is usually loaded with calories. So, this last week I hog tied a few people into making and eating pizza in a lot of different ways to explore the possibilities of a great pizza that isn’t loaded with calories. Needless to say we had a smashing time and discovered both some surprising new recipes and some traditional. There are so many worthy tips and recipes to share on this great subject matter that this will be a multi part article.
We discovered some very important tips on making a terrific lower fat pizza.
- A whole wheat crust really fleshes out a healthy pizza. Beer can be substituted for the water in the crust. It makes for a richer taste but adds calories.
- Pizza dough stores wells in the fridge for up to 24 hours and also freezes just fine.
- After rolling out the pizza dough to your desired shape and thickness, fold into fourths to move to the pizza peel. Then quickly unfold and pat into place.
- Build the pizza on a wooden pizza peel that has been liberally dusted with flour. (Cornmeal doesn’t work so well.) Then lift up one corner of the crust and blow air under it right before you slide the pizza onto the stone. If you are totally into pizza, invest in a metal pizza peel, they are great.
It was easier for us to get the pizza off the stone, when it is done baking with a thin, lipless cookie sheet than the wooden pizza peel.
- Bake on a pizza stone at 450 degrees. Preheat the stone with the oven on the bottom rack and then heat for at least an hour before baking pizza.
- Too many ingredients on the pizza made it harder to get onto the stone and was overwhelming taste wise. Simpler the better.
- Fat free cheeses are icky. They cook hard like plastic and are quite tasteless. Use a lower fat cheese like Alpine Lace, available at Manzanita Deli. The best reduced-fat mozzarella cheese is Sargento.
- First off, the crust. The very foundation of the pizza had to be tasty but healthy. After making 4 different kinds, here is the favorite. I make all my dough in the bread maker on the “pizza dough cycle” or just plain “dough cycle” will do too. If you do not have a bread maker, prepare as regular yeasted bread. Good directions are on cookinglight.com, type in “pizza dough.” This recipe is enough for one pizza crust, I usually double it.
Whole Wheat Honey Pizza Dough
1 cup of warm water or beer
1-2 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of dried basil
2-3 garlic cloves pressed
½ teaspoon of black pepper
½ teaspoon of salt
1 ½ cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup of unbleached flour
1 package of active dry yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons
Layer all the ingredients in the bread maker starting with the water and finishing with the yeast on top. Press the pizza dough cycle, or just plain dough cycle and let her rip! I come back a check about 10 minutes later and make sure the consistency of the dough is correct. Well mixed, but not too wet or not too dry. When the dough cycle is finished you should have a beautiful, silky dough ball. At this point you can store it in the fridge covered with plastic wrap, till you need it. Take it out, knead it into a ball on a lightly floured surface then flatten it with your hands. Roll dough into a 12 to 18 inch circle, about 1/4 -1/2 inch thick. Place on a floured pizza peel or a rimless thin cookie sheet to await its adornment.
Nutritional info – about 50 calories, very little fat, and about 1 gram of fiber per slice of pizza crust, IF you cut the crust into 12 slices.
Alright, the next step in this worthy search for the “good” pizza, is the sauce. An excellent basic pizza sauce that you don’t have to make is “Rising Moon Organics” pasta sauce, available at Mother Nature’s or other health food stores. The flavors of this sauce are wonderful and they are actually low in sodium too. If you wish to make your own, here is a soild recipe.
Basic Pizza Sauce
1 onion finely chopped
2 -3 garlic cloves minced
¼ cup of red wine
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano
Or 2 teaspoons each of fresh basil and oregano
1 14.5 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon or so of fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
Heat a fairly substantial skillet over med-high heat. Coat the pan with a little cooking spray and sauté the onions for a few minutes till they are fragrant and tender. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or so, then stir in wine and cook yet some more. After a few minutes, add the rest of the ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so until thick and heady.
This first pizza was the dark horse in the race for the perfect lower calorie pizza. It had a chance, but not a good one, to win. Lo and behold it received a perfect 10 by everyone! I call it the salad pizza, you can call it whatever you want, but it is so delicious!
Walnut Feta Salad Pizza
½ cup of reduced fat feta cheese
1 tablespoon of fat free milk
2 – 3 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon each of dried or fresh oregano and basil
½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
2 cups of trimmed arugula
1 cup of shredded baked skinless chicken breast (I baked mine in the Rising Moon pasta sauce, yum!)
3-4 juicy tomatoes chopped
½ cup of sliced red onion
2 tablespoons of a light balsamic vinaigrette, Such as Newman’s own
Bake a pizza crust in the oven at 450 degrees till golden brown. Meanwhile heat a small skillet on the stove on med-high and place the walnuts into it with a little cooking spray. Cook, stirring constantly until the walnuts are fragrant and lightly brown, about 3 minutes or so. Toss walnuts, feta, garlic, milk, and spices in a food processor and pulse till you have a smooth concoction.
Spread the walnut mixture on the baked pizza crust. Arrange the chicken, tomatoes, and red onion in a cubicuboctahedron pattern on the pizza crust, just kidding, anyway will do. Place the arugula, in a bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle the arugula over the pizza like fairy dust and Voila! Cut in to slices and serve. Everyone will be amazed! Stay tuned to find out what amazing pizza will be eaten next week!
This next pizza is one that you could build a relationship with it’s so good! The mixture of the tangy peanut sauce with the cheese sounds odd but explodes in your mouth in a harmonious way.
Thai Peanut Chicken Pizza
¾ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup of brown rice
¼ low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons of natural chunky peanut butter
½ to ¾ teaspoon of crushed red pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
2 cups of baked chicken cut into bite size pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced
¼ cup of green onions diced
¼ cup of fresh cilantro
Alpine Lace Reduced Fat Swiss Cheese, slices
½ cup of grated Reduced Fat mozzarella
One Whole Wheat Pizza crust rolled into desired shape
Preheat oven to 450. Combine the sauce ingredients in a mediumish bowl and whisk up a storm. Heat a non-stick skillet up to medium heat, spray with cooking spray and pour in the sauce mix. Cook until it begins to thicken, 5 or 6 minutes, then add the chicken to the mix. Cook some more till a little bit thicker, ya know, about 2 minutes more. Spread the mixture evenly on the pizza crust. Then arrange the bell pepper in a beautiful design on top of that, and then layer the cheeses. Bake at 450 degrees about 12 to 15 minutes till done. Sprinkle the green onions and cilantro on the luscious baked pizza and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then cut into it and devour it. Very deliziosa! Until next time, Ciao bella!