I’ve heard people (straight guys, mostly) say that pizza is like sex: when it’s good, it’s really good, and when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. The sex part of this statement has its problems (for example, the context in which it is used often plays into gendered stereotypes of men always wanting sex, and also, non-consensual sex is really bad), but surely the pizza part is right? I disagree. Just because the usual incarnations of pizza contain so many tasty things–carbs, cheese, meat, sauces, and the Maillard reaction–doesn’t mean they will be put together in a tasty way. Soggy crust, rubbery cheese, weird, overly-greasy meat, bland sauces, and over- or under-baking can all result in a disgusting pizza. If there’s any further doubt, just ask my parents about their first impression of Dartmouth dining hall food from the freshman orientation parents’ lunch. For our first two years there, they were convinced my brother and I only had horrible slop to eat.
Long story short, I have had one pizza since I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy almost a year ago (gluten-free crust, at a restaurant the night before a ski race in January), and I haven’t really missed it, because I knew that the pizza I could get in the dining halls or the local open-until-2:30 am place near campus could never live up to the homemade stuff with fresh, homegrown tomatoes. The tomato crop has been pretty slow this summer, but it really picked up last week. We resolved that, as soon as we finished eating the vegetable lasagna (made with partially-dehydrated zucchini instead of noodles), we would have pizza. That day is today! So I get to try my hand at spelt pizza dough for the first time.
Fortunately, while the proteins in spelt don’t seem to like making freestanding bread loaves (or any bread at all that isn’t kind of dense; it likes to rise out, not up), they stick together pretty well in flat things like pie crust and pizza dough. I used the first recipe I found by searching “spelt pizza dough”, then decided to mix things up a bit by substituting plain yogurt for some of the water, inspired by this recipe (which I really want to try) for spelt flatbread. I probably could have substituted more, but I didn’t want an overwhelming yogurt flavor in the crust, just a hint of sourness.
Our pizza toppings for today were fresh tomatoes, chopped-up chicken meatballs, half a bell pepper, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, pepperoncini, mozzarella, and parmesan. It was so delicious, I forgot to take a picture until we’d already eaten 3/4 of it for dinner!
Spelt Pizza Crust
Adapted primarily from here.
Yield: 1 thin-crust, 16″ pizza crust.
1 c white spelt flour
1 c whole spelt flour
1.5 tsp yeast
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp honey
1/2 c warm water
Scant 1/4 c plain yogurt
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for pan
Cornmeal for pan
Stir flours, yeast, and baking powder together. Add remaining ingredients (I suggest dissolving the honey in the warm water and adding those first) and stir well/knead until smooth. Allow to rise in bowl for 10-20 minutes. Roll/stretch to fit pan (which should be lightly oiled, then sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking). Prick with a fork or sharp knife in about 6 places to prevent giant bubbles from forming. Smaller bubbles are OK, but we’re making pizza here, not pita.
Baking: Based on the recommendations in the comments for the original recipe, I baked my crust first for 8 minutes at 450 degrees F, removed it from the oven, let it sit while I finished prepping the toppings and placed them on, then baked for another 10-15 minutes (for a thin-crust pizza, you basically want to see all your toppings getting browned/cooked and your cheese completely melted and starting to brown. As a rule of thumb for pizza, a hotter oven and shorter baking time is better than longer cooking time in a cooler oven.
Topping: This is all about personal preference. My family’s typical pizza prep is something like this: 1) Lightly brush the top of the crust with olive oil. 2) Spread a thin layer of tomato paste over the crust. Fresh or dried basil and oregano also go on here. 3) Top with chopped vegetables and cooked meat of your choice (usually some combination of bell peppers, onions, artichoke hearts, pepperoncini, zucchini, fresh tomatoes, and good olives, with chicken or sausage as the meat). 4) Cover lightly with mozzarella and a bit of parmesan.