When the kids are off school, the weather is (mostly) nice, and you’re supposed to eat outdoors anyway, why not invite over your nearest and dearest for a leisurely dinner during Hol Hamoed? Sure, you could order in a couple of pies, but things will be a lot more tasty – and interesting – if you whip up the pizzas yourself. You could also set up a “pizza bar,” letting your guests do the topping, and therefore half the work.
Any sort of yeast doughs can be intimidating for the home cook, but don’t let it stop you from trying homemade pizza. It’s really quite simple to make the dough and as long as you let it rise enough you’re in good shape. If you do want to take a shortcut, many pizza shops are happy to sell you a lump of their dough – you won’t know until you ask.
Once you’re set on the dough comes the exciting part: the toppings. If you’re a purist, of course, you’ll want tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. I, however, am not a purist. I once made schmaltz oatmeal cookies. I have topped brownies with rice krispie treats. I have put potato chips in cookies, turkey in eggplant and chickpeas in pretty much any dish I can think of.
So, you’re not going to see any tomato sauce here. Or any mozzarella. Instead you’ll see fresh vegetables, a variety of cheese and even an egg. Yes, an egg.
Of course, my variations are far from gospel, and you can swap out pretty much anything you like in the name of creativity. Take a wander through the shuk (or the supermarket) and get whatever catches your eye - chances are, it can go on a pizza. And that it will be delicious.
As Yogi Berra once said: “You better cut the pizza in to four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.”
Each recipe is designed for one 12-inch pizza.Basic Dough:
Makes one 12-inch pizza or three 6-inch pizzas (can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd)
• 1/3 cup water
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• 1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
• 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1. Mix together the water, sugar, salt and olive oil.
Add the flour on top, then sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour. Using the dough hook of a stand mixer or a wooden spoon, mix the dough together until it forms a cohesive ball.
2. Continue to mix or knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5-10 minutes. You may need to add slightly more water or more flour to get the right texture. If you poke the dough and it springs back quickly, it has been kneaded enough.
3. Place the smooth ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise in a warm place for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.
This time when you poke the dough, it should retain the indentation.
4. On a floured counter, gently deflate the dough, then leave to rest for another 20 minutes. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle (or cut into 3 equal pieces for smaller pies).Mushroom, Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 1 large or 2 small onions
• About 500g fresh mushrooms
• salt and pepper to taste
• About 50g 9% goat cheese, slightly softened
• olive oil
1. Heat the oil in a medium pan over medium heat.
Peel and slice the onions into half moons. Add to the oil and cook, stirring regularly, until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.
2. Dice the mushrooms and add to the pan. Cook, stirring regularly, another 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to the mushroom mixture to desired taste.
3. Roll your pizza dough out on a parchment paper or floured surface to about 1/4” thick. With the back of a spoon, spread the goat cheese out over the dough, leaving about a 1/2” empty border. Top the pizza with the mushroom and onion mixture.
4. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to lightly coat the exposed crust of the pizza with olive oil. Bake the pizza in a preheated oven to 230°C for 10-13 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.Ricotta, Egg and Zucchini Pizza
• 1 large zucchini
• About 120g ricotta cheese
• 2-3 large eggs
• olive oil
1. Very thinly slice the zucchini, lay it out on a chopping board and sprinkle lightly with salt to bring out the moisture. After 10 minutes pat the zucchini dry with a paper towel.
2. On a greased baking sheet lay out the zucchini in a single layer. Roast the zucchini on 230 C for 10-15 minutes until browned and charred – watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.
3. Roll your pizza dough out on a parchment paper or floured surface to about 1/4” thick. With the back of a spoon, spread the ricotta cheese out over the dough, leaving about a 1/2” empty border. Top the pizza with the roasted zucchini.
4. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to lightly coat the exposed crust of the pizza with olive oil. Bake the pizza in a preheated oven to 230°C for about 5 minutes. Open the oven door, and crack the eggs on to the pizza. Bake another 5-6 minutes until the white of the egg is just set.Sweet Potato and Feta Pizza
• 1 medium sweet potato
• about 50g feta cheese
• freshly ground black pepper
• olive oil
1. Slice the sweet potato very thinly – you can use a mandoline or even a vegetable peeler to get paperthin slices.
2. Roll your pizza dough out on a parchment paper or floured surface to about 1/4” thick. Lightly coat the dough in olive oil, then lay the sweet potato on top – you can overlap somewhat but make sure there are no thick chunks or they won’t cook through in time.
3. Sprinkle the feta over the pizza, breaking it up with your fingers. Sprinkle the black pepper on top.
4. Bake the pizza in a preheated oven to 230°C for 10-13 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned.