Although my Mom, Rachel, did not own any cookbooks, she was always trying out new dishes to add to her repertoire. Pizza was one of those things. And her version was a hit with her grandchildren from the first go. Later, it was popular with kindergarten children in the JCC where she volunteered a couple of times a week, giving cooking lessons to the 5-year-olds. Her dough was different - it had an egg in it and she baked it in a low oven (only 350 degrees) - but somehow it resulted in a delicious, crispy crust. The only topping she used was 1/2 a can of Hunt’s tomato sauce topped with grated Polly O mozzarella. Lucky for me, I know exactly how she made it because, in her later years, my Mom decided to dictate her recipes into a book and give a copy to each one of her children (me and my two brothers).
Rachel’s Pizza Recipe (for 2 pies): 1 package yeast 2 cups flour 1 egg 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce Grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 oz.)
Dissolve the yeast in a 1/4 cup warm water.
Place the flour in a bowl. Make a well in the center. Place the yeast mixture in the well. Let stand 10 minutes.
Add egg and a little more water and mix to make a dough. Let sit, in a warm place, covered with a damp towel, until doubled in size.
When dough has risen, divide in half. Roll each one into a round and stretch to fit a pizza pan.
Pour the tomato sauce over the pizza, leaving 1/2” border of dough. Sprinkle mozzarella over the cheese.
Bake, in a preheated oven, at 350 until dough browns, about 20-25 minutes.
Recently, I started to experiment with the recipe. The only alteration I made with the crust was substituting half the flour with white whole wheat flour. I did so because I think whole wheat flour is healthier. I did not change all the flour because I wanted to see if the taste of the crust remained as light as I remembered it. It did. Perhaps next time I'll try using only whole wheat flour.
For the topping, however, I knew that I wanted to add vegetables, a more flavorful sauce, and also replace the mozzarella. I ended up with two recipes that I really liked. The first is a Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Shallots, Capers, and Parmesan Pizza.
This is how it’s made: For the dough, substitute 1 cup of white whole-wheat flour for 1 cup white flour. For the topping, make your own flavorful, herbed sauce or use a jarred one (I like Rao’s). Sauté shallots until soft and scatter atop the sauce. Add halved, roasted Brussels sprouts, and 2 tablespoons drained capers. Top with 3 TBS. parmesan. Transfer to a pizza stone that’s lightly oiled and sprinkled with corn meal. Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is brown. The second is a Roasted Beets, Arugula, Artichoke Hearts, and Goat Cheese Pizza.
To make it, prepare the dough using the one cup of white whole-wheat flour. Spread on a flavorful, herbed sauce. Top with a handful of arugula, 3-4 sliced roasted beets, halved, marinated artichoke hearts (drained from a 7.5 oz. jar), and 3 oz.goat cheese, crumbled. Bake on a prepared pizza stone as above.