Monday, January 19, 2015

What, pizza?

The finished product, with onions and orange bell pepper topping.

Yes, pizza.

Pizza is my absolute favorite food ever. I could eat it every day and never get sick of it. I've always found a way to fit it in to my regular eating, and it is usually take out of some kind – local pizzerias, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, whatever. Any pizza is good pizza as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, I've experimented over the years with homemade pizza, but was never super happy with the results. Happy enough, sure, but never like, "WOW!"

I finally figured it out. I had a good basic recipe to use, but until I started playing with the amount of dough per pizza and the temperature at which it's cooked, I was just never super impressed with my results. This is the recipe that I've been using. It's pretty similar to many you'll find out there on the interwebs, and it's a good recipe that's easy to make, and quick to boot. You don't necessarily have to let the dough rise before using it, and many times I don't. If you have more time and you DO let it rise more, it will only taste better.

OK, I know. You're probably like, but Amy, you're talking about losing weight and stuff. Why are you posting about pizza? Well, let me tell you, the recipe I have arrived at (and shown in the above photo) ends up being about 850 calories for the whole 12" pizza. For me, that's a generous meal since I tend to eat 1600-2000 calories a day. I can eat the whole pizza. As someone who likes to eat a lot of food at a sitting, this is a dream come true.

Does that sound weird?

Oh, well. I've lost 70 pounds in the past eight months, so...

Anyway. I use the recipe I linked above but I use one quarter of it per pizza. This makes for a really tasty, slightly crunchy thin crust. I used to use the whole recipe for one pizza of about the same size, which resulted in a really poofy, chewy crust and not as much bang for your calorie buck. I never thought I'd like a thin crust better than thick, but that's exactly what happened.

Pretty thin!
I use a pizza stone to cook my pizzas. The linked recipe calls for setting the oven at 450 degrees, but after trying a few things, it turned out that 500 degrees with the pizza stone was perfect. The pizza cooked quickly – just 9 minutes did the trick – and it was bubbly and steamy and crispy. The toppings I used here, onion and orange bell pepper, went on raw and came out just right, slightly softened and roasted with the flavors just singing. I had considered sauteeing or roasting them ahead of time, but they really didn't need it. (Maybe I will try that one day, though, just to see.)

The pizza before cooking, using the peel to transfer it to the pizza stone.
I do slice the toppings very thinly. I think that is key. Of course you can use any toppings you like, but man oh man, this combination was most excellent. I'm usually a mushroom-onion-black olive gal, or plain old pepperoni, but this blows those combos away.

What else? Oh yes, the sauce. In the interest of convenience, I've been trying different canned or jarred sauces. Muir Glen's Organic is nice, though does seem to retain a bit of tinniness from its metal container; the one I liked best recently is one new to me by a company called Mids. It's jarred and the ingredients list is very simple. In the future, though, I will aim to create my own homemade. I have in the past and simply used a can of tomato sauce simmered with spices, which was fine but nothing special. Mids will be my go-to for now. I like my pizza fairly saucy and so I'm generous when spreading it around. 

Note: if you are using a peel to transfer your pizza to the stone, make sure to flour it so that it will come off the peel more easily. I used to have a lot of trouble with the dough sticking to the peel, but the flour really helps as does waiting to assemble the pie until you have all the ingredients ready and can put it all together quickly. It gives the dough less time to get sticky. ;)

Finally, the cheese. Sure, I could get all fancy with it, but I usually buy store brand shredded mozzarella. I don't bother with part-skim and get whole milk cheese because the difference in the calorie and fat content isn't enough to bother me, and that way I get full flavor and meltiness. One thing I have done recently is half the amount of cheese I put on the pie. This sounds crazy, but I was putting on a full two cups of cheese on my 12" pizzas. I really thought that's what made a pizza so good – lots of cheese. However, I discovered that one cup does just fine and has so many fewer calories. 

A little special touch before I throw it into the oven is gently spraying a fine olive oil mist on top, along with a sprinkling of oregano and red pepper flakes. 

The result is an absolutely delicious pie that I can't even believe I made myself. Seriously. It is also, as you might imagine, quite filling. 

Yum yum yum yum yum.

The long and short of it:

1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp. each sugar and salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
2.5 cups flour

In a medium to large bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water, and let it dissolve and foam for a few minutes. Then add the remaining ingredients and stir together until it forms a slightly sticky dough. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead for several minutes until smooth, adding sprinkles of flour if needed (not too much, though!). At this point you can use the dough right away, or you can form it into a ball in a lightly oiled bowl, letting it rise for however long... a few minutes, an hour, overnight in the fridge...

For a lovely, very thin crust, divide the dough into four balls. Each ball will make a 12" pizza. Or, for thicker crusts use half the recipe per pizza, or the whole darn thing for one doughy crust. I start by using my hands to stretch the dough, but especially for the thin crust a rolling pin is really key. You'll want to lightly flour the pin as well as you're using it. 

Made as I've shown it here with onion and orange bell pepper, each pizza has about 850 calories, 92 g carbs, 38 g fat (19 g saturated, but I'm not afraid of fat, so.), 37 g protein. I hope you enjoy!


  1. These pictures are gorgeous! Also I am jelly of your pizza peel :P
    I'm like you, I love pizza! I don't eat grains myself but recently reintroduced pizza after finding and experimenting with some grain-free crusts. It's actually pretty awesome, and totally works for me.

    1. Thank you kindly, Wendy! The peel came with the pizza stone my partner bought for me years ago. You should tell me about your grain-free crusts! I've heard about those made with cauliflower, and I do like cauliflower, but I remain skeptical. :)

    2. Hi Amy, I soooo want you to be right, as like you I love and miss pizza. We have a wood fired pizza oven here at home and enjoy putting it on and enjoying a 12" pizza each. As we fire up the oven I usually cook 3 - which is what I was getting out of my dough recipe.

      Correct me if I am wrong - 2.5cups of sifted flour is 1230 calories divided by 4 is 370 cals per pizza base. 1 cup of mozzarella cheese is 550 cals - already 857 calories plus sauce and toppings. I use crushed tinned tomatoes flavoured with home grown herbs & usually add some tomato paste or cook up some fresh tomatoes slowly - either way if you said it was 1 med tomato 20 cals 1/4 bell pepper10 cals & 1 60g onion 15cals I make the total I make it 902 calories!

      Please, Please tell me I am wrong.
      Living in hope
      Elle :)

    3. Hi Amy - big congrats on hitting the 200's! That has to be so, so exciting. Great job!

      So, for non-grain pizza crusts, there is actually cauliflower involved :) :) :) But just a half a head. I was skeptical, too, like you, but it's actually very good, and, it's a great way to sneak an extra veggie serving into the meal, which I like. The recipe I've landed on, and like best, is here:
      As she suggests there, I swap out half the mozz for some riced cauliflower (and I've also done part-spinach, which was also good.)
      This recipe is really for, or inspired by, the low-carb template. SO, it's higher-fat. It may or may not fit your tempate. But I think the cals work out about the same as or a little better than yours, if cals are your thing, but besides just considering cals there's a veggie in it, and protein, and fiber - all good things I care about and work to get in.

      Big congrats to you again for your major milestone! What are you going to do to celebrate?

  2. Elle,

    Hi! Well, I won't say that you are wrong. I use the totals I get for the crust from the recipe builder on MyFitnessPal, which allows you to double check quantities and correctness. As for the ingredients I also go by MFP but checking against packaging when there is any. As for the cheese, I use Wegman's brand shredded and it comes up as 90 cals for 1/4 c., so for a cup it's 360, not 550. I double checked this on the Wegman's site as well just to make sure.

    I guess my feeling is that even with the 50 calorie disparity between your numbers and mine, it's still doable to eat the whole thing in a carefully-planned rest of the day. :)

    I am incredibly envious of your wood-fired pizza oven AT HOME!!! Lucky you!

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Thanks for the reply Amy.. and you are right, putting it into perspective 50cals is not going to make or break the concept of having REAL pizza. I really cannot afford to have 2/3rds of my daily calorie allowance for one meal as I would go over for sure, and THIS time I am determined to conquer my weight issue so maybe once a month for me at present.

    I tried using a pitta bread base but it was not a success and definitely NOT pizza!

    Yes our oven is a pleasure - when it's hot I can cook in it outside & when it's cold we sit around roasting chestnuts (and lots of other goodies) & drinking red wine or mulled wine and enjoying the ambience.

    Well done on your great results. Heavy is hard - good decisions like yours bring success and a lightness of body and mind :)