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I have not yet completely decided whether I love pizza crust yeast or not.  I definitely do love the resulting pizza that comes out of the oven – and I have now experimented with the product 4 times, as of today.  Here is the brand that I used, which is not an endorsement.    http://www.pizzacrustyeast.com/new_pizza_yeast.html .  One of the ingredients that distinguishes this yeast product is sorbitan monostearate.

SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE … Emulsifier: Cakes, candy, frozen pudding, icing. Like mono- and diglycerides and polysorbates, this additive keeps oil and water mixed together. In chocolate candy, it prevents the discoloration that normally occurs when the candy is warmed up and then cooled down.

The above citation comes from http://www.becomehealthynow.com/article/dietbad/31/3/ .  The website appears to err on the side of caution, which I appreciate, but also does not say anything particularly negative about sorbitan monostearate.  I am still suspicious of long chemical names, so that is why I feel undecided.

My phone cam won’t upload a photo today, so please imagine your favorite super crunchy thin-crust pizza.

There is a difference between the preparation on the product-package, and the website listed above.  The product from the super market lists 3 Tbsp of olive oil among the ingredients.  I followed the directions on the packet.

I pre-heated my oven to 500F  for 25 minutes with a baking stone inside.  You can also easily use a metal baking sheet.

1-3/4 to 2-1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt (I used a scant teaspoon)

1-1/2 tsp sugar

3 tbsp olive oil (or oil of your choice)

1 packet of pizza crust yeast

2/3 cup quite warm water.  That means between 120-130F.  Yes you read correctly.

I made this easy on myself & used a food processor to mix the dough.  Everything goes into the Cuisinart at once, and pulse the dough into a firm, soft, silky dough ball.  Hardly takes a minute or so.  It is now ready to use!  I have divided the dough in half & put some in the fridge for later use, simply popping it into a plastic sandwich bag.  You now have enough dough for a personal pizza, or an appetizer pizza for two.

Rub your hands with a little olive oil and begin flattening the dough into a rough disc.  Don’t worry about making a perfect circle, because that isn’t the point.  I you actually get a circle, good for you.  If you get a lop-sided oval or a trapezoid, all the better.  You can’t buy that in the freezer case, and it will show that this is homemade.  The dough will be surprisingly supple and yielding.  Drape the disc over the top of one fist and gently stretch, tugging lightly with your other hand and giving a quarter turn.  This will begin to shape the base as you repeat several times.  You can also hold one edge with one hand, and allow the weight of the dough to stretch itself, as you manage the stretch with your other hand.  Don’t worry if it tears or gets little thick areas.  Play with it, practice with it.  Start over and enjoy this new toy, if you’re a first timer.  Toss it in the air if you’re unafraid.  You can also use a rolling pin, or the tips of your fingers and tease it out on a flat surface if you don’t feel especially daring.

Gradually make an approximately 12″ diameter more-or-less flat bread and lay it down on your oven peel, sprinkled with semolina or flour – or on your baking sheet, sprinkled with semolina/flour.  Make sure that it can slide around and doesn’t stick to the surface.  If you follow my suggestions, your finished crust will be about 1/4″ , a little thicker at the edges.

Toppings:

I kept it very simple

2/3 cup very well drained tomato (I used home-canned plain tomatoes, crushed – you can also use fresh)

salt & pepper to taste

big pinch each of oregano and basil, fresh or dry

big pinch dried hot pepper flakes

small clove garlic grated or sliced paper thin

scant cup of your favorite cheese(s) – I used gruyer or mozzarella, or both

a couple Tbsp of grated, shaved or slivered Parmesan or Romano cheese

Add some shaved scallions or shallots, chopped parsley, chopped olives, a handful of arugula or anything else that you have, if you wish.  Today I also crumbled 1/2 an Italian style turkey sausage over the pie. I think the only rule is not to overload the crust, which will tend to make it soggy.  You want the crust to co-star with the flavors you top it with.  Crush the first five ingredients gently together & spread around the dough, to within 1/2″ of the edge, adding sausage or other protein if you have it on hand, and top over all with your cheese.  Some people like to brush a little oil around the edge of the crust, but you don’t have to.

Place your pizza into the screamingly hot oven and you will be surprised at how quickly it is ready. Maybe 10 minutes or less.  Give it a 180 degree turn after 5 minutes, and then start watching it like a hawk.  When you get some nice browning or charring on the crust remove from the oven and place immediately on a cooling rack to let the crust develop.  It is actually ready to serve, but it is also volcanically hot, so I let it cool slightly before slicing & serving.  You might never buy or order a pizza again in your life.

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Happy new year- maybe this title should read Mid-east meet West.  Sitting here protected from the -30F windchill Minneapolis with The Dubious Citty Katt- and we just had a successful food experiment.  However, faithful reader, I put my camera somewhere that I could easily find it, so of course I can’t find it and we must ask you to take our word for it- we can’t document it at the moment 🙂

This pizza was born from a lump of beautiful Cossetta’s pizza dough from St. Paul across the river; cleaning out of my cabinets and inspired by Lebanese meat-bread.  In this case, Lamb is the secret ingredient.

Take a pound of ground lamb and brown in a skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil;  mix into the meat a tsp of crushed dried mint, 2 cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste, a pinch of cinnamon a couple of gratings of nutmeg, a generous amount of black pepper, a tsp of crushed red pepper flakes, the rind of 1/2 lemon, 1/2 tsp cumin and let this come to  a nice brown in the skillet  Allow to cook until all liquid has evaporated- cool slightly.

Meanwhile, you will have put a pizza together- enough to cover  a 16  x  12″ jelly roll pan, or baking sheet.  Brush very lightly with olive oil, spread evenly a cup of good pizza sauce from a can, and one medium onion, shaved thin and covering the whole affair.   Crush between your fingers and sprinkle a generous tsp of dried oregano over all and bake for 10 min at 400F.    Remove from the oven as you proceed with the final assembly.

1 small head of radicchio (about the size of a large grapefruit), quartered, sliced

1 small can of artichoke hearts, chopped roughly

a big handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped (even though adherents of the Goddess of the Hunt, Diana, will tell you unfailingly to never apply any blade to the herb dedicated to Diana-you must only tear the leaf with your hands.)

Sprinkle everything evenly over the pre-cooked pizza base, including the crumbled, spiced lamb, and cover with about 1/2 pound of thinly sliced overlapping Provolone.  This will appear to be piled a little too high for a conventional pizza, but the radicchio will cook down, and the sliced cheese will help steam everything beneath it.  Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350 for another 20 minutes, and finally brown lightly under a broiler until the cheese looks irresistible and you want to dive into the thing head first and never come out again.