or, sad refrigerator pizza.

It doesn’t look too sad. But some aspects of this pizza were bootleg at best. The mushrooms, which I bought from the mushroom lady at the Mar Vista farmers market, had been in the crisper for over a week. For no discernible reason, I decided to dry fry them instead of plying them with fat. Don’t do this. I had no appropriate cheese, so I used a variety of vaguely inappropriate cheeses (hey, ricotta salata doesn’t melt). I had leftover tomato sauce in the fridge, one that has become so ubiquitous that people no longer blog about it, but rather blog about how many other people have blogged about it. For all that, and my undying respect for all things smitten, I wasn’t the biggest fan. The butter tasted great, of course, but my fancy can of San Marzanos never really sweetened up. To top it off, I didn’t cook the pizza for long enough, so although it looked pretty its crust was soggy. Easy enough to remedy–the pizza lived up to its generic duty of being better the next day, in part because of the crisping power of my toaster oven. And that’s the thing about pizza: I messed this one up in at least five different ways and it still make several great meals, especially with a side of zucchini salad with harissa.

The real star here was the half recipe of pizza dough I pulled from the freezer. Did you know you can freeze pizza dough? I didn’t, until the last time I made some. It thaws fast. And because it’s rested for god knows how long in deep freeze, it responds well to stretching and pulling. That said, it’s always worth while to give the dough a break mid-shaping. The gluten will relax a bit and allow for more shaping in a few minutes. See, before and after dough-siesta:

I used olive oil on the sheet pan and on my hands, but if you’re lucky enough to have a pizza stone in your oven (or a grill! grill your pizza!) then you want to use flour. Either of these cooking methods will give you a better crust than oven alone, even if that oven is cranked to 550. And on that note, I recommend not cooking this during a massive heatwave.

Wild Mushroom Pizza with Tomato Butter Sauce
serves 2-3

Half a recipe of pizza dough*
1 1/2 C wild mushrooms, torn into pieces and sauteed in 1T olive oil until wilted (1 1/2 C, I guess–but what you really want is the amount that you can imagine covering a pizza. Also: wild mushrooms are nice, but so are those white buttons from the supermarket).
1 1/2 C grated cheese (at least half of that should be something melty, like mozzarella. I also used a nub of gruyere, some parmesan, and even a few slices of deli swiss julienned. Also an unidentified remnant. Not a great combo, to be honest.)
1/2 C slivered red onion
1/2 C tomato butter sauce, or whatever jar of sauce lurks in your fridge, or one big tomato sliced
olive oil
salt and dried oregano

Preheat your oven to its highest setting. You can also do this, then turn on the broiler to get it really steamy. If you have a pizza stone, make sure it’s in there. Turn on the kitchen exhaust fan, open your windows, and close the door to the bedroom unless you want your pillows to smell like whatever gets vaporized as your oven comes to temp.

Pat out your pizza dough until it is as thin as you like it–I like thin, so I aim for 1cm. Give it a rest, and keep patting (or rolling, if you’re into that) until you’ve reached your preferred thickness. If you’ve used flour for this process, give the surface a smear of olive oil, especially around the crust area. Since the tomato sauce is more of a condiment than an omnipresent slick in this recipe, the olive oil is important. Without it you’ll have a cracker topped with mushrooms.

Scatter the sauteed mushrooms on the pizza, followed by the cheese and onions. Dollop the sauce over the top, and give the assembled product a sprinkling of salt, oregano, and olive oil. If you’re using a pizza stone, use your pizza peel, or a sheet pan with no sides, or a piece of parchment under your pizza, to get the beast in the oven. Otherwise, the pizza goes in the oven, which is super hot by now, and stays there 8-12 minutes (less, probably, if you have the pizza stone). The cooking time depends in large part on how hot your oven is willing to get. The pizza is done when you can see that the crust has firmed up–haul it out of the oven and lift an edge with a spatula. When you do this the pizza should stay in the same plane as its edge (does that make sense?). If the pizza flops back to the sheet pan, it’s not done yet.

Cool five minutes on a rack, then slice up. Clean scissors work well if you don’t have a pizza wheel.

*I use Martha’s pizza recipe from her Baking Handbook

1 C warm water (around 110 degrees)
1/4 t sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast (1/4 oz.)
14 oz. all purpose flour (2 3/4 C), plus some for dusting
1 t table salt
1 1/2 T olive oil

Sprinkle yeast and sugar over water in a small bowl. Stir with a fork and let stand until foamy. If the mixture doesn’t get foamy, it’s time to buy new yeast!

In a food processor (or stand mixer, or bowl with wooden spoon), pulse flour and salt to combine. Add yeast mixture and oil. Pulse until the mixture comes together but is still a little sticky. Martha says the dough should pull away cleanly from your fingers when you squeeze it. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and give it a few kneads until it’s smooth. Drop it in an oiled bowl and flip it over so the whole dough ball is oiled. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and leave in a warm place for around 40 minutes, until the dough is doubled in size.

Punch down the dough (this is the best part). Fold it in on itself a few times, and leave it in its bowl, smooth side up, until it’s doubled again (30-40 minutes).

Punch it down again and turn out on a floured surface. Divide into two pieces; either make two pizzas, or wrap one piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate (or freeze!) it. Now you have pizza dough.

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