Photos by Rick Daugherty
Editor’s Note: Last year in our September issue, Chef Jeff showed readers a handful of great items that can be made with everyday pizza dough. The article was a hit, so we’ve asked him to develop more ideas for this issue. Enjoy!
I was so delighted with the responses we got from last September’s pizza dough article and demo showing ways to use dough beyond pizza that I wanted to ”stretch the dough” just a little bit farther. As you may have learned by now, I am a fi rm believer in making fresh pizza dough. It’s one of the least expensive things we make and, at the same time, is so incredibly versatile. The options are practically endless. To understand my menu philosophies by now, you also understand that it’s important to utilize the ingredients you bring into the kitchen in as many versatile ways as possible. When I talked to you in the past about artichoke hearts, I’ve taught you to use it not just on pizza, but also in salads, appetizers and pasta dishes. Well, the same goes for pizza dough. It’s plentiful and inexpensive. Let’s take a quick look back at what we explored a year ago.
Last year, we made some very simple breadsticks, both appetizer- and dessert-style (along with some amazing garlic knots, pita pockets and tortilla wraps), utilizing a dough sheeter. We finished off with calzones and stromboli. Once you have those things down pat (and I surely hope you have tried some or all of these techniques by now), I’ll want you to try these other innovative ways to utilize your pizza dough.
Let me start out with something very simple: flatbreads. Take an 18-ounce dough ball and stretch it out onto a 12-inch screen or pan. This will be much thicker than your normal pizza. Brush it with some olive oil, and then use your creativity with what you will top it with. Remember, this is not a pizza, but will become a nice round loaf. I like to put sliced red onion with coarsely chopped rosemary and shredded parmesan on mine. You can also lightly spread tomato paste on the bread. You’ll want to cover the dough and let it rise for about an hour. Bake at 400 F for about 12 to 15 minutes. These are great to have on display for customers to take home as an add-on to their order.
Next, I want to share one of my favorite snacks of all time: spinach pies. Don’t confuse this with Spanikopita, which are layers of phylo dough with a spinach and feta mixture in the middle. Scale out 3 ounce dough balls and let them proof long enough for the dough to be relaxed enough to roll it out into about a five-inch diameter fl at dough round. Next, take two pounds of cooked and well-drained spinach. You can use frozen chopped, but I like to quickly sauté it in a pan or even on my fl at top grill for just a minute or so. Over- cooking it will drain the bright green color out of your spinach, so be careful not to do that.
Once you have two pounds of chopped and drained cooked spinach, add in 1⁄3 cup of olive oil or vegetable oil, two tablespoons of freshly minced garlic cloves or granulated garlic, and two teaspoons of salt. The spinach mixture is really that simple. Plain cooked spinach is so bland and boring — but when you marry it with a little salt and garlic, it is truly amazing!
Now add three ounces of spinach to the bottom half of each rolled-out dough, egg wash the bottom half edge and fold down the top. Seal it. Make a little slit in the top and let the spinach pies proof for about 45 minutes. Bake them at about 375 F for 10 minutes. These should be served at room temperature. In a sense, spinach pies are almost like mini calzones; but, because of the process, it is more bread like. You can vary these pies by adding sliced black olives and pepperoni to the spinach mixture. You can also slice the pies open, to order, and add the pepperoni (and even some cheese) at the customer’s request. Just bake it for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. Once you start making these and find some fans, you’ll realize that making a dozen probably won’t get you halfway through the lunch hour!
In keeping with that spinach theme for a moment, I want to share the pinwheel concept with you. Take a 12-ounce dough ball and stretch or roll it out in a rectangle shape, then take eight ounces of the spinach filling described above and spread it out evenly over the dough. Now simply start at the bottom and roll it up. Then take a serrated knife and cut one inch pieces; lay them on their side in a well oiled pizza pan or on a half sheet pan. It’s important to cover these and let them rise for an hour. Then bake them for about 10 to 12 minutes. Just before they are done, sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese over them to enhance their flavor. This is a great appetizer — or even a wonderful substitution for dinner rolls.
Pinwheels for dessert? Absolutely! Use the same method I just described in the spinach pinwheels, but change the filling. Here’s a great recipe to try: mix a half-pound of butter or margarine, one cup of brown sugar, one of cup sugar and one tablespoon of cinnamon.
Now when you roll out your dough, simply spread this mixture over the dough and roll it, cut it, proof it and bake. Wow, you now have your own cinnamon bun pinwheels made of your own pizza dough. If you take a pound of powdered sugar and add a few tablespoons of warm water, you can make a very nice glaze to drizzle over the pinwheels. Add some blueberries to the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture for yet another variation of pizza dough pinwheels.
Let’s finish off with one more sweet treat: zeppoli. You’ll need a fryer for this one. Everybody loves fried dough when they go to the carnival, so why not offer your version? This one is so easy. Just cut little pieces of pizza dough, about half-ounce pieces, and fry them until golden. Once they come out of the fryer, you’ll want to roll them in cinnamon sugar. Then you can drizzle chocolate and caramel sauce over them. Sprinkle a little powdered sugar over the whole thing and call this one a sweet and profitable success. Now that I’ve shared even more creative ways to use your pizza dough, I really hope you roll up your sleeves and give some of these recipes a try. I promise you’ll find great success in pleasing your guests and raising your check average. So go ahead, see how many ways you can “stretch your dough”!
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