A while ago, I got an invitation for a Pizza Party and before I even knew the when or where I immediately signed up. It turned out to be at Benjamin’s and hosted by the Canola Growers. Benjamin’s is owned by Chef MJ Feeke and is famous for their brick oven pizzas (among a other things, such as their baked goods). I have been using this pizza dough and sauce recipe that I love for years but I didn’t dare miss an opportunity to learn from Chef MJ Feeke (remember my Christmas cookie adventure last year?) Especially since I knew this may be my last opportunity. Chef MJ is closing down her bakery/restaurant/catering business, packing up and moving to Europe! This is sad news for us in Manitoba but an exciting time for her so I wish her and her family lots of luck.
Now, about that pizza. MJ started with some theory. We observed and learned hands-on the differences in various types of flour, yeast and got a lesson in gluten. We practiced kneading (I had no idea I was doing it wrong) and she answered all our questions about everything pizza, including: how to determine when your dough is ready, how to properly use a pizza stone, why we should saute our veggie toppings first and even what to do with the leftover dough (make foccocia and pretzels).
She also shared three reasons she prefers to use canola oil for pizza dough:
- It makes a good tenderizer.
- It keeps flour moist and helps in browning – try drizzling some on the outside edges before baking.
- Sauteing toppings in canola oil removes moisture to keep the dough nice and crispy.
We then got to make our own dough that we let sit and rise while we rolled out some dough MJ had made earlier and created our own pizzas that we cooked in her brick oven. We paired it with some wine and enjoyed our creations fresh out of the oven.
A gift from Chef MJ
The highlight of the evening was MJ gifting us some of her dough starter, also known as bread starter, mother dough pre-ferment or my favourite – pate fermentee. If you are not familiar with what dough starters are for, they are fermentation starters used to make bread. Essentially you save a piece of dough each time you make dough and add it to your next batch of dough, and so on. Why, you ask? This allows more time for the yeast, bacteria and enzymes in the dough to create greater complexities of flavour. The older the starter, the better. The one MJ gifted us has been in use for as long as she’s been making pizzas at Benjamin’s – 13 years! MJ was adamant that we not take the starter unless we were committed to the process, that being, keeping it “alive” by using it to make pizza dough at least every 4-6 weeks. So, I am happy to tell you I have committed to making pizza at least once a month for the rest of my life!
That won’t be difficult at all, as we already do this in my household. I’ve been pushing my friends and family on this recipe since I started using it. It actually takes longer to order a pizza than it does to make this dough. Plus, I like to explore my toppings.
Growing up, my mom used one of those Kraft pizza-in-a-box kits which they still sell at the store. Salvadorans aren’t known for their pizza making skills but that’s ok – what I cherish are the memories of homemade pizza that I am so happy to carry on.
Here are the steps MJ taught us to make pizza dough.
Pizza Dough & Quick Pizza Sauce
Recipe from CanolaEatWell.com
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour (250 mL)
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour (375-500 mL)
- 2 Tbsp wheat germ (30 mL) *see note below
- 1 pkg (7 g) quick rising instant yeast (1 pkg)
- 1 cup warm water (250 mL)
- 1 Tbsp canola oil (15 mL)
- 1/4 tsp salt (1 mL)
Quick Pizza Sauce
- 2 Tbsp canola oil (30 mL)
- 1 small onion, diced (1)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced (3)
- 3-4 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 2 Tbsp each of fresh oregano and basil (45-60 mL)
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (1 mL)
- 1 can (28 oz/796 mL) crushed tomatoes (1 can)
- 1/2- 1 tsp sugar (optional- it helps to reduce the acidity of tomatoes) (2-5 mL)
- In a large bowl, mix whole-wheat flour, 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour, salt and yeast. Stir in warm water and canola oil.
- Gradually stir in enough of remaining all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Knead on lightly-floured surface until smooth and elastic.
- Shape dough into ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes before rolling out.
Quick Pizza Sauce
- Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add canola oil.
- Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, pepper and crushed tomatoes. Simmer sauce for 5-10 minutes.
*Adding wheat germ when using whole wheat flour, makes your recipe whole grain, making it good for you. If you don’t have any, omitting it won’t alter the dough, it just won’t be whole grain.