Pizza at our house, growing up, wasn’t quite like the American version of the Italian pizza. Ours had its roots in the Middle East. Kaukab would make a huge metal bowl full of pizza dough. I’d sit on the floor nearby and watch her swift hands make good on fifteen, or so, personal-size pizzas. She’d quickly dust them with a dried herb and seed concoction of sesames, oregano, and others I still am unsure of, called Zaatar. We kids liked to smear a bit of ketchup on them, hot out of the oven, to give ’em some extra “pizza” flavor.
Until today, we’d always wait to make a trip up to her kitchen to have these, since I’m not comfortable working with dough. But my hubby decided that we’d be up for the challenge. He’s the baker in the family. And a good bread maker, at that. Years ago, he scoured countless recipe books and online recipe sites wanting to make pita bread. He came very close to making a respectable one that Kaukab would have approved. (She likes him very much.)
Calling me into the kitchen to “look” at his dough balls–restrain yourselves–I found myself actually making the pizzas. My hands seemed to recall, rather instinctively, the way Kaukab had pushed her fingers into the dough, spreading it outward to a thin sphere. The zaatar heavily dusted atop, with olive oil drizzled and massaged into it so that it would become a part of the dough.
We made several pizzas in our endeavor to attain the result that would be worthy of Kaukab’s approval. Here’s what we learned:
Pizza # 1 was too fat and the zaatar was too dry. That’s because we didn’t spread out the dough enough and didn’t drizzle any olive oil atop the zaatar.
Pizza # 2 & 3 improved somewhat, in that we attempted to thin a bit more, and drizzled olive oil atop the zaatar.
Pizza #4 proved successful–at least in our eyes. We spread the dough out even thinner and not only drizzled olive oil atop the zaatar, but gently massaged the oil into the zaatar, which melded into the dough. SUCCESS!
We all ate some and decided that it was good enough for us. We bagged the remaining pizzas for tomorrow. Afterward, we engaged in a discussion of possible pizza toppers that could be added to them, once out of the oven. Here’s some:
1. Caramelized onions
2. Feta Cheese, black or green olives (or both)
3. Dressed Greens w/tomatoes
Make sure to dip your hands in olive oil before you pat out the dough. This will give the crust a nice start. Use the hottest oven you have–I had 550 degrees. If you don’t want to make your dough, you can use frozen bread dough–thawed, of course. Don’t worry, that’s Kaukab approved. She started using these years ago to make quick time of it. I figure, if it’s good enough for Kaukab, it’s good enough for you. Hubby used a bread dough recipe from his very old Betty Crocker book–the ugly, bright orange one.