The Hungry Penguin
Dear friends and readers of the liberal press, per’aps you’ve noticed that Antarctica has seen higher temp’ratures than eva’ before. Since 1958, West Antarctica has warmed 4.4 degrees, a whopping three times the overall rate of global warming. Ya see, among otha things, ders dis’ Global Warming Article in da New York friggin’ Times dat explains it if you don’t wanna take my word for it. Friends, do not be alarmed. While you should perhaps secure your tickets for the next manned space flight to Mars in the hopes of not burnin’ to a crisp here on dis spinning Globe of Doom, rest assured that I am, in part, to blame.
As you know, Antarctica is my homeland. 1958. Geez. That was a looong time ago. 1958 was the same year my grandfather, Giacomo Paulo Giovanni di Penguin opened his first pizzeria on the continent. Our brick oven fires blazed day and night with the tastiest tomato pies this side of the Mediterranean. Penguins would come from the depths of the ocean, their flippers flapping, squawking and grinning with nothing but crispety crusts and blissful basil on the brain. We baked 20 to 30 pies a night, and with the oven roaring the whole time, the whole shabang was bound to get sweaty. So sue me! I’m a naturalist, but I’ve got pies to bake.
My friend, Don Reggie da Penguin says to me the other day he says, “Maximo, eh…why don’t you put some Buffalo Mozzarelle on my pie?” I says, “Reggie, ya killin’ me…you know I’ve been on this vegan diet for awhile and I’m not about to t’row it in de trash over some cheese, eh.” He just doesn’t get it, that Reg. You can defini’ly have a tomato pie w’id no cheese. And if you don’t believe me ’cause you’re a no-good babbeo, here’s how:
First, you gotta make a good crust.
– 1 packet or 2 tablespoons active dry yeast, pref’rably Red Star, but any’ll do as long as it’s not expired.
-2 1/2 cups wheat flour with extra good wheat flakes
-1/2 cup lukewarm water
-1 teaspoon sugar
-1/2 teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons olive oil
Pizza stone, cookie sheet, or porous metal tray good for crisping.
-Gravy. You can make your own tomato sauce for the pie. There’s more ways than one way to skin a cat, and I’m not about to waste my time teaching you something as basic as tying your shoes. Just make sure it’s not a runny sauce because it’s gonna turn your dough into a mush if you’ve got a thin tomato sauce on there.
-Olives. Black olives, Kalamata, Manzanilla, Potentine. Get whatever kind you want, just make sure you slice ’em thin.
-Bell Pepper. Won’t that look nice when you’ve got sev’ral colors of bell pepper on the pie? Slice ’em thin and make sure you put ’em on towards the end so they’re still crisp.
-Mushrooms. I like white cap mushrooms or portabellas. Heaven knows what kind of pesticides they put in these things. Make sure you rinse your mushrooms thoroughly. They grow ’em in manure for Godsakes so just use your common sense.
-Basil. It’s a big noob mistake to put fresh basil on a pie and then put it in the oven. Stolito! Get your head out of the oven and start thinking straight. If you do that, it’s gonna burn to a crisp. Always add the basil last.
-Other ideas for toppings. If you’re like my friend Reggie, you’ll start asking about other toppings, like I’m gonna hold your hand or something. What are you, a wise guy? Get whatever else toppings you want and stop bothering me about it.
DIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT, SO PAY ATTENTION
Yeast is a magical thing. It’s got creatures in it, and they don’t like it when you mess around with their environment. Find a clean measuring cup and add about a half cup of water. Warm it in the microwave or do what you gotta do to make it warm, but for Heaven’s Sake, never microwave the yeast or Mamma di Penguin will literally slap you upside da head. (I’ve got flipper marks to show for it.) Now just make sure it’s sorta warm, but not warm enough to brew a cup of tea. Add the teaspoon sugar and stir it around ’til it’s dissolved. Then you add the yeast. Let them sit in it for a good half hour. When you come back to check on them, it will be like you’ve got a very heady beer in the cup…foam everywhere. If you don’t see any foam, you probably did it wrong and made the water too hot, Scimunito, how many times do I gotta spell it out for you?
Now take out a large bowl. Add the 2 1/2 cups wheat flour and stir in the teaspoon salt. Add the cup of yeast little by little, gradually folding in the flour with your hands and pressing on it until it starts to form a solid ball. You may need about a half cup more of water, but be careful and add it gradually. You don’t want a soupy mess instead of a dough. If you run into trouble, just add a little more flour. Knead the dough with your fists and collect all the flour crumbles until it’s nice and firm. Pound it into a flat disk shape that is about three inches tall and about six inches across. Add your olive oil. Add a pinch more flour just to coat it so it’s not sticky. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, dark place for about an hour and a half. I call this the dough’s “time out.”
Take out your ball of dough out of “time out.” You’ll notice that the dough is more flexible and easier to manipulate. Spread some light flour on a clean kitchen surface. Place the dough ball on the surface, and go over it with a rolling pin once or twice. Turn it a quarter inch every time you go over it with a rolling pin, which will prevent it from sticking. Lightly flour the completed disc of pizza dough, and roll it around the rolling pin. This way, you can easily lift the rolling pin and place it on either a pizza stone or a cookie sheet. A cookie sheet is really inferior to a pizza stone for achieving a crispy crust. About halfway through the baking process, you wanna take the pie out of the oven and place it directly on the rack to make your crust extra crispy. If using a pizza stone, ignore all this. You’re golden.
Use your thumb and forefinger to pucker the edge of the dough to form a crust. This just raises the dough a little bit to prevent those delicious toppings from sliding off. Then slather on some tomato sauce and top generously with all kinds of vegan toppings.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the pie for about 20 minutes or until extra crispy golden brown. If you’re using a cookie sheet, again, I don’t know why you continue to breathe, but you might consider taking it out early and placing the pie directly on the rack or it’ll turn into a sloppy mess.