Pizza is described in one dictionary as a “baked, open-faced pie consisting of a thin layer of dough topped with tomato sauce and cheese.” In which century was that written? Somebody has to tell them about Thai barbecue chicken. By now everyone knows that pizza is infinitely flexible, adapting to almost any topping you’re wacky enough to put on it. But what you may not realize is that pizza dough is equally adaptable. You can use a basic pizza dough to make calzone, focaccia and even really incredible bread sticks.
What’s more, the simple yeast dough can be put together in as little as 10 minutes. Then it takes only an hour to rise before it’s ready to be used. Once it is finished, you will be amazed at all the delicious things you can make with it.
Try a Provencal pissaladiere-a kind of Southern French pizza made by combining sweet long-cooked onions and pungent anchovies. This is a wonderful antipasto to begin dinner.
Or make calzone, a cheese-filled turnover. Roll the dough out exactly as you would for pizza, place the cheese filling on one side, fold the dough over the filling and bake.
In Italy, focaccia is sometimes made from the same pizza dough, depending on the locale. I have included several versions of focaccia for you to try. In the seaside town of Forte di Marme, cooks make a version of focaccia that is baked in a wood-burning oven at an extremely hot temperature until the dough blows up like a balloon. Olive oil and salt are generously sprinkled on top and it is served piping hot. When the dough is pierced with a fork, this versatile focaccia turns into a flat cracker bread.
Another version of focaccia was introduced to us by friends Wolf and Bettina Rogosky, who live in Tuscany. They layer thin slices of tomatoes and onions in a pattern and sprinkle fresh rosemary over the focaccia before baking.
But one of the very best things to do with pizza dough is make grissini, crisp thin breadsticks. Just roll and cut the pizza dough very thin-a pasta machine and fettuccine cutter work perfectly-and coat the dough sticks in seeds or herbs to add crunch and a subtle toasted flavor. The baked bread sticks can be stored in plastic bags in the freezer and, when heated in the oven, they will taste as fresh as the day they were made.
Once they’re baked, fill several large water glasses with the bread sticks and place them on table for an edible decoration.