School Lunch Cheese Sticks - You know you miss them!




School lunch cheese sticks were such childhood favorite, I still remember them all these years later, and the fact that we apparently can't buy them easily just makes me want them more. FYI, you can apparently buy max pizza sticks from amazon in bulk - but pack of 192 is bit too much for my freezer. As much as the serving size of 2 sticks at a time in school never felt enough, baking them half a dozen at a time is plenty for my household. My recipe will make at least 6 pizza sticks, with extra dough, that you can trim and make more cheese sticks or mini pizza.

Additionally, I'd like to share a few hacks for minimum-knead, easy same-day pizza dough. No sticky mess, no planning ahead required! First of all, let autolyse take care of most of the kneading for you. Resting a rough dough for at least 20 minutes will yield a dough that is softer, less sticky, and easier to knead to smooth stage, by allowing flour enzyme to work on the protein bond for you. One thing to keep in mind is oil and egg do inhibit this process, and enriched dough generally take longer resting period to achieve similar effect. So for this recipe I'm leaving out the olive oil until after the initial resting period. This also has the added benefit of making sure dough doesn't stick to my hand. 

I'm also sharing a simple, super quick dipping sauce, that requires no extended simmer - basically heat up and serve. Icing on the cake: it's cheap too! Save the San Marzano tomatoes for fancier meals. This is school lunch dipping sauce! Use the cheapest store brand crushed tomatoes available! With the help of aromatics, touch of sugar, and an umami punch from tomato paste, I promise you will enjoy this cheap sauce quite a lot, on pizza, in pasta, or as a dipping sauce. 


Ingredients:

6 frozen mozzarella sticks (string cheese or cut up low moisture mozzarella)
12 oz pizza dough
2 tbsp grated cheddar (optional)

homemade pizza dough:
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water (~hot tap water temp)
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp yeast
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

dipping sauce:
1 can crush tomatoes (28 oz)
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Instruction:
 
Add sugar, yeast, salt to warm water; stir to dissolve, & add to flour. Stir with fork until large lumps form. Hand-form a rough dough and let rest for 20 minutes. Add oil to the rested dough, knead until smooth, about 1~2 minutes.

For quick proofing:
Place dough inside a metal mixing bowl, cover with cling film, and submerge the mixing bowl in warm water bath. Dough should double in size in ~half an hour.

Divide the dough in half and roll each half into thin sheets. Place dough sheet on parchment paper. Arrange frozen mozzarella sticks about an inch apart on a sheet of dough. Cover with the other sheet. Press to seal around each cheese stick. Trim off extra dough for smooth edge. Poke the top of the dough with a fork to allow steam to escape. Use the fork to poke & outline the edge of each cheese stick to help cutting. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes. Top with yellow cheddar and return to oven for a minute or two, or until cheese melts.

While the cheese sticks were baking, start on the sauce. Heat olive oil with garlic slices, ground pepper, and red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant. Add canned tomatoes, onion powder, and tomato paste. Heat until simmering. Add sugar to taste, 1 tsp at a time. Add salt to taste, 1/4 tsp at a time.

That's it. Enjoy!

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