Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Mama mia, la pizza!

As much as I love a fancy meal out, I have to admit that I'm a pizza junkie, I love the stuff. Too much. I could seriously eat pizza every day if my rear would allow it. Pizza- not beer - is the main reason for my college weight gain that I have thankfully lost due to my realization that pizza is both angel and devil. But now I have kids who love pizza. Damn. Why couldn't they love brocoli? So now I've started making my own pizzas at home, which is making my habit much worse... But this time I'm watching the old arse.

I've experimented with probably 10 different pizza dough recipes. Everything from supermarket bobolis (not so great) to Martha Stewart's and Mario Batali's (the redhead chef that makes pizza crust with white wine while sporting his Crocks). While they did their jobs as base of the pizza, none of them ever really made me happy. They were all rather flat and didn't have much flavor. I wanted a "poof".

And then I met....Peter Reinhart. Well I didn't meet him, I received his bread baking book (The Bread Baker's Apprentice) as a gift. He has a trick to a good pizza dough, it's a two day process. Not a busy two day process, not like Julia Child baguettes or anything! He says "The single biggest flaw in most pizza dough recipes is the failure to instruct the maker to allow the dough to rest overnight in the refrigerator (or at least for a long time). This gives the enzymes time to go to work, pulling out subtle flavor trapped in the starch. The long rest also relaxes the gluten, allowing you to shape the dough easily, minimizing the elastic springiness that so often forces you to squeeze out all the gas." (p. 209) In other words, you mix the dough on one day, refrigerate it overnight, and 2 hours before you want your pizza you let the dough rise on the countertop at room temperature. The result? A pizzeria syle pizza crust, easy to "toss" (if I could only figure it out, I could toss it....right now I "pretend toss" for my kids), it puffs up perfectly and tastes good enough to eat all the way down to the crust!

This recipe makes 6 mini pizzas, but I usually get two big pizzas out of it. Peter would probably frown at that, but I like a thicker crust. I make one huge pizza for the family and freeze the rest of the dough for the following weekend. I have to admit that people are rather surprised that this is homemade dough. It's not necessarily the very best pizza I've ever had, but it's definitely the best homemade pizza I've ever had. And there's nothing like doing it yourself!

For the homemade sauce, I simply simmer a can of pureed tomatoes with two tablespoons of olive oil for about one hour. That's it! It tastes fabulous! And for the cheese just be sure to use an Italian blend, you can find it pre-grated in packs in the supermarket. Just using mozzerella will create a very oozy, melted and not very flavorful cheese. Toppings are up to you!

Buon appetito!

4.5 cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1 3/4 cups ice water

Sift together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. With the paddle attachment, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is absorbed.

Using the dough hook, mix on medium for about 5-7 minutes, creating a smooth, sticky dough. The perfect consistency will stick to the bottom of the bowl but clear the sides. Add water or flour as necessary. Your dough will end up elastic and sticky.

Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer to dough to the counter. Using a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, mist the parchment with oil. Cut the dough into the amount of pieces you will need (2 for two large pizzas, 4 for medium pizzas, 6 for individual pizzas). Sprinkle flour over the dough, and gently round each piece into a ball. Place the dough balls on the sheet pan, mist the dough with spray oil and cover with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days. (This is where you can freeze some in food grade ziplock bags and use in the next 3 months).

On the day you make the pizza, remove the number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Dust the countertop with flour, mist with oil and place the dough balls on top of the counter, sprinkling them with flour. Gently press the dough into 1/2 inch thick discs and sprinkle again with flour and spray oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 hours.

45 minutes before you make the pizza place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Make the pizzas by gently lifting up the dough disc and laying the dough across your fists, stretch carefully with a bounce, stretching to desired diameter. Lay the dough on a piece of parchment paper that is on a flat baking sheet, so you can slide it right onto your pizza stone. Top pizza with desired sauce and ingredients (less is more, here) and slide into the oven for about 7 minutes.

1 comment:

Peabody said...

That is some seriously looking pizza! Yum.