Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pizza

You all love it--now here's how to make it . . .

Mix 2 t yeast with 1/2 cup warm water (about body temp: 95 to 100 degrees) and 1 T honey (or anything sweet, like sugar or agave syrup, etc.) and let it bloom until bubbly


The Dough ~
4 1/4 c flour
~ bread flour works best, but AP will do. I often substitute various multi-grain flours too but keep at least half white flour to develop the necessary gluten elasticity.
2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup water
various herbs and spices (optional)
~ put flour and salt (and herbs if using) in the bowl and make a well in the center. Add yeast mixture, oil and wine and start to mix with a wooden spoon and eventually your hands. Slowly add water and keep mixing until the dough forms and pulls away from the bowl (you may use more or less water). Knead on the counter for about 3-5 minutes until you have a firm round smooth ball. Put it back in the bowl and coat with olive oil to prevent sticking and cover with a damp towel and let rise until it doubles in size. You can make this 1-3 days ahead and store in the fridge, but it will slowly give off CO2, so be prepared to let it breathe. This slower fermentation gives it a great flavor and by the third day, it's like sourdough. Any more than 3 days and the yeast over develops and it starts to get funky. You can also wrap portions in wax paper and/or baggies to freeze for later (let it completely chill in the fridge to slow down fermentation first). This makes at least 2 large pizzas. It also works great for 'pigs in a blanket' and calzones (brush these with egg wash before baking), breadsticks, and so on . . .
 






 You can use canned pizza or marinara sauce; crushed tomatoes; or home-canned tomatoes. Throw in some olive oil, an italian fresh or dried herb blend (oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsely, and basil) and finely minced garlic and onion (and salt, if needed) and simmer until it reaches the consistency you like.
You can use packaged shredded cheese, but if you're like me, you want it to taste really authentic. I prefer to buy blocks of fresh mozzarella, aged asiago, pecorino romano, and Parmigiano Reggiano and shred or chunk them myself. You'd think I'd go organic, but I nearly always buy Bel Gioiso and genuine Reggiano because the flavor and quality simply cannot be beat.


Punch down the dough, divide it into 2 equal parts, then start to form it into a pie shape as thin or thick as you like it. You can stretch it by hand (toss it if you're feeling brave) or roll it out.  It will rise about twice its thickness in the oven, so make it thinner than you think you need to.  If using a pizza stone, which I highly recommend, preheat the oven and the stone at 400 degrees for at least 30 minutes. Spread some flour, cornmeal, or coarse salt on a pizza peel  and spread the dough out making sure it slides around easily on the peel. If using a pan, just stretch the dough to the edge of the oiled/buttered pan. Top with sauce. 


Add the cheese and toppings (not too thick or it might cook unevenly). Brush the crust with melted garlic butter (smash a clove of garlic and bake with a couple tablespoons of butter and a dash of salt in a ramekin for about 7-10 minutes while the oven is preheating). Carefully slide the pizza onto the pizza stone (remember to make sure it moves freely). Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. If using a pan and you want a crisper crust, slide it directly onto the oven rack during the last 5 or 10 minutes (be sure it will hold up before doing so). Sometimes I go all veggie, especially in the summer, but I love spicy italian sausage (brown it first) and uncured organic pepperoni too!  At some point, I WILL have a wood-fired pizza oven!
Special Tidbit
This same dough makes a great loaf of bread too. After you punch it down, just form it into a loaf or put it into a loaf pan, let it rise again until double in size and bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes. It definitely tastes better if you let it slow ferment in the fridge overnight. Just take it out and let it come to room temp, then rise and bake as directed. Cool completely on a rack. It's awesome with butter and jelly or made into french toast the following day. It is slightly dense and oh, so yeasty!

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