Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gimme Pizza

Making pizza is truly an art form.  The task of creating the perfect pizza is never-ending, but always entertaining. As a result, I have gone through several ridiculous pizza-making phases. For a while there I was obsessed with grilling thinner-than-paper dough on a janky charcoal grill using an assembly line of enduring friends.  There were injuries sustained and pizza causalities.  I have since moved back inside with my pizza-making, using the oven and a few necessary tools.

Along with my efforts to make delicious pizza comes a search for the perfect pizza dough.  I haven't found it yet, but I think this recipe is pretty darn close.  I love its simplicity, saltiness and crunchy texture.

Also, I seriously recommend using a scale whenever making bread.  Your results will be more consistent. However, having just recently shifted to using a scale, I understand that most of us Americans do not have one.  I'll try to always include recipes with both volume and weight.

Pizza Dough
from Forno Bravo

Makes enough dough for three small pizzas.

By Volume
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 ½ cups, plus 2 tbsp warm water
1/2 tsp active dry yeast

By Weight
500 grams bread flour
10 grams salt
325 grams warm water
3grams active dry yeast

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, set aside.   In a small bowl, gently stir the yeast into the water and let sit for 5 minutes or until foamy.  Make a well in the center of the flour and stir in the yeast water.  Mix with a wooden spoon until cohesive.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and does not stick to the table.  You shouldn't have to add too much flour to prevent the dough from sticking (maybe a few tablespoons). Drizzle a little oil into a bowl, roll the kneaded dough around to coat in the bowl, and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Punch down the dough with your fist.  Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Take one piece with both hands. Gently tuck the edges underneath the dough.  Keep tucking until the top of the dough is tight.  Pinch the bottom of the dough together until sealed. Repeat with the other two pieces of dough.

Dust a cookie sheet or large cutting board with flour.  Dust each roll with flour.  Place dough on the cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches of room between each roll.  Cover with a damp towel and let sit until doubled, about an hour.

While the dough is rising, get your pizza fixins' ready.

Summer Pizza

To make great pizza you will need to do a few essential things.  First, make sure your oven is as hot as possible.  500 degrees will work, but the hotter the better.  A pizza stone is also important for a crunchy crust. If you don't have one, a large cookie sheet or metal pizza pan will suffice. Also, a pizza peel is very handy because you can have your stone or pan preheating in the oven while you prepare the pizza.  If you don't have a peel, just use the back of a cookie sheet.

Here are some pizza combinations that Dave and I made.  Dave bought some Queso Oaxaca for burritos, but realizing that it was super delicious mozzarella cheese, we used it on these pizzas. Otherwise, I recommend full fat mozzarella.

We were fortunate enough to be able to make the pesto using garden produce.  The zucchini and onion also came from our garden.  As soon as I've got some ripe tomatoes, we will be making fresh tomato sauce too. Makes for some tasty pizza!

Garlic Olive Oil

about 1/4 cup of olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
a large pinch of salt
black pepper

Mix everything together.  I like to make it all in the mortar in pestle. It'll be best if you make it an hour ahead so that the flavors can meld together.


garlic olive oil 
about 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese or queso oaxaca
2 fresh medium tomatoes, diced and strained in a colander
a small bunch of chopped fresh basil


garlic olive oil
about 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
zucchini, sliced


pesto (see arugula pesto)
about 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
zucchini, sliced
1 onion, caramelized

Place your pizza stone at the bottom of your oven and preheat it as high as possible.  You want the pizza stone to be in the preheated oven for at least 45 minutes before cooking your pizza.

Prepare your work space.  Get all of your ingredients out on the table, easily accessible. Get out a pastry brush for the garlic oil and spoons if needed. Flour the table surface for your dough. Also, lightly flour your pizza peel. It's very important that the entire surface of the peel is coated. 

Place one of the rolls on the floured surface. Dust with flour.   Flatten the dough with your hand (the dough should be very flexible and squishy at this point.  If it isn't, it needs to rise longer).  Roll dough out with a rolling pin, as thin as it will let you without breaking.  

After you've rolled it out as much as you can, grab it and lay it over one of your hands which should be in a slightly open fist (as if your spelling a "C").  Gently flip it over to your other hand, also in a fist. As you keep doing this, the dough will start to stretch.  Move your fist to spots that are thicker, until the dough is even and stretched to the desired size. Set it on your peel and shake the peel back and forth to make sure that the dough is loose and can slide off easily.

Spread your desired sauce or brush with oil. Sprinkle with most of the cheese, your fixings, and the last of the cheese on top. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on top along with some cracked black pepper.  Check again to make sure the dough is loose.  Shake the peel quickly and gently, so that you don't lose toppings. Once you know that your pizza is loose, carefully slide it onto your pizza stone. Bake until the crust is light brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 8 minutes.

You can prepare another pizza while the first one is cooking in the oven.  Just remember that you'll need another pizza peel or the bottom of a cookie sheet to take out the first one.  Bon appetit!

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