Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homemade pizza


Pizza Points:
1. The oven should be as hot as possible.
2. Using a pizza stone (essentially an unglazed ceramic tile) will make the crust crispier, as the tile absorbs extra moisture, and provides an even heating surface. I don't own one, but it's on my list of things to buy myself when retail therapy hits.
3. Cheese: Buy a block of cheese, and grate it yourself! Pre-grated cheese has cornstarch added to prevent the shreds from sticking to each other in a sticky jumble. The meltage, if you will, will be better when you grate it yourself.
4. Use good quality bread flour! It affects the gluten development of the pizza crust, which in turn creates that slightly crispy, yet chewy texture of the dough that works for this type of pizza crust. So go spend $5 and get yourself some good flour! I prefer using King Arthur flour, but use whatever you like best!
adapted from Annies-eats.com

1/2 Cup. warm water
2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
4 C. bread flour + extra for dusting
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 C. water at room temperature
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. cane sugar (or any sugar you have)

tomato sauce
block of mozzarella or any other cheese of choice
any toppings your heart desires

Pour the instant yeast into the 1/2 Cup of warm water. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt, flour, and sugar. At this point, pour in the rest of the room temperature water into the yeast/water mixture, and add that and the olive oil to the dry ingredients. Knead with (clean) hands. As the liquid is absorbed the dough will become sticky. Knead for five minutes until it forms a smooth ball. 

Depending on the humidity, temperature of water, and a myriad of other factors, you may need either a little more water or flour to achieve a ball of dough that is gently pliable. Put the ball of dough into a greased bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm place for two hours to rise. You can pre-heat an oven to a warm setting and put the dough there (use an oven-proof bowl). Take a look at the dough- it should have almost doubled in size. Good. Punch it down to deflate it, divide the dough in half, and shape into two balls. Let rest for about ten minutes (no more than 30 minutes). 

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees about 30 minutes before you put the pizza in the oven. This is to ensure that the oven is as hot as it can be. Some people turn their broilers on beforehand, as those temperatures can exceed 500 degrees. The idea is that you want the oven as hot as possible. My favorite pizzas come from coal fired ovens, where temperatures can get up to 800 degrees. The pizza that comes out is a slightly charred, blisteringly hot, atrociously delicious pie : ).
 At this point, take your ball of dough on a surface lightly sprinkled with cornmeal, and shape into a large square/circle/desired pizza shape. Brush the crust lightly with oil. Trust me, it will give it a wonderful color and texture. Top with tomato sauce/grated cheese/yummy toppings. Slide it onto a pre-heated pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven, and bake for 10-12 minutes. It should be hot, bubbly, slightly browned, and will smell amazing.

Left: mushrooms, yellow bell peppers, sliced green tomatoes (from my garden!).
Right: spinach, olives, yellow bell peppers.

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