Saturday, November 5, 2011
Pizza is a nearly perfect food, in my opinion. It has melted cheese, and it has bread. And tomato sauce. If it hasn't got tomato sauce and cheese, it really isn't pizza. It might be tasty, but pizza needs red sauce and cheese. Mozzarella, not some other kind.
I used to be a fan of TJ's pizza dough. It ain't bad, but making your own is a no-brainer when you think about the fact that buying dough costs $2 and making it costs about...50 cents? Pocket change. That's a buck-fifty to use for cheese, damnit!
Remember the baguettes? The procedure was kinda fiddly. I said the hell with it, threw all the ingredients in the bread machine at once, kneaded, proofed it, then stuck it in the fridge. Half the dough made one 12" pie. I even used a bottle of marinara from the store for sauce, and it was great. I do like traditional pizza sauce, but I need my ingredients to multitask. You can put marinara on pizza no problem, but pizza sauce on spaghetti is a little weird- it's too sweet.
425g bread flour
3g instant yeast
Knead everything together for 10 minutes. If you don't have a bread machine, don't worry. Just work everything into a pretty smooth ball for a few minutes. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place (I leave it in the machine), then put it in a tupperware thing big enough to let it double in size overnight. If your lid hasn't got a vent built into it, don't seal it tight, or the expanding gas pressure in the dough will pop it off eventually.
When you're ready to make pizza, pre-heat the oven to 550, or as hot as it will go before it's on broil. Tear off half the dough and lightly poke the air out of it, but don't knead it, or it won't stretch out when you want it to. Cover it and set it aside while you assemble your ingredients and wait for the oven to heat up.
Once the oven is hot, stretch the dough into a circle and top it with your choice of decorations. Sauce, cheese, other stuff, then another light layer of cheese to anchor things down. It only takes about 10 minutes to brown a pizza at that temperature.
1. Do use bread flour. All purpose flour won't give you the chewy texture a good pizza has.
2. Also, letting it sit over night is important. This recipe skips the dinking around with pre-fermentation and stuff, so the sitting in the fridge is essential to develop flavor.
3. Why in the fridge? Wouldn't it be better to let it sit on the counter where it's warmer? Well, no, because at room temperature for that long, the yeasts would start turning the starches into alcohol, and the dough would be over-fermented. The low temperature in the fridge keeps things under control.
4. Too much sauce will make the cheese slide off in a painful lava flow onto your lip and chin.
5. Remember, if you use any fresh greens, they will shrink into almost nothing as they cook.
6. If you use any hard vegetables or any meats, be sure to grill them or something before topping the pizza with them. At the speed at which the pizza cooks, raw squash, for instance, will not be done by the time the dough is crispy and the cheese is a little brown.
7. I don't have a pizza stone, but I do have one of those perforated metal pans. If you have neither, just don't use one of those insulated double-walled cookie sheets. The idea is to have the bottom of the pie get as crispy as the edges, or it won't have enough oomph to pick up a slice when it's done. Use a thin metal pan, or even just a sheet of tinfoil. Whatever you use, oil the dough slightly to prevent sticking.
This is actually the 2nd pizza I made with this batch of dough, and if anything, the dough is better after sitting in the fridge for 4 days. The first one, on Wednesday night, was a pretty standard mushroom & cheese version, which was good, but this one has roasted squash and italian sausage with arugula. Very nice for fall. I was reading the food section of the paper, and they had a special on squash or pumpkin, and there was a suggestion for pumpkin with pesto on pizza which I thought sounded nice. I was also thinking of the sausage & cornbread stuffing Pete makes and serves with squash. No cornbread here, but you get the idea.