Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Long Live the Pizza



Pizza is truly a perfect food. I never met one I haven't liked. It doesn't matter if it was a 2am Domino's college special or a crisp margarita off the wood-oven in Napoli, Italy. Pizza is heavenly to me.

Since moving into our house 2 and half years ago, I have been working on perfecting my pizza making skills. The house came with a convection oven that gets over 500 degrees, which makes for a crispy pizza. I started out using a pizza stone. But, after one unfortunate incident with a piece of cold cheese that shattered it, I have stuck with parchment paper and a pizza peel. Lay the stretched dough on the parchment and use the peel to slide it onto the oven shelf. This lets you cook more then one pizza at a time, and makes sure the bottom crust is very crispy.

This looks like a day long project, but it really isn't. Pizza is a week night treat for us, we use pizza crust as a vehicle to make leftover bits and pieces more appealing.I am pretty loosy, goosey with the pizza dough. I try to make a big batch because the leftover dough can be made into calzones to freeze for emergency lunches.

I start this when I get home from work - around 4:30-5pm, to have it ready for dinner around 7:30 - 8pm. So plan accordingly. (It can also be made the night before and kept covered in the refridgerator, just pull it out to warm up an hour or two before you want to bake it.)
Basic Pizza Dough
Makes 3 really big pies, or 2 regular pizzas and 2 or 3 calzones to stuff with leftover toppings. I like to have all my toppings ready to go, and a space cleaned up before stretching out the pizza dough.

Using a stand mixer with the dough hook.
2-3 cups warm water
stir in:
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey, brown sugar, or white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
(you can also add dried herbs, flax, or wheat germ)
Let sit for a minute.
Add one cup flour (whole wheat, bread, or white - or any combo)
and turn mixer on slow. Continue adding flour at 1/2 cup increments until the dough is forming a ball and pulling from the sides. This can take 5-6 cups of flour. But, sometimes, if the weather is really wet (In Oregon! Never!) it can take at least another cup of flour.

Mix on medium until you see the dough begin to stretch and form some "strings" in it. About 3 minutes. Pull out dough hook, cover and let rest in a warm place for at least an hour.

Making the Pizza
Preheat oven to 500 degrees, or as high as it will go. Do this about 30 minutes before you plan on baking.
When you are ready to bake, dump the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. If it is really sticky, sprinkle some flour over the top. Working gently, fold/ roll downward to create a ball. Holding the dough in your hands with you fingers cupped below, roll your palms outward, as though you are breaking open a fruit. Do this 2 or 3 times until the top is smooth.

Divide ball into 3-4 sections. Roll or stretch sections out into pizza shapes. Place on parchment. I like to parbake the crust for 3-4 minutes. Then add whatever your heart desires, return to oven, and bake until crisp and melty.

Some of our favorite combos
We usually don't use tomato sauce - I am too lazy to make it, so we just start with olive oil and a little garlic. Or just pile everything on!
1. Bake crust with olive oil and garlic. When finished baking top with prosciutto, chopped arugula, and more olive oil (This is the "salad course" for every pizza night - see above.)
2. Sausage, fennel and peppers
3. Sauted kale with onions, goat cheese, and sweet sausage
4. Roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, and anchovies. (MMMM, anchovies!)
5. Caramelized onions, pears and blue cheese
6. Feta, olive oil, olives and spinach
7. Spicy italian sausage, chard, apples
8. Tomato sauce, sausage, carmelized onions and fennel, pear, and goat cheese.

What are your favorite pizza topping? Leave me a note and inspire another pizza night!

8 comments:

  1. YUMMO ... my mouth is watering!

    Denise
    http://WineFoodPairing.blogspot.com

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  2. Great blog. The pizzas look wonderful.

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  3. Wow fantastic ideas for my next lunch with my friends.

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  4. I love pizza, but have actually never made it at home. I think you've inspired me to try it out soon. My favorite topping - I love a raw egg over pizza...if it's put on just as it comes out of the oven the heat of the pizza cooks the egg just enough. Tastes best with a spicy sausage or pepperoni.

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  5. I am going to have to try the raw egg and spicy sausage. That sound great!

    Thanks for all the kind comments. :)

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  6. All the variations sound so delightful!

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