Sep 09 2012

Pizza maison

Published by Christine at 5:26 am under Breads,Vegetarian

Who doesn’t like pizza? Let me rephrase that: who doesn’t like good pizza? Personally, I’m not a big fan of the huge, floppy, meaty, oil-dripping, overly cheesy slices one gets at most pizza parlors. But I do like a well-made pizza, cut into human-size pieces that do not fall apart, with lots of fresh and tasty vegetables. It’s so easy and fun to make your own, and use exactly the toppings you like (ever ordered a mushroom pizza, happily anticipating a meeting with some fresh and delicious fungi, only to be greeted by the canned stuff on top of third-rate mozzarella?*), that there’s really no reason to put up with a sub-standard variety. The only thing you need to do is plan ahead – the dough requires about 2 hours before it’s ready, but then the baking is rather quick.

Now, for the crust. I like David Lebovitz’ recipe, which turns out both simple and delicious. Don’t let the two-step (starter + dough) dance scare you; it’s really simple. In my case, the dough yielded a pizza that was definitely thicker than what you might be used to, especially if you live in New York. It also stood up very well to the ingredients (some a bit wet) I put on it. I happen to enjoy a more bread-like pizza crust, so if you’re like me, you will love this.

As for the toppings, really, anything goes, as long as it’s fresh and, if possible, locally grown. I used some lovely golden cherry tomatoes from my favorite local organic grower, and basil from my backyard. The cheese, however, was from the (local!) supermarket. Caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, lightly grilled zucchini or eggplant would also be dynamite here.

This is the kind of dish where you can let your creativity shine, so let your hair down (just not in the dough) and bake away!


* I have, and the thought still makes me shudder. I think there must be a special place in food purgatory for canned mushrooms.


Pizza Maison

For the starter:

1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup each all-purpose flour and whole wheat or rye flour

For the dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup room temperature water

Mix the ingredients for the starter and let rest for at least 30 minutes (until the mixture is nice and foamy). Mix in the rest of the ingredients with the starter by hand or with a stand-in mixer. Continue kneading with the machine or by hand, adding pinches of flour as necessary, until the dough is just a little bit sticky. It will be soft and smooth. Oil the ball of dough and let it rise in a bowl until doubled in size, anywhere from 1 to 1.5 hours.

About 30 minutes before you are ready to roll out your pizza dough, pre-heat your oven to at least F500 degrees. The hotter, the better.

Cut some parchment paper to fit a rimmed baking sheet. Punch down the dough and knead it briefly. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Roll it out on top of the parchment paper to fit. If it resists, walk away for a few minutes and try again. Pretty soon, it will understand who’s boss. Pick up the parchment paper with the dough, and place on the baking sheet. Brush some olive oil on the dough.

Top with a few of your favorite things (warm woolen mittens are not ideal, though).

Two kinds of tomatoes and four kinds of cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, romano and parmesan)

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. When the crust looks cooked and the toppings are golden, your pizza is done.

And when I say it's done, I mean it's DONE.


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