Monday, March 26, 2012

Pizza Night

There is always one night of the week that feels like pizza night. I mean, who doesn't like pizza? (And it's one of the few foods with veggies in it... the sauce... that I can get my 4 year old to eat). Last night was our pizza night.

We have begun a quest to make the BEST pizza. We still have some tweaking to do, but we've come up with a pizza that is consistently delicious, EASY, and completely made from scratch. (except for the cheese.... but I plan to learn to make my own mozzarella this summer!) And, unless I start raising my own milk cows and growing and grinding my own flour, that's as close to scratch as I'm gonna get.

I make the dough, my husband makes the sauce, and depending on what's in the fridge, we have come up with some really unique and delicious concoctions. The best thing is that we are always prepared for pizza night. Every few months we make a big batch of sauce that we freeze in two-pizza portions. (I wanted to post the recipe here but it's not written down. My husband says I'm going to have to wait until the next batch and follow him around with a I will. And then I'll post it so you can make the most delicious pizza sauce too!) We freeze grated cheese the same way so that we only have to thaw enough for that dinner.

You get the benefit of all of my trials. Here's what we've come up with so far. (I will pretend like you have NEVER made pizza before, so I apologize if I go into too much detail).

The Oven: I think the most important thing when making pizza is the oven. Ideally you have a wood burning brick or stone oven. But who am I kidding..... very few of us have those (though my husband promises to build us one in our outdoor area in the near future.....I won't hold my breath). SO, since we don't have the fancy ovens that the pizza places have, we have to make our oven INTO a pizza oven. You MUST use a pizza stone (or other baking stone) to achieve a good crust. And you MUST put you stone in the oven WAY before you put your dough in so that it can get up to temp. (I usually put it in 45 minutes or so). I turn my oven to 500 degrees to heat the stone and then lower it to 450 right after I put in the dough so it won't burn the cheese too fast. I know some people who prepare their pizza on the stone and then put the whole thing in the oven. THIS DOES NOTHING! You must put the stone in first. Then how do get the pizza in, you ask? You need the proper tools, of course.

The Tools: If you enjoy pizza, and make it a few times a year (or more), I would highly suggest investing in pizza peels. They aren't very expensive and they make pizza making SO easy. There are wooden ones and metal ones. You need one of each. The wooden ones are for putting the pizza IN the oven and the metal ones are for taking it OUT. Here is a picture of mine:
The Dough: I have tried MANY different doughs. And though they are all basically the same ingredients, they don't all taste or feel right. I bake alot, so I'm very conscious of how dough feels. And when making pizza, you want something that you can toss in the air and that holds its shape without shrinking back to a ball. Personally, we like crust that is crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, but not doughy. Also, we prefer a thinner crust, not a deep dish style. Here is the recipe that I have found to be the best so far. (See the blog where I found the recipe here with great pictures of each step, though notice that I changed the amount of salt).

Basic Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey {or sugar}
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
3 cups bread flour {give or take}

In a large mixing bowl, preferably that of a stand mixer, stir yeast and honey into warm water. Sit for 5-10 minutes or until bubbles form and mixture starts to foam. This tells you that the yeast active. Pour in salt, oil and half the flour and mix. 
Once that flour is incorporated, start adding flour in bit by bit until you get the pizza dough to the consistency you want: slightly tacky, but when you touch it it doesn’t stick to your hands. Once you reach this stage, turn the mixer on high to knead for 6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and easy to work with. And the bowl should be clean! Lightly grease the bowl & the dough so it doesn’t dry out, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise 1-2 hours. 

Here is a picture of mine all rolled out (not exactly round, but close enough). Make sure to put a liberal amount of corn meal (I use semolina flour because it's finer) on the wooden peel before putting your dough down so that it will slide off easily into the oven.
Add sauce, cheese, and toppings, and bake! Usually 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees. But keep an eye on it so the cheese doesn't burn. I wait until my crust is golden......
YUM! We put sliced linguica sausage, olives, feta, and mozzarella on the pizza this time. What are your favorite toppings? I'm always looking for something new for pizza night.

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