Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pizza - 4: Jess - 0

I love pizza. I really do. But lately I feel like pizza doesn't love me back. You see, the last few times I made homemade pizza have been pretty...difficult to say the least. Some minor roadbumps but others were just full-fledged disasters.

A couple of months ago I discovered the skillet method. It was genius, really. A perfect way to get that charred, crispy bottom without a) having to preheat the oven for an hour and b) a pizza stone. It worked pretty well for me the first few times. Then, one night I removed the skillet from the oven and unfortunately slammed the pizza down on the stove (hey, cast iron is heavy!). This resulted in an oil dripper falling off the ledge of the oven (why did I have an oil dripper up there to begin with? I'm an idiot, that's why) and shattering ALL OVER my pizza. I was so upset I tried to eat a slice anyway and almost ate a shard of glass. I actually did have enough ingredients to make another pizza, but by this point I was so distraught that my second pizza ended up coming off the cutting board and into the hot skillet as a big glob (this is generally the trickiest part of the skillet method), which led to an uneven and doughy mess of a pizza that I ended up taking about three bites of before throwing out. I haven't gone back to the skillet method since.

Then there was that time in Collingwood where we didn't have any cornmeal or flour (I was trying Reinhart's dough recipe as shown below and brought up the extremely wet pre-made dough) and pretty much had to chisel a few pizzas off the pan until we discovered a box of pancake mix in the cupboard (for the record, it works perfectly fine as a flour substitute to dust a pan with!)

And then a couple of weekends ago, I was at my mom's making pizza and while transferring a hot, fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza to the cutting board dropped the entire thing facedown on the floor. Three second rule you say? I wish. When I attempted to pick it up, everything but the crust remained on the floor. Sob. We made some again the next night with the remaining dough which went fairly smoothly, but not completely disaster-free either. I proceeded to knock the bowl of grated mozzerella out of Adam's hands as he walked into our tiny kitchen. Luckily we salvaged enough of it to make our pizzas later.

Reading this post over to myself is making me wonder why I still bother making pizza at home. Is it even worth the mess, stress and wasted food? And the answer? YES. Because it's that good. Because, even with all the accidents I managed to scrape out some pretty delicious pizzas on the majority of these occasions (the skillet night being a huge exception - that was just a big fat FAIL). Because I love pizza. A lot. A lot a lot.

Peter Reinhart's Pizza Dough and Sauce
Adapted from The Fresh Loaf

Makes 4 10-inch pizzas

5 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar or honey
2 tsp salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups room-temperature water

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or mix in an electric mixer. After you've combined all of the ingredients, set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. You want the dough to be pretty wet here. I usually end up add a bit more should be dry enough that it holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl when you mix it, but not dry enough to knead by hand.

2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Place each one into an oiled freezer bag. I just drizzle some olive oil into the bag and rub around. You can also apparently brush the outside of the dough with olive oil and then place it into the bag...weirdly enough, I just read this part of the instruction and had a bit of an "aha!" moment.

3. If you aren't going to bake your pizzas that day, you can throw the bags into the freezer. They'll stay good in there for at least a month. The evening before you intend to bake them, move the frozen dough balls to the refrigerator to thaw.

If you are baking later the same day, put the bagged dough balls in the fridge until about an hour or two before you want to make your pizza. At that point, remove and let the dough warm up to room temperature.

If you need to have your pizza as soon as humanly possible (which is usually the case with me), leave the bags out at room temperature and let rise for about an hour. This will result in a less flavourful, but still tasty dough.

Also, turn your oven on to the highest setting about an hour before baking. This isn't exactly an efficient use of heat but will make your pizza better. If you have a pizza stone, throw it in while the oven is heating up. If you don't, place a cookie sheet in there instead. Make sure it's on the lowest (or second lowest) rack in your oven.

4. You won't be able to roll this dough out. Take a ball out of the bag, and using your hands shape into a small circle. Take the edge and rotate so that the weight of the ball stretches your circle. Keep doing this until your dough is large/thin enough to your liking. This may take a few tries to get. If you're using parchment paper (which I strongly advise) you can also stretch it out a bit once its laid out since the dough will stick to the paper.

5. Top with sauce, cheese and whatever toppings you want. The pizza above had roast pork tossed with barbeque sauce, red onion, red pepper and pineapple. Place the pizza (still on parchment) on your pan/stone and let bake for probably about 10-15 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is, until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is browned. Enjoy!

Pizza Sauce

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
4 or 5 cloves of crushed garlic
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or any other kind of vinegar/lemond juice)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat olive oil in a small pot and add garlic. Cook for a few minutes until garlic is soft but not browned. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer for awhile (maybe 20 minutes) until the flavours have mellowed a bit. Cool and use on pizza, and freeze the rest for later.

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