6/12/10

pizza perfect-making and baking a great pie.

i have made hundreds (if not, more!) of pizzas in my lifetime, having spent my early teenage years tossing pies at my parent's italian restaurant. it was my first job after all, and i learned quickly on what it takes to master a great pizza. believe me, i was good at it, still am! no one that has ever made a pizza in that restaurant has ever made one that was as good as mine:) while i am a lover of all kinds ( & shapes;) ) of pizza , i am definitely partial to a good new york- style, extra thin, plain-no extra cheese(<--a common first mistake when ordering, but i'll forgive you) pizza.
so, while many people like to pile on veggies, meat, whatever, i like to enjoy the vibrancy of the tangy sauce, the taste and chewy texture of the crust, and the flavor of the hot, melted cheese. and that's it. perfection.
Master Pizza Dough Recipe- Adapted from Saveur Magazine
Makes 2 12-inch pizzas
1  7-gram packet active dry yeast
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup cornmeal

 Dissolve yeast in 1⁄4 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl. Set aside until yeast begins to activate (it will foam a little), about 10 minutes. Combine flours and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to yeast and stir well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Mix in 1⁄2 cup water, then add another cup flour mixture and continue to stir. Add remaining 1 cup flour mixture, then gradually stir in about 1⁄4 cup water and mix well. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet.
 Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead with the heels of your palms until it has a smooth, uniform texture, about 10–12 minutes. Divide dough into 2 even balls. Coat the insides of two medium bowls with 1⁄2 tsp. olive oil each. Place dough in bowls, cover bowls with damp cloths or plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 1⁄2–3 hours.
 Place pizza stone or unglazed tile in oven and preheat at highest setting (not broil). Sprinkle a baker’s peel or inverted baking sheet with cornmeal. Punch down dough from one bowl, make a ball, and flatten it on the pan. Taking care not to overwork dough, stretch it into a thin 12″ circle with a slightly raised edge. Add toppings and slide onto hot pizza stone.
Bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 12–15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare second pizza. Remove first pizza from oven and bake the second on the same stone. Drizzle a little olive oil on each and serve.




MAKE THE SAUCE
I used a traditional uncooked sauce of puréed canned tomatoes. It has a brighter tomato flavor and a more vivid color than the sweet, thick, long-simmered sauces commonly found on American pizzas. To make the sauce, put one 28-oz. can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes into the bowl of a food processor, along with 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tsp. dried basil, 2 minced cloves garlic, and half a grated medium onion. Purée and season with salt and pepper. 

SHAPE THE DOUGH

Dust a 16 1⁄4" x 12 1⁄4" sheet of parchment paper with flour and lightly flour your hands. Place a ball of dough (see Recipe Above) in the center and use your fingertips to press, pat, and stretch the dough into a 10" circle, leaving a 1" rim of thicker dough. Once you become more comfortable with the dough, try this technique: make two fists and rest the flattened dough on your knuckles; lightly bounce the dough on your fists, allowing the weight of the dough to stretch it gently. If you like, make an extra batch of dough to use just for practice, until you've found a technique that works for you.


LET THE DOUGH REST
To make a fluffier, chewier crust, leave the shaped dough on the parchment paper, covered with a tea towel, and let it rise for 15 minutes. 

TOP AND COOK

Uncover the dough and top with the sauce and other desired ingredients. When you're ready to bake, just leave the pizza on the parchment paper, lift it by gripping the paper at opposite corners, and lay it carefully atop the preheated pizza stone; this eliminates the need for a pizza peel, the paddle-like tool used for getting pies in and out of hot ovens at restaurants. The paper will turn dark but will not burn in a 500º oven and is thin enough not to interfere with the browning of the crust. When the pizza is done, use a metal spatula to slide the pizza onto a plate or a cutting board.

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