July 23, 2013

Margherita Pizza

Pizza stone fiasco 2013...

I knew I was going to make pizza to go along with the Camarones Henesy En Hamaca. I didn't know the amount of stress this would add to preparing the meal. 

After looking up a couple of recipes online for Margherita Pizza I found one that sounded simple enough. Homemade dough. Done that before. Using whole tomatoes for the sauce. Sounds easy enough. Cooking on a pizza stone. What better excuse than that to purchase new kitchen tools? 

We headed to Williams-Sonoma since I had a gift card to use up. I needed a pizza stone and a pizza peel. A worker led me straight to the section which was probably in my best interests. I could do damage in that store. 

When it was time to prepare dinner I read through all of the directions trying to best decide how to juggle all of the steps with both recipes and the timing of it all so everything would be ready at once. I preheated my oven as high as it would go, 500 degrees, and halfway through I realized I forgot to put the pizza stone in the oven to heat up as well. Sigh. 

While the oven and stone were heating up I rolled my homemade dough. I could not for the life of me figure out how to roll the dough into a circle. I fail as an Italian. Sigh. 

Next it was time to add the cornmeal to the pizza peel. Without thinking I pulled the item that was holding the bag in an upright position and cornmeal went spilling all over the kitchen counter. Sigh. 

For the "sauce" it was just a base of hand crushed canned whole tomatoes. Why would you not just buy crushed tomatoes? Learn from my mistakes. I got my hands in that bowl of tomatoes and got all of my aggression out squeezing and pulling the tomatoes apart. A few times the tomatoes would burst open and I'd get a tomato facial. The lycopene has to be good for it's anti-aging properties when applied topically. Don't quote me. I'm sure I made that up. The blog I found this recipe on had a photo of what the tomatoes should have looked like. Soup was not reflective in that image. Sigh.

Buffalo Mozzarella Balls and I are good together. Slices of cheese. No problems.

I laid the dough on the cornmealed peel and began applying the toppings. Tomatoes and slices of the cheese. The oven and stone had a good 15 minutes to heat up. I opened the oven and from my understanding the pizza should have slid right off of the peel and onto the pizza stone. That is not what happened! The dough stuck to the pizza peel. Oh my! I was freaking out at this point. I was frantic and grabbed a spatula and a serving spoon since those were the closest items in my reach. I slid the spatula under the dough but it made the dough fold under and my toppings were sliding off. Scratch that idea. What what could I do? I had to make that method work. I went for it and slid the spatula back under lifting the other side with the spoon. Sure it stretched out a little bit over the pizza stone's surface and the cheese immediately sizzled upon hitting the hot stone but it was finally in the oven. Sigh.

After 10 minutes in the oven the cheese was bubbly and the Camarones Henesy En Hamaca were ready as well. I set a beautiful dinner in front of my son and he turned up his nose to all of it! "I'm not a pizza kid anymore." Sigh.

I on the other hand loved this pizza. I will do more research and learn the proper techniques for the pizza stone and all things pizza. Definitely a repeat worthy pizza crust recipe and obviously a good vehicle for all sorts of toppings. 

A tip that was shared was allowing the dough to sit overnight in the fridge for an ultra crispy crust. I made mine the day of and chilled for two hours before letting it come to room temperature before preparing the pizza. My crust was pillowy and delicious. I can go either way on crust. 

Makes Two 10-Inch Pizzas

Stars of the Show:
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 tsp active yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 28 oz can Italian-style whole or crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella balls, cut into thin slices
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil
And Action:

Note that you'll need at least 6 hours before you plan to make the pizzas.

Mix the warm water with the yeast and sugar. Make sure the water is warm, not hot because hot water can kill the yeast. Allow the yeast to proof for about 10 minutes until it bubbles and foams a bit.

Place the flour, salt and yeast mixture into the bowl of mixer. (I also sometimes use a food processor when making the dough. Or, you could simply use your hands.) Mix the dough on the lowest speed for 2-3 minutes, until it forms into a mass. Don't overwork the dough. 

Shape the dough into a ball and place into a large bowl coated with olive oil.

Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for two hours.

After two hours, the dough should have risen and plumped up considerably.

Punch the dough down, cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least two more hours. You can leave it in the fridge overnight or even longer for a super-crispy crust.

Two hours before you're ready to make the pizza, remove the dough from the fridge and punch it down again. 
Heat your oven to the highest temperature it will go. 
While the oven is heating, prepare the tomato "sauce." Drain the tomatoes and place them in a large container and then crush them in my hand, pouring off any excess liquid. The tomatoes will be chunky and not very "saucy," but that's how you want them. 
Divide the dough into two equal-size pizzas and reform them into balls.
On a large pastry board dusted with flour, roll one piece of pizza dough out until it's very thin, about 10 inches in diameter. Place the rolled-out dough onto a pizza paddle dusted with cornmeal. 
Spread half of the crushed tomatoes as evenly as possible over the pizza crust.
Next, distribute half of the mozzarella slices evenly over the pizza. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Slide the pizza onto a preheated pizza stone and cook until the crust is lightly charred and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Depending on the temperature of your oven, this normally takes 6-10 minutes.
Remove the cooked pizza from the oven using the pizza paddle and distribute half of the basil leaves onto it.
Repeat the process for pizza #2.


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