Breathes there the man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, “I’ll have a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese?”
That was bad, wasn’t it?
Bad but true. Everyone loves pizza, most likely because it’s made from three of life’s most delicious, and waist-enhancing, ingredients: bread, gobs of cheese and fatty meat. For those of us who must watch our weight, this has meant that pizza is a rare, guilty, indulgence.
Last week I decided to undertake a self-taught course in pizza-making with the hope of turning out not only a great crust, but a pizza that didn’t break the fat-gram bank.
Caveat: making pizza at home is not difficult, but it definitely isn’t for the culinary faint-of-heart. You have to have a few tools and the right ingredients. You also have to have some time in order for the crust to rise. (Of course, you could use a pre-made Boboli crust, but then you wouldn’t be making pizza, would you? You’d be assembling it.)
This recipe, from Cooks Illustrated, yielded a perfectly crisp, crunchy crust on the first attempt. We were amazed. By the third try, Champ and Tom, an old friend who is currently living with us, said I should open a restaurant. That’s how good it is.
Following are instructions for a basic pizza with tomato sauce and mozzarella. I’ve been experimenting with both fresh tomato slices and the more traditional tomato sauce, as well as combinations of cheeses, applied sparingly: mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan.
If you want to learn to make pizza at home, I don’t think you can beat this recipe. The dough calls for a small amount of yeast and a long, overnight rise in the refrigerator. Having made many loaves of bread over the years, I have learned that less yeast and a longer fermentation yields a more crusty loaf.
The results? Nothing short of fabulous. Get this technique under your belt and from here on in any store-bought pies will taste, at best, second-rate.
I use a pizza stone that can withstand very high temperatures, and a pizza peel to transfer the pizza into and out of the oven. If you don’t have a peel you can also use the back side of a baking sheet.
Dough (for two pies):
3 cups bread flour 2 t. sugar 1/2 t. instant or rapid-rise yeast 1 1/3 cups ice-cold water 1 T. olive oil 1 1/2 t. salt
Tomato sauce, your own recipe or store-bought Parmesan cheese 4 ounces Mozzarella cheese, shredded (per pie) Fresh basil leaves
Combine flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a food processor and process until combined, 2 seconds. With the machine running, slowly add the ice water through the feed tube and process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds. Let dough stand 10 minutes.
Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough forms a satiny ball that clears the sides of the work bowl, about 30 to 60 seconds. Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on a lightly oiled counter until smooth, about a minute. Shape into a tight ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to 3 days.
To bake the pizza:
One hour before baking the pizza, adjust oven rack to second highest position, set a pizza stone on the rack and heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into a smooth, tight ball. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing balls about 3″ apart, and cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray; let stand for 1 hour.
Coat one ball of dough with flour and place on a well-floured countertop. Using your fingertips, gently flatten into an 8-inch disk. Then gently stretch the dough into a 12-inch round, working along the edges and giving the disk quarter-turns as you stretch. Transfer the dough to a well-floured pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) and stretch into a 13-inch round.
Using the back of a spoon or ladle, spread 1/2 cup of sauce in a thin layer over the surface of the dough, leaving about a 1/4-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 cup mozzarella. Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake until the crust is well browned and the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the pizza halfway though baking. Top with fresh basil leaves.
Repeat with second pizza.