Monday, February 28, 2011

A Perfect Pizza

I have not always been a pizza lover. Growing up I didn't get it. When I was a kid, if you asked me what my favorite food was it wasn't pizza. As long as I can remember my favorite food was my daddy's fried rice, and steak. I didn't get the appeal of greasy pizza that came in a cardboard box. Or the pizza that you bought in the freezer aisle, which was always too crispy, or too artificial tasting.

But as I got older, I started to eat out on my own, and really tasted pizza. Like, good pizza. We have some great places that specialize in gourmet pizza around the Twin Cities. And I have had the pleasure of tasting a few. But, since my favorite place to get pizza doesn't deliver to my hood, and because most of the appeal of getting pizza is the convenience of delivery, I had to take matters into my own hands. And I am now a proud lover of homemade pizza.


The key to good homemade pizza is the crust. And for this I turn to Baking Illustrated. I first saw this on Annie's blog, and it is my absolute favorite pizza crust, and is extremely versatile. It is thick, and chewy, but also has a nice crusty crispiness when cooked on a pizza stone (which is also a crucial element to pizzeria quality pizza at home). But I don't always have bread flour on hand, so when that happens The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Pizza Crust, it comes in at a close second.


Usually pizza night at my house means defrosting and letting rise a dough ball that was frozen the last time a made a big batch, and throwing whatever I can find in the fridge in the crust. But last week was Blogger Tribute Week, and I made a lot of blogger recipes that didn't make the blog. This is one of them. And it was oh. so. good.

Traditional Pizza Crust

Makes: 2 large pizza crusts*

Lightly adapted from Baking Illustrated via Annie's Eats

1 3/4 cup warm water (about 110°)

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting

1 ½ tsp. salt

olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

-Measure the water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir in brown sugar.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  

-Add the oil and stir to combine.

-In a large bowl mix flour and salt, slowly add in yeast mixture and mix with a spoon until a cohesive mass forms.  

-Remove dough from bowl, and place on lightly floured surface. Knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes depending on how much muscle you use (this can also be done by stand mixer with a dough hook).

- Split the dough into 2 equal portions. If not using both wrap one in plastic wrap, and then place in a freezer bag, freeze until ready to use. If using right away, place a dough ball into a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate it.

-To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Form dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

-Shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal.  Top as desired.  Slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes.  

- When ready to use frozen dough, unwrap dough ball, coat in oil and place in a oiled bowl, cover with towel and allow to thaw/rise in a warm place until doubled in size, and follow the remaining directions

*For the purposes of pleasing my loved ones, and trying not to have leftovers because we would be out of town the following 4 days I took one crust, divided it into 2 and made 2 smaller pizzas, one white clam, one traditional (tomato sauce, sausage, onions, mushrooms, peppers). And I ended up rolling the crusts a little bit thinner than I usually do. They weren't as puffy and chewy as it is when I make one large crust, but it was still delicious, and slightly chewy, and crispy!

** And truth be told it is better for you to use a pizza stone. Your crust will undoubtedly be crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. But I don't have one, so I dust a large cookie sheet with cornmeal, and bake close to the bottom of my oven.


White Clam Sauce

Makes: Approximately 2 cups sauce, enough for 1-12" pizza, or 1lb linguine

Lightly Adapted from Good Clean Fun

1 Tbsp.unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. flour

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 (6.5 oz) cans of minced clams, drained, juices reserved

1/4 cup reserved clam juice

1/4 cup cream or half and half

1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

chopped fresh parsley for garnish

- Combine butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. once butter has melted, add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

- Add flour and stir for 1 minute. pour in wine and stir well until smooth.

- Add clam juice and simmer until reduced by half. stir in clams, cream, and parmesan and stir well until smooth.

- Spread on pizza crust, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese (if using), and bake according to crust directions


-Toss with cooked linguine, and sprinkle with parmesan. sprinkle with fresh parsley and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Parmesan cheese adds sweetness to the pizza crust.


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