Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sing a song of pizza

“Now, tell me one of your recipes.”

“Right, this is a good one…Pick up the phone, dial a number, ask for a 12 inch,thin crust marinara with extra tomatoes, then – this is the vital bit – tellthem your address. And there you have it, a delicious meal served in underhalf an hour!”

Marian Keyes, Last Chance Saloon

Sadly, this kind of exchange is common where pizza is concerned. It’s all too easy to arrive home on a Friday night, take one despairing I-don’t-want-to-cook look at the kitchen and begin searching for the latest franchise pizza coupon. Which is not to say that a slab of commercial pizza can’t be good, but there is great, great pleasure to be had in making your own pizza to suit your own tastes.

Pizza from scratch is incredibly satisfying. For one thing, you can make it exactly to your own specifications. Unusual ingredients can be experimented with (the average pizza place doesn’t have thinly shaved fennel on their ingredient list and, trust me, it’s a wicked addition to any pie) and you can work to find the precise ratio of crust to sauce to cheese that elevates pizza from snack to perfection.

Secondly, there’s nothing quite like kneading dough to work out stress and tension. Had a bad day at the office? Punch some pizza dough. Its supple,satiny texture is really satisfying to the touch and it may, if you hit an airbubble, give you a resigned little squeak. Perfect.

Finally, pizza is cheaper to make than to buy. If you have flour, yeast, oliveoil, water, tomato sauce and some decent cheese, you’ve got a great familydinner for far less than the cost of ordering in. Add a bottle of red from your cellar, something velvety and zinful perhaps, and your family dinner becomes something sublime.

So the next time you’re tempted to call an order in to the local pizza & wingsplace, try making your own and use the money you saved to buy a better bottleof wine.

Pizza Dough for two 10-inch thin crust round pizzas

(I make this dough using a stand mixer and dough hook, but it can easily by made by hand)

One Tablespoon active dry yeast

One Teaspoon honey

One Tablespoon salt (some people say this is too much salt for the crust, so you might try just a teaspoon of salt the first time you make it and go from there. Me? I likes a salty crust to offset the creamy blandness of buffalo mozzarella)

Two tablespoons olive oil

Two cups all-purpose flour

Half a cup of white wine

Half a cup of warm water

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix yeast, honey, wine and water. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for five minutes.

When you return to the bowl and remove the plastic wrap, the mixture will be a beige, slightly bubbly goop with a delicious yeasty smell. Add salt, olive oil and flour and begin mixing using the dough hook attachment. The flour should incorporate with the wet ingredients to form a dough that will wind its way around the hook, clearing the sides of the bowl. If the dough’s too wet, add a bit of flour, if it’s too dry, add a bit of warm water. Once it’s clearing the sides of the bowl, knead the dough on medium speed for about10 minutes.

Once the dough’s been thoroughly kneaded, it will have a springy, stretchy, satiny texture. Remove the bowl from your stand mixer, recover with the plastic wrap and place the bowl in a warm place to rise for about 50 minutes. The top of the clothes dryer’s a good spot, but more often I place the bowl in the sink and fill the sink half way with hot water, then cover the whole thing with a hand towel or two.

After 50 minutes the dough will have increased its volumeby at least half. At this point you’re ready to begin preparing your pizzas.

Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees, ideally placing a pizza stone on the middle rack to heat up. If you don’t have a stone at this point, no worries, a heavy duty cookie sheet will do, but consider purchasing a stone if you think pizza making will become a regular menu item in the home kitchen.

If you are using a stone, let it get nice and hot. Sprinkle your kitchen counter with flour and turn the dough out of its bowl onto the counter. Knead it a bit with your hands by rolling the dough into a ball and pushing the heel of your palm across/through the ball. Then re-roll the ball and push again. Divide the dough into two balls, leaving one to rest.

Take one dough ball and place it in the middle of your floured counter. Punch it, right in the middle, with your fist. It should flatten in the middle and puff up around your knuckles. Punch the edges, going around until you create a disc of dough. Gently pick up the dough and stretch it over the backs of your fists, rotating the disc so that the dough gets uniformly thinner. If holes begin to appear, return the dough to your work surface, pinch the holes closed and use a rolling pin to further flatten out your pizza base until it’s approximately 10 inches across. If using a pizza stone, grab your mitts and remove the stove from the oven and place it on your stove top. Gently transfer your pizza base to the stone. Dress the pizza with your favorite combination of sauce, cheese and other ingredients and then return stone to the oven.

While you’re baking the first pizza (for 7 to 10 minutes – keep an eye on your pie), resume punching/kneading/stretching the second dough ball and repeat the entire process.

Kara (originally published in Vines Magazine, 2009)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love Marian Keyes. Can't go wrong with a Last Chance Saloon quote.