Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pizza Success

With a new year upon us, I thought it was time to attempt the homemade pizza again. Yes, takeout pizza is almost always good and takes less time. But the satisfaction of making one's own pizza (with no oven fires) is worth the wait. Even if the wait is almost a month.
I have tweaked a couple of pizza dough recipes to come up with one that works well for me. I prepare the dough either in the food processor or using the dough cycle of the bread machine. If you have a stand mixer such as the much coveted Kitchen Aid Mixer, by all means, use it. As soon as I get one, I'll be using it for everything because the Mixer and I are going to be very close friends.

Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups water
2 Tablespoons EV olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

For bread machine: Put all ingredients in bread pan, program to dough cycle, press start.

For mixer or food processor: Use lukewarm water, mix with yeast to proof. Combine dry ingredients in bowl and mix until combined. Add olive oil to water/ yeast mixture. Slowly pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, with mixer on low or food processor running. Mixture will form a ball. Remove to oiled bowl for 1 hour to rise.

Easy and Quick Basic Tomato Sauce

2 Tablespoons EV olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 32 ounce cans crushed tomatoes

Heat oil over medium low heat, add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add tomatoes, stir and cook for 10-30 minutes.

Now, an important note to avoid disaster: The pizza dough recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas!!! You must divide the dough in half before trying to make a pizza, or it will rise up so high in your very hot oven that your toppings will overflow all over the bottom of your very hot oven, possibly catching on fire. I don't recommend it.

The tomato sauce obviously has variation possibilities galore: add meat, add seafood, add vegetables, add spices, but this is a wonderful starting point for almost any recipe calling for tomato sauces of any kind (don't just think Italian!).

Now to construct the pizza:

Move your oven rack to the bottom slot, as close as possible to the heating element. Next, place your pizza stone on this rack. If you don't have one, no worries, neither do I. Instead, select a heavy-bottomed baking pan. You don't want to use one of those nice insulated cookie sheets because your pizza won't get crispy.

Preheat your oven to 550, or as hot as it will go. Turn on the exhaust fan and possibly dismantle the smoke detector.

Cut your pizza dough in half, and refrigerate or freeze the other half. Oil the pan lightly and spread your dough out on it. Put about 1/2 cup of sauce on top of the dough, and top with cheese of your choice - I used a hunk of fresh mozzarella. Either slide your pizza onto your pizza stone, or place it in the oven. Cook for 10-12 minutes total, rotating the pan halfway.

Good luck!!!

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