Friday, May 2, 2008


This is an old entry, posted on my old recipe page. But the boyfriend and I are celebrating our three-month anniversary tonight with pizza. I think tonight's will be a three-cheese pizza: mozzarella, smoked sheep's gouda, and a fresh chevre.

Pizza is a straightforward concoction. Begin with a simple white bread dough — do not use any oil or fat in the dough. For example, combine 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 Tbsp salt, 1/2 Tbsp yeast, and then mix/knead in enough cold water for a satiny dough (roughly a cup). Let the dough rise, rolled into a tight ball on a floured surface and covered, for perhaps an hour.

Adjust the oven's racks to low, and put in a baking stone — a large flat ceramic piece that has high specific heat, and on which you will directly bake the pizza. You can use an upside-down cookie sheet, but higher specific heat is better. Preheat oven 500°F, or as hot as it will go. Professional pizzeria ovens are wood-fired and stay at about 800°F. Eventually, when I am grown up and have my own house and land, I will build an outdoor brick-and-clay oven that goes this hot. In outdoor- and pizzeria-ovens, the floor of the oven is lined with heat-proof bricks which act like a baking stone in a home oven; the pizzas and breads are baked directly on the bricks.

When the dough has doubled (about an hour), sprinkle a pizza peel liberally with corn meal — it's hard to have too much. With a well-floured hand, grab a large handful of dough. On a floured surface, roll into a ball, and flatten into a disk. Move to the pizza peel, and stretch out with the tips of fingers into a large, thin circle. Be sure not to puncture the disk — we don't want an annulus. If you're really good, you can stretch the dough quite a bit in the air.

Cover the crust with a thin layer of sauce. Sauce? While the dough was rising, pulse a can of diced tomatoes in a food processor with a pinch of salt and some fresh basil, and let drain in a sieve for half an hour. Be sure to leave half an inch of crust at the edge of the pizza. Transfer to 500°F oven, and bake for five minutes. Remove from oven, and place half-inch cubes of mozzarella with half-inch spacing on top. Return to oven for five more minutes. If your oven goes to 800°F, you only need five minutes total bake time (and should use a higher-gluten dough; at home-oven temperatures, a mix of all-purpose and cake flour is best). Slice a fresh heirloom tomato, and when pizza is done, remove from oven and press slices of tomato and leaves of basil into the still-melted cheese. Sprinkle with a little salt, and a capful of extra-virgin olive oil.

You can serve the pizzas on the stone, removed from the oven and placed on something that will protect the table from the heat. The stone, with its high specific heat and hearty aesthetic, will keep the pizzas warm as a centerpiece. But do not cut the pizzas on the stone: for one, many stones do not take well to steal knives scratching them, but even moreso, the ceramic will absorb oils from the mozzarella, and next time you bake with it, those spots will blacken and smoke.

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