Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Night's Pizza

I've finally figured out how to get pix off my new camera and onto the computer! Yay! On Friday night, I made cheese and olive pizza. I like my pizza crust thin, crispy and chewy, and I like LOTS of cheese and olives. I used the bread machine to knead and rise the dough, but you can knead it by hand or in a mixer, and let it rise for an hour or so, punch it down, and continue with the recipe as is.

Give making pizza from scratch a try - its VERY inexpensive and quick to make, and there is nothing like the smell and the taste of a homemade pizza, made with real foodstuffs, not the whipped plastic that passes for cheese on most storebought pizzas. And don't even get me started on the overly-spiced sauces which basically hide the taste of the inferior food-like substances...

Hey, I'm Italian and I grew up on homemade pizza. I'm allowed! Grin.

Pizza Dough for one 14" pizza
3/4 C water
1/2 tsp salt
2 C flour
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
cornmeal for dusting the pizza pan

Toppings for one pizza (all room temperature)
3/4 of a 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp minced garlic
3 pinches red pepper flakes
4 to 8 oz grated mozzarella
1 to 2 oz grated parmesan
Extra virgin olive oil
4 oz sliced black olives (optional)

Put all ingredients in your breadmaker in the order suggested by the manufacturer. Set it for dough cycle and then go have fun doing something else. OR, proof the yeast in the warm water. Mix the flour, salt and sugar together, then pour in the water/yeast mixture. Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. It will be slightly damper than regular bread dough. Cover with a clean towel and let rise till doubled, about an hour or so.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it for a couple of minutes to get most of the bubbles out. Then let it rest while you preheat the oven to 450F and you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Pat, push, pull, or even roll out the dough to fit a 14" pizza pan. Sprinkle the pan with a light dusting of cornmeal, about 1 Tbs or so. Lay the dough in the pan. Use your fingertips to make dimple-like depressions on the dough. Using a spoon, spread tomatoes over the dough, but leaving about a one inch edge of dough with no topping all around the circumference. Sprinkle the garlic over the tomatoes, then the basil and the red pepper flakes. Sprinkle the olives evenly over the pizza, then the mozzarella. Top with the parmesan. Drizzle about 2 Tbs or so of extra virgin olive oil over all. Cook in an oven which has been preheated to 450F for 10 minutes. Check for browning - if becoming too brown, make a loose tent of tinfoil over pizza and continue cooking for 2 minutes more.

Note that there is no olive oil in the dough - this gives a chewier dough, which I like better. Don't cut down on the salt because you will really lose flavor; also, salt is truly essential to the chemical reaction which causes the dough to rise. The way I understand the chemistry of bread dough, is that the gas produced by the fermentation of the yeast is encased in little balloon-like cells made primarily of the gluten, which expand as they become filled with gas. Without enough salt in the dough, the gluten is unable to stretch to maximum, and the bread will not rise as well. Perhaps someone who understands chemistry better can correct me if I'm wrong.

Serves 4 Americans, 2 Italians, or my ex-husband

Serve with a nice fruity red wine, beer, or Pepsi and a salad.

Time to make dough: 5 minutes plus an hour to rise plus 5 minutes to knead and shape.

Time to put pizza together and cook: 20 minutes

Five stars!

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