Saturday, August 5, 2017

| behold: i finally made pizza |

As a pretty confident home cook, I've been discouraged for a long time by my inability to make really good pizza. My whole family LOVES pizza and, in particular, I really adore all kinds - Chewy, multigrain crust? Yes. deep dish? Yes. Chicago style deep dish? Oh, my, yes. NY style? Yes. Greasy? Yes. Crispy? Yes. Wood-fired? Yes.

I really can't think of a style of pizza that I don't love.

Since having kids, I've REALLY wished I could perfect a home recipe because it's the kind of thing that's so perfect for a quick meal that is a crowd-pleaser. If you make the dough ahead of time, it takes less than 30 minutes start-to-finish to make several pizzas and everyone can pick the toppings they want. Plus, depending on how you make it, it's pretty healthy and very cheap. And it's a complete meal....protein, veggies, carbs. It's all there in one delicious slice.

And it goes well with beer.

So I've been trying to find the best crust recipe and technique for years. I've asked friends for recipes. I've scoured the internet. But my homemade pizzas always come out so-so. Usually, too puffy and doughy. Blargh.

But today. TODAY I FOUND MY RECIPE AND TECHNIQUE. And I'm writing it down before I forget or try to experiment. (Note to future me: do not alter this. It is perfection as is.)

I started with this classic Neapolitan Pizza Dough recipe from Peter Reinhart. I found his blog through a google search and the dude clearly knows his pizza. I was a little shocked to discover two things about this recipe: 1) so few ingredients (he says true Neapolitan dough only has four - flour, yeast, water, salt) and 2) the cold water. What the heck? I am pretty comfortable working with yeast but rarely do this cold-start thing. But, again, dude seems to know what he's talking about, so I decide to give it a go.

NEAPOLITAN PIZZA DOUGH (adapted from Mr. Reinhart's recipe)
500 g AP flour
138 g bread flour (cause I already have five types of flour in my home and wasn't about to go on a quest for this special -00- flour he speaks of, thought it sounds pretty cool)
2 t kosher salt
1 t active yeast (I didn't have instant, so I just went with what I had)
1 3/4 c + 2 T cold water (Reinhart said "cool" but when I actually measured 65 degrees it felt pretty darn cold to me. I even had to use a couple of ice cubes)

1) Put all the ingredients in a stand mixer. Mix with a paddle (not dough hook) for 1 minute. Let rest for 5 minutes.
2) Switch to the dough hook. Mix for 2-4 minutes, until it's smooth. Should be slightly tacky but not sticky. Add a little flour or water as needed to achieve consistency.
3) Transfer to a lightly oiled work surface and hand-knead for another minute or so.
4) Move to an oiled bowl and let rise for 30-45 minutes. Punch down. Put in fridge overnight or up to three days.
5) 2-3 hours before you're ready to bake, remove the big ol' dough ball from the fridge and divide into sections. I was able to make six 10-12 inch pizzas. I used a little flour on a clean surface to make the six dough-balls. Then I put them on slightly-oiled baking sheet and covered with Saran Wrap (sprayed lightly with olive oil). Let rest for 2-3 hours until you're ready to go.

(I didn't get this from the blog above. I made it up based on my previous knowledge.)
1. Arrange your racks on the two lowest rungs. Preheat oven as high as it will go. For me, that was 550 degrees. Place a large, flat baking stone on the top rack. Place a very heat-resistant small crock on the lower rack (you'll use this later to generate steam).
2. Get your toppings and work space ready. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal.
3. Once the oven is pre-heated, work with one pizza at time. Turn it out onto a floured surface. Shape it into whatever shape you want with whatever technique you like to use (rolling pin, pulling, tossing, pressing, etc.)
4. Put your shaped pizza dough onto the peel and add your toppings.
5. Check with a spatula to make sure it's loose enough to slide right off. It it's not, peel it back and add a little more cornmeal underneath.
6. Open up that hot, hot oven door. Slide the pizza onto the stone and drop 2-3 ice cubes into the crock on the lower rack. You may be wondering, why not just water? You can. I just find the ice cubes are easier than trying to pour water into a very hot oven. You may be wondering, do I really need to do this at all? No. But it does make the crust chewier, which is one of my very favorite pizza properties, so I do it.
7. Once it's in there and you've shut the door, don't go too far away. This baby will be done in 4-5 minutes. I usually check after about 3 and then move it around a bit with my peel to get an even browning.
8. When it looks done enough for your tastes, take it out using the peel and put it on a big cutting board.
9. Start over again at step #3 with the next dough-ball.
10. Side note: if you want to make fewer pizzas at once, you can put the dough balls into the freezer. Wrap in Saran Wrap and then put in a heavy zip bag. Take them out at least 24 hours before you want to use them in the future.