This week has been Pizza week. So far we've done a quick run of 6 pizzas. We tried a few very traditional, simple crust/red sauce type affairs to get the hang of it, and then started mucking about. Full disclosure: over the summer I did quite a bit of mucking about on the Grill outside making pizza, which I will admit is really fun, wickedly fast, and impresses guests in that way that makes you feel like you're on a cooking show. But this time around we are concentrating on the Oven Stone (pretty sure it's actually clay) Here's what I have learned so far:
It's all about the crust. (see below for a measured recipe) Whatever crap you want to put on top of your crust is none of my business, and really, I don't care. But the crust - your pizza will live and die by it's crust. Trust me. There are way too many dough recipes for pizza crust, so I'll just give you the simple facts: The ratio is 5 parts flour to 3 parts liquid, and a "packet" of yeast. That's it. You can argue all day about what kind of flour, bottles water, kneading by hand, or any of that, but if you use the ratio even approximately, you've gonna wind up with a wad of dough that you can push out into a pie crust. For example:
Open a packet of yeast into a glass of warm water, to get it 'activating'. stir it up, add a little sugar, a little oil, okay. Now, pour it into a bowl and start adding flour. I know, you're thinking , "how much flour? And while I'm at it, how much water was I supposed to use?" It doesn't matter. Really. Just pour the water into a bowl. Now, just remember that you're eventually gonna add enough flour to get to your 5:3 ratio. just keep mixing and adding, eventually, it'll get gummy, sticky, and then it'll just start to ball up, away from the edges of the bowl. You're done.
OK, you're one of those people who organizes their underwear drawer by weight? You need something more tangible. I get it, you want real numbers? Here's the one I've been using and getting killer results:
• 4 1/2 cups flour
• 2 tea spoons of salt (I use garlic salt for flavor)
• packet of yeast (or one teaspoon of yeast)
mix them together in a big-ass bowl. then full a 2 cup measuring cup with:
•1 2/3 cups water
• 1/3 cup olive oil
put your mixer in the bowl (or go for it, man up and try it by hand if you dare) and start adding the liquid. Seems to help to let it mix for a good minute or two. and.... done. This will make 3-4 pizzas, depending on how big you wan to to make them.
In all cases, it's best to cover the dough, and let it rise for at least :45 minutes. An hour if you have the time. Overnight for even better results.
Okay, enough about that. Now for the fun stuff. The best part about the dough is that you can put pretty much anything in there. Especially when it comes to Herbs and Spices. For example: You could mix curry powder and some chillies into the dough, then top the pizza with Saag Paneer and some seared Lamb, wa-blam! Indian Pizza!
• if you use Rosemary (which is a favorite for this), grind it with a mortar and pestle first, then mix it into the dough, it will really take the flavor into the crust, and you won't have twigs in the crust. Blech, no one wants twigs.
• more oil into the dough = crispier dough. It also has the effect of making the dough easier to make into thinner crust, if that's your thing. I have found that more oil is better than less oil.
• Oven Stone. They go for around thirty to fifty bucks to start, and they are sort of a MUST HAVE item if you're gonna start making pizza at home. But hey, if you like your pizza burnt or under cooked, by all means, try to do it on the rack or a cookie sheet. Best of luck with that.
• Semolina flour. Course ground. You don't make the dough with it, but you want to dust the oven stone with it, and even your counter when you're pressing out the dough to form the pie. this is what is gonna give the bottom of the pie that 'pizza shop' feeling.
• Pizza Peel. Get one. Just do it. once you've got the dough starting to form out, get it on the peel and finish dressing the pizza right there. Then it's just slip, right onto the oven stone. Seriously, there is no manageable way to get the pizza from the counter to the oven without one. The cheap ones are like ten bucks. Aluminum. This is what I have, and it's fine. But if you got the bucks, spring for the twenty five dollar version in all wood, it's just prettier, and as far as I know, wood doesn't give you Alzheimer's.
That's it so far.
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