Friday, October 2, 2015

Take - 39 - Italian Style Pizza - homemade in California

Italian Style Pizza - homemade in California

Is there something more satisfying in the world than a slice (or two, or three) of pizza? It has to be way up there as one of the most popular and satisfying fast meal. There is an ongoing war against fast food but in this case, fast can also be gourmet and homemade pizza can qualify as both. I have been making pizza in my home oven for years but never, since this year, have my efforts been so successful. You could have this pizza on your table in less than 75 minutes.  Don't believe me? Try my recipe and tricks for pizzeria quality results and send me your comments. It might take you longer the first time to get your technique and prep organized but once you have your act together, it will be real easy.

First the tricks and tips (and more within the recipe itself):

a) Get yourself a pizza stone. They are inexpensive and can be bought in any kitchen supply stores or online.  I also use a pizza peel, made of either wood or metal. It is not a necessary tool but can be quite useful to get your pizza in and out of the oven and avoid pizza disasters and burns. I know of what I speak!

b) Turn up your oven, the highest you can get it. I have gone to 525 F on mine. Maybe I can even go higher with it but right now at 525F, it is giving me great results.

c) Buy the best ingredients you possibly can. My flour is Italian flour type 00. It is available in lots of grocery stores including Whole Foods if you cannot find it anywhere else. My marinara sauce for the Margherita pizza is San Marzano. It is an expensive marinara but the best available with very little sugar. You may choose to make your own. I use fresh mozzarella available at Costco and made in California. Mozzarella in water is way different than the aged one. The basil leaves, I grow in my California backyard. Fresh basil is now available everywhere.

d) Try not to loads a ton of each ingredient on your pizza. With Italian food, less is more. The quality of ingredients will win over quantity every time. This way you will taste each ingredient and get more pleasure out of your pizza.

e) The following recipe gives you enough dough for 2 thin, free form pizzas. I can never make real round pizzas. Hopefully, you can.

f) You may do it differently, but I use parchment paper to roll out my dough and to insert into the oven with the pizza peel. I find rolling it on the paper much easier and faster to handle the dough and so easy to remove from the oven. Parchment paper is fine in the oven. It will get darker and brittle, but it will be fine.

Margherita Pizza

3 1/4 Cups flour Type 00
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Teaspoon instant yeast
1 Cup lukewarm water
1/4 Cup white wine at room temperature
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Marinara sauce
Mozzarella (preferably fresh or aged shredded)
Basil - fresh

 To the bowl of a food processor add flour, sugar, salt and yeast and pulse a few times to mix. Through the spout add the water, wine and oil and pulse about 20 times (more or less) or until the dough comes together.

 Dump the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth. Just 5-6 folds


 Separate into two parts and form into balls. Use an extra tablespoon of olive oil to coat a large bowl, deposit the dough balls in the bowl and coat the balls in oil by rolling them around in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic film or a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat your oven. First, remove all oven racks except one, set it at second to last lowest level and put your pizza stone on it. Set your oven at 500F or higher. I presently have a very good oven but in the past, I have used poor quality apartment ovens and have been successful. You might want to test your oven in advance and see how high you can get it and how long it will take to get it there.

While your oven warms up, prepare your ingredients. Set out your marinara sauce, wash and dry your basil and slice your mozzarella thinly.

Ok, so now your oven is ready and your dough has rested. Cut a piece of parchment to fit approximately the size of your pizza stone and spread it on your counter top or table. Sprinkle lightly with flour. Flatten one of the balls and after flouring a rolling pin flatten and roll out the dough. Some might like to flatten it with fingertips, that's good too. Some like to form a crust. It's all up to you. I prefer the rolling pin as a faster way of getting things done and can take or leave the crust. Just make sure your rolling pin is well floured.

Spread the marinara sauce on the dough, add your sliced mozzarella and basil leaves and you are ready to slip your pizza into the oven. From now on, watch it carefully through the window. You do not know how long it will take to get the pizza of your dreams and you wouldn't want to burn it. I would say somewhere close to 10 minutes but as each oven is different, pay close attention to it. Two rules of thumb here.
a) when the cheese starts bubbling it is a sign that it is getting closer;
b) with your peel, lift the pizza and check for brown spots on the bottom. That's a good sign. If there are no brown spots, leave it a while longer until you see the spots.

Remove your pizza from the oven. You may want to add a drizzle of olive oil on top while it is hot. Cut your pizza and enjoy.

Please comment on this recipe and let me know how it turned out in your own kitchen.

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