Make Real Pizza at Home was the beginning of Delightful Repast when I started blogging 15 February 2010. Giving explicit instructions for my killer pizza in three posts turns out to have been pretty much wasted on a brand new blog. I don't know how many people have actually read the three posts over the last 19 months that I've been blogging, but there were NO comments on Part One, NO comments on Part Two and just two comments on Part Three! (Note to new bloggers: Well ... need I say more?)
The first day of autumn seemed an appropriate time to reprise my version of this popular comfort food, so I've condensed the three original posts into just one; but I hope you'll go back and read those first three posts. And, hey, if you take pity on me for the lack of response to those posts, do leave a comment on them as well as on this one.
My recipe makes just the right amount of dough for two pizzas of the perfect size and thickness to together serve 4 or 5 people. And the three days in the refrigerator gives the rather wet dough the perfect texture as well as the most wonderful flavor. If there is a “secret” to it, I suppose it’s in the baking. I’ve tried all kinds of pizza pans, with decent results. But I was determined to find the ultimate pan or baking stone or whatever (short of having a wood-fired brick oven installed in my kitchen, that is).
Not a huge fan of unwieldy pizza stones, I racked my brain till I came up with the perfect solution—cast iron. Searching for a 13- to 14-inch round cast iron griddle, I found that Lodge actually makes exactly what I had in mind and calls it the Lodge Pro Logic Cast-Iron 14-Inch Pizza Pan. Unfortunately, the recipes included with the pan did not make the best use of the pan. They called for using it as, well, just a pan. What I had in mind, on the other hand, was to use it as a pizza stone! Believe me, if you want to make “real” pizza at home without any other special equipment, you need to get this pan!
(Makes two 18-ounce crusts for two 13-inch pizzas)
4 packed cups (20 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature
1 In large bowl, stir together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast. With dough whisk or wooden spoon, stir in the oil and water until thoroughly combined. Stir for a minute. Stir in remaining flour a half cup at a time. The finished dough will be elastic and sticky.
2 Oil two 1.5-quart lidded bowls and their lids; set aside. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Cut the dough into 2 equal (18-ounce) pieces. Sprinkle flour over the dough. With floured hands, gently round each piece into a ball.
3 Dip each dough ball into one of the oiled bowls, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put the lid on. Rest the dough in the refrigerator for three days.
On the day you plan to make the pizzas, remove the dough from the refrigerator 3 hours before you want the first one to go into the oven. Place a 14-inch-long piece of 12-inch-wide unbleached natural parchment paper on a peel or a rimless baking sheet--that's what I use for a peel--and dust lightly with flour. Place a second piece of parchment on the counter and dust lightly with flour. Place the two balls of dough on the two pieces of parchment and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into rounds about 9 inches in diameter; sprinkle with flour and cover loosely with oil-sprayed plastic wrap. Let rest for 2 3/4 hours.
In the meantime, make your sauce. You only need about 2/3 cup of a fairly thick sauce for each pizza. My recipe makes just the right amount for two 13-inch pizzas.
(Makes about 1 1/3 cups)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
14.5-ounce can organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon parsley
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
(That's right, no garlic. I want you to taste the tomatoes. If you must have garlic, use just 1/8 teaspoon of finely minced fresh garlic. No garlic powder, no garlic salt, no chopped garlic from a jar. But do try it without garlic. I think you'll be surprised.)
In 1-quart saucepan, heat oil and cook onion for a few minutes until soft. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer, loosely covered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Let cool to room temperature. Sometimes I stir in an extra tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil at this point.
Then get the cheeses and other toppings ready. I think where most home cooks go wrong with pizza is in using too much sauce and too much in the way of toppings. To avoid having a soggy pizza, use much less of everything than you think you need.
Prepare these amounts of ingredients for each pizza:
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
4 ounces shredded mozzarella or mozzarella-provolone combination
1/2 3.5-ounce package pepperoni, microwaved in single layer between paper towels for 30 seconds
1/2 2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained and patted dry
3 to 4 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely julienned red bell pepper, squeezed dry with paper towel
Of course, you can use any toppings you like. These are just our favorites, and this gives you some idea of the quantities to be used--the more toppings, the less of each.
With the dough, sauce and toppings ready to go, just follow these final steps:
1 A half hour prior to baking time, place 14-inch round cast-iron pizza pan (or a pizza stone) in oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees for 30 minutes.
2 Make the pizzas one at a time, starting with the dough on the rimless baking sheet. With floured hands, press the dough into 13-inch round. (Actually, since the parchment is only 12 inches wide, it will be a little out-of-round, but not noticeably so.) If the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. Let stand 10 minutes before saucing and topping.
3 Leaving the edge clear, lightly top it with room-temperature sauce and then with toppings.
4 Slide the pizza (on the parchment) onto the hot cast-iron pan (or pizza stone) in the oven and close the door. Bake for about 15 minutes. After first pizza has been baking for 5 minutes, move second crust to rimless baking sheet and press it out; let stand 10 minutes before saucing and topping.
5 Using the peel (or rimless baking sheet), remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Wait about 3 minutes before transferring to a cutting board for slicing and serving. Meanwhile, sauce and top second pizza and put it in oven. Makes two 13-inch medium-thick-crust pizzas.
See my original Part Three post for my precision timeline for getting the two pizzas made and served in a timely fashion.