Friday, November 2, 2012

Pizza: A simple food

I grew up eating something that we called focaccia. It wasn't really the squeaky, olive oil filled, inch and a half high, slack dough that real focaccia is. What I had was little margarita pizzas. The are delicious! Even now the combination of fresh mozzarella, garlic, tomatoes, and basil reminds me of happy times when I was little. My mom would make one for every person. I loved to watch them bake, but even more that that, I loved to make my own.

I've found that pizza dough freezes beautifully. Wrap it tightly and freeze it after its rise, then you can thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. I unwrap it immediately shape it, top it , and bake it. It come out wonderfully.

If you have dough sitting in the freezer, pizza making becomes an easy dinner. Just put anything you have on it. For this pizza I began by rubbing oil, salt, and crushed garlic into the crust. Then I laid whole basil leaves over the entire bottom. I sprinkled caramelized onions, pieces of bacon, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzerella, and little dots of chevre. I put some pepper on top and baked it in a 450F oven, on a pizza stone, until it was done.

Here is an excellent crust recipe that I found on Simply Recipes:

1 1/2 C warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
around 3 1/2 cups of bread flour (I use King Arthur)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix the yeast in the water and let it bloom. It will either bubble or become creamy. Make sure your yeast is fresh. Add some of the flour to make a paste. Let it rest for about five minutes. This will allow the gluten and starch in the flour to absorb the water. It is called autolysis.

Beat it in a circle (one direction) in order to develop the gluten. When you see that it has become stringy add the olive oil salt and sugar. Salt and oil inhibit gluten development, and adding the sugar to the yeast too early can develop an overly yeasty flavor. We want a nutty flavor from the flour.

After everything is mixed, add flour in small amounts until you have formed a shaggy mass of dough. Remove it from your bowl and knead it, adding small amounts of flour, until you have a soft and pliable dough which is no longer sticky.

Tip: If you don't mind taking a little more time, it is sometimes good to let the dough rest for about five minutes before you think it has enough flour. The rest usually does the trick and the dough is no longer sticky. If you put too much flour in your dough you will get a really dense crust which is more like normal bread. If you keep the dough moist it will take on large bubbles and a chewy texture. That is what pizza should be like!

This dough will make two pizzas. I divide it in two, wrap it, and freeze it.


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