Sunday, April 29, 2012

Everyone's Favorite--Pizza!

Pizza is one of our favorite things to eat. It also happens to be one of the easiest and most delicious things to makes, in my opinion. The great thing about pizza is you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. I am going to tell you how we make our favorite pizza!

It all starts with the crust.

I have a couple of different recipes for crust, but I find myself going back to the same one over and over again. It just is so easy and fast:

Jen's Easy-P-Z Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water (110-115 F)
1 package or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast (Rapid Rise is fine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
4-6 cups all purpose bleached or unbleached flour
olive oil

1. To make good anything that involves yeast, it is important that the water be at the correct temperature. Too cold and the yeast is sluggish. To hot and the yeast is dead. Invest in an instant read thermometer. I use one that I bought at a restaurant supply store for less than $5.

2. Pour the warm water into a medium to large bowl. The bowl should be able to comfortably hold a volleyball.  Sprinkle or dump the yeast into the water and give it a quick stir. Set this aside for a few minutes to let it work.

3. Add the olive oil and the salt and stir.

4. Stir in 2 cups of flour.

5. Add remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough goes from batter-like to dough-like. You'll be able to tell because it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It will be somewhat sticky.

6. Dump dough on a floured surface and work in more flour by kneading until you have a soft, non-sticky dough. You'll feel the change in the dough as you work with it.

7. Pour some olive oil into the bottom of the bowl (1-2 tablespoons). Put the ball of dough back into the bowl on top of the oil and using the dough, smear the inside of the bowl. Basically you're just turning the dough upside down so that it and the bowl and coated in a light sheen of oil.

8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a towel and leave it in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour. (If you used Rapid Rise you need only wait 30 minutes) I like to put the bowl of dough in my oven. If it is cold, I will turn my oven on to 500 for 2-3 minutes then turn it off before I put the bowl of dough in.

Making the Pizza.

About half way through the rising process I start gathering the other ingredients for the pizza and getting things together. For our favorite Friday Night Pizza you'll need the following:

Pesto Sauce
Mozzarella Cheese
Baby Portabella Mushrooms
Pizza Stone
Pizza Peel or a cookie sheet

You can make your own pesto sauce which is really easy. All you need is some fresh basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and garlic. All of that gets blended together to make a spreadable paste. You can also purchase prepared pesto sauce like I do. My favorite brands are Trader Joe's (the fresh one!) and Costco's pesto sauce. I get the cold stuff in the deli section. The canned stuff is much too salty. If you've been getting take-out pizza you might not notice the difference, but trust me. Once you've been consistently eating homemade pizza you'll be able to tell just how salty that canned stuff is.

How many pizzas does this dough make? Well, that depends on you.

Thick or thin?

Big or small?

I usually get between 4 and 6 pizzas depending on how thin I roll the dough. I like to be able to tell where my fingers are on the other side of the dough but not to actually see them.

Sprinkle some cornmeal onto your pizza peel or paddle (or cookie sheet without sides) and spread your pre-rolled dough on top. I aim for a 9-10 inch pizza, about the size of a dinner plate.

Smear some pesto sauce on the pizza.

Now add some cheese. You want to be able to see the sauce through the cheese. Trust me. This will be plenty cheesy.
 Now comes the pepperoni....
 ....and the mushrooms. I like to do it this way because sometimes the topping shake loose when you're putting the pizza onto the stone. If I loose a little cheese or a mushroom piece or two I don't care. I do get annoyed when the meat falls off.
Now we bake your pizza in your 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Again. This depends on the size of your pizza and how much color you want on it.

What normally happens in our house is I have the uncooked pizza on the pizza peel and the cooked pizza comes out on a cookie sheet. This way I can keep things moving pretty quick!
For fun on the pizza below I sliced the pepperoni the long way. I also gave the pizza a lot of color. I like the caramelized almost nutty taste you get when you cook things a little while longer.
And there you have it. The beginning of a promising weekend! So open a beer, pull out the yeast and get cooking! And please, let me know how it goes.

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