My Mom makes awesome pizza. That’s not a subjective statement, mind you. Everyone says so. And even though there were three terrific pizzerias within a ten block radius of my block growing up, nothing compared to her creations. Perfect crust, aromatic sauce, just the right amount of mozzarella and other toppings. A gastronomic experience, really, even though the art of pizza making is not all that complicated. Mom says it just takes a good recipe, and some practice. Mostly love, really.
One of the first things to consider is the type of pizza you’re contemplating. The thin crust, round Neapolitan pie is always a hit. How thin to make the crust is a matter of preference, of course. I like it really slim – almost cracker-like – and well done. Doesn’t fill you up as much, so you get to eat more. The thicker crusted, square Sicilian pie is Mom’s personal favorite. I don’t believe it has anything to do with our Sicilian heritage. I think it’s all about the abundance to her. Hefty pieces (she doesn’t call them slices) that really hit the spot, if you know what I mean. You might also consider deep dish Chicago style pizza. Similar to Sicilian, but not as crispy on the edges. Really quite nice.
Once you’ve decided on the type of pizza you’re creating, you’ve got to make a critical decision. Pre-made dough, or homemade? I opt for homemade. Again, it’s not all that difficult. Mom says you’ve got to establish a relationship with your dough. OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but after making my own pizza for a few years, I kind of see what she means. A few tips here. Remember, it’s going to get messy the first few times, but that’s alright. Have fun with it. If you own a mixer, that’s great. If not, be sure you use a very large bowl. No…larger that that! You’ll need it. And use lots of flour on the counter while rolling and stretching the dough. Less sticking means fewer holes to patch up. I also found that when baking, pizza stones are OK, but a pizza screen achieves an even, crispier crust. You can also try grilling. It enhances the final product with a smoky goodness, almost like the wood burning oven pizzas my great grandmother undoubtedly treated the family to back in the old country. Just be sure to coat with plenty of olive oil. You don’t want three quarters of your pizza to remain on the grill!
The rest is all about imagination. Be sure you have a good sauce recipe. Not too sweet, like those jarred varieties you’ll find at the supermarket. Nice and savory. Then get to building your pizza. A traditional sauce and mozzarella pie is a good place to start. You can step it up by adding pesto or anchovies to the mix. I like that a lot. Some pizza fanatics say no mozzarella, just sauce and grated parmesan cheese. OK by me, but I like to add Italian tuna in olive oil to that one. Want more? Pepperoni, sausage or sliced meatballs are popular. Mushroom, peppers, zucchini and eggplant appeal to the vegetarian set. A white pie featuring mozzarella, ricotta and grated parmesan is also delectable. Anything goes, really. Left over breaded or grilled chicken cutlets in the fridge? Slice them up and top the pizza. Baked ham last night? Chunk it up, add pineapple, and call your pie a Californian. When visiting Sicily, I actually tried a pizza topped with scrambled eggs, artichoke hearts and grated parmesan. It was phenomenal. I kid you not.
The point is that once you’ve got your homemade dough and sauce down – the basics of the pie – you can achieve greatness as a pizza chef in your own neighborhood. Just think about the foods you like to eat, and top your pizza with them. Get your creative juices flowing and there’s no telling what you’ll come up with.
Oh, I should mention that sweet pizzas are definitely an option for you. You can transform a white pizza into an excellent dessert by adding cinnamon, sugar, grated orange peel and chocolate chips to ricotta. Just spread evenly over the dough, and bake. I also like a chocolate-hazelnut spread as a topping. You can make your own, but here’s one instance where the store bought spread works just fine.
Fire up the oven or grill, get some dough on your fingers, and be inventive. That’s Mom’s motto when it comes to crafting pizza. And you’ll create a slice of heaven for family and friends every time.
Your Own Pizza Pie? That’s Amore!
Are you ready for a pizza that’s worlds apart from what you pick up in that big square box? Read on at your own risk. Don’t say you haven’t been forewarned. You might just start making your own pizza from now on. My husband is the pizza-maker in our house. He makes his own pizza dough and garnishes it with fresh ingredients. His techniques guarantee a crispy crust and caramelized toppings.
The highlights of this recipe are partially baking the dough rounds before adding toppings and sautéing the toppings before adding them to the pizza. The pizza doesn’t bake long enough to give the raw ingredients a caramelized taste. (Serves six.)
1 package (2 ¼ t) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees)
4 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 t salt
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Toppings (go nuts, prepare your favorites):
Avoid prepared pizza sauce. Instead, chop up a tomato or handful of tiny tomatoes and sauté in a nonstick pan with a teaspoon of olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper. Mash as tomato softens.
½ cup sliced mushrooms, sautéed
I cup thinly sliced sweet pepper (think yellow, red or orange for color) lightly sautéed.
1 small sliced Vidalia onion sautéed until beginning to caramelized
4 cloves of thinly sliced garlic added to caramelized onion
One hot and one sweet Italian sausage, crumbled and sautéed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata or Turkish olives sliced in half
2 T fresh basil, chopped
½ t red pepper flakes
¼ t dried oregano
½ t salt
¼ t freshly ground black pepper
¾ lb. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced*
Proof the yeast by dissolving it in warm water. It should foam up. Put the flour and salt in a food processor using the steel blade. Pulse briefly and then add the yeast mixture in a slow stream. Stop processor, add oil and pulse a few times.
On a lightly floured surface knead dough briefly and form into three balls. * * Place on a baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes until double in bulk.
Place baking stone in a 450-degree oven.
Shaping, Topping and Baking:
Press out dough with your fingers from the center out on a floured surface (preferably a marble slab). Shape dough into three 12” rounds about ¼” thick.. Allow a lip on the edge. Poke a few holes with a fork in the dough to keep it from puffing up. Lift onto a peel, slide onto hot baking stone and bake one at a time, unless baking stone can accommodate more, for four minutes until lightly baked. Take out of oven and divide toppings among crusts. Arrange slices of cheese on top. Return to oven and bake another 6 minutes, just until cheese is melted and starting to bubble. Run under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the top. Don’t overbake or cheese will become leathery. Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter.
*Place cheese in freezer for 20 – 30 minutes to make slicing easier.
** At this point dough can be refrigerated or frozen for use later. Each ball will make pizza for two.
Photographer Bill Brady http://bit.ly/9wFYxm
Written by Victor Ribaudo theribaudogroup.com theribaudogroup.com
Recipe Provided by Phyllis Kirigin, aka sweetpaprika http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com http://sweetpaprika.wordpress.com
Food Stylist Brian Preston Campbell
Blog syndicated at the datingsymbol.com http://datingsymbol.com/http://datingsymbol.com/