Posted by: A Part of the Solution | March 25, 2010

Pizza Night

I only love good pizza. This is a real problem. Frozen pizzas are not more than OK. Virtually all delivered pizzas and nearly all pizzas in sit-down restaurants just aren’t what I want.

So I make pizzas for Friday night, which is pizza night. It took me most of two years to get the crust the way I wanted it. The crust is crispy, and not too thick. It has lovely chew to it on the inside, and a grit from the alternative flours I like to use. It has its own presence, the crust I make. It is not a mere vehicle for pepperoni.

And that brings me to the toppings. When I do pizza night, I like to do a whole meal’s worth of pizzas. I start with a ‘salad’ course. I move on to a full ‘antipasti’ or ‘seafood’ course. From there I generally go ‘fowl’ or ‘red meat’. I like the last one to be a ‘charcuterie’ type.

Tonight (which isn’t Friday, but my friends won’t be here Friday night) I’ll serve a mushroom, leek, pine nut and baby arrugula pizza for the first course. No sauce, just an extra slick of olive oil. And I’ll par-sauté the mushrooms and leeks, as well as toasting the pine nuts. With this one, a little Parmesan will be plenty of cheese, unless I go hog-wild and add a few blops of ricotta. I’ll finish it with nutmeg and black pepper.

For the second course, I want to use thinly sliced red onions, slivered green olives (Cerignola are best here), capers and tuna fish. I’ll whirl up a tapenade of marinated artichoke hearts and flat leaf parsley for the sauce. I’ll use a mix of feta, part-skim mozzarella and more Parmesan–not enough to make the dreaded pizza cheese blanket, just enough to add tang. And when I pull it from the oven, a spritz of lemon juice over all of it.

For the third course, I want to do a Hawaiian with ham, bacon, jalapeño and green bell pepper,caramelized onion and our friend the pineapple. Simple tomato sauce here, or none at all. The ham and bacon are so salty, I’ll only need a little mozzarella and fontina to make this one work.

For my last course, spicy sausage and roasted piquillo peppers on tomato sauce with slivered garlic adding a beautiful top note and earthy undertones as well. Mozzarella, a hint of cheddar and Parmesan should finish it beautifully. Hungry yet?

Pizza Dough for 4 12×17 Flats

2 TBSP yeast

3 cups warm water

7 oz olive oil (scant)

2 TBSP salt

2 TBSP sugar

up to 10 cups, 50 oz, unbleached flour (can be 1 cup semolina or cornmeal and/or 1 cup rye flour)

Let the yeast bloom in the warm water for five minutes. Add the yeast mixture to a large bowl with the olive oil, salt and sugar. Next add the variety flours and stir them well in. Add a cup of unbleached white flour, bread flour or white whole wheat–whichever you’re using for the rest of the flour in the recipe. Let this sponge sit for 30 minutes to an hour.

Now add six more cups of flour. Start kneading. Knead for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Only add the last cup of flour if and as needed. The dough shouldn’t be too stiff, neither should it be flabby. Let it rise until doubled (~1 1/2 hours). Punch it down and let it rise again, about an hour. Now divide the dough, stretch it over well-oiled cookie sheets and when it’s topped, bake it at a really hot temperature (450-500) until golden brown and done, about 16 minutes.

If you like a super thin, crispy crust, then divide the dough five ways. These thin crust pizzas cook in about 14 minutes.

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