For the first time in a while, I made pizza from scratch tonight. I used my usual recipe for 4 pizzas:
- 20 oz flour (tonight I used 14 oz white and 6 oz whole wheat)
- 14 oz water at about 110 F
- 1 packet of yeast
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
As usual, I mix all of the dry ingredients (including the yeast) and add the water, mixing with a spoon until well-combined. Then I knead the dough on a floured surface for a solid 8 minutes until the dough had a nice elasticity. After letting the dough rest for a little while, I cut it into 4 pieces and formed the pieces into balls. Then I set the dough aside to ferment, while I start the sauce.
I use a very simple sauce recipe:
- 1 26 oz box of crushed tomatoes
- a few tablespoons of olive oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, quartered
- 2 dried red chilies, crushed
- salt and pepper to taste
- any fresh herbs I need to use (basil and oregano are nice)
This makes enough sauce for 6 or more pizzas, but it freezes well. I add all of the ingredients to a sauce pan and let it simmer (covered) for a couple hours, then blend it with an immersion blender.
When the sauce is simmering after the dough has doubled in bulk, I form the dough balls into disks about a half inch thick and let them sit for a while. Now is a good time to start preheating the oven to the highest possible temperature setting (in my case 500 F). Following a hint from Peter Reinhart (author of this bible of bread baking) I decided to put my pizza stone directly on the bottom of the oven instead of on a cooking rack. This is also a good time to disconnect any over-sensitive smoke detectors.
Once the dough rounds puff up a bit, I form them into pizza shapes while I wait for the oven to heat up. Once everything is preheated and ready to go, I gently transfer the first dough round to a peel dusted with corn meal. I top it with a few dollops of sauce, a healthy dose of shredded mozzarella and any other toppings that need to be cooked. Then into the oven for not more than seven or eight minutes.
The result is this:
Before today, the biggest problem I had with the pizza was that the crust on the bottom wouldn’t get that almost-burnt caramelization you see on pizza from a wood burning oven. But placing the pizza stone directly on the bottom of my oven seemed to do the trick:
Nice and crispy but not quite burnt! Peter Reinhart has never steered me wrong… Right after coming out of the oven, I put a couple handfuls of arugula dressed in olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the pizza, followed by the obligatory grated parmesan cheese:
The verdict: delicious. Never again is my pizza stone sitting on a rack above the bottom of the oven. At least not for pizza.