Let me start by making a confession; I am not a big pizza fan…. Maybe I should be considering that my studio is actually located above the infamous New York Pizza chain!!It also tends to be the first thing that people ask me when they first come to the studio; if I eat a lot of pizza… Well, the answer would be no. NYP is only open from 4 pm anyway and I tend to be gone by then, so they wouldn’t be able to serve me pizza even if I wanted them to!
But in general I have always thought of pizza as a second rate Italian meal. I mean; if you can have gorgeous pasta, delicious meat, fish or whatever other dishes, why settle for something as basic as pizza?? I don’t know… we sometimes order pizza, but the ones you tend to get are greasy, too thick or too thin, not cruncy and in general not really very good. Tom loves them, so we do order pizza sometimes, but then I order pasta carbonara… which is actually also horrible, but you know sometimes convenience wins from culinary delights…
But….. on the menu for last month we had self made pizza dough for the Cooking Italy group; a group of like minded people who cook from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. And due to time constraints I am waaaay behind with the schedule but today was as good a day as any to make pizza… The process was not too hard; I started with the foodprocessor and then finished by hand with kneading the dough. I was a little bit afraid that I didn’t have enough rise in the dough but it worked fine. It did rise for about four hours, since I didn’t need it any earlier. I used only half of the dough for one pizza of roughly 30 cm in diameter.
I don’t own a pizzastone (not surprisingly since we never made our own pizza before) so while thinking about the alternative I remembered we had a stonegrill set. Not sure if that is known outside of Holland, but it’s basically a stone which is placed on a heating element and it’s very populair around christmas time where everyone sits around the table and grills there own meals basically on that one stone.
The stone gets – obviously – very hot so I figured it would do in the oven as well. And it did! Worked perfectly. I guess it’s probably the same material as a pizzastone anyway.
The only problem I then had was to get the pizza into the oven in one piece. I don’t own a paddle (baker’s peel) either so I put cornmeal on a pizzaplate and tried to get it on the hot stone in the oven from there. It worked in the end, but it was’t perfect by any means, so I have to think of an alternative way of getting it into the oven. I am possibly thinking I am might make mini pizza’s next time…. I love to make different kinds of toppings instead of just one. Plus I can make my own very cheesy pizza and Tom can have a cheeseless pizza…
Despite the fact that it didn’t get into the oven perfect (it lost a little bit of the topping due to my shuffling back and forth) it was absolutely delicious and soooo much better then a storebought pizza or take-away pizza! Much to my surprise really as I hadn’t expected it to be this good. The pizza was very thin with a nice cruncy crust, although maybe a little bit too wet in the centre as I didn’t use the correct tomato sauce. Couldn’t find it and didn’t want to go in search either so just went with what I had but that is more for sauce or soups. Not really suitable for pizza.
Ok, so now on to the recipe!
Basic pizza dough
Makes 2 30cm round pizza's
- 1,5 tsp active dry yeast
- 250 ml lukewarm water
- 375 gr plain unbleached flour
- extra virgin olive oil (1 tbsp for the dough, 1 tsp for the bowl and some for the finished pizza)
- 0.5 tsp salt
- a baking stone
- a bakers peel (paddle)
- semolina flour
Put the yeast into a large bowl and dissolve it completely with about a quarter of the lukewarm water. When dissolved, add a third of the flour and mix thoroughly wih a wooden spoon. Then as you continue to stir, gradually add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the salt, another quarter of the lukewarm water and another third of the flour. When putting in flour and water for the last time, hold back some of both and put in as much of either as you need to make the dough manageable soft, but not too sticky.
Take the dough out of the bowl and slap it down very hard against the work counter several times (great stress reliever... :) ), until it is stretched out to a length of about 25 cm. Reach for the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance towards you, push it away with the heel of your palm, flexing your wrist, fold it and push it away again, gradually rolling it up and bringing it close to you. Rotate the dough a one-quarter turn, pick it up and slap it down hard, repeating the entire previous operation. Basically you want to end up with a soft and pliable dough. Shape it into a round ball.
Grease the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside. Cover with clingfilm and put the bowl somewhere quiet and warm so it can rise in peace for about 3 hours. Longer is fine too.
At least 30 minutes before you are ready to pop the pizza into the oven preheat the oven to 230 C/450F. Sprinkle the baker's peel generously with cornmeal. Take the risen dough out of the bowl and divide in half. Unless you can put two pizza's at one time in your oven, put the other half back in the bowl and cover again until you are ready to use that part.
Flatten the dough as thin as you can opening it out into a circular shape using a rolling pin but finishing with your fingers. Leave the rim somewhat higher then the rest.
When it is the desired shape, put the circle of dough on the - with cornmeal covered - baker's peel.
Put the topping of your choice on the dough and slide it, jerking the peel sharply away, on to the preheated baking stone. Bake for 20 minutes or slightly more. until the dough becomes coloured a light golden brown. As soon as it's done drizzle with a little but of olive oil and serve.
from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
It was getting near dark when I took the photos so they are not the sharpest… Too lazy to get the lights out!! But am planning to make more of these!