Thursday, August 20, 2009

Summer pizza

Unlike some places, Binghamton, NY is not a town known for its pizza. Spiedies, yes. Pierogies, yes. Those are much-celebrated regional specialties. There are festivals in their honor, okay? Big deal. But pizza, not so much.

There's two ways to react to this truth. One: mourn. Kvetch, gripe, complain, pull your hair and gnash your teeth and order Pizza Hut for your monthly fix.

Two: learn how to make your own damn pizza.

As someone mildly obsessed with self-sufficiency, I chose the latter. Over the course of two years, pizza has become a regular, twice-monthly event in our house. We've picked up a few tricks. The pizza is good. Not pizzeria-good, but still. Good. Here's our tricks.

1. If you're making dough, why not make dough enough for an army? If you're getting your mixing bowl all sticky with flour (or firing up your bread machine), make a double or even quadruple batch. Divide the finished dough into pie-sized pieces, form each piece into a ball, bag each one separately, and freeze. On the morning of pizza night, move one dough-ball from the freezer to the fridge. By dinner time it will be thawed and ready to rise.

2. After ten minutes in the oven, slide the pizza off its pan and directly onto the oven rack. This is critical. This makes the crust crunchy and delicious.

3. Tomato sauce and mozzarella is but the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, we put arugala on our pizza. Sometimes, figs. Feta made an appearance last night, and pepper jack has been known to do the job as well. Almost anything tastes better atop a pizza crust.

The Recipe (makes enough for two generously-sized pies)

1 1/2 cups warm water
3 tsp yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

Mix the yeast and water together in a large bowl. Add the salt and oil and mix well. Combine the flours in a separate bowl, and add to the liquid ingredients. Stir and knead until the ingredients are well combined and can comfortably be called dough. Brush the top of the dough with oil (a Misto works well), and cover with a damp towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Divide the dough in half. Each half makes a pie. Form each piece into a pizza shape by gentle stretching, using a rolling pin, or throwing it over your head and singing Amore. Generously oil a cookie sheet or pizza pan, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Lay the dough onto the pan, and pile on toppings. Last night, we paved our pizza with sliced fresh tomatoes, sprinkled it with crumbled feta, salt and pepper, and topped it with a lightly dressed arugala salad after it came out of the oven.

Adjust one of your oven racks to the lowest height, so it's as close to the bottom as possible. Slide in your pizza. Let it cook 10 minutes, until the dough starts to look like crust, but before it gets brown around the edges. Using a large spatula, slide in under the pie and lift it very carefully. Slide the cookie sheet out, and place the pie right on the oven rack. Note: If the pizza refuses to lift off in one solid disk, don't push it! Let it cook another five minutes and try again.

Once you've transferred the pizza to the rack, cook it a scant five minutes, (or until it looks done-- everyone knows what a done pizza looks like) slide it out of the oven, slice, and enjoy.

Related Posts with Thumbnails