Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cooking: Pizza

I'm still trying to perfect pizza making at home. That means a few things: getting the crust right, balancing the toppings, and not setting off my smoke/carbon monoxide detector. Each and every time it's pizza night at home, I improve my skills ever so slightly. The crust gets slightly thinner and crunchier, my toppings don't overload the pie too much, and the alarm only goes off 1 or 2 times. It's a work in progress.

I've been trying different pizza dough recipes (homemade and store bought) since the beginning of this experiment. I need to find one that tastes good and is easy to handle. Anything with yeast has been my cooking nemesis thus far. I'm conquering this Goliath one pizza pie at a time. For this experiment, I made the dough using Jim Lahey's recipe from Sullivan Street Bakery. The no knead method seemed interesting but most of all, easy. I mixed all the ingredients together and let it ferment.
And ferment it did! Look at those bubbles. Also notice the drastic change in size.
After the dough rested the first time, I cut it into 6 equal parts and formed them into ball. Then I let them rise a second time.
Little rounds of soft, fluffy dough ready to be spread out and eaten.
While the dough and yeast worked its magic in the warm, dark corner I prepped my toppings. Lots of different meats and vegetables. Just use whatever you fancy.
I floured my pizza peel. In hindsight, I should have floured it even more than what is pictured below. Having the dough not stick to the peel has been an issue for me.
I stretched out the dough with my hands and placed it on the board. Then the topping went on. I let Mr. M&P do his own toppings but he went a bit overboard, as you can see below. Yeah, it was too heavy to slide off the peel and onto the pizza stone in the oven.
So instead of a pizza pie, it was turned into a calzone. I wrapped all those toppings into the dough and marked a hole on top. Then I tossed it on the stone easily and baked it until the outside was browned and slightly charred.
And here it is resting on a wire rack until cool enough to eat.
This is the cross section of what it looks like on the inside. Yeah, it was full of meats and cheeses.
My pizza idea was entirely different. Instead of the usual crust with sauce, meat, and cheese, I opted for a salad pizza. I stretched out my dough as usual and baked it naked.
Once cooked through, I placed my toppings on which included fresh arugula, parmigiana cheese, and sliced prosciutto. I really enjoyed the peppery bitterness of the greens, the sweet, salty and buttery meat, and the sharp pungent cheese.
Here the obligatory peak of the upskirt. It needs more charring but you can see that it was so crispy that the whole crust lifted up without any sagging. Crunch!

Recipe below is courtesy of Bon Appetit

No-Knead Pizza Dough by Jim Lahey

7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1000 grams) plus more for shaping dough
4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

Whisk flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add 3 cups water; stir until well incorporated. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring it together and form into a rough ball. Transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature (about 72°) in a draft-free area until surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size, about 18 hours (time will vary depending on the temperature in the room).

Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Divide into 6 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, gather 4 corners to center to create 4 folds. Turn seam side down and mold gently into a ball. Dust dough with flour; set aside on work surface or a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining portions.

Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, until soft and pliable, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap each dough ball separately in plastic wrap and chill. Unwrap and let rest at room temperature on a lightly floured work surface, covered with plastic wrap, for 2–3 hours before shaping.

To Make the Pizzas
During the last hour of dough's resting, prepare oven: If using a pizza stone, arrange a rack in upper third of oven and place stone on rack; preheat oven to its hottest setting, 500°–550°, for 1 hour. If using a baking sheet, arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to its hottest setting, 500°–550°. (You do not need to preheat the baking sheet.)

Working with 1 dough ball at a time, dust dough generously with flour and place on a floured work surface. Gently shape dough into a 10"–12" disk.

If Using Pizza Stone
When ready to bake, increase oven heat to broil. Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless (or inverted rimmed) baking sheet lightly with flour. Place dough disk on prepared peel and top with desired toppings.

Using small, quick back-and-forth movements, slide pizza from peel onto hot pizza stone. Broil pizza, rotating halfway, until bottom of crust is crisp and top is blistered, 5–7 minutes.

Using peel, transfer to a work surface to slice. Repeat, allowing pizza stone to reheat under broiler for 5 minutes between pizzas.

If Using a Baking Sheet
Arrange dough disk on baking sheet; top with desired toppings. Bake pizza until bottom of crust is crisp and top is blistered, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a work surface to slice. Repeat with remaining pizzas.


  1. we made calzones for the first time a couple weeks ago using store bought dough. will have to try again.

    1. @TT: This recipe is pretty easy. My advice is that the warmer the dough, the easier it is to stretch out.

    2. This is awesome - I definitely want to try making calzones again soon. Pretty sure I used the dough straight out of the fridge, but now I know better. Thanks!

      And Welcome Back!! Glad to see you posting again! :)

  2. Welcome back! And a great topic with which to start.

    I have the same problem with the alarm whenever I broil (but not when I use the stovetop smoker, for some reason). I take it off the ceiling and hide it in the bedcovers prior to cooking. And since it's in the bed, I don't forget to put it back up before I go to sleep. But then, I can reach mine without a stepstool.

  3. I had a salad pizza in Los Angeles once and I prefer it over a regular pizza. Unless of course I'm looking for that satisfaction of the greasy cheesy bite.

  4. Cooking a Pizza is something very exciting. if you are successful in making the Best Pizza in Melbourne, you will definitely derive much satisfaction from your work.


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