The Make a Pizza Night Post will appear Sunday around 7pm–at which point this sentence will turn into a link
Make a pizza. Post a link on the Pizza Post that will appear on this blog Sunday Night. It’s a double dog dare–you can’t refuse. If you must, shortcuts are allowed: pre-made crusts, sauce from a jar, whatever it takes. Hell, send out or heat a frozen cardboard pie. I’m going to make this easy for you…here’s a crust recipe, with a sauce recipe to follow this evening.
Perfect Pizza Crust
You can make this up to a day ahead of time, or any time up to 2 hours before you’re ready to eat. The longer it has to rise, the more subtle and tasty it will be.
1. Put 1 Cup of very warm water in large, heavy bowl. Add a tablespoon of brown sugar, honey, or even plain old sugar if that’s all you’ve got, and a tablespoon of flour–we like pastry flour or 00 Semolina, but use whatever rocks your world. Mix it up to form a pasty broth.
2. When the water has cooled (but remains warm–ideally around 100-105 degrees F, the temp you’d use for a baby bottle–above 114 degrees you risk killing your yeast) add 2.5 teaspoons of dry yeast, mix that in until it dissolves, and set it aside for 5-10 minutes. It will get a little foamy–that’s little baby yeast growing up. While it proofs, get the rest of your ingredients ready.
3. Add 1.5 cups for flour, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or some sort of fat, like softened but not melted butter, or even vegetable oil–but if you use a solid, make sure it gets mixed in), and 2 teaspoons (or I heaping teaspoon) of salt. Chemically, you need the salt, but erring on the side of caution is preferable to too much). Mix this mess together with a fork until it’s a sticky ball, adding more flour (a little bit at a time) as needed.
4. When it’s relatively solid, spread a little flour on a flat, clean surface and start kneading. Press the dough ball flat, fold it in half, turn it one quarter turn, fold it again, squeeze it flat, and keep going like that for 10 minutes, until you’ve incorporated enough flour to make the dough “silky”–pliant and smooth, but not sticky. If the dough becomes difficult to work, let it sit for five minutes then continue. If you get too much flour and the dough feels flaky, add water a few drops–literally– at a time.
5. Put a tablespoon of oil in that large bowl, throw the ball of dough in on top, and swirl the dough around until it’s coated, then cover the whole deal with a damp towel and sit it in a warm, draft-free place to rise until double. An hour is probably about right, but once it’s done one rise you can put it in the fridge or just leave it on the counter over night and it will be even better. The proportions I gave you should be enough for one really big pizza, or a pair of 12-14″ pies, depending upon how thick you like your crust.
6. Preheat your oven to it’s hottest temperature. Some people use the “self clean” setting, but if you’re like me your oven locks on that setting and burns your pie to ash. I can get 575 out of my vintage hotpoint gas stove–but a good brick oven place is cooking your pie at upwards of 800, so don’t be shy.
7. Get your pizza flat. The best way to do it is by stretching it, working around the edge, or tossing it. I’m terrible at that , so I sort of push it out with my fingers from the center to the edge of the the floured surface I’m working on ( you can also squeese it out directly on the pan you’re using). A rolling pin is an option I use when I’m cooking several pizzas in a row, for guests, but squeezing the dough changes the texture a little–and purists will regard the use of a rolling pin as sacrilege. Stretching, if you can do it, is preferable.
8. You know your oven. If it’s not really hot, you may want to pre-cook the crust for about 4 minutes before adding the toppings–especially if you put your pizza in a pan with an edge (like a cookie sheet). Throw on your toppings and go to town–remember if you use a lot of watery veggies that they can make the pizza runny. Avoid this by laying the veggies on top of the cheese and other toppings.
9. Cook until the cheese is bubbly and just beginning to brown on top.