Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Quest for Home Pizza Perfection

We love pizza.  Doesn't everyone?  Occasionally I make it, but there is no replicating pizza-parlor pizza in a home oven.  Despite the fact that I use a pizza stone, which I preheat in a blistering 500-degree oven for 30 minutes, I still can't create the mouthwatering crust that we get from our favorite pizza joints. 

New York-style pizza is our favorite and the place we like that's closest to our house is 20 minutes away, and that's without traffic.   When we are really in the mood for a good pie but don't want to make that trek up the highway, I pull out the pizza artillery and give my home pizza another shot. 

Last night I made Emeril's crust, which got five stars on Food Network's Web site, and Bobby Flay's quick pizza sauce, which I pulled out of Parade in April. 

The crust gets points for ease because it is food processor friendly.  With only a few kneads required after dumping it out of the work bowl, it was done in five minutes.  An hour later, it had morphed into a fluffy mountain of flour and yeast and it rolled out like a dream.  It still isn't the Holy Grail of crust that is my goal, but it is light and toothsome.  I will make it again, perhaps trying bread flour next time because in his Parade article the King of Throwdowns said using all-purpose flour produces a chewy crust, whereas bread flour yields crispier results.   Wish I had read that last night.  Could this be the answer?

I can tell you that Bobby's pizza sauce was a hit, and I have enough stashed in the freezer for three more pizzas. 

One tip I have picked up that has improved my tomato-based sauces is to buy San Marzano tomatoes. 

They are sweet orbs of lusciousness from Italy.   If you buy them, make sure they are the real deal.  Some impostors claim to be San Marzano tomatoes, but they are not imported from Italy and don't have the seal of authenticity. 

                                          See the stamp?  These are certified.            

The real things are also more expensive but worth it.  More mainstream grocery stores seem to carry them now, and lately I have discovered them at the larger Publix markets.

The best part about making your own pizza is the ability to control the quality of the ingredients.  I didn't have fresh mozzarella for last night's pie, but that cheesy treat ups the flavor profile by a mile.  The same is true for the sauce - using great-quality tomatoes, red pepper flakes that haven't been sitting in your pantry for a year, and freshly chopped herbs and garlic will make the pizza pop. 

The quest continues, but at least the search is fun.

Pizza Dough
(Emeril Lagasse, Food Network)

1 C warm water, about 110 degrees
1 packet dry yeast
1 T. sugar
2 T. olive oil
2 1/4 C flour (may use a little more or less) I used more when I kneaded it a few times
1/2 tsp. salt

To the bowl of an electric mixer (or food processor) fitted with a dough hook, add the warm water, yeast and sugar; stir to dissolve the yeast.  Add the olive oil, flour and salt.  Process until the dough comes together and climbs up the dough hook (attachment).  Remove the dough from the mixer (processor) and, on a floured surface, form into a smooth round.   Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean towel.  Place in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the dough doubles in size.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll to desired size.

Easy Pizza Sauce
(Bobby Flay, in Parade)

2 T. olive oil
1 small Spanish onion, finely diced (I used Vidalia)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch of red chili flakes
1 28-oz can plum tomatoes with juices, pureed
2 T. fresh basil, chopped
Salt and black pepper

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until soft, 5 minutes.  Add garlic and chili flakes; cook 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, increase heat to high, and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened, 20 minutes.  Stir in basil; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:  I like lots of seasoning in my sauce so I also added 1 T. chopped fresh oregano and a teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning.

Tomato and Cheese Pizza
(My version, with Bobby Flay's help)

Heat oven to 500 degrees, with a 16-inch-diameter pizza stone on the lowest shelf position, for at least 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough to desired size and transfer it to a pizza peel that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.  This allows the pizza to slide off the peel and onto the stone without incident (I have had a couple ugly incidents).  If you don't have a peel, you can place the dough on parchment paper.  Ladle on some sauce, not too much or the crust will be soggy; eyeball it, about 3/4 cup.  Sprinkle on the cheese and other toppings, slide the pizza off the peel and onto the stone (or slide the parchment paper and pizza onto the stone) and bake until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly, 10 minutes.

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