Cooking: home made pizza – revisited

I’ve blogged about home made pizza on several occasions before, the most recently was last April during the “deep isolation” phase of the pandemic.

At that time, I tried to avoid using usual cooking equipment.  But now I going there and using some specialized gear. 

You’ll need

baking sheet
mixing bowl
1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
100 g all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
70 g warm water
olive oil
pizza stone
your favourite pizza toppings

You’ll notice that the flour and the water are measured in grams instead of cups.  That’s because this recipe has been cut down from a recipe provided by an italian chef (thank you http://www.pastaboypeter.com/), and he uses these more precise measurements. 

To that end, I’m using a digital kitchen scale.

Start by measuring off 70g of warm water. Pour this into a large mixing bowl.

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Measure off 100 g of flour, set it aside.

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Add the yeast and the sugar to the bowl of warm water (you may recall that I like to use a tall glass jar so I can see how much the dough rises),

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In a few minutes, the yeast should bloom.  If it doesn’t bloom, go buy some fresh yeast and start over.

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Add the flour to the bowl and mix until the flour and water combines to form a shaggy dough.

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Let rise. After about 45 minutes, the dough should rise to double in volume.

Use the olive oil just to grease a working surface, and your hands, then remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it for about 4-5 minutes. Apply more oil to the surface and to your hands as needed, so the dough doesn’t stick.

Let the dough rise again for about another hour, and knead it again for another 4-5 minutes. Let the dough rise in the bowl again for yet another hour (or overnight in a covered bowl in the refrigerator).

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During the final rise (about an hour). Preheat the oven to the highest setting the oven can handle (probably about 500F / 260C). The stone needs time to heat up properly.

Insert the pizza stone on a oven rack near the bottom of the oven (so that it’s close to the heat elements).

A pizza stone is a specialized kitchen tool available at most cookware stores (around $20-30).  The stone surface is porous, and absorbs moisture while retaining a lot of heat.  So when bread or pizza is baked on the stone, it bottom is crispy.

I’m not using a conventional pizza stone.  I’ve had 3 of them over the years, and all of them cracked in about one year.  So instead I’m using a good substitute.

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These are industrial ceramic tiles (non-glazed) from the hardware store. Each tile is an 8″x8″ square, so combined, its 16″x16″ surface (about 40cm x 40 cm).  These tiles are very durable, they’ve lasted for decades, and they produce the same result as a pizza stone, and they were inexpensive (about $2 per tile at the time)

After the final rise, take the dough out of the bowl, add salt, and stretch it out.

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If you have a pizza peel, sprinkle the surface of the peel with a generous amount of cornmeal (I’m using a cookie sheet, rather than a peel).

Perforate the surface of the pizza dough with the tynes of a fork. Let it rest for about 15-20 minutes.

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Then par-baked the crust in the oven, directly upon the pizza stone, for about 10 minutes.

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While it was in the oven, I prepped by toppings. I had a mild italian sausage, some onions, button mushrooms, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.

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I sliced the onions and mushrooms as thinly as possible, and stripped the sausage from it’s casing. Then I crumbled and browned the sausage in a frying pan.

I spread about 3-4 tablespoons of tomato sauce on the par baked pizza crust.

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Then I added the browned italian sausage, the sliced onions, and the sliced mushrooms.

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And finally I topped it with shredded dry mozzarella cheese. If I were trying to be authentic, I would use a fresh mozzarella (unripened, sold as balls, soaking in whey).

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Transferred the pizza into the oven atop the pizza stone (or my ceramic tiles) to bake for 10 minutes. If the cheese doesn’t brown, move the pizza to a baking sheet and insert the sheet into the topmost rack in the oven near the broiler elements, and switch the oven to broil. It should only take a few minutes under the broiler to brown the top.

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Slice and serve.

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This is pizza is a close approximation of a roman style pizza. For the uninitiated, there are regional variations of pizza in Italy. The most well know is Neapolitan (aka Neapolitano). It is a thin crust pizza using a soft dough baked very quickly at extremely high temperature (about 800F). This roman pizza is a slightly thicker crust, baked at a lower temperature (about 450-500F) over a longer period.

An authentic neapolitan pizza will have a crust that is crisp around the edges, and soft in the center, and would likely be consumed with a fork and knife because of the crust’s thinness and softness. A roman pizza has a crisp crust and can be eaten with your hands.

What’s the difference between this roman pizza dough, and the previous pizza dough? There’s a little less oil, and different ratios of water and flour. That’s about it.

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