Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pizza, Pizza

I don't think I've eaten pizza from a Domino's/Pizza Hut/Donato's/Little Ceasar's in years.  Couldn't tell you if they've improved any since the last time I ate their offerings back in 2001.  Since my world was opened up by places like Bazbeaux's, Mellow Mushroom, and Lilly's Pizza, I haven't looked back on the greasy, boring-ness of the lesser establishments.

Now I want more.  More freedom to create the perfect pie to pleasing my oh-so-picky palette.  More artistic license to bring my favorite flavors together.  And how is my pizza able to get any better, you ask?  It's all coming down to the perfect dough recipe, which I will bestow upon you now.  You'll make four pizzas out of this, but you'll want to eat it all.  It all.  Eat it all.  You'll eat it all and NEVER LOOK BACK.

Wolfgang Puck's Pizza Dough

1 packet active dry yeast (Cori called them "sea monkeys")
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 105-115 degrees, or like lukewarm bathwater... without the suds)
1 tablespoon honey (food for the sea monkeys)
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra... virgin... olive... oil...), plus more for brushing the pizza crust
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
some cornmeal, for dusting the peel

1. In a pyrex measuring cup (or small bowl), dissolve your sea monkeys yeast in water.  Add the honey and stir together.  Let it sit for 2-3 minutes - the concoction should resemble a foamy beer.  Stir in the EVOO.
2. Meanwhile, in a standing mixer combine the four and salt.  Using the paddle attachment, mix in the yeast mixture all at once.  Once it's just coming together, take off the paddle attachment and replace with the dough hook (this is where your Kitchen Aid comes to... your aid?).  Knead at low speed for two minutes, then crank up to medium speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and starts to cluster around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.  Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand (do this, but DON'T add the flour) 2-3 minutes longer, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  When you press it with your finger, the dough should slowly spring back, sort of like a memory foam mattress.  Also, it shouldn't be tacky or sticky anymore.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (once around the bowl with your olive oil is roughly a tablespoon), turning over in the bowl several times to coat with the EVOO.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for up to 30 minutes.  When it's ready, your pizza baby dough ball will stretch when pulled.  **do not stretch babies... this is bad**
4. After the dough has risen, place on a work surface and use the biggest, longest knife you have to cut it into 4 equal parts (if you are feeding four individuals, otherwise you can cut it into 2 parts, or just leave it one big ass pizza - your choice, kids).  Remember that kneading video?  You're going to do this to each ball of dough about 4-5 times.  Then, on a smooth unfloured surface, roll the ball under your palm until it feels smooth and firm (stop laughing!), about 1 minute.  Put the balls on a rimmed cookie sheet, spray the inside of some plastic wrap with cooking spray, and cover.  You'll let these kids rest for about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (roughly the temperature of Hell).  Place a pizza stone in the oven to heat while you prepare your pizza (or, if you're like me and haven't gotten one as a present yet), just make sure you have a large unrimmed cookie sheet waiting in the wings.  Place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface.  While turning the dough, press down on the center with the heel of your hand, gradually spreading it out to a circle that's about 7-8" in diameter (12-14" for large pizzas).  You could also use a rolling pin, if you a) own one, and b) prefer using a weapon.  Your choice.  With your fingers, form a slightly thicker, raised rim around the edges of your pizza dough.  Transfer to a pizza peel that has been dusted with corn meal.  Brush everything but the rim with EVOO, then top your pizza as you like.  I suggest this order:

6. freshly minced herbs
5. grated cheese/goat cheese
4. "meat" (you know I used fake bacon, y'all)
3. thinly sliced veggies
2. shredded, melty cheese
1. sauce/pesto/EVOO
(_________________pizza dough_________________)

6. Once your pizza is assembled, pull a magic trick and slide your pizza onto the pizza stone/pan.  I like to make bets to see how many toppings fall off when new people do this.  Too many tomatoes have died in the back of the oven this way, but it's still fun!  Bake for 10 minutes (yes, that's it!) - the toppings should be bubbling and the crust should be golden brown.  
7. Put the pizza onto a wooden cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.  Yeah.  Dig in.

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