Monday, January 2, 2012

Pizza! Pizza!

Well here it is: The Barefoot Friar's Famous Pizza™ recipe.

3/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast


2 cups (or more) all purpose flour (unbleached is better)
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

If you're planning to rise your dough in the oven, preheat to warm (lowest) setting. Don't let it get over about 150°, or you'll kill your dough. If you're rising it elsewhere, skip this step.

Pour 3/4 cup warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt. Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; stir until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to lightly floured surface.

Knead dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Brush lightly with olive oil, turning dough to coat all sides. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or clean towel and let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

When dough has doubled, punch it down and kneed on a lightly floured surface for just a moment -- about 30 seconds should be plenty.

(By the way, this can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.)

Preheat oven to 450°. If you have a stone, make sure it's in the middle of the oven. If you're using a pan, lightly grease it with nonstick cooking spray or olive oil (better).

Roll out dough, starting in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them. If you can do the pizza toss thing, then go right ahead. Note that you can divide the dough ball into three sections to make three personal sized pizza (feeds one hungry man by itself, or maybe two kids if you have a side item). This is usually how I do it. I tend to roll mine out a bit thin, because I haven't had good luck with deep dish pizzas with this dough. If you're doing a deep dish, then pre-bake the dough for about 10 minutes before topping.

Top to taste. This is my favorite part. I've had a couple "top your own pizza" parties at my girlfriend's house with her roommates. Always lots of fun.

I usually buy a jar of sauce instead of making my own. I have a wonderful Giada DeLaurentiis sauce recipe, but it's a bit chunky and thin for pizza. I like the Bertolli brand Margherita or similar best. You want thick but smooth, and the canned stuff is too acidic. They actually sell a sauce specifically for pizza, and it works pretty good too. Look across the aisle at the pizza shelf for this.

I will never, ever buy the block of part-skim "mozzarella" sold next to the American cheese again. Compared to the real thing, it is awful. Great Value (Walmart) does have a mozzarella that is made from whole milk that is sold usually on the top shelf of the cheese section. It will be a semi-soft cheese, much softer than cheddar. It should feel about as squishy in the package as Velveeta or maybe slightly firmer. The flavor... heavenly. This is really good stuff. My favorite, however, is one that is smoked. Oh, the Angels in heaven must have given the recipe for this. Don't skimp on the cheese. If you skimp anywhere else, don't skimp on the cheese. When this cheese melts, you get the famous ropes (remember the Little Caesar's commercials from the early 90s?). The cheese is the most important part.

Pepperoni is a given. For sausage lovers, you can either brown and crumble some Jimmy Dean (or whatever else strikes your fancy) or get some Italian sausages, cook to package directions, and crumble them. Yummo. I also note that Walmart sells ham cubes in a small package. Good buy, because you can use the rest later (more in a moment).

I love to get a jar of sundried tomatoes. They're sold in Walmart on the aisle with the other canned tomato products, usually on the top shelf. They're packed in olive oil. To use, simply drain most of the oil off and top the pizza.

Olives, of course, and mushrooms. I learned the hard way, however, make sure they're not too salty! I put some wonderful Klamata olives on a pizza once, only to discover their saltiness really messed with the other flavors. Fresh is better, of course. But regular old canned black olives are just fine here. Green bell pepper (chopped very fine) or onion (even finer) is good. I have yet to try pineapple, but it's coming.

I like to get a package of Feta or goat cheese to sprinkle on top, and since I always have a bit of fresh Parmesan on hand, I grate some of that on, also.

Go easy on your toppings. Too many means your crust won't get done and your veggies will be hard. Since you're making small pizzas anyway, try doing two or three different things on each one.

Top with cheese (helps hold the other toppings on if you put cheese on top), and pop it onto the stone. Let it bake until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbly and starting to toast on the edges. It should take about 12-15 minutes. If you like a crispy crust, let it go a minute or two longer.

Pull it out, let it cool a moment and prepare to have your perception of pizza forever changed.

I don't think this is going to be large-family friendly. I see it more as a special occasion, or maybe a stay at home date night. The toppings can be more or less expensive depending on what you get. Better toppings make a huge difference, though.

Now for the really fun part: Use the leftover toppings next morning to make omelettes. Mmm.

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