I love pizza. I seem to start off many of my posts like that…
Anyway, being from New Jersey, I’m spoiled by great pizza (and bagels). Pizza anywhere else has never, EVER tasted as good. And I’m pretty certain it’s not because of my huge pizza-ego. It’s just true.
To me, there’s two kinds of pizzas. The kind you get at the local pizzeria, made with regular shredded mozzarella you find in a store and the works. You eat it with a good amount of garlic powder and red chili flakes. But my favorite, oh boy, my favorite is the wood burning oven kind of pizza. The kind of pizza that has fresh mozzarella and crispy yet chewy dough, and you eat with a fork and knife. The kind where you almost die of happiness.
I’ve had a fair share of terrible pizza. Especially having lived in San Diego, there just wasn’t anything close to what I had at home. Well there was one…somewhat decent but the crust had the texture of dried wood chips. I’ve had the pizza where the crust was so paper thin (and by the way, when we say paper thin pizza in New Jersey and New York, we don’t literally mean it), everything just absorbed through the crust and became soggy. I’ve also had the kind where the dough is so thick, it takes a few minutes to get through one bite. And of course, one of the worst offenders, is the terrible choices in cheese that I’ve seen. Far too rubbery, far too much, and my newest experience, far too goopy. It was weird. It was somewhat opaque and really runny. So strange.
So, with all that said, I have been making pizzas since high school. Primarily because I worked in an Italian bakery for several years and there was always an abundance of pizza dough.
The first few years were horrible. I made it, loud and proud, and would serve it to my family. The slight smiles and many pauses in how “good” it was made it clear that I had failed. Failure.
So I practiced and I practiced. I perfected my dough recipe and figured out the best techniques to have a perfect pizza.
Couple things: I highly suggest using a cast iron pizza pan. I do not like pizza stones. Maybe it’s because one of my friends sat on mine and it shattered, but regardless, I don’t think they’re as good as cast iron.
Fresh mozzarella can be tough to come by. So shredded mozzarella is okay…as long as you have explored at least the 100 mile radius around you for the fresh kind. Extreme? Yes. Makes sense? Of course.
You also want to blind bake the crust. Since I obviously (and most people) don’t have a wood burning oven, I blast my oven at 500 degrees F. But this also means the temperature can fluctuate greatly. So, in my many failures in the past, I would have not-done crust with burnt cheese on top. There were just many things that went wrong. So back to blind baking. By this, I mean roll out your crust and bake by itself on the pan for 3 minutes, take it out, and then put your toppings on. This gets the cooking process started on the crust so by the time you put it back in the oven, everything cooks evenly.
Serves 4 people
Time: 3 hours
3 cups flour
1 packet yeast
1.5 cups hot water
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon salt
1. Follow the directions for foccacia: https://kimchiandkogi.com/2014/07/20/rosemary-focaccia/; allow to rise for at least 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
3/4 cup diced grape tomatoes
1 cup diced fresh mozzarella
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
1/3 cup feta cheese
1. Clearly, you are welcome to use any toppings you would like.
2. P.S. remember my balsamic reduction from my chicken & peach sandwich? It is amazing with pizza.
3. Cut your dough into two pieces.
4. Take one piece and place on floured surface.
5. With your fingers, start to shape your dough into a 12 inch circle. You can also use a rolling pin; I just prefer using my fingers because the dough is very delicate at this point.
6. Carefully place onto your cast iron pan. I don’t have a pizza peel (it’s in New Jersey :() so I just fold my crust (very quickly!) into quarters and unfold it onto the pan. It’s an annoying procedure but the easiest.
7. Bake for 4 minutes and remove.
8. Put all of your toppings on your semi-baked crust. Return to the oven. At this point, I put the crust on a floured cutting board and then slide it back onto the pan when it has all of it’s toppings on.
9. Cook until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
10. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before cutting.
There are a few things that may happen:
1. Water from the mozzarella; I’ve seen this happen over and over. It’s hard to avoid because in reality, 500 degrees F isn’t the ideal heat. I have avoided this water by either letting the cut mozzarella drain on paper towel or cutting it very thin.
2. Crust is done but toppings aren’t; blast the broiler and watch carefully until done.
3. I ate too much. Answer? No surprise.