Saturday, March 07, 2009
I think it's reasonable to want to make pizza every day of the week. It's so versatile, and can be as eclectic as your fridge and cupboards allow. You know those crazy Chicago style pizzas, stuffed to an overflowing and greasy pillow of calories? Hmm. I'm not so into those these days. I like the Italian pizza, the one without drippy sauces and doughy crusts. The crust can be mistaken for a flaky cracker and the toppings are not ruled by cheese and cheese alone. Sitting atop a pizza Italian style can be tomatoes, potatoes, anchovies, pears, bleu cheese, mozzarella, eggs, asparagus, and whatever is locally available. It really does transcribe to so many different cultures.
Our pizza the other night for all intensive purposes was a sausage pizza, with a thin crust, less flaky and more crunchy actually. I'm thinking that maybe the flour we used was less than ideal, maybe lacking proteins that bread flours need, as opposed to cake flours. But delicious nonetheless, and really entertaining. We used the pizza crust recipe from the most amazing encyclopedia of Italian cooking, The Silver Spoon. The recipe has you mound your flour and salt into a volcano, and then into a space created in the middle, pour half a cup of water with dissolved yeast. all this happens directly on your kitchen counter. It takes strategy, planning ahead for how you will deal with the river of yeasty water running across your non-level counters. But once you figure it out, damming the river with flour from the volcano, the whole concoction becomes smooth and cohered with a kneading shoulder work-out.
We chose sausage because we had some ground beef that needed to be used. Here's the fantastic and simple recipe for that, from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters:
using your hands, lightly mix together:
1 lb. ground pork
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp fresh or 1 tsp dried sage
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of cayenne
Mix well enough to distribute the seasonings evenly, but avoid mashing the meat. Make a small patty of meat, fry it ina small skillet, and taste. Adjust.
OR replace the sage, nutmeg, and cayenne with 2 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and lightly pounded; 2 garlic cloves, pounded to a puree; 3 TB red wine; and optional 2 tsp chopped parsley and 1/2 tsp dried chile flakes.
After forming our pizza crust, we gently distributed some sliced cherry tomatoes and chopped garlic on the crust, drizzling olive oil over the top of these. We baked the pizza at 425 for 18 minutes, and then added our homemade pre-cooked sausage, cheese, and dried basil for 7 or 8 more minutes. The crust really was cracker-like on the edges, but still really good. Next time I'll try a change in flour and see what happens.
The basic pizza dough recipe from Silver Spoon cookbook (You've never heard of Silver Spoon? I want a semester of my life to be spent dwelling in this book, so many more recipes to explore!):
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 ounce yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
olive oil for brushing
Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a counter and make a well in the center. Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until very smooth and pour into the well. Incorporate the flour with your fingers to make a soft dough. Knead well, pulling and stretching until it becomes smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball, cut a cross in the top, place in a bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place for about 3 hours until almost doubled in size. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a round about 1/4 inch thick. Brush a cookie sheet with oil or line it with baking parchment. Put the dough round on it and press out until it covers the area. Make sure the rim is thicker than the center. Sprinkle with the topping ingredients, leaving a 3/4 inch margin around the edge.