We do pizza night nearly once a week. It’s kind of a weekend thing because Matt makes the dough the night before and we think up a new topping combination we haven’t tried, yet while flipping through magazines and cookbooks. It’s even better to have friends over, make individual pizzas and let everyone top their own. Matt has the crust down to an art. It’s perfect every time and trust me, he’s tried at least a half dozen different recipes and ways of doing the crust. He finally got the texture he was searching for: chewy, crispy, even in the very center under all the toppings and sauce, and great flavor. It’s honestly lacking nothing. And it makes us bitter when we go out for pizza, thinking, “Why didn’t we just make our own?”
We have Jim Lahey to thank, the pizza guru himself. His book, My Pizza, is forever bookmarked on the crust and sauces recipes. The recipe isn’t the only trick, though! We have a stone that we start heating up as soon as we begin prepping. We heat it as high as the oven will go – ours is 500 – and let it heat for at least 30 minutes. Then, right when we’re about to cook, we switch it to the high broil setting so that it cooks the top as fast as the stone cooks the bottom. I don’t trust my pizza peel skills, so I let Matt put them in the oven. (Self admitted wimp when it comes to this and frying things. I’m scared of lunging heat particles.)
You need never buy pizza sauce again in your life. If you do, you’re probably sacrificing flavor, money and freshness. The only thing it won’t save is time. But really, it doesn’t take that long and you get to squish tomatoes between your fingers. Always a bonus.
The topping combinations we came up with this week:
Sun Dried Tomato, Goat Cheese and Basil
Pea, Bacon and Mint with Bechemel Sauce (alfredo, basically)
Mexican Chorizo, Purple Potato, Queso Fresco and Fresh Corn (this was my idea and my favorite of the three, but chorizo is cheating because it makes everything delicious like bacon or butter. Three cheers for lymph nodes and salivary glands and such – I’m at least comforted that they don’t try to hide these ingredients from the list)
The best part of pizza night is that there’s no limit to your topping choices! We’ve done so many from buffalo chicken to dried cherries and sausage (a fav) and even Thai chicken. Get creative and get a pizza stone!
500 grams all purpose flour
350 grams water
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsp fine sea salt
In a medium bowl, thoroughly blend the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and with a wooden spoon or your hands, mix thoroughly.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temp for 18 hours or until it has more than doubled. it will take longer in a chilly room and less time in a very warm one.
Flour a work surface and scrape the dough out of the bowl. Divide it into 4 equal parts and shape them: For each portion, start with the right side of the dough and pull it toward the center; then do the same with the left, then the top, then the bottom. The order doesn’t actually matter; what you want is four folds. Shape each portion into a round and turn seam side down. Mold the dough into a neat circular mound. The mounds should not be sticky; if they are, dust with more flour.
If you don’t intend to use the dough right away, wrap the balls individually in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to room temp by leaving them out on the counter, covered in a damp cloth for 2 to 3 hours before needed.
Shape each ball into about an 8-9″ round (about 1/4″ thick). Put on a pizza peel (we have a wooden one and we dust it with cornmeal so that the dough slides off easily once topped) and top with a thin layer of desired sauce. We’ve used plain olive oil, pesto, bechemel, marinara, buffalo sauce, homemade ranch dressing, etc – possibilities are endless and should correspond with your toppings! One tip if you’re using a fresh mozzarella that might be watery is to sprinkle the top of the cheese with a little corn meal. It absorbs the extra moisture! Top your pizza as desired – maybe don’t go crazy because the weight makes it hard to get off the peel. If you’re using fresh herbs, put them on once your pizza comes out, unless you just want that charred effect. We cook our pizzas at a preheated 500F oven for exactly 5 minutes. Right before we put the pizzas in, we turn our oven to broil. Some of this may be trial and error depending on how your oven cooks (oh, for a wood-burning stove!) but that’s part of the fun of cooking – figure out what works!
Marinara Sauce that we use every time:
1 – 28oz. can whole tomatoes. We like San Marzano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbs red wine vinegar
Combine all ingredients and crush tomatoes with your hands, removing the tough stem ends of the tomatoes. Mix well. That’s it! 🙂