If there's one thing Joe and I agree on for dinner its pizza. While making pizza last night we realized how much value we get from making it together and an idea was born. This year, we're going to chronicle our pizza experiences. I'm sure there will be some interesting doughs, toppings, take-out places and restaurants involved. Even more fun will be us working together on this. We'll share our thoughts on the pizza "du jour" and any insights (or weight gain) will be noted.
Our first pizza of 2009: Eggplant, caramelized onion, chicken, chorizo and whole roasted smashed garlic clove pizza with shredded mozzarella cheese and Trader Joe's pizza sauce.
Michelle on the dough:
My current favorite pizza dough is from Nick Malgieri's How to Bake. His recipe for Neapolitan pizza is quick to make and with a proof time of about an hour it's becoming one of my go-to recipes. Aside from the ease of making this dough it has great flavor and it produces a pizza that is crispy with a nice crust around the edge.
Here's an abbreviated version of that recipe (makes 2 12" pizzas):
1 ¼ Cups Warm Tap Water (about 110 degrees)
2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) active yeast (I like SAF yeast)
Put the warm water in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water; let it soften for 3-4 minutes.
While yeast is softening, in a large bowl combine:
3 Cups AP Flour (we only use King Arthurs)
2 tsp salt
Mix them together. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Once the yeast has softened whisk the yeast and the water together, then whisk in:
1 tbsp Olive Oil (use the good stuff)
Once you have the oil, water and yeast mixed pour them into the well in the flour. With a spatula mix the flour water together as far as you can (it may start to form a soft, sticky dough; if it doesn't take your hands and kneed it a few times in the bowl to get everything incorporated). Turn the dough onto a lightly flour surface and kneed it till the dough is smooth and no longer very sticky. It should take about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overknead because the dough will be tough. Form the dough into a ball.
Put the dough in a bowl with about 1 tbsp of olive oil in it. Place the dough into the bowl, and move it around so all the dough is covered with oil. Make sure the top of your ball is facing upwards and wrap the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to double in size (about 1 hour).
Once your dough has fully proofed, take it and divide it in half. This recipe makes 2 medium pizzas, so I often freeze half the dough. Take the dough you will be using and form it into a ball. Let it rest for about 10-15 minutes with a towel covering it, then stretch it to approximately the size of your pizza stone (or pan). We don't have a pizza peel, so we take our stone out of the oven, put our dough on it; and then quickly put the toppings on before putting it back in the oven.
Joe on the toppings:
On this pizza we used Trader Joes Pizza Sauce. Although we never use gravy from a can for pasta, we've found that for pizza Trader Joe's sauce works great. This sauce has a good consistency for pizza, and when used judiciously, still allows for a very crispy crust. We use a small amount, not covering the whole crust, leaving it streaky before the other toppings go on. The next topping to go on were four cloves of whole roasted garlic that we smashed. They were roasted in the skin, and peeled right before application. Also added were caramelized onion (low and slow till caramelized in a pan), broiled chicken breast (roasted bone in and cut into strips), a couple small pieces of chorizo, and shredded Mozzarella. For Mozzarella we prefer fresh, but store bought grated is good in a pinch, or to save a little cash. The final topping and our favorite right now, was roasted eggplant. We simply cut the eggplant the long way into sections and then crosswise just over half an inch thick. We then oil and salt them and roast in a 400 degree oven until just before done (they'll start to brown and be soft, but not mushy). When the pizza comes out, they will have the slightest amount of crisp on the outside, but be creamy in the middle. Roasting them first gets them to perfect doneness, and also decreases their moisture content, allowing the pizza to be crispy.
You'll know your pizza is done when the edges are brown, cheese is melted and it smells so good you can't stop opening the oven door to check on it. We've made several variations of this pizza and it's so good. When we take our pizza out of the oven we slide it onto a cooling rack so that the crust will stay crispy. We've found that if we put it on the cutting board right away the steam will get trapped and the crust will get soggy.
With our pizza tonight we had a bottle of Michel-Schlumberger 2003 Syrah from Dry Creek. Though the wine was very nice it was a bit too hot and peppery to pair with the pizza. The flavors were competing a bit too much, and the pizza overpowered the wine. Our glass before the pizza was lovely, but with the pizza it just tasted hot. Next time we drink that bottle we'll pair it with a lightly seasoned pork tenderloin so we can enjoy the flavors of the wine more.