Sunday, January 13, 2008

Great Pizza without an 800 degree oven.

When in doubt, see what the folks at Cooks Illustrated would do, and that’s just what I did. This was a recipe for Pizza Magherita that I had to kind of adapt since fresh basil in January is hard to come by in RI. The finished product was terrific...thin and rustic with a nice crispy texture. If you are a thin pizza lover this is the recipe for you.

This recipe requires a pizza stone and a peel. Convection ovens will produce a lighter, crispier pizza, and you will need to reduce the overall cooking time by a minute or two. You can shape the second dough round while the first pizza bakes, but don't add toppings until just before baking. You can let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator if you like; place the dough balls on a floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray. If using mozzarella packed in brine, pat the cheese cubes dry before placing them on the pizza.

1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
1 ¾ cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus extra for work surface and peel
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons table salt
2 teaspoons sugar
Pizza topping of your choice

Makes two 12 inch pizzas.

FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to lowest position, set pizza stone on oven rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. In liquid measuring cup, whisk yeast into water to dissolve. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flours, salt, and sugar until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube; continue to process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of work bowl, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. (If after 1 minute dough is sticky and clings to blade, add 1 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and continue processing. If dough appears dry and crumbly, add 1 to 2 tablespoons water and process until dough forms ball.) Divide dough in half and shape into smooth, tight balls. Place on floured counter or baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

TO SHAPE AND COOK THE PIZZAS: When dough balls have doubled in size, dust dough liberally with flour and transfer balls to well-floured work surface. Press one ball into 8-inch disk. Using flattened palms, gently stretch disk into 12-inch circle, working along outer edge and giving disk quarter turns. Lightly flour pizza peel; lift edges of dough round to brush off any excess flour, then transfer dough to peel. *I used cornmeal on my peel instead of flour. Spread thin layer of tomato sauce over dough with rubber spatula, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Slide onto stone and bake until crust begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove pizza from oven with peel, close oven door, and top pizza fresh mozzarella, spaced evenly apar
t. Return pizza to stone and continue cooking until cheese is just melted, 4 to 5 minutes more. *I topped the pizza and let it cook for 10 mins. Transfer to cutting board; sprinkle with half of remaining basil, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and pinch salt. Slice and serve immediately. Repeat steps to bake second pizza.

I wanted to keep the toppings fairly simple. Since fresh basil wasn’t an option I chose to use dried. I had caramelized some onions early in the day for my pizza. I added some freshly grated parmesan and artichoke hearts to mine too. John stuck with pepperoni and mozzarella.
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