Sunday, June 22, 2008

Giuseppe's Awesome Pizza

I know, I know... with a name like Giuseppe, I must have been born with a great pizza recipe. I've actually had to work at it quite a while, and today I had a breakthrough, where I'd rate my pizza output from good to very good.

My main issues were sauce and the consistency of crust. An east coaster at heart, I like the NYC style pizza - soft, doughy crust, with a sauce that's a little sweet, but not very sweet. My pies at home were suffering from bad pre-made sauce, bad sauce to cheese ratios, and a crust that's too hard.

I did a little research today, to get my pizza more New Yorkified, and the results were good. Most of the changes to the dough were in cooking execution, not in ingredients.

I am recommending this recipe for home use, if you don't already have one that pleases you... this makes about 2 med/large pizzas.

Required/Highly recommended tools:

Pizza Stone - this is really a requirement. You won't get the crust right with a pan. I've had it many years, and it's paid for itself many times over. I think they run about 50 bucks at the most.

A good mixer that has a dough hook. You can make your dough by hand, but it seems like a real pain in the arse.


3.5 cups flour
1 cup water (very warm, but not too hot to the back of the hand)
1-2 tbs yeast (depending if you like yeasty crust or not
1 tbs salt (try kosher)
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs honey
Optional - pinch of dill (not NYC style, but can be good).

Mix yeast and water until fully blended into mixer bowl. Add everything except flour. Attach mixer bowl and dough hook. Add about 2.5 cups flour and mix on slow speed. After a couple of minutes, add rest of flour. It should eventually ball up. If it's crumbly or not smooth after about 4 minutes after adding remaining flour, add water 1 tbs at a time. Put in a bowl (or keep in mixer bowl, lined with olive oil, and cover with a towel.

With pizza stone in oven, preheat oven as high as it will go (550 for me). Leave the bowl safely on the range top - the residual heat helps the dough rise.

1 can peeled whole tomatoes (28 oz. - the standard large can)
Salt, Oregano, Sugar
Optional: 2 buds of garlic, sage, basil, pepper, a touch of fresh shredder Romano

Put contents of can into a food processor, or blend with immersion mixer (that cusinart stick), or mince by hand. Retain all of the juice. You can strain the seeds if you want, but they don't bother me. Add seasoning to taste - I added about 1 tbs salt, oregano, and sugar, and about 1 tsp of everything else.

Coarse Shredded Mozarella
I know what some of you may be thinking - isn't fresh wet mozarella better? If you are making a margherita style pizza, yes, but fresh wet mozarella would not do great in this recipe - but you can get by if you are a cheese purist.

Rolling dough: (you'll need corn meal)
I'm not a great handler of dough, so I do a combo of rolling pin and hand work. I use flour, but use it sparingly with a sifter - enough to keep it from sticking to the board, but not so much that it tastes all floury at the end. You should let the edges be a little thicker, and it's better to err on the side of thickness versus diameter when spreading. When you are done, brush off as much excess flour as you can. Sprinkle corn meal on the cooking surface that you'll use to transfer the pizza to the stone with (either that board, another board, or a Pizza thin). You can be sparing with the corn meal - a pinch should suffice. As you add sauce and cheese, occasionally shake the board to keep the crust rolling atop of the corn meal - which should act like ball bearings.

Assembling pizza:
Add about a ladle of sauce, and spread with the bottom of the ladle. Less is more here, and it should be runny. You don't every really want to not have patches where the sauce is so thick that you can't see the dough underneath. Too much sauce is gross in my book. Sprinkle 2/3 cup cheese on pizza - you want to see a fair amount of sauce in between pieces - don't coat the pizza in cheese.

Toss pizza on stone - if you haven't used the stone before, you want to sort of slide it off the board or thin - it can take a little practice. The oven should be preheated, and let the stone heat in that for as long as you want - the stone will take longer to reach full temp.

Cook for 4-6 minutes, depending on size thickness, and local altitude. Not very long - if the crust starts to darken to a golden color, you've overcooked it. This will result in soft, yet cooked pizza crust, and cheese that isn't burned. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if you want.

So the big things are the higher temp, shorter cooking time, and the runny, simple sauce. Obviously, everybody like different types of pizza - but if you get the hankering for a homemade version of NY style pizza - this is pretty good.

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