Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Food #8: Pizza or Focaccia

I make my own pizza, and not because I'm too good for pizzeria pizza, though I am perhaps too cheap. Rather, as long as I've got an hour or two before I need to eat, I find this is easy and makes everyone happy. The recipe is adapted from my favorite source for bread recipes, No Need to Knead, by Suzanne Dunaway. Sadly, the book seems to be out of print. If you can find a copy, though, it's worth the price just to make the rosemary filoncino, which will make you the hit of any potluck and is ridiculously easy.

This same dough makes great pizzas and also makes the easiest focaccia I've ever done. For this one you need a food processor and maybe a gallon-sized ziplock bag. And yeast, flour, water and salt.

Basic Dough Ingredients:
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
4 –4 1/2 cups unbleached white or all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

In a container that pours easily, measure the water and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir the yeast until it dissolves. Put the flour, olive oil, and salt in a food processor (use the metal blade). Blend for a few seconds, then add the yeast and water with the motor running, blending just until the dough begins to pull away from the sides. It will be sticky. Dip your fingers in a little olive oil and lift the dough from the food processor, shaping it into a ball. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Oil two cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans. Divide the dough in two pieces and place one on each sheet. Gently push the dough away from the center, stretching it to fit the pan (or nearly so). The thicker the dough, the thicker your pizza crust or focaccia (and, of course, the smaller). Push it up around the edges to form a little "lip" at the edges. Do not knead, toss, or roll out the dough: handle it gently, and as little as possible. It will take some work to stretch it out, but be patient and gentle.

Also--for pizza, we like to make four individual ones rather than two big ones, and everyone gets to top their own. Use cake pans (8-9"), pie pans (ditto), or the bottom of a springform pan instead of cookie sheets or jellyroll pans. The smaller the pan, the thicker your crust will be.

Preheat your oven to 525° F.

If you're making pizza, top the crusts as desired with a thin layer of tomato sauce and whatever cheese and toppings you like. One of my favorites is caramelized onions with smoked mozarella (no tomato sauce with this one). I have to confess that I am not a purist about fresh mozarella for pizza--the shredded stuff in bags is easier for the kids to handle and makes something closer to pizzeria pizza, actually. But by all means use the good stuff if you like. These are not pizzas to load up the toppings on, though--they will get soggy. Choose one or two, no more than three. Another reason to make four small ones rather than two big ones, if you have a hard time limiting yourself on toppings.

Place the topped pizza on the two lowest racks of the oven and turn it up to 550°F. Bake for 7-10 minutes, rotating the pizzas halfway through the baking time. (It may take longer—watch until the cheese is bubbling & beginning to brown.)

Dunaway says if the top is browned but the bottom still seems a bit underdone you can put the pizza pan on a burner turned up high and move it around until steam stops rising, or until the bottom seems brown. I have done this once or twice, and it does work, but I am also willing to eat slightly floppy pizza or to turn the heat down a bit towards the end so the top doesn't burn. I also have a pizza stone that just lives in my oven, and putting the pans on the stone does seem to help crisp the bottom crust up a little bit.

Immediately after removing the pizza from the oven brush exposed crust with olive oil. You'll thank me later.

If you're making focaccia, brush the dough with a little olive oil after you've stretched it into the pan, then top the breads with (easiest) chopped rosemary and kosher salt, or caramelized onions, or shredded mozarella and parmesan, or whatever other focaccia topping you like. Bake as above. Brushing with olive oil after the breads are baked is still a good idea.

For arugula focaccia, simply brush the crust with olive oil before baking. Immediately on removing it from the oven, brush with a little more olive oil, then sprinkle fresh arugula over it all.

To start it the night before, put the dough in a big ziplock bag and let it rise in the fridge. It can stay there a day or two. Take it out a couple of hours before you want to use it so it can come to room temperature.


Mrs. Coulter said...

We like to make pizza, too. But I am a pizza snob, since we lived in New York/New England for a long time, where you can get good pizza just by reaching out your window.

I make my dough in the bread machine and bake it on a pizza stone, which makes an excellent crispy crust...

In fact, maybe we'll have pizza tonight...

Libby said...

I should say, Dunaway is a total pizza snob, and if you follow her directions exactly (including the crisping at the end, and the fresh mozarella) you get something really special. And even if you don't, you get something way better than Pizza Hut.