Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ready For Prime Time

For months since Dr. C. and I got back from Italy, I've been trying many recipes for Roman Style pizza; the crackery, thin, shatteringly delicious pie that comes to your table, and you can't get enough.  I've tried recipes from some famous American and Italian American bakers, some have been good, others down right awful (did they even test the recipes?)
Today dawned gloomy, with an onshore wind, that has kept the day crispy and fall-like--since we don't have seasons per se, here in So. Cal. it was the perfect day to set about trying to make that perfect pizza.
A few ground rules:
  1. Not everyone likes a thin crust pizza, I know!
  2. The atmospheric conditions in your kitchen matter; a damp day, and the flour (although stored airtight) may be damp, and not need as much water as the recipe calls for, so add sparingly.
  3. Buy a pizza stone that can be heated to a zillion degrees.  I bought the Emile Henry, it can be used on your grill, and it's gorgeous in aubergine!
  4. Buy a pizza peel; I bought the Epicurean, which doubles as a cutting board---and goes in the dishwasher. 
  5. Know your oven temperature, and its capabilities.  I have a convection oven and if you have one, you want to cook a pizza on "convection bake" that means that the lower element is also heating, giving you a crispier crust.  If you don't have a convection oven, then put the pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven.  
  6. Flour used in this type pizza matters; I've tried blends of all-purpose and cake flour, and just all-purpose, but the flour that works is what they use in Italy; it's called 00, and King Arthur Flour sells a 3 pound sack on their website.   Click here for more info.
Roman Pizza
This will make about 6 14-inch pizzas

5 to 6 cups 00 flour (or King Arthur Italian Style flour)
2 tablespoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon sugar1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 to 2 cups warm (110 degrees) water
pizza sauce
whole milk mozzarella
freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano
dried oregano

  1. In a large bowl, combine the 5 cups of flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt.  Make a well in the center of the flour, and gradually stir in the water, until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.  With floured hands, knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding flour if needed to make a smooth, supple dough---it will still be sticky.  Separate the dough into 6 balls and set on a baking sheet to rest for 15 minutes, while you get the oven ready.  
  2. Place the pizza stone into the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Using the remaining flour liberally, roll out the dough into 14-inch circles. 
  4. Sprinkle the pizza peel liberally with the cornmeal; learn from my mistakes, if you don't the sticky dough will stick like glue to the peel and you won't get it onto the stone.
  5. Transfer the rolled dough to the pizza peel, working quickly spread a thin layer of sauce (you will see the pizza dough through the sauce) sprinkle with the cheeses, and finish with a sprinkle of the oregano.
  6. Now, it's the moment of truth; transfer the pizza to the hot pizza stone, and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cheeses are bubbling, the crust is is crispy on the bottom.  Remove from the stone and let rest for 2 to 3 minutes before cutting into wedges.   
 Mama Mia, that's a pizza! 
Enjoy your weekend!

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