Thursday, 14 January 2010


I've been thinking about pizza lately. I believe that a lot of cook shy away from it because they believe that it's complicated. Nothing could be more untrue. I will say, however, that having the right equipment makes it easier. This means (a) a pizza stone and (b) a pizza peel (that's the paddle). The reason for the stone is to get the nice crust on the bottom --- the reason for the peel is to extract the floppy pizza from the oven (and turn it if you are so adventurous).

Let's now discuss the dough itself. It's not complex, even for someone who is not a baker. I use Nick Maglieri's recipe from How to Bake. I have it memorized: 3 cups flour + 1 tsp salt. Then 5/4 moderate temperature water (this is the secret: it should be like baby milk) and 1 pack yeast. I like to goose it up by adding a tiny bit of honey to the warm water. The yeast eats it up and starts to "bloom". Oh, and some olive oil. I mix wet with dry, use the paddle until it looks right (meaning not too wet [sticky] and not too dry [can't stick together]). Then I switch to the dough hook and let it go until it's smooth. Then it's onto the marble for a quick knead and then back in the bowl to rise.

Meanwhile, I make the sauce. Sometimes tomato and sometimes not. Escarole and capers (and olives) is a favorite. The secret here is to saute (anyone have an accent to spare?) the escarole with garlic first ... and put in a colander. Then you can add the rest later if you want. In my experience, I can literally do the whole thing in an hour. The new super fast yeast will do its thing while you make the sauce.

Now, I have to admit, this does not result in a true Neopolitan crust that I remember from my time teaching at the Universita di Napoli... That crust is super thin and cooked in a special conical oven. But in spite of this, it's a worthy consumable.

Finally, a note on flour. I have tried both the Italian 000 pizza flour and the American pizza flour (again obtained from PennMac). Both are good. It is rumored that the American flour has more malt in it. I'd like to experiment with that sometime in the future.

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