Monday, May 09, 2011

Achieving Pizza Greatness

My big accomplishment for the weekend was nearly perfecting thin-crust pizza. Pizza has kind of been my cooking "thing" since I was a kid and my mom got one of those Chef Boy-ar-dee pizza kits with the crust mix (just add water), can of sauce and packet of parmesan cheese. I made it, but it wasn't anything like pizza, so I started tinkering. Next time, I added seasonings to the sauce, added toppings and added some mozzarella cheese. Soon, I moved beyond the kit, getting a crust mix and making my own sauce. By high school, I was making my own crust, using a variety of recipes (I ended up liking the dough from the bread sticks recipe better than the actual pizza dough recipe).

I got the recipe I now mostly use for the crust from a book on pizza a co-worker gave me in a secret Santa gift exchange years ago. It makes a good deep-dish pizza and what some places call "New York style" pizza (though it's nothing like any pizza I've ever had in New York), but the thin-crust pizza was never quite right. It was pretty good, but it didn't compare to restaurant pizza.

Then I found a recipe in a cookbook my parents gave me for Christmas and decided to give it a try. It was pretty similar to the one I've been using, just with less olive oil, and the recipe is used to make two pizzas, so you have to stretch it really thin. I made it using bread flour, which I had read somewhere else can lead to a "crustier" crust. The real secret seems to be cooking the pizza in a really hot oven, as hot as you can get it, on a baking stone. Then the first slice is still pretty chewy, but as the pizza continues to sit on that still-hot stone, the rest of it gets really crisp. The result was extremely close to restaurant pizza -- and I mean the pizza you get in a good Italian restaurant with a brick oven, not Pizza Hut or Domino's.

Since the recipe makes two pizzas and the dough keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of days, I made pizza both weekend nights. Saturday was a less conventional pizza, with pesto as the sauce and chicken breast and roasted red peppers for toppings. Sunday night I did a more traditional tomato sauce topping.

Unfortunately, this will probably be my last time to make this until it gets cool again in the fall since it requires the oven to be so hot. You only bake the pizza for about six minutes at that temperature, but it takes about half an hour for the oven to heat and then it takes hours for the oven to cool down. That's not something you want to do on a hot day.

But when it gets cool again, then there will be pizza, oh yes.

In other news, I spent much of Saturday revising my soundtrack for the book I'm about to revise and brainstorming things I want to develop. Now I'm going to get into some serious work on this book. Plus, I can eat leftover pizza for both lunch and dinner without duplicating, since I have two kinds.

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