Michael Ruhlman declared this week National Make-Pizza-at-Home week. I already had pizza on the brain, ever since making those pies when James and Elizabeth were down from Buffalo. Ruhlman's post was enough to get me to the store to buy more flour, as I was running low, and some cheese. I used to make pizza almost weekly when we were living in Ithaca and a bit less often in Syracuse. I stopped making my own when we moved to Hollywood. The proliferation of decent pizza joints (not an issue in Syracuse) here makes it easier to give it a pass and order out. But, for those outside the five boroughs, a homemade pie is more satisfying than most takeout.
Since I had to stop on the way home from work to get the flour and cheese, as well as herbs for the sauce, I opted for a quick proof dough. I used the basic recipe from Ruhlman's post, but with a whole packet of yeast and some good warm water. I also put a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheated it to 200. I had some problems getting the dough wet enough. I needed just a touch more water than called for to get the consistency I wanted. Problem was, I added twice as much as needed. I tossed in a little extra flour and kneaded it in. Catastrophe averted. After kneading, I coated the inside of a mixing bowl with olive oil, tossed the dough in, then covered it with a damp towel and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.
While the dough was in the oven, I put a sauce together. I chopped up some of the basil and parsley I bought and added them to a can of tomato sauce and half a can of water. I added a couple of minced garlic cloves and a little bit of olive oil along with some dried oregano and thyme (no fresh at the store today; at least you can get away with those—dried parsley, not so much).
After 30, I pulled the dough out and cranked the oven up to 450. It was a little too warm on the edges, but that's to be expected when you heat it in a metal bowl. It wasn't unworkable, though. I nicked the parchment paper idea out the comments on Ruhlman's post. I stretched the dough out, then dropped it on parchment paper, sauced it and loaded it on the stone with a peel. Yes, I have a peel and therefore don't need the paper, but I'm out of cornmeal and on parchment, you don't have to be so exact. If you miss an edge, you can grab the paper and move it over. It's ridiculous amounts easier.
I, of course, did not think to pick up any toppings for this pie, so I had to improvise out of what I had in the refrigerator. The black olives were kind of old and scary looking, so I tossed them and pulled out the green ones. I grabbed two slices of ham out of the meat drawer and sliced them up along with a handful of the olives. I added some baby spinach from the crisper.
After 10 minutes, I pulled the pie out, added some cheese, then the spinach, ham and olives and then more cheese to hold it together and put it back in for 10 more minutes. The split cooking is important if you're using oil in the dough. If you put everything on at once, the cheese burns well before the crust is cooked. Yes, the guys cooking on belt ovens put everything on the pizza before baking, but that's because it's faster. Anyone using a belt oven is concerned about speed, not quality.
I sliced it up and cracked open a bottle of the 2005 Firestone Central Coast Vineyard Select Riesling. I read somewhere on the internets that it was a good buy. I forget where, or I'd link. It's a pretty decent Riesling on its own for $10 and it went perfectly with the pizza. The fruitiness was offset nicely by the salty ham and olives. This is one of my favorite recent dinners.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009