Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pizza a la Alice Waters

Tiffany and I used to order pizza just about every Friday night. (I'll bet the rest of San Francisco does too, 'cause it takes at least 45 minutes to get one delivered.) A medium pepperoni, garlic, mushroom, and olive with a large caesar salad and a jug o' Carlo from Red Sea was what was for dinner. (I may not love a jug o' the Carlo as much as, say, E-40, but I'm at that stage in my life.) All in all, the bill runs to about $25 or $30, with tip, (though sometimes we get a little mango cheescake or garlic bread for free), but I haven't ordered a pizza for a couple of months. I decided to make my own pizza. How hard could it be? After researching many recipes I weighed my stance on the various feuds that shape the pizza world. Neapolitan or deep dish (or even calzone)? White crust or wheat? Classic regional Italian or anything-goes California style? I'll go deeper into all this later, but for now I want to get to a recipe. Eventually I settled on Alice Water's recipe from her 1980-something book on pasta and pizza. Recipe follows... Pizza Dough: Make a sponge of 1/4 cup lukewarm water, 1/4 cup of rye flour and 2 teaspoons yeast*. The rye flour isn't necessary here, but it adds a pleasant texture. I've used whole wheat flour, rye, even buckwheat, but you can also just use white flour. Let bubble 20-30 minutes. Add additional 1/2 cups lukewarm water, 1 tablespoon milk, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour. Mix and knead 10-15 minutes. I like to listen to music while I knead, and for pizza that means reggae or first- and second-wave ska. (Try this list. Assemble your ingredients during "Message to You Rudy" and knead through "The Bagel Song". Wash out then oil the mixing bowl, and let your dough rise for at least an hour. For a really crisp crust, slide a pizza stone or some clay tiles into the oven at this point and crank the oven to 500. My small apartment quickly turns into a garlic-scented sauna when I make pizza, but turning the oven on early allows the whole of it to come to temperature, and that makes a better crust. Take the longish rising time to ready your toppings and sauce. When the dough is ready, punch it down, turn it out onto a floured surface and quickly pat/roll it out into a crust as thin as you like. I try for a about a 1/4 inch thick. It's important to prod the dough as little as possible or the gluten will activate and seize up tigher than a mormon chaperone. Give the dough another twenty minutes or so to puff up, then spread a light layer of sauce and your chosen toppings, brush the "handles" of the pizza with olive oil and salt, and slide the whole thing into the oven for 8 to ten minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure nothing goes up in smoke. When you pull it out, lift the pizza up by one side. If it bends in the middle, turn the heat off and slide the whole thing back onto the stone and leave for five minutes with the oven door open. This should cook the crust up without singing any of the toppings. Let rest and enjoy! *"Make a sponge" just means mix it all together and let it sit.


MissGinsu said...

mmm... Homemade pizza sounds so comforting right now. I remember my mom used to make it when I was little, so even the smell of it cooking carries all kinds of homey charm for me.

Miss G.