In honor of Vegan Pizza Day, sponsored by Teese Vegan Cheese and Quarrygirl.com, I present family pizza night! Unfortunately for us, the closest retail outlet for Teese Cheese is 2 hours away, either by freeway or by ferry. So, while I am able to show the love and post our own shameless pizza lovin’ photos, our pizza will not be featuring Teese Mozzarella Cheese, which is a pity because it looks really, really tasty!
Even though we gave up dairy cheese and mystery meat products like pepperoni and sausage, we still love our pizza (L♥VE). We celebrate pizza often around here: Friday night is our pizza night! We have discovered the ultimate (and insanely easy) pizza dough, quite possibly the best pizza dough that you can have that isn’t made by a natural-born Neapolitan and that doesn’t take all day to make, either. Bonus!
There are a lot of good “faux meats” (J calls them “fox meats”) and dairy cheese alternatives on the market now for a more traditional American-style pizza. Occasionally we may add some chopped Field Roast Italian Sausages, but we typically do not put “meat” or “cheese” on our homemade pizzas. For us, it’s all about the dough and the sauce, even if the sauce is nothing more than a simple, well-seasoned olive oil. Granted, eating our pizza is a messier endeavor–without the melted cheese to hold it all together–but that is a “sacrifice” in the name of great tasting pizza that we are willing to make!
Do you remember that part in the book Eat Pray Love? The author and her friend, Sofie, visit a pizzeria in Naples (the city that gave the world pizza and ice cream – what’s not to love?) that the locals claim makes the best pizza in Italy, if not the world.
So Sofie and I have come to Pizzeria da Michele, and these pies we have just ordered–one for each of us–are making us lose our minds. I love my pizza so much, in fact, that I have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return. I am having a relationship with my pizza, almost an affair. Meanwhile, Sofie [she is from Stockholm] is practically in tears over hers, she’s having a metaphysical crisis about it, she’s begging me “Why do they even bother trying to make pizza in Stockholm? Why do we even bother eating food at all in Stockholm?”.
That is some serious pizza lovin’! Someday, I will visit Naples, if only to experience a ‘pizzagasm’ like that! But, until then, I have the following pizza dough recipe from my favorite bread baking book that, admittedly, did make me swoon just a little the first time that I bit into it. So as not to offend the masters at Pizzeria da Michele, I will concede that our homemade dough is not as pizzagasm-inducing as theirs, but it’s still really, really good!
♥ ♥ ♥
The Master Dough Recipe: Boule
From Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day
6-1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
Measure the flour into a large bowl or a food-grade storage container (my one exception to the ban on plastic containers in my kitchen) with the “scoop and sweep” method (“scoop and sweep” is just like it sounds!). Whisk in the salt.
Measure the warm water in a large measuring glass and whisk in the yeast. Add to the flour mixture all at once and mix well. It may be necessary to use your wet hands to finish mixing the dough until no dry pockets remain; kneading is not necessary. The dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container.
Place a clean towel over the top of the container* and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until the dough is roughly doubled in size–about 2 hours–and it collapses, or flattens a bit, on the top. At this point the dough may be used, but it is easier to work with if it is refrigerated for at least 3 hours.
*Alternatively, you could place the dough in a large food grade plastic bag and let it rise that way.
♥ ♥ ♥
Best Pizza Ever. Seriously.
Refrigerated pizza dough (recipe above)
Flour for dusting
Organic cornmeal for the pizza peel
Three Olive Tapenade, an extra special treat for dipping the crust (may also be used as a topping)
Pizza toppings – I’ve listed our favorites:
- Extra-virgin olive oil or pizza sauce**
- Fresh (preferably Roma) tomatoes, very thinly sliced
- Freshly ground Italian seasoning
- Dried crushed red chili peppers
- Fresh garlic, chopped
- Fresh mushrooms, very thinly sliced
- Fresh basil ribbons
- Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped (if necessary)
- Kalamata olives, sliced
- Black olives, sliced
- Red onions or green onions, very thinly sliced or diced
Prepare the pizza toppings in advance and have them ready before it is time to make the pizzas. The trick to a pizza that slides easily onto the hot pizza stone in the oven is 1) plenty of cornmeal between the pizza dough and the pizza peel, and 2) working quickly and not letting the pizza dough sit on the pizza peel any longer than necessary.
Place the oven rack at the lowest position in the oven so that it is almost sitting on the bottom of the oven (it’s easiest to remove the second rack from the oven, it won’t be needed). Place the pizza stone on the rack. Twenty minutes before baking, pre-heat the oven to 550 degrees F (that is the hottest that our oven gets).
Remove the prepared dough from the refrigerator and dust the dough in the container with flour and remove a ball of dough (roughly the size of a large orange). Shape the dough into a ball and then a flat disc shape and place on a counter sprinkled with more flour. Using a rolling pin brushed with flour, roll the dough out to about 11 or 12 inches in diameter. Forming a small “rim” or thicker edge of crust, as the Neapolitans do, helps to keep the toppings on the pizza. Carefully transfer the rolled-out dough to the pizza peel that is generously sprinkled with cornmeal.
Leaving a one-inch margin of crust without toppings, quickly layer the toppings on the dough. Begin with drizzled olive oil, spread with the back of a tablespoon, or pizza sauce if that’s your preference. Placing the sliced tomatoes directly on the olive oil followed by the chopped garlic, Italian seasoning and crushed red chilies makes an unbelievably good pizza! Follow that base layer with the remaining toppings of your choice.
**Although the end result isn’t picture-perfect “pretty”, adding the pizza sauce last, on top of the other ingredients, results in one fantastic-tasting pizza. Seriously, try it sometime!
Turn the oven vent fan on (the cornmeal may burn and smoke) and carefully slide the pizza directly onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. It may be necessary to gently shake the pizza peel in a back and forth motion to loosen the pizza so that it will slide off the peel. Bake 5 to 7 minutes total, but be sure to check at 5 minutes.
At the end of the baking time, remove the pizza to a large cutting board and let it sit a few minutes before slicing. I’m still using my 15-year-old Papa Murphy’s rotary pizza cutter, but someday I will trade up for something like this!
It helps to brush the loose cornmeal off of the pizza stone into the garbage can between pizzas; it reduces or eliminates the smoke from the burned cornmeal.