Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homemade Pizza

Upon discovering a very doable recipe for pizza dough (No. 1 in this recipe link) and pizza sauce in a recent Saveur magazine issue, I decided to give it a go the other day. The key to getting a Neapolitan-style pizza crust at home (if you don't have a 700F oven at your disposal) is to take an average pizza stone and heat it for an hour at 500F, which gets it good and red-hot (over 550F according to Saveur, who apparently did some sort of experiment in their kitchen lab - now that's the kind of science I can get into). Since I wasn't interested in making 4 pizzas, I cut the dough recipe in half and made 2 of them, one for me (w/leeks, spinach, fontina and mozzarella cheeses) and one for the kids (just pepperoni and cheese).

You need to knead the raw dough for about 8-10 minutes in order to get it to "give up the gluten" as Mario Batali likes to say - this gives your wrists/hands a decent workout (I'll bet that a baker is hard to beat in a thumb-wrestling contest). With hot stone in oven, I slid the first pizza creation onto it using our commissary pizza paddle and waited. After about 5 minutes, I noticed that some of the sauce had dripped from the pie to the stone, followed about 1 minute later by a sharp snap as my pizza stone suddenly became two pizza shards. I found out later that this cracking of pizza stones apparently is a common problem out there amongst the home pizza cognoscenti when cool toppings come into contact with hot rock, thus creating a destructive temperature gradient ( again). The best solution according to food bloggers is to either buy a very high-quality (i.e., expensive) stone that will still probably crack eventually or go to your local big box hardware retailer and find some large unglazed floor tiles to use as stones instead (apparently, the "unglazed" part is key as the chemicals from using a glazed tile in your oven will, let's just say, cause you worse health problems than eating pizza too frequently). There are many humorous postings of devoted foodies going to Home Depot and getting weird reactions from employees when asking about unglazed tiles, which always seem to only be found buried deep below shelves after laborious, 30-minute searches.

Anyway, getting back to the matter at hand, I overcame the mangling of my pizza stone to still produce two decent-looking pies. The crust of the kids' pizza even had some decent charring and bubbling to it (which would have been photo-worthy had I remembered to take a picture before carving it up and consuming it), probably aided by the lack of toppings (the Neapolitans believe that simpler pizza is better pizza). I felt like the taste of the finished product was good, but not necessarily so good that it justified the effort involved (Mrs. Hackknife found the pies to be "too doughy" for her liking, but she's a thin-crust girl at heart, and Hackknife Jr. as usual turned his nose up). At the end of the day, we may be returning to Boboli as our crust provider when home pizza urges come a-calling.

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