Sunday, October 19, 2008
Those of you who know me beyond the scope of this blog know that I spent a good portion of my Friday afternoons in Oberlin cooking pizza in Old Barrows coop. I guess my love of pizza making and all the pizza skills I possess came into being in a process similar to... a stone rolling down a hill, accumulating dirt and moss and all sorts of gross particles along the way. But the stone is at the bottom of the hill now, free to grow legs and walk away (?)
My proper pizza career started when I was a lowly but idealist first year student at Oberlin College. I ate in Fairchild, perhaps the most environmentally and food-politic conscious coop of all. But I knew no better. I was a two-hour cook for a headcook called "Slayer" on pizza night. I honestly do not even know his real name. Regardless, Slayer taught me to use the Hobart the grate hotel pans full of mozzarella (and whatever other odds and ends were in the walk-in). He taught me that once the dough is mixed and has had its first rise, to ball individual doughs and let them rise again. When the second rise is complete, the dough, in his words, will feel "like a booty!" This was my first semi-professional baking experience- seeing if the dough feels like a booty. It may sound trite, but this was excellent experience!
Second year at Oberlin, Tom taught me the ropes to his version of pizza night. I learned everything- all the details that go into making pizza night creative and fun and successful. How to make dough without being afraid to experiment, how to mix the best sauce, what topics are good (and not good), and that vegan pizza can be...eh...okay.
These were my Oberlin pizza foundations. Becoming pizza head cook allowed me to harness what I'd learned over Fridays past and take the creative reigns. My last job in San Francisco as a baker only built upon my pizza love. I've learned to trust myself and the dough. We have an understanding.
I save pizza making for times when I know it will be enjoyable. It is never a task, and I don't want it to become one. So tonight was pizza night.
Here's the easy version of my recipe, with room for alternative ingredients, of course:
1.5 c luke warm water (too hot will kill yeast, too cold will only make rising take longer, so I say if you're not sure, cooler is better)
1 package dry yeast
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
3 c whole wheat flour
hearty splash of extra virgin olive oil
sprinkling of salt (definitely no more than 1 T but exact amount's up to you)
The fastest and easiest way to mix the dough is with a standing mixer. If you don't have one, it's all good, you'll just use a wooden spoon and a bowl, mix by hand, and when the dough starts to come together, knead it for about 5-10 minutes.
If you do have a standing mixer, you'll just get your hands less dirty. Put water in the bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top of water (you don't want it to just sink to the bottom). Walk around your kitchen for five minutes while the yeast starts to dissolve a bit. Add your flours (you may use only one type if you prefer. I just like to use more whole wheat than white), oil, salt, and any other ingredients you think may be good (ie: chopped fresh rosemary, oregano, other green herbs, diced cooked potato, honey...whatever your pizza lovin heart desires). Make sure you're using the dough hook attachment to your mixer. Crank bowl into position (or grab spoon), flip onto stir, or #2, (or stir with your spoon), until dough forms and looks like a cohesive unit or begins to crawl up the dough hook. If you're doing this by hand, you'll want to start kneading (the dough hook effectively kneads for you). This kneading starts to make a nifty network of gluten, which potentially makes your dough chewier.
When done, put dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover top with plastic wrap, tightly. Leave it for a few hours (at least 2, I say).
Preheat oven to 475 F.
Roll dough out (I say go as thin as possible without tearing), prick with fork a few times.
The reason I mention that this is the easy way is because it does not require you making your own sauce. You may use your own (recipe in another post), or you may open a jar, and spread sauce onto ready and rolled out dough (to desired thickness, of course).
Now the cheese: fresh mozzarella is the best, especially if you try to dry it out a bit with paper towels. Sprinkle or lay out thin slices over pie.
Put it in the oven at 475 for about 10 minutes.
When done, cheese should be browning and pizza should look like pizza.