First pizza from scratch

My first from scratch pizza. It’s topped with slices of a mozzarella ball, pizza sauce from Trader Joe’s, thin-sliced high-lycopene tomatoes from Holland also from Trader Joe’s, Vidalia onions, organic cremini mushrooms, and basil chiffonade from my backyard garden pot. 

The pizza dough is a no-knead recipe from “Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Cooks, and Good Food” by Jeff Potter. Similar to my variation on the no-knead crusty bread recipe, it avoids the hassle of toiling with the dough before baking it in. Instead, let the dough sit for at least 4 hours, more is desirable, to allow the glutenin and gliadin proteins to combine on their own without manual intervention.

The recipe is simple.

My toppings:

  • 3 TB Trader Joe’s pasta sauce (from plastic container near refrigerated pizza dough, not from jar near pasta sauces)
  • 2/3 of a Trader Joe’s 8 oz. mozz ball, sliced thin
  • ½ cup Vidalia onions, chopped and sauteed
  • ½ cup cremini mushrooms, chopped and sauteed
  • 4 high-lycopene tomatoes from Trader Joe’s, sliced thin (these tomatoes are slightly larger than cherry tomatoes!)
  • 3-5 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • 1 TB clarified butter (ghee) for oiling the crust (any oil with a high smoke point will do)

Other ad-hoc ingredients to help with cooking:

  • 1 TB or so spare AP flour
  • Cornmeal

For the dough, thoroughly mix with a whisk or a fork:

  • 1 1/3 cups AP flour (170g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (5g)
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (10g)

and then mix in with a spoon:

  • ½ cup room temperature water (120g)

Now, the waiting game. A four hour or more waiting game. In my case it was 24 hours. I made the dough a night in advance, letting it rest one full day. I also let it rest on the counter-top over my dishwasher. Whenever I run a high-heat cycle, it heats up the counter and releases steam which I’ve found very conducive atmosphere for yeast in doughs.

I watched the dough rise over the next few hours. It doubled in size, and ultimately didn’t physically change significantly after the first four or so hours. My dough came out desirably; it did not need much more water or flour to make it more wet or less dry. It did need a little flour on my epicurean board while I rolled it out so it didn’t stick. The book said this recipe would be enough for a thinly-rolled medium pizza. I unfortunately am still scared of dough and its secret ways, so I was satisfied will rolling it to a small without tearing or collapsing. Having experienced this dough and its end result, I now know it’s a friendly dough that doesn’t want anyone to be scared of it. 

I par-baked my dough at 450 degrees in gas oven on a pizza stone for a few minutes to set the pie. 

Then I took it out, smeared it with sauce and my toppings, (clarified) buttered up the crust, and pushed it back in until the cheese melted and crust was golden. 

Since my pizza was a generous personal-sized pie, I could move it around with a regular-sized spatula. Obviously, a pizza peel would be better, but in lieu of this, my oxo spatula sounded better than the MacGyver-esque piece of cardboard suggested in the book.

One issue I did run into is burning the bottom of my pizza. I forgot that in professional pizzerias, cornmeal is used to help grease roll the pizza off and so that it does’t stick. I made the mistake of flouring my pizza stone and of course that burned really badly in my oven, set off my smoke alarm (”EEERK EEERK there is a fire EEERK EEERK there is a fire”), and near ruined my weekday dinner pizza experiment. Don’t do that. Use cornmeal.

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