Friday, May 16, 2008

A Piece A Pizza

Every newlywed, every new cook, really should have a copy of the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, for many reasons, but mostly for the best everyday pizza recipe I've ever found. From the sturdy yet tender crust to the perfectly seasoned sauce, the instructions are clear and the results are always excellent. My kids and husband love this pizza, but the best compliment came from my Chicago friends, who said they really knew their pizza and my pizza with Italian sausage was the best they've ever had. (By the way, I used Aidell's sun-dried tomato sausage on that pizza).

I usually make the dough in the morning or right after lunch for dinner that night. I'll make the sauce at the same time. I always have sauce leftover and I just put it in a freezer container and save it for the next time.

Pizza Dough

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 3/4 cups water, warm

You may use a food processor (my preferred way) or standing mixer.

1. Pulse 4 cups of the flour, yeast and salt in processor bowl to combine. With the machine running, pour the oil, then the water through the feed tube and process until a rough ball forms, 30 to 40 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer.

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 5 minutes (I don't do this - I let it go in the processor about another 2 minutes). Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Yield: 2 lbs. dough, enough for 3 (12-inch) pizzas

Pizza Sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, about 1 1/2 minutes. (I don't do this because inevitably, I burn the garlic. I just heat the oil, add the garlic and then the tomatoes.) Stir in the tomatoes and simmer until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 3 cups, enough for 3 pizzas

Classic Cheese Pizza
1 recipe pizza dough
1 recipe pizza sauce
12 oz. mozzarella, shredded (3 cups)
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil
6 tbsp. torn fresh basil

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack and heat the oven to 500 degrees (this is too high for my oven, I heat my oven to 450). Let the baking stone heat for at least 30 minutes. Dust the baking stone with cornmeal.

2. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, cut it into three even pieces, and cover with plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape into a smooth, round ball, cover again with the plastic wrap and let rest 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Uncover one ball of dough and stretch and shape the dough into a 12 inch round on a piece of parchment paper (make sure the parchment can handle the high heat of the oven or do without - I do without the parchment). Spread 1 cup of the pizza sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch edge of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with 4 oz. (1 cup) of the mozzarella and 1 tbsp. of the Parmesan. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with oil.

4. Slide the parchment and pizza onto a rimless (or inverted) baking sheet, then slide it onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden in spots, 8 to 13 minutes. (Prepare the second pizza while the first bakes.)

5. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, discarding the parchment. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. basil and cut the pizza into 6 wedges before serving. Let the stone reheat for 5 minutes before baking the next pizza.

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