Post #640 Pizza Again?!

May 1, 2019 at 3:47 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I’m constantly on the lookout for “best” recipes for things that I love.  I’m looking for the recipe for a good “old fashioned” donut that I can get in the store, but can’t find on the internet.  It tastes lightly of nutmeg, and has no extras.  No icing, no filling, no sprinkles, just a plain old ring of fried dough that for some reason I’m addicted to.  The perfect mac and cheese still eludes me.  Just can’t find the right combo of cheeses.  And I love cheese.  Another brass ring I can’t quite grab is the perfect homemade pizza.  I’ve shared the recipes I’ve tried and I’ve got a few that are favorites.  Discovered a new one that we tried over the weekend from out trusty ATK friends.

First, let me describe what I’m looking for in a great homemade pizza.  One of the top priorities is simplicity.  I don’t want to spend hours and get frustrated trying to make this thing come out right.

It’s got to have a great tasting crust.  And the crust can’t be to thick or too thin.  Too thick and it doesn’t cook all the way through and feels soggy.  Too thin and it’s a cracker with sauce and cheese.  Not bad in itself, but not a good pizza to my way of thinking.  And it has to have some kind of flavor.  The best flavors come from a long rising time, or multiple risings.  So there has to be a balance between great flavor and time.

The sauce has to be tasty and easy.  I’ve had restaurant pizza where the sauce was simple tomato sauce with salt on it.  I want a sauce that has body, complexity, and authenticity in its flavors.  I’ve eaten fresh made pizza in Naples, Italy (where pizza was invented) and pizza I’ve had at home in many ways seems a half-baked attempt (see what I did there?)

The cheese has to be the right flavor and balanced and gooey and stringy and browned.  When I started making pizza on my own I made cheese blends that featured a mound of cheddar cheese.  Since those days, I’ve moved to mozzarella and parmesan almost exclusively.  Sometimes I add romano too.

The toppings are purely a matter of mood.  I love a good plain cheese pizza.  But I also like mushrooms on them, the more the better.  One of my favorites is mushroom and pepperoni.  I’m not big on the “specials” because inevitably there are things on it that I just don’t like, usually bell pepper.  And onions, sort of.

So I’ve blogged about Grandma’s pizza before and those are good.  I’ve also blogged about pizza kits.  When we were kids, we used to toast bread or English muffins and spread them with sauce and cheese and melt them in a toaster oven.  Not quite the same but certainly doable.  For a twelve year old.

So, we watched a recent episode of ATK (America’s Test Kitchen, for those who don’t know, but don’t get me started on how disappointed I am with them) and saw an interesting way to make pizza.  In a cast iron skillet!  We tried it over the weekend.  It really was simple, when you use the right tools.  First, you need a large cast iron skillet, 10 inches across.  You also need a food processor to make the dough, and a blender to make the sauce.  But all pieces are easy to do.

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

  • 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bread flour
  • 1 1/8 tsp fast acting yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water (longer discussion on this in recipe)
  • 1 large can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 oz block mozzarella cheese sliced in half inch slices
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced fresh basil

Using the food processor pulse the flour, yeast, and salt together for five pulses to mix.  Add the olive oil and mix for 30 seconds.  Keeping the processor on, slowly add the 3/4 cup water.

Let’s stop to discuss the water.  Most of the time, the water temp is very warm to activate the yeast.  However, Paul Hollywood (a judge on The Great British Baking Show and a master baker, specializes in bread) suggest using cold water rather than warm.  He says most of the flavor in bread comes from the rising process and the longer it takes to double to more flavor the bread is going to have.  I used warm water to follow the recipe cuz I know how ATK is.  But next time, I’ll try it with cold, see what impact it has.  Okay, back to the recipe.

Once all the water is incorporated, let the machine spin for two minutes, bringing the dough together.  After two minutes, turn the machine off and allow the dough to rest for five minutes.  Then spin the dough for thirty seconds and carefully remove from the machine avoiding the incredibly sharp blades.  Knead the dough for about a minute to smooth it out and bring it together gently, and form a ball.  Place the ball into a lightly oiled bowl large enough to allow the dough to double in size.  Move the ball around to cover the dough, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.

While the dough is proving, open the can of tomatoes and drain into a bowl reserving the juices.  Place the tomatoes in a blender and add garlic, salt, and olive oil and blend until smooth.  Pour into a measuring cup and add reserved juice to bring to 2 cups if needed.  Set aside and wait until dough finishes its rise.

At some point the oven needs to be preheated to 500 degrees.

When the dough is ready, flour a space and set dough onto flour.  Cut the dough ball in half and wrap one piece in plastic wrap for later use.  Using your hands, spread the dough into a rough circle.  If the dough springs back, let it rest covered for five minutes.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an eleven inch circle letting the dough rest as needed.

When the dough is ready, spread one tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet to cover the bottom and come up the sides a little.  (I goofed and put two tablespoons of oil in the skillet, but that was easily fixed with a couple of paper towels.)

Place the dough into the skillet and center it and arrange the dough so it comes up the side a little.  Put a half cup of sauce into the center of the dough and use a spoon spread it evenly to the edges.  Arrange the mozzarella slices over the sauce then sprinkle the parmesan evenly.

Place the skillet on the stovetop and turn the burner to medium high.  Allow the pizza to cook on the dough top for 2-5 minutes until the dough is set on the bottom.  I use an electric range so it took a little longer for things to heat up so judge with your own stovetop.  Using pot holders, place the skillet in the oven towards the top.  Cook for 7-10 minutes, then check the pizza.  Continue cooking until the dough is golden and cheese is melted and brown.  Remove the pizza to the counter immediately and let it set for five minutes.  Slice and eat while hot.

So, our take on this pizza?  It was just okay.  The crust was very bland.  It had no flavor at all.  However, it was the right thickness and it was sturdy.  It didn’t have the floppiness at the point of the slice that so many do.  We didn’t use the sauce they made choosing to use some leftover sauce we had that was thick with ground sausage and beef.  But apart from that, everything was done exactly has recipe called for.  We were underwhelmed.  It’s definitely not a weekday quick supper, taking about three hours from start to finish.  Getting home at six means you eat at 9.  However, if you made the sauce and the dough the day before, it could work.  The dough could do a cold rise in the fridge as long as it wasn’t too cold.  Might get a more flavor that way.

When next we try this, I’ll use the cold water proving method, and I’ll use the sauce as they create it to see how it turns out.  But overall, it was a just okay pizza.

Let me know how yours turns out if/when you make it.  Feel free to share the post if you want to.

As always,

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