Pizza secrets revealed
Crisp, bubbly hot pizza fresh from the oven,,,,
The closest you can get to store bought pizza
I have been trying for years to depend less and less from buying food from stores and from going out to restaurants. This has meant going through many trials and errors in the big challenging event of trying to compete with pizzerias, fast food chains and restaurants. I must admit, I have never really got too close enough to confuse my food with commercially prepared food. However, I can admit that my pizza recipes have been improving consistenty and even though they have nothing in common with Domino's, Pizza Hut's, or Papa John's they are different on a positive note.
My ingredients are mostly fresh and there are no preservatives. The dough is fragrant, crunchy to the right point but yet soft. My sauce is not overly spicy as most pizzerias prepare it. The sauce in my opinion, is one of the most fundamental ingredients in pizza and is what I mostly dislike in commercially prepared pizzas. Most sauces have way too much spices that cover the sweet characteristic flavor which tomato sauce is known for.
Pizza dough is relatively simply to make however it is time consuming as it requires a series of waiting times for the dough to rise properly. Once, you get a hang of it though, you may find it easier and easier since you can run other errands and complete other household tasks in between.
I will start off with the sauce since this can be prepared some hours or days in advance and refrigerated until the dough is ready. Ideally fresh tomatoes are preferred, however this can be really out of hand nowadays:too time consuming and needs special equipment. Being raised in Italy, I have helped my grandma many times in this process and yes, it just seems quite unrealistic in today's busy lifestyle.
The best replacement is therefore buying a large can of whole tomatoes. An old friend of mine who has owned a pizzeria in Germany in the past told me this is the closest you can get to fresh tomatoe sauce.Choose a brand of canned whole tomatoes you are particularly fond of with no spices added. Open the can and pour the contents in a colander. You want all the juices drained off so you wil not get too much moisture on your dough. Once drained rinse the whole tomatoes well and then crush them into a puree with one of those handheld devices that puree or a food processor.
You may want to add a pinch of salt and some sugar to absorb acidity. This is the time to add some pepper flakes and black pepper if you like spicy sauces or a touch of oregano or basil leaves for flavor. Grated parmesan can be added as well. I like to taste this sauce as I prepare it. The flavor is so sweet I find myself eating it in teaspoonfuls! Some day I am going to heat it and eat just as you would Campbell's tomato soup. You can now refrigerate this sauce.
My dough is simple as I stated before. It is just, flour,salt, dried yeast and water. My usual dosage is 4 cups of flour, a slightly full tablespoon of salt, 1 package of dried yeast and water as needed. The best you can do to your dough is prepare it with filtered or bottled water. It really makes a difference.
The term "autolyse" is not one that many poeple are well aware about. This procedure is explained in detail in the book "Taste of bread" written by the bread wizard author Raymond Calvel. The procedure consists of wetting the flour with the filtered water and letting it rest from 20 minutes to about an hour. Then you may add the salt and the dried yeast and continue to knead/mix adding more flour or water until you get the typical pizza dough consistency.
Afterwards, let the dough rest for about 45 minutes in an oiled bowl to prevent sticking , cover it with a cloth and let it rest in a warm area. Upon your return you will se the dough has almost doubled. Punch it down, re-knead and let it rest another 45 minutes.
You may want to get your sauce out of the fridge at this point. I love basil so if you do too, get some fresh leaves and with a wet paper towel clean them well. I use shredded mozzarella, the common one you find in supermarkets. Ideally, the best mozzarella would be "mozzarella di bufala" produced in Naples, the "Pizza makers for excellence". However, mozzarella di bufala is very hard to find unless you live near an Italian store.
I use non stick pans which I spray with non stick spray before spreading out the dough. Spreading the dough may be challenging and takes some time. Thickness depends on personal taste. I like thin dough while my hubby like pan pizza style dough. So I make both each time.
Now to the oven. Ideally, the best pizzas are produced in artisan wood ovens. I have tried this at my friend's house and the results were remarkable. The pizza was tasty, my best ever made with a nice fresh and inimitable home made bread fragrance. However, my first pizza came out with a little burnt mozzarella (as you can see in the picture) because I am not used to wood ovens. In a wood oven pizza cooks really quick when compared to the 15- 20 minutes a home oven takes. However, I must admit I love slightly burnt mozzarella so I definetely ate with gusto this one!
In my home oven results are still great. If this is your only option try to heat the oven at the highest degree possible, usually this is about 500 degrees. Keep an eye on the pizza as each oven temperature varies. Use your judgement to tell if it is ready or not. Chances are it is ready when the pizza smell fills your home and your neighbors stop by! Now your work of art is ready.
Do not be discouraged if something goes wrong in your first pizza attempts. As with any work of art, trials and errors are common before you reach the ultimate pizza perfect status. I wish you happy baking and most all, bon appetito!
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