Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Ur-Pizza

There is an seemingly infinite variety of pizza toppings. Our favorite local pizzeria has 20 choices, from the basics to things that are better choices as a veg side. Heck, overseas you can get things like squid, tuna and sweet corn or perhaps you'd like lamb and pickled ginger.

Once I approached puberty, and got over mere cheese and pepperoni, I would load up my pizza with the House "everything" special. It was usually just the basics in some combination - the pizzeria's version of an assorted sub. As I have grown, I have learned that that is too much. I now limit myself two or three choices (anchovies are not a choice - they are a requirement, preferably salt packed).

So basically, I still like just about anything on my pie. I am not overly picky, though I am not particularly fond of the so-called Hawaiian Pizza. The taste just doesn't thrill me. Plus, for authenticity's sake it should be Spam, not ham. It causes my parents great distress when I say "I don't care, just order it and I'll eat it." But then it takes them two hours to order a pizza in any case. Sure, there are some toppings I am fonder of than others. But, I do draw the line at calling something a pizza that is better called a flatbread with toppings.

The Buffalo News had an article last week on some local gourmet "pizzas" including the following:

Reuben Pizza: Sauerkraut, corned beef, Thousand Island Dressing.
Chicken Liver Pizza: Grated mild cheese, Caramelized onions, sauteed chicken livers.
Thanksgiving Pizza: Gravy, sliced cooked turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce.

They may be good, but they are not pizza - even if they made Wolfgang Puck famous!. It may be arbitrary, but for me a pizza must have two ingredients: cheese and some type of tomato product. Without those, it is not a pizza to me. Yes, this unscientific distinction rules out what many to be the first true pizza - the Pizza Marinara, but it leaves as the first pizza one of the great culinary inventions of the last 200 years, the Pizza Margherita. A simple combination dough, tomatoes cheese and basil, it is great in the oven, and even better on the grill.

I had ordered it when at a restaurant in Hudson, Ohio, and it was quite a good pie, but I didn't expect the girls to gobble up the leftovers.

So at the first opportunity we had I made it for the family two different ways. For both, I used my most basic pizza dough, brushed with some garlic oil. One was made with canned crushed tomatoes, topped with fresh mozzerella and basil, a la Germon and Killeen. The other topped with the best fresh tomatoes I could find at this time of year. Both were great, but I wish my inside pot of basil was more fruitful this Winter.

My basic Pizza Dough!

-- Metric --
5 grams yeast
410 grams flour, bread
12 grams Salt
14 grams olive oil
240 grams water, lukewarm or more, if necessary

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a Food Processor. Start the processor and add the oil and water to the dry ingredients. If the dough hasn't formed into a ball in about 30 second add more water in SMALL increments, until it does. Do not over process. The result should be a slightly tacky dough

Place the dough on a flowered surface and kneed a few minutes until the dough is silky, then place in an oiled bowl and coat on all sides. Cover (top, damp towel, plastic wrap) and let rise until doubled in bulk. Form into pizza round(s).

Yields on large, or two small Pizzas.

Standard Measures

3 cups bread flour
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbl olive oil
1 cup warm water or more, if necessary

Yields: 16 Servings

notes: At this time the dough can be frozen in an oiled freezer bag for future use, or, for even greater convenience, formed into rounds and baked in a 400ยบ oven for 10 minutes and saved as ready to bake Pizza Shells.

1 comment:

Jon in Albany said...

I can't do Hawaiian pizza. The hot pineapple just tastes wrong to me. I recently saw a bacon-chicken-ranch pizza at a place selling slices. I think I'd go for the hot pineapple before I went with hot Hidden Valley ranch salad dressing on a pizza. I've got to believe it would be a felony in Naples.
A wood oven really adds a great flavor to pizza. Last year, a decent wood fired pizza place opened up nearby. It's decent, but not fantastic. I think the dough needs a little work. Albany is definitely lacking in the quality pizza department.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -