Pizza!

Tonight, I made pizza. From scratch. Almost entirely. And I am so excited about it, I am going to blog about it with some anecdotes sprinkled in. Enjoy the break from blocks of overly analytical text!

So I’m living in New York City for the summer, and I cook for myself. I’m not a particularly good cook, and I don’t like to work too hard at food most days, so in general I content myself with stir frying vegetables. Not to sound disappointed; I love stir-fried vegetables. But tonight I wanted to do something special, and I decided on pizza. I googled around for a pizza recipe and found a delightful one for Pizza Florentina along with a pizza dough recipe from the same site. But because I’m me, and I got distracted by the shiny-new shinyness of Google+, it was 8:30 by the time I actually got around to it, and I didn’t want to wait 2 and a half hours for the dough to rise. So I used this recipe instead.

One of the best parts of living with a foodie grandmother who pays for groceries is that random things I wouldn’t think to buy, like yeast, are just around. So here are the ingredients for the dough.

Then I mixed the yeast (little tiny facultatively anaerobic microorganisms…in a jar!) with the sugar (they need food, right?) and dissolved in water, then let stand for ten minutes. Then you get this sexy looking substance.

Then add the flour, salt and oil, mix a little, and you get this:

Fun fact: this stuff is delicious. I always figured raw cookie dough was so amazing was because it had, you know, sugar and butter and sometimes chocolate chips and you can’t really go wrong with those things, but this has none of those things (well, a tiny bit of sugar), and no raw eggs, but it is amazing. I promise I only know that because it gets stuck to your fingers and not because I take little pieces or play with it or anything. Anyway! We are off track. Back to the cooking.

The recipe promised to make a 12-inch pizza, which sounded like too much, so I thought about making half of it, but then I decided to throw caution to the winds and make all of it. That’s me, living on the edge. Of course, it turned out my initial caution was totally justified since all the dough rolled out looked like this.

It actually doesn’t look that big in the picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it that it was too big for just me, and more problematically, too big for my baking sheets (no pizza stone, I’m sorry to say). So I cut it in half and rolled it out again. Time for the toppings! The recipe called just for spinach, but I decided to add mushrooms as well. This part totally plays to my strength as an epic stir-fryer.

The tomato sauce is the only part of this I got from a can. I would have been happy to make my own, but to make the rich, creamy stuff, you have to let things simmer for upwards of an hour, and I didn’t have that kind of time. For a different, fresher styler of pizza, it’s a great idea to just throw together chopped tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions and maybe some green peppers with yummy spices and let it sit in a hot frying pan for 10-20 or so minutes until the tomato juice and olive oil mix well, but that’s not what I was going for here. So I spread it out with expert knife skills, carefully leaving a perfect inch around the sauce.

Sheer perfection, no? I’m not sure how it’ll show up on your computer screen, but the sauce was a really nice, eye-catching red. Now toppings! I really have no eye for design or beauty, but I had some fun with the layout anyway. I was confused by the recipe calling for the vegetables to be placed on the sauce before the cheese, but this was actually sheer genius. They were like hidden treasures.

Because I’m not a very good or frequent cook, and because I’m numbers and rules oriented, you’d think I’d be a meticulous cook, planning everything beforehand and worrying about measurements and whether they were in mass or volume. As it turns out, though, because I don’t like to cook, I only do it when I’m excited about it and in the mood for it, and I tend to get rather impulsive about making whatever I’m making. This leads to trouble. For example, it was only through dumb luck that I happened to have around all of the spices I needed (this comes later) as well as yeast. And as it happens, I jumped right into making a pizza without having any meltable cheese in the house. So what you don’t see in the break between the photo above and the photo below is the turning off of the oven and the mad dash to an all-night deli/convenience store two blocks away to get some mozzarella.
Yes, that’s an egg. This is how a Pizza Florentina works. Also added: nutmeg, garlic powder and dried basil leaves. If I’d had it, I would also have added thyme. Salt and pepper might have been ok, but it really doesn’t need it, at least not with the sauce I used. Into the oven!
So I was really nervous about cooking time since I’ve only made pizza once before in my entire life, and I took the directions to wait until the edges were golden a little too seriously, such that when I took it out (after about half the time recommended), the egg looked like this.
And I was so freaked out about overcooking that I had the brilliant idea to scrape the egg off and cook it separately. This was not a good idea.
Yes, I broke the yolk. Cardinal sin, I know. But everything looks better in a pretty dish, right?
Success! It was really quite good. The crust especially, though it definitely could have used the ten minutes I was too afraid to give it. The egg, too. But I’m really proud of it, and I have a whole other dough ball to play with!
Maybe your grandmother isn’t cool enough to have an actual pizza cutter just lying around.
UPDATE: I made a mini-version (with half the dough I had left) of basically the same pizza, with a few tweaks (including no egg). I baked it for about 1.5 times as long, on half a pizza, and got very little for my trouble except a more crusty edge. The middle was still soft and doughy. Is that because the sauce is so moist? Is the answer baking it a bit beforehand? Less sauce? Thoughts?

5 thoughts on “Pizza!

  1. Kaleena says:

    A+ work Chana!! Didja save some for me?

  2. ma che pizza fantastica! col'uova! ecezzionale!

  3. Strangelet says:

    Kaleena: No way, pretty lady, all for me! But I'd be glad to go out to dinner with you in Colombus!D: Grazie, Babbo! :)

  4. Newbia says:

    Idea for the remaining one-half ball of pizza dough: spread it with a layer of ricotta cheese instead of pizza sauce and then sprinkle with chocolate chips or a swirl of nutella. I mean, the above sentence has the word "nutella" in it, so you can tell that whatever I'm suggesting is a good idea. Maybe you could also divide the dough into little palm-sized balls to make mini dessert pizzettes. Probably then the entire pizzette will bake through to the middle, since it's so small.

  5. Newbia says:

    Oooh! Or, use the nutella as sauce, and sprinkle it with something yummy like nuts or raisins or shredded coconut.

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