Everyone loves pizza.
Edit: I still love pizza. But I no longer love this method and dough as much as I used to. Instead, I have found pizza enlightenment, and you should too. Of course, the toppings and sauce ideas from this post are still excellent, but if you are going to make pizza, please, PLEASE read this post and use the dough and method of baking described therein. Your pizza will never be the same again!
Or, ok, maybe I shouldn’t make such sweeping statements, but I’ve certainly never met anyone who didn’t love pizza. There is a reason why it’s one of the most popular foods in the world, and that is because good, properly-made pizza is yummy, satisfying, not too heavy, and very very easy to make…
Wait, what? Yes, it actually really is. I mean, you can just get all your favorite toppings, they require no prep, and the dough is really not hard to make (not at all compared to most bread dough). And you know the even-better part about it? Pizza tastes great even if it comes out lopsided-shaped. Heck, some of the fanciest Italian restaurants don’t turn out a perfectly round pizza, but an irregular-shaped thing which is supposedly “more authentic”. So there, if you have a feeling your pizza will be shaped like that, you can just be proud of it and pretend it was meant to be that way, just like the restaurant chefs’ one is.
A note before I continue – as I’ve mentioned in the previous posts, our camera is missing after T took it on a trip to Canada (we hope the nice people at Air Canada find it for us, but if not, there’s camera shopping in our future), so in the meantime, the photos are taken with my phone – apologies if the pictures aren’t up to my usual standard. I do try!
So yes, enough photo excuses and back to pizza – isn’t it great to have a pizza made just so, just precisely the way you want it, with the right – like, a huge pile, if that’s right for you! – amount of the right toppings, and just enough of the sauce you like, and… yes, your dream pizza. You can have it. And it takes very, and I mean, very little time or effort.
This morning dawned pretty awful – gloomy, grey, the kind of morning when waking up is an effort, and getting out of bed is a heroic act. You know, that sort of morning. And my wonderful camera-losing boyfriend is sniffling and trying to work despite the cold, and blinking at me a little pathetically. He’s heroic like that – tends to try to work until the point I yell at him and shove him into bed (which usually happens when he tries to work with a too-high fever). To me, pizza is one of the ultimate comfort foods. Interestingly enough, raw fish – sushi, sashimi – is the other big one – but on a cold, gloomy day, pizza definitely wins over most anything else. So, to cheer us both up, and after reading and drooling over this lovely pizza on Daisy’s blog and this one on Zoe’s, I have decided to make pizza. Pizza my way.
What is pizza my way? Well, considering how many of my food obsessions can be put together into a pizza, it must have garlic, olive oil, chili, arugula, cheese and prosciutto crudo (or dried ham of some definition). And it so happens that I have found (and obviously immediately bought) a jar of really great pesto arrabbiata at the local supermarket – entirely without traces of nuts (see nut-allergic boyfriend)! Arrabbiata sauce (pesto in this case, which is the same thing as far as Italians are concerned) covers several bases in the above list right away – garlic, sundried tomatoes, chili and olive oil in one tiny jar! After seeing just how amazingly it works on a pizza, it’s definitely a new favorite. For those of you not in Sweden (and hopefully less allergic than my significant other), I think any sundried tomato pesto will work amazingly well, and you can always mix in the desired amount of chili flakes into it if you want the heat as well.
- 1.5 cup (3.5dl) bread flour. I’ve used bread flour with whole wheat mixed in, total protein level at 11%.
- 1.5-1.75dl warm water
- 1.5 teaspoon dry yeast or a 1x1x2cm piece of fresh cake yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Olive oil to coat
- 4-5 slices of prosciutto crudo or other air-dried ham
- three generous handfuls of fresh arugula
- 1 cup (loose, not packed!) coarsely shredded cheese of your choice
- 2-3 heaping tablespoons sundried tomato pesto+chili flakes or Arrabbiata pesto if you can get it
- Finely grated hard cheese such as parmesan, romano, grana padano or gran moravia – to taste
- I also used a generous grinding of black pepper, but this, too, is entirely optional.
Pizza dough takes about 1 hour to rise. It requires no 2nd rise, so once it is risen, it’s ready.
- Put the dry ingredients of dough into a bowl and stir to mix.
- Add yeast to finger-warm water, and mix. Let stand for 5 minutes.
- Make a well in the flour mix with a wooden spoon, swirl the yeas mixture and pour it in, while stirring. Stir until dough comes together. Add warm water by a tablespoonful if mixture is too dry (different flour absorb water differently, so it is a balancing act).
- When dough starts to come together, lay spoon aside and mash it a bit with your hands (no advanced technique or kneading needed) so it forms a lumpy ball.
- Take ball of dough out, wash, dry and oil your bowl, put the dough back in, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Put in a warm place.
- You can either give the dough a few stretch-and-folds (if you don’t know what those are, please, please read this page and watch the videos, they are great!), or knead it lightly about halfway through the hour. I prefer 3 stretch-and-folds at roughly 10 min intervals, and it gives me all the gluten development needed, no effort required.
- About 30 min before the dough is done, preheat oven to 250°C with a cookie pan upside-down in it, or a pizza stone if you have it. If I were making a smaller pizza I’d have used a cast-iron dish the way Zoe did and the way I do for bread-baking, but this one wouldn’t fit in that, so upside-down pan it was.
- Prepare your toppings – this amounts to taking them out of fridge, and shredding the cheeses.
- Take the ball of dough out of the bowl, give it a gentle knead or two, and if you know how to stretch dough, do that, but if you are like me and can’t manage it from a ball, what I do is roll it out into a pancake, then stretch some, then roll more, then stretch, etc. until the dough is large enough for me to be happy.
- Place the dough onto a baking parchment and a peel (if you have one), or the back of a cookie sheet (if you are like me and don’t).
- Spread the pesto over the crust leaving maybe 2-3 cm margin and sprinkle with coarsely grated cheese. Tear up one of the prosciutto slices and scatter one handful of arugula over.
- Open the door and slide the baking parchment+pizza onto the back of the preheated oven pan. Or you can take a pair of tongs, slide the preheated pan partially out of the oven, and drag the parchment with the pizza on it onto the hot pan. It’s clumsier but also works, and is reliable. I’m all for reliable!
- Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is baked through and turns golden.
- Remove from oven onto a wooden board, sprinkle with remaining arugula and tear up remaining prosciutto. Sprinkle with the finely grated hard cheese, and grind black pepper on top if you so desire.
Munch. I’d find someone to share it with if I were you, because you’re running a real risk of stuffing yourself silly! Aren’t boyfriends who are happy to save you from more than half the pizza great?!