Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Friday night pizza

Friday night pizza
Pizza has been a tradition in my family for a long time. To my kids, Friday evening is not complete without a freshly baked pizza. This recipe is from the book “The Italian Baker” by Carol Field. My sister gave me a copy 18 years ago when on a visit. I have been baking out this book ever since. In it you find out how to make basic but tasty Italian (ciabatta) and “dolce” (desserts/ sweets). It is a fabulous book. The author spend a full in Italy visiting every region to understand their baking traditions. Most people associate pasta with Italy, however according to her, bread is both what bring together as Italian and what brings them apart. Each region fiercely defends their traditions and method of baking, and rivalries run deep.

Pizza dough
1 ¾ teaspoon active dry yeast or 2/3 small cake (12 grams) fresh yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 1/3 cups of warm water
¼ cup of olive oil, plus additional for brushing the crust
3 ¾ (500 gram) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons (8 grams) salt (if using anchovies in the topping, reduce salt to a pinch)
Stir the yeast and sugar into the water in a large mixing bowl; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in oil. Mix the flour and salt and stir, 1 cup at a time, into the yeast mixture, beating well to get all the lumps out. Knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and satiny but firm, about 8 minutes.  You can also use a food processor or a Kitchen Aid if you have one, much easier but be careful not over work the dough.
First Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with a plastic wrap, and let rise until not quite fully doubled, 45 minutes to an hour.
This recipe we usually make two pizzas. Shaping is best accomplished with your hand and the dough is laid on a parchment paper.  For baking I recommend the use of baking tiles laid in the middle of the oven. You can buy some at your local cooking store or do as I do and buy untreated unglazed floor tile from your local tile shop much cheaper. If you do not have tiles, use a regular pizza tray, but the results are far superior with tiles. Put tiles in the oven and turn over on to 400° for 30 minutes.  Baking takes anywhere for 10 to 20 minutes, I recommend you watch carefully until you are familiar with the process. I suggest keeping the toppings sparse. My favourite is a simple cheese, tomato sauce and prosciutto di Parma. The prosciutto is dropped on the pizza after it comes out of the oven; you do not want to cook it, just to heat it up a bit.

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