PIZZA RECIPE (MEDITERRANEAN RECIPES: ITALIAN)

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The Pizza Toppings Used at the Yale Farm:

We hope the Yale Farm will share the organic pizza recipes used every Friday afternoon during the school year.  The following pizzas are described on the Yale Farm's website (2012) under "seasonal menus":

1) Roasted Heirloom & Fresh Tomato Pizza
2) Roasted Squash, Maple Syrup, & Sage Pizza
3) Pizza with Potatoes & Rosemary (Q: is this similar to the potato pizza at Bar? )
4) Asparagus & Parmesan Pizza

Homemade "Wooster Square New Haven-Style" Whole Wheat Pizza:

First added: 2012-06-11; Last edited: 2013-02-15


"White" Garlic Pizza (made with just unbleached bread flour)

"White" Garlic Pizza (slightly underbaked)

Author: Stephen Chin-Bow (Yale College).

Background: I will convert this recipe to also use weights, when I buy an accurate digital balance.

If I remember I will take more photos (of the various steps) the next time I make "pizza".

I developed this recipe because I wanted to eat Pepe's "white clam pizza" more often than my infrequent visits to New Haven.  I first added some whole wheat flour to make the crust healthier, but now I really like the more complex flavor.  Pepe's pizza is still better (their oven is better than mine), but this recipe satisfies my cravings.

Making pizza is very easy (and of course, very satisfying).  Do not be intimidated by the length of this recipe.  I have included a lot of detail, but most of these concepts will become second nature and automatic after you make pizza a few times.  Every pizza maker develops subtle tricks and habits which may not be apparent.  Please help YaleCooks improve this recipe.  If you make pizza in your residential college student kitchen please let YaleCooks know any changes you feel improve the recipe.

The biggest mistake made by first-time pizza makers is to add too many toppings.  Initially, use a "minimalistic" approach to toppings until you understand your oven and appreciate the following variables.  For example, 1) most home ovens cannot reach the temperatures used by professional pizza makers, 2) a dough which is too dry may not rise correctly because it is too stiff (but the dough will soften as it rests; see below), 3) the gas bubbles trapped inside the dough will increase in volume when heated (do you remember the "gas laws" from chemistry?), 4) the 15 minute kneading helps to develop the dough's elasticity (which helps to trap gas bubbles), 5) the oil on the outside of the crust seems to prevent thin crusts from becoming too dry (possibly by reducing the lost of moisture), and 6) an oil "barrier" on the top of the pizza blocks moisture from the toppings from making the crust soggy (remember, initially use a KISS approach to moist toppings).

A few ideas regarding toppings.  If you are a vegetarian or are allergic to seafood you do not need to add a clam topping.  Mushrooms, sweet peppers (green, red, and yellow), and mozzarella cheese is a tasty combination.  During the winter when ripe fresh tomatoes are more expensive or simply for convenience try using canned whole "plum" tomatoes.  They are reliable and work really well.  Lastly, place the cheese and other "dry" toppings on the pizza first.  Place the moist toppings on top.  This "bottom-up" layering approach will reduce the possibility of the melting cheese trapping moisture from the toppings (resulting in a soggy crust) or the cheese burning.

Please let me know if you have suggestions for improving this recipe!

Essential Supplies & Ingredients: (makes enough dough for TWO 12 X 14 inch pizza crusts)

• oven (capable of 500 degrees F)

bread stone
peel
garlic press (a knife can also be used)

• 2 C all-purpose flour (brands tested: King Arthur); 1 1/2 C + 1/2 C = 2 C
• 1 C high-gluten flour (brands tested: King Arthur)
• 1 C whole wheat flour, regular or "white" (brands tested: King Arthur)

• 1 1/3 C water
• 2 tsp sugar
• 1 package "active dried yeast" (or ??? teaspoon if you have access to "bulk" yeast)

• 2 tsp salt, kosher or sea salt
olive oil (several tablespoons are used at different steps)

• all-purpose flour for dusting

• one whole head garlic (minced or crushed using a garlic press)

• optional toppings (enough for ONE 12 X 14 inch pizza)

• fresh meat from ??? pounds mohogany clams (frozen is fine) and grated Romano cheese
• ??? oz mushrooms (eg. portabella)
• ??? oz sweet peppers (red, yellow, green, or "mixed")
• 1/3 pound mozzarella cheese (whole milk cheese has better flavor than skim milk cheese)
• oregano, dried or fresh (start with 1 teaspoon of dried or 3 tablespoon fresh)
• ??? oz thinly sliced chicken (use the slicing technique described for beef)

Instructions:

Safety First: Understand your equipment.  Read the manuals.  My KitchenAid brand mixer recommends using a setting of 2 for bread dough.  Do not exceed your mixer's operating recommendations, because you will burn out your mixer's motor (an expensive lesson).  Be sure that your mixer is rated for mixing bread doughs made using 4 cups of flour.

Pizza Dough: The recipe makes enough dough for TWO 12 X 14 inch pizzas.  Why?  If you are running your mixer for 15 minutes you might as well prepare dough for more than one pizza.  The crust will have a better texture if the dough is allowed to rest at least several hours.  You can make the dough ahead of time and even freeze the dough.  If you are very busy this recipe will save you time and, of course, money (buy mozzarella cheese when it is on sale; cut a one-pound piece into three pieces, wrap, and freeze; frozen mozzarella lasts many months).

Some recipes recommend preheating the water used to make the dough, but I do not because there is a risk that first-time pizza makers will kill the yeast if the water is too hot (note that a thermometer is not on the list of equipment).  Also, kneading the dough for 15 minutes will warm the dough (physics and chemistry; friction results in heat).  Do not preheat the water.  "Room temperature" water is fine.

If you have access to "filtered water" this may work better if your local tap water has a lot of minerals.  New York City water works fine without filtration.

In a non-metalic container add the sugar to the water.  Stir until dissolved.  Add the yeast, but do not mix.  If your oven is warm (because it has a pilot light) place the container inside for a 5-10 minutes incubation.  I realize the Yale residential college student kitchens probably have electric stoves, so simply leave the yeast plus sugar water on the counter if your oven lacks a pilot light.

While the yeast is slowly dissolving (you will see the "granules" drop down through the water) add the flour (just 3 1/2 C; you will add the final 1/2 C all-purpose flour later) to the mixer bowl.

Add salt to yeast.  Stir until the yeast and salt are dissolved.  Add to dough.  Add 2 tablespoons oil to the mixture.

Use your mixer's dough hook and mix until the flour and liquid are combined.  This should take at most a minute or two.  Allow the wet dough to rest for 10-15 minutes.  The dough will begin to "autolyze" and soften during this period.

Resume the mixing.  Slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, about 1 tablespoon at a time (wait until the flour is incorporated into the dough before adding more).  When the dough "cleans" the side of the bowl do not add more flour.  Remember, a dough which is slightly too wet is better than a dough which is too dry (because it is a lot easier to add a little more flour than a small amount of liquid).  Start your timer and knead the dough for 15 minutes.  Watch the kneading process and add another tablespoon of flour if the dough starts to stick to the mixer's bowl.

When the kneading is finished remove the dough from the bowl, divide it into two pieces, and place each piece until a plastic bag.  Remove most of the air and seal each bag with a knot or a twist tie.

If you are not planning to bake the pizza the same day I like to allow the dough to rest at room temperature for an hour or two before moving the dough into the refrigerator.  The next day you can freeze any dough which you do not plan to use that day.

If you are starting with frozen homemade pizza dough allow the pizza dough to defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

On the day you plan to bake the pizza remove it from the refrigerator and let the dough rest at room temperature or in a warm over for between 2-4 hours.  Less time is needed when you have access to a warm oven or a warm kitchen.

Pizza Toppings: These instructions are for ONE 12 X 14 inch pizza. 

While the pizza dough is rising, prepare the fresh garlic.  Use a garlic press or knife to crush (or mince finely) the garlic.  Place a few tablespoons of olive oil into a small pan along with a few visible specks of crushed garlic.  Heat the oil (medium to low heat; each stove is different, so I cannot give a definitive temperature) until the specks of garlic begin to sizzle.  Add the remaining garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic beings to brown.  Remove from the heat immediately, continuing to stir until the garlic is cool.

Cut up any vegetables or cheese.  If you are planning to try canned whole (or plum) tomatoes use just the tomatoes and not the liquid.  After cutting (lengthwise) each canned tomato into four slices transfer any liquid back to the can.  If you are planning to use fresh tomatoes cut very thin, 1/8 inch, slices.

Pizza Assembling & Baking: These instructions are for ONE 12 X 14 inch pizza. 

The next time you order pizza from Pepe's go to the Spot and watch them prepare the pizzas for baking.  They do not toss their pizzas.

Place the pizza/bread stone on a shelf in the middle of the oven (if the stone is too high or low the pizza may burn).  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for 15 minutes.  While the oven is preheating assemble the pizza.  I need between 5-7 minutes to stretch the dough and assemble the pizza.

The goal is to stretch the dough until it is a circle about 12-13 inches across.  As your technique develops the pizza will stretch to its final size as it is transferred from the peel to the pizza stone (see below).

Dust the peel with all-purpose flour (start with about 2 tablespoons).  Remove the dough from the plastic bag.  If you cannot remove the dough in one piece you need to add more flour the next time you make pizza (remember, learning to make pizza is a process).  Rotate on the peel until the ball of dough is lightly covered with flour.  During the next few steps add more flour to the peel if needed.

Rotating or flipping the dough will help keep the dough floured.  If the dough surface is not kept floured if will begin to stick to the peel, resulting in a ripped dough.  Not what you want.  It may help to initially stretch the dough until it is 8-10 inches across.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap (or a flexible plastic cutting board) and allow the dough to rest for a few minutes.

For the final stretching it helps to lift the dough off the peel.  Stretch the dough, using your fists, knuckles, and arms to "pull" the dough.

Add the cooked garlic to dough.  Using your fingers spread the garlic and the oil.  You want to cover most of the dough, but it is not necessary to go to the edge of the dough.

Rotate the pizza on the peel as a last test to check that it is not sticking to the peel.

The first few times you make pizza you should test to make sure the pizza is not sticking to the peel.  Lift the peel and with a quick and short "pulling-pushing" motion see if "inertia" results in the pizza sliding on the peel (physics; a pizza at rest tends to remain at rest).  If the pizza sticks to the peel you need to carefully lift the pizza where it is sticking and add flour.  Repeat unti the pizza no longer sticks.

Now work as fast as possible.  Working slowly increases the chance the pizza will stick to the peel.  This is not what you want, because if the dough sticks to the peel when you are trying to transfer the assembled pizza to the bread stone the toppings will fall off the pizza.  Cheese burning on a pizza stone or, even worse, at the bottom of the oven does not build confidence.  This is why starting off with simple toppings, such as just the garlic/oil, is the suggested way to learn to make pizza.

Now, add the cheese, add the meat, add the vegetables (in other words, add the wettest toppings last).  Add any spices, such as salt or oregano.  Lift the peel and give it another quick and short "pull-push" to see that the pizza is still not sticking to the peel.  Open the oven door (beware the oven is very hot).  Use a potholder to pull out the oven shelf supporting the bread stone.  Carry the pizza to the oven.

With a longer quick "pull" try to transfer just two or three inches of the pizza to the bread stone.  This is the trick, because after the first two or three inches of the pizza are touching the stone you will be able to slowly pull the peel, stretching the pizza to its final size.  The first few times do not be too ambitious.  The first goal is to try to get the pizza on the stone.

Push the shelf supporting the pizza stone into the oven and close the door.  Congratulations!  The hard work is done.

After 6 or 7 minutes use the peel and give the pizza a half turn (geometry; 180 degrees).  Most ovens are not evenly heated, so this step improves even browning.

After another 2 or 3 minutes (for a total of 9 minutes) peek at the pizza.  If you like a slightly crunchy pizza or cheese which is slightly brown cook a little longer.  After cooking for 10 minutes turn off the oven, and if necessary continue cooking on "free heat".  I usually bake my pizzas for a total of 10-12 minutes, depending on the toppings.

Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a large trivet or cutting board.  Allow the pizza to cool for a minute or two before slicing.  I do not use a rolling pizza cutter (I find a standard "chef's knife" works very well).  Enjoy!

Annotated Internet Links:

1) My favorite pizza website is Varasano's Pizza.  I do not have an accurate electric kitchen balance so I have never tried any of the recipes.  However, I find the website, especially the photos which focus on the crust, inspiring and informative.  I also enjoy the information and recipes shared on the PizzaMaking.Com website and forum.  From the Pizza Making home page you can search the forum without registering.

2) In April, 2012 the NY Times published a special pizza issue (including a 4 minute Mark Bittman's video recipe for potato and rosemany pizza).  A very fun read.

Recommended Cookbooks:

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