Thursday, May 21, 2009

Homemade Pizza Perfected

"What's for dinner?" Most days I have to find the answer to this question, even when I haven't gone shopping and I have no inspiration. Monday was one of these days. I arrived home with 2 slightly cranky boys in tow and no ideas for dinner. I feel like I really should have an idea what we are having for dinner by 3, 3:30 at the latest, sometimes 4 but... well, you get the idea. However on Monday we arrived home shortly before 4 with no ideas. However as part of the never ending delivery of junk I received the latest new catalog from King Arthur Flour in the mail which had a tantalizing photo of pizza on the cover.

So we went in the house and the boys immediately began raising a ruckus in the playroom and I started making pizza dough. I decided to more or less follow the recipe in the King Arthur Flour catalog as I have been searching for the perfect crust. However I do not stock, Sir lancelot High Gluten Flour, Hi-maize natural fiber or pizza dough flavor in my kitchen. The major change in the preparation of that nights pizza was prompted by this note in the recipe, "or the crispiest pizza, bake the crust for 8 minutes, until set, before topping with sauce and cheese; then bake for an additional 4 minutes." At first I thought I would follow that advice, but then I decided to use that general method but cook them on the grill instead.

I have been making pizza at home for a while now. My pizza is always good, however it has never been inspired. The toppings and sauce are often wonderful, it is the crust that I have not been happy with. The crust was always fine, everyone happily ate it. However I was not going for fine. I was looking for a crust that was crisp while still being tender and full of flavor. Well that is what I got by grilling it. Well to be perfectly honest, that is what I got on 1 of the 3 pizzas I made. I actually tried three methods of grilling the pizza, just to make sure I knew the best way. I should probably admit, it is also because I am a bit neurotic.

The method that won was to preheat all burners and then cook the dough briefly with no toppings for approximately 3-5 minutes until there were good sear marks on the bottom. On my gas grill I did this with the lid closed, with a charcoal grill I believe you would leave the lid open. Next I removed the pizza dough from the grill and dressed it with sauce, cheese and toppings. To finish the cooking I put the pizza back on the grill over indirect heat, (I turned off half the burners and put the pizza on the side that was off).

For toppings I caramelized an onion and cleaned out my fridge of leftovers. Half a grilled chicken breast, cooked potatoes and sliced pears. I also wanted a green vegetable on the pizza and had nothing in the house. Remember how I said I did not go shopping?

Happily my neighbor had offered me some broccoli volunteers from his garden as garden starts. We have both now planted as many of those as we want, so I pulled up several more of them for the pizza. Broccoli is one of the many vegetables where the tender young plants can be eaten whole. Truly a great thing to remember here in the spring. I just cut off the roots and chopped them up and then mixed them with some olive oil.

Homemade Grilled Pizza

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups tepid water (105° - 110°)

Dissolve yeast in the tepid water and mix the ingredients together in a food processor, stand mixer of bread machine to create a smooth soft but not too sticky dough (the dough I made was a little sticky but when I poked it none stuck to my finger). Let the dough rise in a covered bowl for 1 hour before shaping, or let it rise in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If you let the dough rise in the fridge you will have a more complex flavored crust.

Divide the dough into 3 - 4 pieces. Roll out on a well floured surface to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Don't worry about having perfectly round pizzas, rustic pizza is very popular now. Allow to rise on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper approximately 30 minutes.

Preheat all burners on your grill on the highest they will go until blazingly hot. Brush the surface of each crust with extra virgin olive oil. To cook place the dough olive oil side down for 3 - 5 minutes with the lid closed if using a gas grill, until there are nice grill marks on the bottom side and the top has bubbles. Take the crusts off and when all of the crusts are pre-grilled turn off the burners on one side. Top the pizzas with sauce, shredded cheese and topping and place over indirect heat (the side that is off) and cook until the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.

Note: in the winter I will preheat my pizza stone in a 500° oven and prebake the crusts for 8 minutes before topping and finishing to bake.

Pizza Sauce

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced (cut open and sprout removed if any first)
1 quart home canned tomatoes or 28 ounce can tomatoes in own juice
1 jar tomato paste (make sure it is one without added sugar)
Dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic releases its flavor. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato paste and add dried oregano to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp). Cook. stirring occasionally until thick and then add salt and pepper to taste.

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