Friday, June 29, 2007

Rocket-Parma Ham Pizza


This is my favorite pizza, for its simplicity and taste. If you don't try it, you loose out because I'm so reluctant to give the recipe away that I might delete this post after a week!!

Have made pizzas a long time and never quite got the crust right. Then Wey had his 12th birthday at this popular pizzaria and I picked up a few tips from watching the cook because the party was a 'make-your-own-pizza' theme and everybody got to make their own pizzas. Two things I learnt: 1) the dough is made the night before 2) the oven is hot as hell, something home ovens can never achieve, which is why our crust can never crisp perfectly.

One of my problems in making pizza is I haven't mastered the art of rolling and pushing the dough against the edge of the counter so I use a rolling pin but the dough would always spring back. To overcome that, I used plain flour which has little gluten so it's less elastic but that doesn't give a strong crisp crust. The trick as I've discovered at Little Italy is to use bread flour but make the dough the night before and let it rest in the fridge. I now can roll my dough into little discs and twirl them into the air using my knuckles...sometimes they still land on my head.

The next thing I've learnt is, put your pizza pan directly on the floor of the hot oven which has been heated to the highest level it can go (usually 240 C). There's no point getting a pizza stone if you use a home oven because it'll take hours to heat through and it'll still not get hotter than the heat limit of your oven. Now to the task.

Update 23/4/08: NO! Do not put your pizza pans on the floor of your home oven as I had advised because that caused my oven to wear out a hole. The instructions in my new oven manual clearly states that to bake anything on the floor of the oven would spoil the oven because doing that would affect the heat distribution.

Pizza Dough
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 t dry yeast
2 t sugar
2/3 t salt
2 T olive oil
3/4 cup cold water (in the tropics; use warm water in frigid places)

1. If you know your yeast is good, just put everything together in your KitchenAid or Kenwood mixer bowl with the dough hook and knead at medium for 8 min, till dough is soft and smooth and springs back when you poke it. You may have to add a little bit more water or more flour. Cover dough with a cloth and let it rise for 1 hour (longer if you live in Antartica or Canada).

2. Take dough out and divide into 4. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a ball, using a little bit of flour if necessary, and put them on a floured tray. Cover with clingfilm only if the film (has plasticizers, a chemical that is harmful and bleeds into food!) doesn't touch the dough (remember it'll still rise in the fridge). Otherwise, do as I do and dust the tops of the dough balls with flour and cover with a cloth. Leave in fridge 24 hours before using. Remember to take out 1/2 hour to 1 hour (longer in frozen countries) before using.

The Tomato Base

Ha, you'll really thank me for this. I used to make my own, which means cooking it. Now I just put tomato puree into a bottle together with chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and dried basil and shake it.

Baking the Pizza

1. Heat oven to as hot as it can go, say 250 C, using only the bottom element. Roll the dough out as thin as you can without tearing it and press it out to the edge, or use your knuckles under the dough to stretch it into a round big enough to fit the pizza pan and put it onto a lightly greased 31 cm (12") pizza pan. Spread about 2 large T of tomato base all over the crust (leave clear a 2 cm rim), then scatter grated mozzarella (you'll notice I used very little mozz; too many fat-conscious people at home) and bake on the lowest rack for 8 to 10 min, checking the bottom of the crust by using a cake server, say, in the 6th minute. When the bottom is brown and burnt in random spots, take it out. Overcooking will cause the mozz to harden.

2. Scatter rocket, shredded parma ham (not too much; very salty) and shaved parmigiano reggianno (that's high-grade parmesan) all over. Mmmm... Don't forget the wine!


Grow your own rocket! This type of rocket is not as fancy as the baby wild rocket, but according to a pizza chef from Milan, this is the stronger-scented and preferred kind of rocket. I usually get my rocket and basil seeds at Signature.


Shan said...

Looks fantastic considering it's a home effort and not from a restaurant.

Actually, that looks way better than what we can get at most restaurants.

And I'm sure like it would go terrifically with a good bottle of red.

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

TQ Shan but it is yummy, really! Try making it soon & tell me d result.

raina said...

My generous friend, like I said, your rocket-parma ham pizza is excellent! I am very blessed to have a friend like you. I am printing out the recipe before you take it out from your post. Will try it when I get my oven. ;)

The Drool Team said...

that is pizza perfect..yum yum also drooling at ur rocket plot!! Haven't been able to get the seeds either in Signature or Servey (that was where I found my last)

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

raina: i am blessed by u too!
tdt: hey come over n pick some rocket; they're perfect now. haha maybe i bought all their seeds!

Shan said...

I'd love to try Terri but I don't even have an oven. Only a microwave.
The pitfalls of being a singleton with no one to cook for :)

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

shan:) ...n no one to tell u "I'm not hungry" after u've spent an hour cooking. hey beware of microwaves. mine's still in the box. been there for >8 years, never opened.

Shan said...

Ah I see your point. Fair enough Heh.

Bryan said...

Shan you can always come over and use my oven... as long as I get to indulge in the results! :D

Terri, that pizza looks absoutely delish!

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

Thanx Bryan!+

MeLLy said...

your foody pix are really good, drooling just looking at it. Im sure it taste much better than the pic of cos... like shna, i only have microwave..have to invest an oven to be able to sample ur pizza Yummy!

Terri @ hungerhunger said...

Thanx Melly*sweats* so much pressure now to take good pics...yes, do invest in an oven n chuck away the microwave.

Anonymous said...

Ah, arugula! I was wondering what the heck Rocket pizza could be...

Anonymous said...

I am have not been making pizzas for a quite awhile because the dough recipe is kinda not good :(. I'll try it this weekend and provide some feedback. Thanks for sharing. Siew

the lunch guy said...

the more i check your blog, the more i see things i know and love. this "flavor" of pizza is one of my favorites too. the first i had it was at a place in budapest, hungary called okay italia (6 Nyugati Ter, V, Budapest, Hungary ) it actually looks just like the one pictured here. the fresh rocket and the shaved cheese are what make this a truly grand taste treat. IMHO - if you can get the dough thin and crispy and it might be one of the best things you could ever stick in your mouth.

another favorite of mine is to simply bake a thin pizza skin that has been basted with garlic and a blend of anchovy and olive oils - and of course it should be as thin as possible.

when it is 90% done top it with paper thin slices of shallots, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pimento, fresh basil leaves (or pesto) and capers. put it bake in for a minute or two and then pull it from the oven and sprinkle a good goat cheese of any kind on it.

the crust should be almost as crisp as a cracker and it should "explode" when you bite into it. a smaller diameter to the pie helps in the consumption of it. you should be able to eat each slice in 3 or 4 bites.

i find that if you put a fine dusting of corn meal/polenta under any pie while it is baking that this adds a great authentic taste that many never get at home when making their own pies.

i worked in a pizza joint for 5 years doing the "menu" items, and whenever i could i hung out in the pizza room. simplicity is elegance.

Terri @ A Daily Obsession said...

lunch guy: i have printed ur suggestion n must try it out soon. it just sounds terrific,thanx so much! 2 Q about pizzas:

1) i always eat pizzas with my hands-it's easier n tastier-- but lots of ppl eat it with a knife n fork. who's right?

2) i had a good pizza recently, except the crust was not crispy in the middle. in fact, it was downright floppy. when i complained, the italian chef said it can't be done, tt it's bound to be soft & saggy (:D)in the middle. i'm surprised bc i can get my pizza crispy all through. any thoughts?

the lunch guy said...

you said:
2 Q about pizzas:

1) i always eat pizzas with my hands-it's easier n tastier-- but lots of ppl eat it with a knife n fork. who's right?

i say: after years of cooking and watching as people consumed my food i have grown to understand that most any question you may have regarding the food realm boils down to personal taste.

that said, i am a plain wax/deli paper kinda guy when it comes to pie, and many other "fast"/snack foods well.

in nyc when you order a slice it is on paper or a paper plate. you grab it by the crust, place your index finger on the top in the center of the radius, holding the rest of your fingers on the underside, and you press down folding the pie inwards.

next you flip the point into the center and then complete the fold to the point where you are just about to squeeze the ingredients into the palm of you hand or onto the floor.

then take a deep breath, open wide, insert pie into mouth - and INHALE.

be careful not to burn your mouth or your hand. not too bad if you are only eating one slice, but if you intend to eat more, not good.

i think pie needs to be straight out of the oven nuclear hot, or stone cold. anything in between is just blah pizza.

eating pizza with a fork, or hamburgers or sandwiches (unless open faced or swimming in gravy) is sacrilege. the only person allowed to do that in my presence is my grandmother, but she would never do such a thing any way. she understands pizza.

funny antidote (anecdote) inserted here: back in 1988 when i first got to thailand i was with a thai in one of the first KFCs they opened here. the chicken was served on a melamine plate instead of in a paper tray as it is in america. my friend was trying to cut this chicken with a very weak stemmed KFC spork (that's a spoon with tines on the end for those who have never seen one.) and a really lame plastic knife.

the utensils were bending and the chicken was dancing all over the plate. so i suggested that they pick it up and eat it with their hands as any sane person would do with a piece of fried chicken. i was told that we were "fine dining" and to do so was bad etiquette.

the irony of this whole event was that right outside the window where we sat, on the street, were folks eating some awesome looking thai fried chicken WITH THEIR HANDS.

so i licked my fingers and picked up another piece.

2) you said: i had a good pizza recently, except the crust was not crispy in the middle. in fact, it was downright floppy. when i complained, the italian chef said it can't be done, tt it's bound to be soft & saggy (:D)in the middle. i'm surprised bc i can get my pizza crispy all through. any thoughts?

many pies are like that but many are not. i worked with a guy who was banging pizza on staten island in nyc since he was 14 years old. he told me that this place still to this day does everything the old way and by hand. all the ingredients are cut and prepared by hand, no machines except a dough mixer that holds 50 or 100 lbs of flour at a time.

pizza is not only an art, it is a meditation according to this guy ken. there are only three basic elements, dough, sauce and cheese. (the dough is rolled, pounded out and thrown by hand, it has rendered pork fat in it - NOT OIL, the sauce is raw, never cooked, and only tomatoes that have been canned with fresh basil should be used - they are ground, not pureed, and the cheese is cubed by hand, not shredded.) each element is of equal weight. typically a nyc pie is 1 lb. of dough, 1 of sauce and 1 of cheese. anything else you may put on it is superfluous according to these guys. K.I.S.S. = keep it simple stupid OR simplicity is excellence.

the wetter the ingredient, the wetter the pie. veggies, pineapple and the like will make any pie soggy, as will marscapone or ricotta cheeses, it is only common sense. further, when throwing the dough it is important to keep the thickness the same across the pie. inexperienced (or casual) pie throwers will make the mistake of getting the center too thin because they put too much action into the center of the dough when they are throwing it. as i said, this is art and meditation. full concentration is required to do this. also, you have to want to do this, for yourself, not the customer, no one, yourself. it is a prideful thing. it is high art.

before starting to throw the pie they will have made certain the oven is HOT and clean of any corn meal residue, stray cheese or toppings or sauce from before, and they will have dusted the pizza paddle with corn meal or polenta. this keeps the pie elevated off the cooking surface when it enters the oven, and it also adds a distinct nutty flavor to the finished product. coupled with the dry dusty white flour that adheres to the bottom of the pie when it is first pounded into the table before it is thrown, these two "inconsequential" elements are key to a great finished pie.

lay the prepared dough on top of the corn meal and waft it as you would a blanket on your bed when your making it. get a little air under it.

now gently brush the pie with a smidgen of pure virgin olive oil. don't get it wet, simply moisten it to the point of glistening. i happen to like oil that has had anchovies or tomatoes marinating in it, but Up2U. DON"T GET OIL ON THE OUTER CRUST, it won't rise well.

next ladle the sauce into the center of the dough and start circulating the ladle around moving it into greater and greater circles that bring you to the outer edge. there will be a bit more sauce on the outer part than the center. be careful not to spill the sauce onto edge as it will then burn on the oven floor and leave a residue that is not to anyone's liking.

next, taking two great handfuls of cubed mozzarella cheese garnish the top of the pie with a scattering or fresh ground parmesan, pecorino or grana cheese ( a mix of all 3 is cool too) and a sprinkle of oregano flakes finishes it off.

the pie is then quickly inserted into the oven by quickly slipping or shunting it off the paddle in such a manner that the corn meal goes with it and resides under the pie while it is cooking. this prevents it from sticking as well as imparting that great nutty flavor.

never place a pie on a spot that has just had a finished pie taken from it. it will not be hot enough to sear the bottom of the dough in the proper manner. THIS IS PROBABLY THE GUY YOU MENTIONS PROBLEM. HE IS IMPATIENT, FORGETS THE NUANCES, AND JUST WORKS TOO QUICKLY WITH TOTAL DISREGARD FOR THE PIE, OR THE PIES CONSUMER.

close the door and let the pie bake. do not be impatient, do not keep opening the door or you will disrupt the atmosphere needed to properly cook your pie.

when you think you are almost ready to remove the pie from the oven open the door, place the paddle under the edge and slightly lift the pie to check the color of the dough. then with a slight motion turn the pie 180 degrees and check the other side. there should be some slight "burn" marks on the bottom and the cheese should have lost its shape and melted ever so slightly into the sauce. only lift the edge and allow the heat to remain under pie. lifting it to high will allow the heat to escape and then the pie will only sweat, not bake, if you chose to leave it in longer.


cheese, being 33% of your pie is a crucial ingredient. it can not be too old or too fresh. and the moisture content of the cheese is the most important element. if it is to moist it will bleed that moisture onto your pie and create the DREADED SOGGY CENTER YOUR GUY SAYS IS INEVITABLE. if care has been taken in the auditioning of the cheese before purchasing it, this can be avoided.

another antidote: ken, my pizza making boss and pizza lifer, would drive to the cheese factory in vermont once or twice a year to check on the cheese maker to remind him that he was serious about his cheese and that they should only ship him the proper age and moisture cheese. when you are buying a ton of cheese a week, they listen. (right, that's a ton, 2,000 lbs, which equals 2,000 pies a week. when you are that serious about pie, you can sell 2,000 pies a week no problem. they will come, they will eat, they will return).

so in closing i think the answers to your question are these: 1.) pizza is serious business, so have the right attitude and impart that into the pie. 2.) make certain the center is the same thickness as the outer edge. 3.) be scant with the oil and keep the sauce from building up in the center. 4.) don't over melt the cheese or use toppings that have way too much moisture in them. (that is why the arugula and grana pie is good, no moisture sweats onto the pie from the garnishes.) 5.) use corn meal on the bottom and be certain the oven is way hot. 6.) don't keep opening the oven door to check it, and thus lower the temperature of your oven.

note: pizza ovens are built the way they are so the heat sears the bottom and cooks it quickly, and the roof of the oven is low so the cheese will melt in the same time it take to cook the dough.

your guy probably does not study his pie or what he uses to produce it. my friend ken, to this day, studies every pie he makes. (he now also makes pasta buy the ton and for distribution. perfect noodle every time.) whenever i had free time in his restaurant i would leave my station to watch him work. this man makes pizza the same way he plays the violin (which he does in between pies when it is slow.) and his manner is the same. he caresses the pie as he caresses the strings of his violin. stroking, plucking and getting every nuance he can from it.

are you sorry you asked? :o)

the lunch guy said...

terri, i still have had no luck at all sending to your email address listed on the blog, can you please mail me at: then i can try to send back to you as a reply. that may do the trick.


terri@adailyobsession said...

no no i'm glad i asked n got such a detailed reply from you :D

now while we agree on eating pizzas with hands, i am still new to eating pies with hands but i guess now tt pies are in individual portions, u no longer need a knife n fork.

ha, when i first went to canada, i ate a whole kfc meal (yes, with fork n knife) n i remember writing home excited over my first REAL western meal, n loving how protein, veg n starch are not all mixed up as in a chinese really was fine dining for me too at that time:))

wow, thanx for all the tips on pizza making (i'll be itemizing them on my notebook). besides the cornmeal n other tips, the tip i appreciate most is not to get the oil or sauce on the outer rim of the crust. so tt's why my pizza crust doesn't puff. i thought it's best to have some sauce on the rim.

someday i will try ken's pizza. staten island u say.

the lunch guy said...

happy to contribute.

you wrote: someday i will try ken's pizza. staten island u say.

he is from staten island and he worked and trained ther form the age of 14 until he was through with graduate school. he is a chemist by trade. but he then moved to killington, vt and opened this place powderhounds restaurant with his wife and another couple. i worked for them for 5 years before moving to thailand. the place was sold about 2 years after i left and ken and his partners reinvested in a pasta business, vermont fresh foods. they now make some of new england's premier fresh pasta and sauces that are sold all over in retail markets.

but i think if you go to any well known, non-franchised, ny pizza shop you will get a fairly good product.

most import, i did not mention above about pizza making, ken never rolls his dough with a pin. rolling the dough compresses it too much and it will not perform properly, most especially the crust. he punches the dough, which is about 12 hours old, in the center and then he bangs it with his palm until it is about 1/2 the size he requires. then he throws it until it is as large as he wants it. he never touches the outer edge which allows it to rise and puff while the pie is cooking.

one more thing to remember whilst making a simple pizza.

Online TABC Certification said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe it's definitely a really good reward for my brother who got his Food Handler Certification last week. But still work on the dough first. I'm not really the cook-type but I'd like to do something special for him.

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