Friday, June 29, 2007
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.
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.