Saturday, March 7, 2009

. . . When it's bad, it's still pretty good. (Pizza - Part 3 of 3)

Step 3 of 3: The pizza

The dough is ready, the sauce is prepared, it's time to assemble the pizza!

But wait! There are a few things you must first consider:

  1. What are you going to cook your pizza on? You can use pizza pans (reusable or disposable) but the bottom is usually undercooked and moist. Your best bet is a pizza stone. Proper ones are cheap (PC sells one for $10) or you can just used an unglazed pottery stone from a garden centre. Either way, it goes in the bottom of your oven during the preheating stage.
  2. Did you preheat your oven? Set it as high as it will go (my oven only goes to 500 F). If you turn on your oven when you start stretching out the dough, the oven and the stone should be sufficiently hot by time your pizzas are prepared. If using a pizza stone, place it in the cold oven before preheating!

Assembling the Pizza

Shopping List:
  • olive oil
  • tomato sauce (see step 2 of 3)
  • shredded mozarella cheese
  • additional toppings

Work the dough on a floured surface, keeping it in a roughly spherical shape, until the dough springs back when pulled like an elastic band. Then begin stretching the dough, working from the center, out, to produce an even thickness. Use extra flour to keep the dough from sticking.

Place the dough on the peel or pizza pan. (Optional: use corn meal to keep the dough from sticking.) Brush the crust area with a thin film of olive oil. Next, ladle a small amount of tomato sauce into the center of the pizza and use the back of a spoon to spread it out to the crust. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese and other toppings (optional).

Slide the pizza from the peel onto the pizza stone in the oven. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until the cheese melts and the crust begins to brown.

Some notes from experience:
  • When it comes to toppings, remember KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Repeating after Alton Brown, "Toppings do NOT great pizza make." The best pizza is made with only tomato sauce and cheese. If you must, pepperoni and mushrooms. But quit while you're ahead . . . and while the structural integrity of the crust remains intact.
  • Be gentle but firm while stretching the dough. If you're meek with the dough, you won't actually stretch it. If you're too hard on it, you will tear it and you cannot mend a tear in the dough (just fold it over and hope no one notices).
  • Don't try to be a proper pizzeria owner by tossing the pizza up in the air. Sure, it looks cool and the physics actually works, but you're either going to end up with a torn pizza or one that's fallen on the floor . . . NOT good eats.

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