I’m going to blame our new refrigerator for my almost total escape from my usual and customary baking routine – when we moved the contents of our old freezer into the new, we realized that we had a lot of baked goods to use up before any new baking was to occur. I slipped my sourdough pets into cold storage and essentially took a baking hiatus.
I noticed recently that there is some open space starting to appear in the freezer’s baked goods shelf, and so I pulled the sourdough starters out, and began their needed refreshes. And so as not to waste my reviving motivation, I decided to do some yeast baking yesterday – but what to do? Most breads do not qualify as a meal, but pizza does! With the added benefit of being a splendid user of leftovers.
OK, on the short list it goes – and I can’t help thinking that I need to do this just to keep pace with my blogging amigo, Glenn, who I suspect is -at this moment- practicing his pizza skills every night while he’s away at ‘camp’ – yeah, he said he was going away to camp, but he didn’t say what kind of camp – Pizza Camp, maybe?
I can remember, way back when, thinking that pizza was difficult to make at home – not anymore. In fact, if I didn’t know what a calorie overload it was, I’d probably have it two or three times a week. But realistically, it’s a comfort food to have just once in awhile – and that’s probably too much!
I’m out of the school of thought that says, ‘The better the crust, the better the pizza.’ And my bread baking experience has taught me that the best bread is the simplest. So my pizza crust is just flour (high gluten), water, yeast and salt. Nothing fancy needed. I do use liberal amounts of olive oil in my bowl during proofing, but nothing else. And I’m not a thin crust guy – I want to taste the crust – why not? And I want it to be sturdy enough to support the toppings, which tend to be significant on my pizzas.
I also believe that one needs a stone in the oven to do decent pizza at home – and it needs to be hot! The biggest deficit that the home pizza maker has is the lack of heat – but frankly, if you use a stone, and let it get good and hot (you know that a stone takes at least an hour to get really hot, right?), you’ll do fine. How hot will your oven go? That’s the temp to use!
I also have a preference for pizza with minimal sauce – I’m convinced that too much sauce not only creates a sloppy mess, but can also contribute to a flavor imbalance. And if you’re baking on a stone, you’ve got to worry about getting the pizza from your board to the stone – not always easy, even with a peel, and especially if you’ve got a lot of stuff piled on. But all is solved by using a piece of baker’s parchment under the crust as you build the pizza – it makes moving a breeze. Notice that the parchment above didn’t burn up at 550 degrees F.
Really, both of the pizzas I made are made entirely of leftovers, after making the crust of course – I had about a big cup full of excess tomato sauce with a few meatballs – that would serve as the base for both. The first one was a little unique for us -a pineapple and Canadian bacon job- but the stars were properly aligned for this one. We had an over-ripe pineapple that was begging to be eaten, and a pack of Canadian bacon that needed an excuse for its existence – perfect partners here. If you’ve never tried this now outdated classic, it may surprise you – it’s actually quite a nice flavor combo, especially with the tomato sauce and a little whole milk mozzarella scattered on top. (I believe the whole milk mozzarella not only gives a better mouth feel, but it spreads as it melts, and therefore allows you to use less – I only had a 1/2 lb between the two.)
The other one utilized 2 big green peppers and a huge yellow onion that I slowly sauteed before spreading over the sauce on the 2nd crust – nothing else needed, just the remaining 1/4 lb of whole milk mozzarella. This one was done on the stone, and the crust was much nicer than the other, which was baked in the pan. In retrospect, I placed the pan on a rack right above the stone, and the oven gave the majority of its heat to the stone – while the stone did its normal good job of cutting off the circulation of heat. I should have done them both on the stone, separately.
It’s hard to think of a more popular leftover than pizza – ours are almost always gone before the inclination to slip it into the freezer. I hear a lot of people talk about how they love cold pizza – I don’t really understand the appeal. Others speak of eating pizza for breakfast, again cold! Not for me. First of all, if its got great crust, why would you not enhance that characteristic? A ten or fifteen minute slow heat in a covered skillet will do justice to it. And I think pizza and the microwave are mortal enemies – if that’s my only choice for hot pizza, then OK, I’ll eat mine cold.
Yeah, like my friend, Tup, I do love pizza – but my love is tempered by ‘respect’. I respect pizza for being so delicious that it begs you to have ‘just one more slice’. I respect it for being so nutritionally dense that often one slice equals a meal. And I respect it for having a split personality with the potential for being your absolute best friend while at the same time, being your worst enemy.
The answer is, moderation in all things.