And Just How Friendly Do You Get With Your Pizza?

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.

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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17 Responses to And Just How Friendly Do You Get With Your Pizza?

  1. We tend to go Italian style super-thin crusted with sparse toppings in our house. That way we can eat more. 🙂 Love the fried onion idea, we tend to go for thinly shaved raw onion, but slow cooked would be a nice alternative. Thanks Doc! 🙂

    • drfugawe says:

      We too like the raw onion/pepper too, but I’d better describe what I did to it as ‘sweating’ more so than cooking – and it does change the flavor too.

  2. Misk Cooks says:

    Doc, would you be kind enough to write down the dough recipe for me, please? I’ve never had the confidence to make a homemade pizza, but after a few months of baking bread I think I might be able to do this. Thank you, Doc. 😀

    • drfugawe says:

      I’d be happy to comply, Misk, but you’ll be disappointed, I fear, with my first inclination – which is to say that you should put a modest amount of bread flour in a bowl, and add water until the dough feels right. But I know that’s not satisfactory – so I’ll give you a more objective response.

      * 264 grams (2 cups) bread flour (high gluten)
      * 158 grams (about 3/4 cup) water
      * 1 tsp dry yeast – you could use less than this, but your dough will rise more slowly
      * salt to taste – I’d use about 1 tsp

      * olive oil – I use some to lube the bowl and in putting the pizza together, but I don’t put it in the dough, ’cause I don’t like how it tenderizes the dough texture – I like chewy crust.

      Mix this all up and let it sit for 20 minutes or so – now it should be easy to handle – put it on a lightly floured board and knead it for a few minutes – only until the dough gets smooth and elastic – put it in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise (proof/prove) until it’s more than double in volume – it’s now ready to use for pizza – if you’re not yet ready to make pizza, put the dough in the fridge until you’re ready – it’ll be fine there.

      As you begin to make the pizza (this will make 1 large or 2 med pizzas), remember that if the dough starts to get stiff and non-compliant, just give it a 10-15 minute rest, and it’ll be compliant again.

      Are you familiar with dough hydration? The more you bake bread, the more you’ll come across the term, ‘baker’s percentage’, which refers to the amount of moisture in a dough – it’s a handy way for a baker to think about how different breads are constructed and developed, and eventually will be very handy for you too. This dough is a 60% hydration dough, which is about halfway between dry and wet (bagels are dry – ciabatta is wet). All this means is that there is 60% water added to the 100% of flour (flour is always 100%).

      If that’s confusing right now, just forget it for now – you don’t need to understand it to make pizza dough.

      Break a leg – and enjoy.

      • Misk Cooks says:

        YEAH! I’m so excited about this. I detest the Domino’s and Pizza Hut rubbish here – so much so that I haven’t had a pizza in well over a year. I just refuse to eat something that’s dripping orange fat and goooo’ing cheese that smells more like hot plastic than a dairy product.

        I’m just starting to understand baker’s percentage. Zeb sent me the formula, and I also found an alternative method of calculation in one of my old cookery books. Maybe I should write up post with those two different sorts of formulae so you experts can look at them?

      • Misk Cooks says:

        Doc! Wait! Don’t go away, please. At what temperature should I bake the pizza and for approximately how long?

        • drfugawe says:

          You do pizza at the highest temp your oven with go – and give it at least an hour to heat up. At that temp, and depending on how big your pizza is, if you are using a pan, give it 8 minutes and start looking at it – put the pan up high in the oven and it’s done when your cheese is nice and brown in spots, and the crust is browning nicely.

  3. Hi Doc!
    I’m mean to my sourdough pizza.
    I get all touchy feely, and loved up with my dough, but then starve it death when it comes to the topping. I put very little on top.

    Until my husband walks into the kitchen demanding extra cheese, extra chilli with extra pepperoni.

    And my pizza is suddenly fit to burst when it goes into the oven.

    That’s an excellent looking pizza. Yumm-o!

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi Gill,
      I think pizza dough has a masochistic personality – the more we treat it badly, the better it responds – and pizza dough is a great teacher, ’cause we learn that generally, dough is really pretty forgiving – but it also teaches us the general rules that one must follow or fail. Great stuff – I love it.

      Sounds like your pizza is like a focaccia – that puts more emphasis on the quality of the bread.

  4. Joanna says:

    I go for a thin crust with a ballooning airy rim, charred dark spots, crisp and skinny as hell – if my favourite pizza was a person it would be a French actress from the fifites, stylish, slim and whiffing of garlic . I absolutely agree with you the hotter you can take the oven the better it works 😀

    • drfugawe says:

      Somehow my brain is having just a little trouble envisioning the French actress from the fifties smelling of garlic. But then, you’re European, and I’m not!

      But we have French-Canadians – do they count?

      • Joanna says:

        I was thinking of someone like the very beautiful Annie Girardot who died this year, though of course I have no idea if she smelled of garlic. I just like garliccy pizzas 😉

  5. Pingback: Wonderfully Wonky Pizza « Misk Cooks

  6. adnelg says:

    Wow! That pizza looks so good I might just have to try making my own at least once. I don’t like a lot of sauce on my pizza either. Enjoyed your articles. I’ve been a little behind on reading things, but I caught up today. Also enjoyed your other recent posts, including the one of your vacation.

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi adnelg,
      Yes, you should give it a go – it is the easiest of all breads, and because you control what goes on it, you can always make a better one than your local pizza place – do it.

      Is your garden burning up? Believe it -or not- today is only our 2nd day to reach 80 – my garden is begging for heat (not the snow peas!) – bad garden year for us.

  7. Pingback: Crusts: “We’re edible too!” « Mutterings and St-Stutterings

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