Introduction: Rustic Pizza for Busy People
Who likes great pizza? COOL! Me too! (I take that back. I LOVE pizza.) Don't ya just love that crispy, crunchy crust with the chewy middle and that gooey cheese? And don't ya just hate WAITING eons for something not entirely like that to arrive from the dude with the noisy car with the magnetic sign on the side? Yup, me too!
Unfortunately, I don't have boatloads of time to make it. And though I'm not A.D.D., I am a geek and really hate waiting around for things like "proofing". So, I went on a quest to make great pizza but not spend more than 15 minutes at a time doing any one step.
This ible is all about saving time, but still making pizza worthy of a full bore Pizzeria like Regino's (Norfolk, VA) used to be. Oh, and if you're a dough purist, stop now. I'm about to suggest using a bread machine ::shudder:: for making the dough and freezing it!!! (the dough, not the bread machine)
Anyhow, this ible will take you a total of about 30 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cook time but spaced over a day... ish. So what are the steps and how long for each?
Making the dough starter (5-10 mins.)
Making the dough (5-10 mins.)
Wrapping the dough to freeze (5-10 mins.)
Thawing the dough (30 secs. - 5 mins.)
Day 1 or Day N
Making the 'Zaa (10-15 mins.)
Cooking the 'Zaa (10 mins.)
It may look like a lot of steps, but it goes really fast. I make the dough one day, freeze it, and make the pizza some other day. The routine at our house is to make the dough on a Thursday, but make the pizzas on Sunday and Monday night for dinner. Heck, I've even gone so far as to make enough dough for 5 pizzas over several days and served pizza to 4 adults, 6 teens and a toddler in one night.
Use a bread machine to make the dough.
Use a parchment paper to cook the pizza on even if you use a pan and not a stone.
Use a baking stone or tiles if you have them.
Preheat your oven with the baking stone in it to 500F for 30 mins.
Use a pizza peel or an inverted baking sheet to remove the pizza from the baking stone.
Use the best ingredients you can. I prefer organic when I can get them because of flavor and handling in the recipe.
Step 1: The Dough
This step takes about 15 minutes in three five minute shots over several hours. And you'll want a bread machine if you've got it. I usually start the dough in the morning before work and finish it when I get home at night. At which point, you may either use it or freeze it for later.
The dough is really the core of the pizza. Bad dough = bad pizza, right? So, I worked for a national Dine In/To Go/Delivery pizza joint one summer and learned how to make pizzas really fast, but not so good. They tasted just like they came from a national Dine In/To Go/Delivery pizza joint. Eh. Why bother making that one at home?
How do you make good rustic Italian dough using a bread machine? I'm glad you asked. This is a two part process involving the starter (5-10 mins) and the dough (5-10 mins).
The Starter: (5-10 mins)
1 1/2 C. water
2 C. All Purpose Bread flour
1/4 tsp yeast.
Put this in the bread machine and start on the dough cycle. Let it sit for 3 - 9 hours before the next step. It's best the longer you let it sit.
NOTE: If you're in a very humid place cut the water for the starter to 1 1/4 cups.
The Dough: (5-10 mins)
Using the well proofed Starter in the bread machine, add:
1/2 C. water
2 C. All Purpose Flour (or 1 C. All Purpose Flour & 1C. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yeast.
Start up the bread machine on the dough cycle again. This time, it's very important to listen to the beep when it's done. It will attempt to take over the bread machine, then the counter and the kitchen if left too long.
Wrapping it up.
If you don't want to make pizza immediately, freeze the dough. This makes about 2 lbs of dough which is plenty for two fairly substantial 15 inch pizzas. But, you need to wrap it up and freeze it. Get out a large cookie sheet (or a clean counter) and dust it with flour. Turn out the dough and lightly cover the outside with the flour. Divide it in half and wrap in plastic wrap to freeze it. Make sure the dough is completely covered by the plastic wrap or the exposed portion may freezer burn.
Oh yeah, fair warning, this makes an intentionally sticky dough. Dust it liberally with flour.
Step 2: Thawing the Dough.
This step can be from 30 seconds to about 5 minutes. It's 30 seconds if you remember on your way out the door to work in the morning you want the pizza for dinner. Just take the dough from the freezer and stuff it in the fridge. It'll be thawed in about 8 hours. I've left it longer than 12 hrs with good results.
If you forgot that step, which I sometimes do, just thaw it in the microwave.
2 mins. @ 30% power
2 mins @ 30% power.
Remember, all microwaves act a little differently, so test these times and be careful not to cook the dough. Trust me, that's just nasty tasting.
Step 3: Making the Zaa!
This step should take 10- 15 minutes depending on your skill, your help (for toddler helpers add 10-60 mins.), and your topping planning. (We forgot the Pepperoni moments can cost a lot.)
Preheat your oven with a baking stone in it to 500F for 30 minutes before baking. If you don't have a baking stone, preheat to 500F for 10 mins and bake using a pizza pan or flat cookie sheet.
15 inch square of parchment paper
1/2 batch of dough
1/2 C. sauce (see below)
6 oz of shredded Mozzerella Cheese(organic if you can get it)
2-10 oz of your favorite topping. If we don't put on something, we use 2 oz of Parmesan Cheese.
I cheat. I use Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic. I put a 1/3 C. of sauce in a 1/2 C measure and top it up with white wine or water to thin it.
Your fave rave. Ours is an Italian sausage & spinach mix. OR we just use 2 oz of Parmesan Cheese.
6 oz of Mozzarella. Low moisture part skim Organic Valley works nicely here. We take an 8 oz block and shred it in a food processor and save the left overs for the next pizza.
The parchment paper:
I learned this one the hard way. Parchment is the BEST thing to make a pizza on, It has less clean up than baking directly on a stone or on a pan. And don't substitute wax paper unless you want a real mess. Thanks on this tip to the Kruse & Muir Restaurant in Rochester, MI.
Putting it together.
Stretching out the dough.
Some dough takes well to tossing, some doesn't. I think this is partly due to the moisture content, but also whether you've used whole wheat flour. I like to dust the 15 inch. square parchment paper with flour then turn out the thawed dough onto it. Once the dough is coated with flour, you can start stretching the dough into a circle and enlarge to 15 in. This is the big time consumer for lots of people. Don't rush it or you'll tear the dough. There is a real difference between doing this by hand and squashing it with a rolling pin. Don't squash the dough unless you want a really flat pizza.
Add the sauce.
Spread the 1/2 C. sauce with the back of a spoon to within 3/4 - 1 inch of the edge.
Add the base cheese.
Spread 1/2 the mozzarella on the sauce. Putting a base layer of cheese below the toppings keeps the toppings from skating off the pizza when you're trying to eat it. I hate it when that happens.
Add your toppings.
In our case, the sausage & spinach mix or Parmesan or pepperoni or whatever looks good.
Add top layer of cheese.
Spread the remaining mozzarella on top of the toppings.
Step 4: Baking the Zaa!
The home stretch! This step should be about 10 mins. for cooking.
So, you've gotten this far and are ready to bake it. This is a 10 minute bake at 500F. This may vary depending on your altitude and real oven temp. (Also, I've got one of those mongo 15x22 in. baking stones that's like 2x as thick as a normal one. This isn't critical, but I broke one about a year ago with one of my experiments that accidentally dripped water on the hot stone.)
Lots of people don't have baking stones, No worries, you can do this on a pizza pan or an inverted baking pan or whatever. HOWEVER, the high temp really will make all the difference. 450F isn't enough to get that crispy crust you dream of.
Oh, and when you pull the zaa from the oven, you can drizzle or brush olive oil on the crust to add flavor or just look "gourmet". We serve it both ways.
Pictures are worth a thousand words. You browse the picts. I'm muching pizza after writing my first ible.
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