Too much

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful! by Mae West
That's my philosophy about all things in life!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


It's pizza night at the Rich's ! Ever since we moved to North Carolina I have been trying to find good pizza and there isn't anything good, so i decided to start making them.
Tried various recipes for a nice thin crust neapolitan style pizza and after mixing too many recipes together i finally came up with something good!
A secret to a good crust is to cook the pie on a hot stone thats been heated in the highest setting of your oven for at least one hour... I know a few cooks and chefs that will trigger the cleaning cycle on their stoves so the door won't lock and they get a 800F oven that will cook the most amazing crunchy pie... I am a bit scared of that amount of heat inside my house so i go 550F, which is as high as my gas oven will heat.
You will also need good pizza sauce and fresh mozzarella, if you can get mozzarella di bufala (made from buffalo milk) you will be even happier.
For toppings, and i use little of each not to overcrowd the pizza, i like caramelized vidalia onions which are cooked for about an hour on low temperature and its sprinkled with salt, pepper and sugar.
Pepperoni, i'll get a whole piece and cut into thick slices.
Sausage, I get a pound block and cook it well done.
Greens, for my southern pie.
3 or 4 different types of mushrooms( shiitake, portobello, white,...) thinly sliced and sautéed with garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
Lots and lots of fresh basil. Wait to slice them right before placing on pizza.
Banana peppers or jalapenos; cause I like it spicy...
If you are in a hurry to make the dough  you might as well order take out. You need overnight fermentation in the refrigerator to get the perfect crust.

4 1/2 cups of unbleached bread flour plus about 1 cup extra for dusting the peel
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of instant yeast
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups of ice cold water (or more if needed)

Homemade sauce

In a large bowl sift flour, yeast and salt together. Add water and olive oil and mix till it forms a dough. Either use a mixer with a dough hook attachment for 5 minutes or knead it by hand for about 10 minutes. Lay out the dough on a floured surface and cut into 6 equal pieces. 
Oil a cookie sheet and place a piece of parchment paper on top, spray the top of the paper with more cooking spray.
With your hands, form each piece into an even ball and place them on cookie sheet. Spray each ball heavily with cooking spray or brush olive on each. Cover the entire sheet with plastic film.

Transfer the covered dough to the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours and up to 3 days. I think 2 days is just perfect.
On the day you want to cook the pizza, remove the dough balls 2 hours before cooking. Lay them on a heavily sprayed cookie sheet or on your countertops, spray more cooking oil or brush olive oil on top and cover it with plastic film, make sure it's well covered or the dough will dry.

One hour before cooking the pizza place your pizza stone on the lowest shelf in your oven to get nice and hot, and really do invest in one as it will give you a nice crispy crust.
When you are ready to start, set your peel out and sprinkle with flour all over it, not too much flour.
Have all your toppings, sauce and cheese set out in small bowls to make it easier.
Keep a small cutting board with a handful of basil leaves ready to be cut when needed.
Pick up the dough ball and start stretching slowly, making sure you don't punch a hole in it. Stretch more and more as you can and when done place on floured peel. 

Spoon a little sauce on top and a few chucks of cheese and toppings of your choice, remember, a little goes a long way. Naples best pie, The Margheritta, is nothing more than a spoonful of sauce, a couple of chucks of mozzarella di bufala and fresh basil. 

Open and your oven which should be super hot at this point and peel the pizza off the peel into your oven.
This takes practice, so if the first time you mess it up, don't worry! Just make sure you scrape off the cheese and greasy meats off the stone or you will have a smoky kitchen.
If your oven is at least 500F hot, it should take between 8-10 minutes per pie, and if you like the crust charred cook it for 12 minutes.
It's a good idea to rotate the pizza using a peel about 5 minutes into the cooking time to assure even cooking.
Remove pizza from oven using the peel and place on a large cutting board. Sprinkle lots of fresh basil over it. Slice it after letting it rest about 2 minutes.