Earlier this year I started to make my own Italian style pizza. I thought it would be interesting to have a pizza party where I provided the base and everyone else could bring their own toppings and design their own pizza. This would be something a little different from the usual pot-luck and BBQs.
A pizza is basically a flat yeast bread with a tomato sauce and cheese. Once you have this base, you can have a whale of a time thinking up different types of toppings for your pizza. You can of course buy ready made bases at the supermarket, but making your own base is more satisfying. Not only is it cheaper, but the taste is 200% better.
After a few successful pizza parties with my kakis, I soon grew fed up with my plastic food processor. It was then that I caught sight of the CuisinArt Food Processor. If you are a guy like me,the brushed cast metal, Battlestar Galactica Cylon, like look will get your testosterone going! My old food processor looked like a Kia next to this Porsche.
When I finally managed to get my hands on this machine, it was pure joy. Firstly the thing is heavy, so I did not have to keep holding it down. (You do have to hold it for a while initially) Secondly, the motor was powerful enough such that it just powered through the dough. Every part of the machine was magnificently crafted and solid. I guess it is not really fair to compare this machine which costs $698 against one that costs $169 but you do get what you pay for.
Anyway, I am now happily spinning my one minute pizza dough with the CuisinArt. I have tried many recipes but finally settled with this one from Jeffrey Steingarten’s excellent article, Perfection Pizza. It works very well, but just be aware that you are dealing with a dough that is very wet, so it does not look like the dough that you see at pizza restaurants. However, it is very good and the wet dough is much easier to stretch and form. So far the kakis all seem to enjoy my homemade pizza.
Here’s my modified recipe:
1 1/2 cup Bread Flour
1 1/2 cup All purpose Flour
1 teaspoon yeast
3/4 tablespoon salt
1 1/4 cups cold water
3 tablespoons olive oil
Half cup semolina flour
Basically, you add all the dry ingredients into the food processor, then start by pulsing the dry ingredients first, then add the water and olive oil. Once all the flour and the water is just combined, stop the machine and let it rest for 20 mins. This resting period is important. This is when autolysis occurs and it makes it much easier to get that nice smooth and stretchable dough. After the 20 mins, turn the food processor on for around one to two minutes and you will end up with a smooth gooey, slime-like mess. All you have to do next is to dust it with flour and knead a couple of times by hand and you will get a dough ball as seen above.
Just leave this dough to rise in a warm humid area for an hour or so then punch it down and divide into four dough balls and leave it to rise in a container brushed with a thin layer of olive oil. You can rise it overnight in the fridge or for about 1.5 hours in an oven with a bowl of hot water.
In the meantime, you can start making the tomato sauce.
What you need is 2 cans of whole tomatoes, garlic, onions and olive oil. Now, the Italians don’t even bother to cook their sauce beforehand. However, I personally prefer sauteeing the garlic, onions and adding the chopped tomatoes, oregano, salt and pepper and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
You now have a pizza dough that is easily stretched to shaped and a tomato sauce to go on top of it which is now ready for your out-of-this-world toppings. This wet dough will not behave like the ones you see in the pizza parlour and you won’t be able to throw it in the air. But, it is very easy to stretch to shape and the texture is excellent.
You can of course just put your pizza on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake it, but I wanted to do it right, so I got myself a pizza stone and a pizza peel (a flat shovel with a long handle) from Sia Huat. It makes the pizza party all the more authentic when you shovel the pizza in and out of the oven! The pizza stone is important because it provides instant heat from underneath the pizza. The stone needs to be heated for an hour so that when the pizza hits the stone, it starts cooking immediately. In pizza parlours, pizzas are supposed to cook in less than 2 minutes. That is because wood fired ovens and pizza ovens have temperatures of about 400 degrees celcius. But our home ovens only go up to around 220 degrees celcius, so it takes about 6-8 minutes to cook. It’s not as charred as the wood fired ovens but it is still quite good. (I actually bought myself one of those gas burners to artificially char the pizza just for kicks!)
In terms of toppings, the sky is the limit. Our kakis have brought ingredients from basic stuff like ham to more adventurous stuff like roast duck. My personal favourite is sauteed portabello mushrooms with truffle oil. My next pizza creation will be a bacon and eggs pizza where I make a pizza topped with bacon and then add nice creamy scrambled eggs on top.
In case you are thinking of getting a CuisinArt food processor, the good news is that they are having a year end promotion now and you can get one for $499 instead of the usual $698. You can check out the details at the Mayer site, www.mayer.com.sg.