Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Foto: The Pizzaholic

Sicilian Pizza

Alright, so maybe Kelli's right. Maybe I am a little bit obsessed with pizza. But only a little bit. After all, this is my second pizza post in as many months. On the other hand, this is only the third pizza post in the last seven months. That's hardly overkill, is it? Then again, when I start using rationale like "Really, honey, it's not for me. It's for the blog. Think of the blog!" It might be time to admit I have a problem...

I first conceived of these new pizza recipes as part of what I'm calling "cookbook variations." In short, they are new recipes that build off of recipes you can find in our cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, and which modify or amend those recipes in some way to create something new and tasty. Pages 117 and 118 of the cookbook include recipes for a Chicago-style deep dish pizza dough and for a New York-style thin crust pizza dough.

One of the things I love about pizza is just how versatile it is. Sure, the base elements are the same: crust, sauce, toppings. But the execution of those elements offer nearly limitless variety. You can have your pizza New York style, or Chicago style, or California style, or Neapolitan style, or Greek style, or Sicilian style, etc. You can put the sauce on the cheese, or the cheese on the sauce. You can have a tomato-based sauce, or a white sauce, or a garlic sauce, or a Thai peanut sauce, or a barbeque sauce, or no sauce at all. You're catching my drift.

In that spirit of variety, I developed today's recipe(s) with two goals in mind: a new crust texture, and a new method of production. Allow me to elaborate. For the texture: The deep dish in our cookbook is a hearty dough, and the thin crust in our cookbook is a very thin pizza that achieves an almost cracker-like quality. I wanted to create a pizza dough that hit a happy middle ground, one that was light and airy and chewy. For the technique: We normally recommend rolling out pizza dough (and other types of gluten-free dough) between sheets of plastic wrap. Kelli makes this look easy. Maybe it is easy. But I'm not good at it. The plastic wrap folds, sticks to itself, and causes me no end of frustration. I get through it, but not without trying to make sure I don't drop an F bomb in front of impressionable baby Marin when my frustration peaks. And so I set out to create a pizza without using plastic wrap.

Sicilian Pizza, up close and personal

The result, I must say, impressed both Kelli and me. I always pride myself on being a brutally honest straight shooter - if I love something, I'll praise it; if I dislike something, I'm not afraid to break a few eggs; and if something is mediocre, I'll say that, too. Take it from me when I say that this pizza crust is da bomb (not to be confused with the aformentioned F bomb). Over the course of this past week, I've made the dough into both a Sicilian pizza (thicker crust) and a Neapolitan pizza (thinner crust). Last night at dinner, Kelli proclaimed it the best GF pizza crust she's ever had - better than any restaurants, better than any box mixes or store-bought par-baked crusts, and for her preferences, better even than our own cookbook (now you know I'm being honest. I'm not just saying this pizza is better than the "competitors." I'm saying it's better than...ourselves). At one point during the meal, Kelli looked up at me and said, "Why didn't you come up with this eight months ago?"

Well, I came up with it earlier this week, and here is how to make it:

Start with the recipe for thin crust pizza dough on page 118 of the cookbook. Make the dough exactly as the recipe calls for, with one important exception: instead of using 2 cups of the Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend (the GF flour blend used throughout the book), use only 1 1/3 cups flour instead. Form the dough into a ball, drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil in the mixing bowl, and roll the dough ball to evenly coat it. Set the dough in a warm location, covering the bowl with a kitchen towel (I like to place it right on the stovetop while my oven is preheating to 400 degrees with a pizza stone inside. the residual heat coming up from the oven is perfect). Let the dough rise for twenty minutes or so. This is the perfect time to prepare your sauce and toppings.

When the twenty minutes is up, drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil onto a thirteen inch pizza pan, and use your fingers to spread the oil and evenly coat the pan. Then use your hands to press the dough into the pan, creating a small lip around the edge of the crust. (If you have trouble with the dough sticking to your hands, you can put just a touch of olive oil on your hands, too.)

Place the pizza pan in the oven directly on the pizza stone, and bake for 10 minutes. (If you're making a Sicilian pie, use the same quantity of dough, but instead of a 13-inch pizza pan, use an 8-inch round cake pan, and bake for 13 minutes.) If any air bubbles begin to form in the dough, you can always dock the dough with a fork.

Remove the par-baked pizza crust from the pizza pan (or cake pan), and transfer it to a wooden pizza paddle. (a large cutting board or plate would also work)

Add your sauce. Lately, I've been making a pizza sauce that begins with one 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes, no salt added. I'll use a handheld immersion blender to puree the tomato in a saucepot. To that I'll add salt, ground black pepper, dried oregano, dried basil, and garlic powder to taste (about 1/2 tsp to 1 tbsp, depending on the spice). I'll also add a small quantity of olive oil, as well as cornstarch dissolved in a few tablespoons of water, and then heat the sauce on the stovetop to thicken it just slightly.

Add your toppings (in this case, shredded mozzarella cheese). Then transfer the pizza back into the 400-degree oven directly on the pizza stone (no pizza pan) for another 13 minutes for the Neapolitan, or until the toppings are done to your liking for the Sicilian.

The finished product has a light, airy crust with a good chew. The olive oil helps the crust to brown nicely.

Close-up of the underside of the crust

We hope you enjoy this cookbook variation(s) on our pizza! Have a great weekend.

- Pete


Cheryl Doyle-Ruffing said...

That looks yummy, Pete. When I make my pizza (as I did today), I spray a silicone spatula with non-stick spray, and use it to spread the dough over most of a cookie sheet. I then let it rise in a warm oven; bake it untopped for 10 minutes; add the good stuff, and bake for another ten.

Last night, the kids and I made a different sort of pie: apple. I invite you over to my blog to see a picture of it. Just click on my photo and choose the Poetic Anatomy blog.

WendyGK said...

Shirley from Gluten Free Easily commented on my blog about your new cookbook and I had to order it and stop by to check out the blog. Love the pizza and the 'deficient' posts.

gfe--gluten free easily said...

I chuckled when I read this post. The first step is admitting you have a problem. LOL Seriously, I know all your readers appreciate your dedication to fine pizza! Isn't it wonderful when you keep tweaking and perfecting what's already good? Sounds like you've already started on your next cookbook to me! :-)


peterbronski said...

Hi Cheryl... I think my pizza dough would be a little too firm to successfully work with a spatula, but I won't know until I try it. Thanks for the tip! I visited your other blog - it's great when the kids get involved in the baking. I remember making an applie pie with my mom when I was a little one... good stuff!

Hi WendyGK... Glad you found us, and that you've enjoyed the recent posts!

Hi Shirley... "A dedication to fine pizza." I like the sound of that! =)

Cheers, Pete