Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pizza...


It has been nearly a year since I  tried  my  hand first at  making a pizza at home. Fed up with Pizza hut, Domino's....I wanted to make one on my own from scratch. Since I am not very confident about my baking skills, I wasn't sure if I could get the dough and the pizza bread right. But a very simple and lucidly explained recipe motivated  me to try my hand at making pizza at home.
It was Devlina di's simple pizza crust recipe, that inspired me to make my first one. The way she explained every single steps, it seemed like the easiest thing to do. Of course being a novice I kept on asking her several questions, and she was always there to help me out.
And if it was Devlina di's recipe that helped me to try my hand at making pizza, there was someone whose continuous encouragement made me believe that yes I can do it. Whatever may be distance between Vizag and Austin, whatever may be the time difference, thanks Subrata Da for being there.
After I made the first one, it felt like wow...!!! I was so happy. Then with time, I have tried several other recipes from  different  cookbooks and Internet. Now I do not peek into the bowl of the dough to check whether it's rising or not and don't keep on asking the man, 'hyan go thik thak hobe to?' (will it come out right?).
The secret of a good pizza is its crust, the bread. If the bread is good, any topping will taste good, either cheese or veggies or meat or a combo. Generally I do the crust almost without oil, but this time I did use some. The following recipe is adapted from www.seriouseats.com, Sicilian style basic square pan pizza dough.

Things needed to make pizza dough:

  • Bread flour: 3 cup
  • Flour to dust during kneading: 1/2cup-3/4cup
  • Rapid rise yeast: 1tsp
  • Lukewarm water: 1cup + 1/2cup
  • Salt: 2tsp
  • Sugar: 1tsp
  • Olive oil: 1/4cup

Steps of making pizza dough:


1. Proof the yeast: Lightly warm 1/2cup water in a deep bowl. The water should be just warm, it should not be too hot. I prefer to proof my yeast, even the jar or the packet says no need to proof. Actually proofing the yeast is the prove of that the yeast is still active. The best temperature for yeast is 75-80F. If you have a food thermometer you can use to check the water temperature. I just put my finger in the water to check its temperature. If its comfortable for my skin, then it is OK. It should feel just warm to the skin, not hot.

Add dry yeast and sugar to the warm water, mix well. Cover the bowl and wait for 10min. The sugar acts as food for the yeast. As the yeast proofs it bubbles up, so better use a deep bowl. If the bowl is too small, then it may spill.

2. In a large bowl add bread flour(3cups), salt, 2tablespoon olive oil, activated yeast and rest of the warm water(1cup), mix well. Use a spatula or ladle to mix it, as it's going to be very sticky. If you have a standing mixture then your job will be much more easier. But I do not have one and I use my hand. After mixing the flour properly(5-6min), close the bowl tightly and let it stand for 4-6hrs, depending on the room temperature. Keep the bowl in the warmest corner of the kitchen. I have seen during summer(specially summer in Asutin) it hardly takes 3hrs to raise the dough. But during winter it takes 6hrs or more.

3. By this time the dough will be more than double in size. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into two equal halves. Better use a greased dough cutter or scraper to divide the dough. You can wrap one with cling film and keep it in the fridge for later use. I prefer to work with one at a time. You can store pizza dough in the fridge. Take the dough out of the fridge at least 2hrs before baking.

4. Kneading the dough. Dust the clean kitchen counter(or a large chopping board) with flour and knead the dough. Dust your palm with flour and with one palm stretch the dough away from you. Then fold it. Turn the dough 90degree, again stretch it out, then fold it and again turn it 90 degree. In the beginning the dough will be quite sticky, so keep dusting the kitchen counter(or chopping board) with flour. Keep kneading for 10min. Here I have attached a video to show you how to knead the dough.



By this time the dough will no more stick to your hand and it will take a proper shape. I know it is not easy to knead for 10 long minutes, hand and arm start to pain, but we all know no pain no gain.. :)


5. Take a deep baking tray. Grease it with 2tablespoon oil, use your fingers to spread it properly. Put the dough in the baking tray and stretch it with your finger to fit in the tray. Cover with a cling film and let the dough rise for 2hrs.


6. Prepare the sauce and toppings. As the dough is rising prepare the sauce and the toppings. This time I made a red sauce.

Things needed to make red sauce:


  • Tomato: 3-4large
  • Garlic(chopped): 2-3 cloves
  • Fresh basil(chopped): 1tbsp
  • Olive oil: 1tbsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper: 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar: 1tsp
  • Balsamic vinegar: 1tsp(optional)

Steps of making red sauce:

1. Deseed the tomatoes and chop into small pieces.

2. In a pan add olive oil, when the oil is hot add the chopped garlic. Cook for 1min. Add chopped tomatoes. Add salt. Cook till the tomatoes are mushy. Add sugar and black pepper powder. Mix well. Cook for 1-2min. Add chopped basil leaves. Switch off the heat and add balsamic vinegar, if you are using. Let it cool down. Put it in a food processor and make a smooth paste. Keep aside.
For the topping, I used red and green bell peppers(cut into strips), red onion(sliced), kalamata olives, chicken(pre-cooked), mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves.
Assembling the pizza. After 2hrs the dough will nicely rise. Pre-heat the oven to 500F/250C. Brush olive oil on the top of the dough. Put red sauce(or any sauce of your choice), then cheese(you can mix more than one cheese), then your favourite toppings.
Put the baking tray on the preheated oven on the middle rack. Close the oven door and reduce the heat to 450F/230C and bake for 15-20min till the cheese melts and turns brown at places.  You can use any sauce or any topping of your choice.


Carefully take out the baking tray from oven, cut into pieces and serve hot. I know many of you still thnking if it's possible for you to make the dough from scratch. I will say just try once your hand on this and you will never order it from the pizza shops. Enjoy with friends and family.


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