Is there anybody out there that doesn’t love pizza? I would find that hard to believe with so many different variations out there. In just the United States alone there are so many different types of pizzas. From the wide foldable slices of NYC to the deep dish Chicago style, to California pizzas with their thin crusts and unique toppings. With so many choices, there’s got to be a pizza for every type of person.
Personally I haven’t found a style of pizza that I don’t like. I even like bad pizza. I’m not kidding. From frozen pizza to the worst restaurant chain pizza, there isn’t a slice that I would turn away. But we’re not talking about bad pizza right now. We’re talking bout goooood pizza. The kind of pizza that you won’t believe came out of your own oven kind of pizza.
Last week I provided you with a pizza dough recipe but no instructions on how to cook it and no topping suggestions. And that’s just not right to leave you all hanging like that. So I’m back at ya, with Pizza: Part Deux!
If you’re following that dough recipe, you will need to let the dough rest at room temperature for at least two hours, so prepare ahead. Another preparation step is letting the oven heat up for at least an hour. If you are using a pizza stone (which you don’t have to use, but I would recommend getting if you plan on making a lot of pizza) you want to make sure you give it that amount of time to absorb as much heat as possible.
The oven temperature is a significant step to talk about. It’s important to realize that pizzeria ovens can go up to 1,000 degrees; obviously it’s difficult to replicate those kind of temperatures at home. Most typical home ovens will only go up to 500 degrees. That’s part of the reason why it’s so important to let your oven preheat for so long. You want it to be as hot as bloody possible.
Ok, so you’ve got your pizza dough balls all ready, they’ve been waiting at room temperature for two hours and they maybe look a little something like this:
Now it’s time to shape them into pizzas. There are a few different methods on how to shape pizza dough and I would recommend trying all of them until you find one that works best for you. Some people like to press out the pizzas on the counter using their fingers, others like to use backs of their hands and knuckles to slowly stretch the dough, and others are skilled enough for the iconic pizza toss. Lately I’ve been using a combination of pressing the dough out on the countertop and then using the back of my hands to gently stretch it. It would have probably been helpful if I had taken pictures of this part of the process, but guess what, I didn’t. And I could describe the method to you, but I’m going to let Peter Reinhart do it instead. Boy, talk about lazy.
“To shape the dough on a counter, liberally dust the counter with flour. Lay the dough ball on the counter and roll it over so that the entire ball is coated with flour. Firmly but gently press down on the dough to flatten it into a disk about 1 inch thick. Using your fingertips, press into and around the edge of the dough,, turning it as you do, and continue in a spiral fashion, turning and pressing as you work your way to the center of the disk. You may then lift the entire piece, drape it over your flour-dusted knuckles, and gently pull from the edges as you carefully rotate it. Continue until the dough has reached the desired diameter and thickness. The edge should be slightly thicker than the center. It does not have to form a perfect circle.” –From American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza
I like that part about the dough not having to be in a perfect circle:
If I remember my shapes correctly, I believe that would be described as more of a triangle than a circle. Luckily, triangles are just as tasty as circles.
A few more tips about shaping the dough. If it tears, don’t worry. Simply stretch some of the dough over the hole and press it together to repair it. Experiment with the dough a bit to determine how thick you like it. The dough recipe I gave you can be stretched out very thin, but if you like it a little thicker it will work that way as well. Once you’ve made a few pizzas you’ll be able to tell how much you need to stretch out the dough to get it to the desired thickness.
So you’ve got your dough shaped, your oven’s been preheating for at least an hour, it’s finally time to bake pizza. I like to have all my toppings prepped and ready to go before I start assembling the pizzas. This helps when you’re trying to crank out multiple pizzas and time is of the essence.
One of my favorite types of pizza are the ones without any sauce at all. I start by brushing the dough with a mixture of olive oil, garlic and chile flakes. There really isn’t a recipe for the oil, I just pour some olive oil into a bowl, add as much minced garlic as I feel I can stand and then add a pinch of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper.
After brushing the dough with oil I add a layer of fresh mozzarella (mmm fresh mozzarella) and then whatever toppings I feel like. Sometimes it’s prosciutto and caramelized onions, or maybe some sautéed mushrooms and bacon.
Or in the recipe I’m providing, asparagus and potato with some goat cheese just for fun. I often like to top these types of pizzas off with some arugula and maybe a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. I love the bitterness of arugula but you could also use baby spinach if that’s more your thing.
The combinations are endless and the best part is, you get to use whatever ingredients tickle your fancy. So go out there and make some pizza already!
Asparagus, Fingerling Potato and Goat Cheese Pizza
Adapted from Bon Appetit
5 ounces fingerling potatoes
Cornmeal (for sprinkling)
Garlic oil (see description above)
4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
1 1/3 cups grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
4 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
8 ounces asparagus, trimmed, each spear cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Place potatoes in small saucepan. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Sprinkle with salt. Bring to boil and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Cool. Cut potatoes into thin slices.
Preheat oven to 500°F (see oven tips above). Sprinkle rimless baking sheet or pizza peel with cornmeal. Roll and stretch pizza dough to desired thickness. Transfer to baking sheet or pizza peel. Brush garlic oil over dough. Sprinkle 3/4 of green onions over, then mozzarella, leaving 1/2-inch plain border. Top with potato slices and goat cheese. Toss asparagus and 1 tablespoon oil in medium bowl. Scatter asparagus over pizza. Sprinkle with Parmesan, then lightly with salt and generously with pepper.
If using a pizza stone, transfer pizza to stone, otherwise bake pizza on a rimless baking sheet. Bake until the crust is browned and asparagus is tender, about 1-12 minutes. Transfer to cutting board. Sprinkle with remaining green onions. Cut into pieces.