Montana Jones

Montana n: A state of the northwest United States bordering on Canada. Admitted as the 41st state in 1889. The fourth largest state in the union, it includes vast prairies and numerous majestic mountain ranges.
Syn: Treasure State, Big Sky Country, Last Best Place.

Jones n: slang. An addiction or very deep craving.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

How to make a pizza

Want a super yummy pizza but don't want to shell out cash for delivery. It's cheap, it's easy, it's fun. Here is how to do it.

The Crust

3/4 Cup of warm water
1 Tablespoon of yeast

In a large mixing bowl dissolve the yeast into the warm water. If you don't want to deal with bulk yeast or measuring spoons just buy the little yeast packets and use one of those. It's a little more than a tablespoon but that will just give your crusts a nice hearty yeasty flavor.

3 Tablespoons oil
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2-3 cups flour.

I like using olive oil but any sort of veggie oil will work. Don't bother with mixing spoons or spatulas, just get your hands in there and mash that goop. I like to start with about 2 cups of flour and keep adding until the dough is just right. I will add flour a dash at a time while kneading until the dough is no longer sticky.

Want a secret to extra yummy pizza crust? This is the secret ingredient part so don't tell anyone. Add a dash of cinnamon to the flour and/or a drop of honey to the water. This little touch will go a long way towards impressing everyone with extra yummy.

After you have the dough all kneaded up you are going to want to let it sit for a little bit. Letting it rise will help give it a nice texture. If I am taking my sweet time I will let it sit for a half hour, but when I am in more of a hurry the time it takes to prep the toppings is good enough. This is a good point to start pre-heating the oven too. 400 degrees.

After it has risen a little bit dust your hands and a flat work surface with flour. Grab that dough and mash it flat. Pull on it to make it a circle shape. Trying to impress a date? Go ahead and toss it and spin it a little, just don't cry to me if it hits the floor and you have to start over. After you have made it as flat and circular as you can with just your hands you should smooth it with a rolling pin. If you don't have a rolling pin a beer bottle works great. All you are trying to do is smooth it out and make it the same size and shape as your pan. Personally I use a pizza brick but I have seen pizza's done in pans, cookie sheets, cake pans, pie pans, whatever.

The sauce

If you wanted to you could go out and buy one of those jars of pizza sauce. It already has spices blended in and you can't screw it up. But how much fun is that? Here is how I do my sauce and I think it is the secret to a world class, knock your socks off pizza.

Start with plain tomato sauce in the 8oz cans. Open her up and dump it on your rolled out dough. Use a spoon to smooth it into an even layer all the way out to the edges. Now go raid your spice rack. Sprinkle it with a nice even dusting of the spices of your choice. Italian blend is a good choice. So is oregano, basil, parsley, thyme. Most of the leafy green spices. Garlic is a good choice too, powdered garlic will work fine but I like to crush some fresh cloves in a garlic press. If you like spicy a dash of crushed red pepper is a good thing. Think you know your spices? Get super creative. Fennel seed, or sesame. Try a dash of marjoram or rosemary. Try to pick spices that compliment your toppings. Extra garlic on the meat pizzas, extra basil with the tomato and so on.

So what makes this sprinkled spices atop of tomato sauce method better than a pre blended sauce? First it's the love. Taking a little care with the food makes it taste better. Secondly it's the variety. You can't possibly spread each spice evenly across the surface of the pizza and you shouldn't even try. This way when you are eating it one bite will be yummy garlic and the next bite will be cool basil. It will be an orgy of flavor. No two bites of pizza will taste quite the same and no two pizzas will ever be the same. Your taste buds will be begging to find out what you will bite into next.

The toppings

I am not going to try to tell you what to put on your pizza. Everyone loves pizza and everyone has favorite toppings, so go crazy. However I will offer some suggestions.

Buy fresh. Get some fresh veggies for that pie. It will taste a bazillion times better than using frozen stuff. I will use canned goods for some things like black olives and frozen chopped spinach is a convenience. But if you want a pepper or an onion or mushrooms or broccoli, just buy it fresh. Your taste buds will thank you.

Be colorful. Good food doesn't just taste good, it looks good too. Multi colored toppings can make the pie look great and veggies of different colors will have a larger variety of vitamins and nutrients for a bonus of healthy. Yummy toppings to try: White mushrooms, purple onions, black olives, red peppers, yellow pineapple, green spinach, red tomato.

Less can be more. I am certainly guilty of going for the everything short of the kitchen sink supreme style pizzas, and they can be really good, but when you add more toppings you can lose subtlety of flavor and be prepared to cook it for a few minutes longer. Sometimes you can create a masterpiece with only a few toppings. Canadian bacon and pineapple has been a long time favorite of mine. You might also think about simple combos like chicken and spinach or garlic tomato.

It is less expensive to shred your own cheese. You can buy pre-shredded cheese for a few cents more, but you could also buy a pre-cooked pizza for a few bucks more too. Doing it yourself adds a little love and costs less.

Mozzarella is the cheese of choice for most pizzas. If you are feeling particularly gourmet you may want to try blending in a little monterey jack or possibly some cheddar. You could also try using the soft mozzarella cut into slices instead of shredded.

Start adding toppings and cheese at the edge and work your way in to the center. It is all too easy to create pizza mountain with a pile of stuff in the center and less to the outside. Avoid this and get a nice even layer by working from the outside in.

Special touches

You can try doing some fancy things if you like. Put some toppings above the cheese and some below for visual appeal. If you have extra dough you can roll it flat and cut little shapes out of it like hearts or happy faces and adorn the top with that. Sometimes I will roll the dough a little larger than the pan and after the toppings are added fold it back over to create a stuffed crust sort of thing.

Cook it and eat it

Put that pizza in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. The cheese on top will be turning golden brown, the crust will be firm. Serve with the beverage of your choice. A pizza can go well with fine wine, cheap beer or even soda pop. Be careful about burning your mouth on the hot cheese, dig in and enjoy.

OK, so this is great, and now I'm hungry -- but --

so, there's the pizza stone, all preheated in the 400 degree oven. And there's the pizza, nice and round, and piled with goodies.

How do I get the pizza onto the stone?

You may find this amusing.

We didn't.
This comment is to get the thread on coComment, so I know when you've given me the solution, which I hope is not the gymnastic collaboration of people and spatulas to which we resorted...
Good question SB and an important detail.

I assemble the pizza on the stone. I will only warm the stone instead of fully preheating. I have tried rolling the dough onto the stone itself but then it usually sticks and is a mess to serve. Roll the dough on the counter and move it to the stone when it is the right size and shape. I have never encountered a problem with getting the pizza entirely cooked starting from a cooler stone. I suppose the crust may not get as crisp as possible but my pizzas have always turned out really well.

I have heard rumors of the stone cracking if you start baking on it cold or if you change its temperature too quickly, such as putting it on a cold surface right out of the oven. I have never encountered cracking problems but be careful all the same.

You could also fully pre-heat the stone and then assemble the pizza atop it as quickly as possible. The dough will start to cook once it is on the hot stone so you will have to rush to get all the toppings on. I don’t like rushing the fun part so I usually go with the warm stone instead.

Another option would be to get one of those big pizza paddles (peel), make the pizza on that and slide it onto the stone from there. But who owns a pizza paddle anyway?

For my blog reading minions that use a baking pan instead of a stone you do not need to preheat the pan, just roll the dough onto the pan, add your goodies and bake.
I had a pt drop an industrial size pizza cutter on her foot and slice a careful in your kitchen, Jones! And could you come make me a pizza? :)
Thank you kindly. Soon to be attempted!
Post a Comment

<< Home