I have received this response whenever I’ve brought up making donuts, chips, bagels, pretzels, etc. It really makes me want to move to the Midwest, where so and so might make it better, but so and so lives a 100 miles away. Needless to say, this attitude has really thrown a wrench into my pizza making dreams.
And boy do I have dreams. I have dreams of slightly burnt charred crust, chunky sauce, complex topping pairings . Alas, these dreams were not to be. That was until my fairy godmother, known by some as Ed’s mom, bought me a pizza stone. Now you may be able to put off pizza making if you don’t own a pizza stone. Heck pizza is cheap and unfortunately for me, I live within 20 minutes of the little known pizza capital called NYC. But now that I own a pizza stone, my pizza destiny was sealed. I had to make pizza or I would never find peace. And make pizza I did.
First up the sauce. Now don’t get me wrong most sauce is just fine, but honestly most sauce is just that thing you put on a pizza so it has some color. Smooth marinara sauce completely puzzles me. When did we as a society decide that everything must be pureed into an unrecognizable form? Tomato sauce is made out of tomatoes, therefore I would like to see some damn tomatoes. Is that really too much to ask? I just want a little texture in my food. That’s all. ( A topic for another time. Orange juice without any pulp, what the hell people.)
Next the toppings. Whenever I order pizza out, I almost always order it plain. Not because I dislike toppings, but because toppings usually contribute to a soggy crust and are normally subpar. Especially pepperoni. First, they slice the pepperoni so thin you can barely taste it. The only thing it contributes to the pizza is grease. Then all the grease soaks into the crust and the cheese. Making everything, including the pepperoni, a soggy mess. Is it really too much to ask for crispy well cooked toppings that don’t contribute to my pizza’s moisture content? I don’t think so.
And finally the crust. I’m a firm believer (and if you’re not that’s fine, I just might not like you anymore) in a thin crispy crust. Pizza is awesome, but it really shouldn’t contribute my full day’s worth of carbohydrates. Not to mention that it just tastes and looks better thin and crispy. If I wanted to eat a loaf of bread, I would eat a fricking loaf of bread. Luckily for me, when you make your own pizza you can make your crust so thin it might just break the laws of physics. If you’re into that sort of thing.
What follows is a pizza that made Ed admit ever so slightly that, I might just might have some pizza making skills or in his words, “well it doesn’t suck.” Folks, I’m counting it as a victory.
You will need:
A sense of adventure
Cookie sheet, pizza stone, or any flat surface that can go in the oven
A little sugar
Big can of whole tomatoes (I like the basil/Italian flavored ones)
Little can of tomato paste
Minced garlic (3 to 4 cloves)
Assorted seasonings I throw in a little red pepper flake, powdered garlic, a little sugar, little basil and whatever the hell else I find lurking in my spice rack.
Toppings: (Anything you like that’s the fricking point, but for this pizza see below.)
A stick of pepperoni sliced thickly
Red onion sliced thinly
1.) For the crust I followed Smitten Kitchen’s instructions. She is a food blogging goddess and has tons of yummy pizza ideas. Plus she makes even the most daunting task (making a whole wedding cake from scratch, ahhh!!!) seem easy peasy.
The only change I made was to proof my yeast, before adding it to my flour. I have this crazy need to make sure my yeast is working and not dead as a doornail. I’ve had way to many dead yeast disasters. To proof yeast, empty the amount you’re using into a lukewarm glass of water, then add a little bit of sugar. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes in a warmish place. When you come back the yeast should be all happy and foamy if not throw it out and get some new yeast. Unhappy yeast won’t rise Jesus Christ himself, much less your measly pizza crust.
I also rolled my pizza dough out with a roller. Yes, I know this isn’t the proper way to do it. Quite frankly, despite having worked in a pizza joint, I suck at stretching out dough and to quote Cartman, “ Whatever, I’ll do what I want!”
2.) For the sauce sauté up some garlic in olive oil. Just when it starts to get fragrant toss in the can of tomatoes and tomato paste. Break up the tomatoes with your spatula or go really ghetto on their tomato ass and cut them with kitchen shears. Laugh all you want, but this method works great and it results in much less spattering.
Finally, add any of the seasonings I listed or any that you like. There is no hard and fast rule to making sauce. Well, besides this one. TASTE THE DAMN SAUCE, frequently! Add something, taste. Add more, taste. Add a little more, taste. You can only fuck up sauce by not trying what you’re making. Plus, if you’re trying to be a proper lady, all of the kitchen tastings will make you look very lady like in front of your guests. My Nana taught me this and my Nana is never wrong.
Guest: “Why aren’t you eating, this is all so good?”
Me: “Oh I’m not that hungry, I’m just naturally a light eater.”
Guest: “Oh I wish I could be like that.”
Me: “If only they knew about that gallon of sauce I tasted.”
3.) Toppings can really be whatever you like, but I chose to thickly slice up some pepperoni and sauté it with some thinly sliced red onion (Btw, if you do this step first you can then make your sauce in the same pan, thus eliminating one pan and nicely flavoring your sauce). I then layered my crust with the basil, sauce, (it’s important to put your basil under the sauce or use it as a fresh garnish at the end, otherwise your basil will burn. I learned that one the hard way.)pepperoni, onions and cheese.
4.) Cooking method. Preheat your oven to the hottest possible setting. You could not possibly make it too hot. Slide pizza onto any flat, preheated, oven safe cooking surface. I’ve been known to use anything from the underside of a cookie sheet to the inside of a 9 by 13 brownie pan. Cook to desired doneness.
5.) Oh and one more thing, don’t open the wine until after you cooked the pizza. Playing fast and loose with the booze, while operating an extremely hot oven, is not smart. I also learned this the hard way.