Sunday, March 20, 2011

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Isn't pizza amazing?  It is seems so simple--cheese melted on a dough combined most primarily of flour, water, and yeast.  Yet, it is so wonderfully delicious.  I really learned to love cooking during the year I lived in rural, West Alabama.  I lived in a town of 2,000, the "Catfish Capital" of Alabama, where fried catfish and barbeque where readily available.  I was left craving many foods I had previously taken for granted, including pizza.     
Chopped onion, celery, and carrot for the Classic Tomato Sauce
Pizza could be purchased at one establishment in the southern hamlet, I called home: the Shell Gas Station.  And, to be honest, during a year spent designing and constructing a $20,000 house, there were long days which ended with the purchase of a gas station pizza.  I was determined though to learn to make really great pizza for myself.
Tomatoes being sauteed with the onions, celery, and carrot for the Classic Tomato Sauce
It wasn't easy to find a recipe for pizza dough, which I found satisfactory.  After trying several recipes, I discovered the pizza dough recipe in Joy of Cooking, which is not too hard to make and rather delicious.  I've been making that recipe ever since.  You can, of course, top the pizza with whatever strikes your fancy.  I'm particularly fond of the potato sage pizza recipe from Joy of Cooking and during a recent pizza adventure decided to top one of the pizzas with the Classic Tomato Sauce I discovered about a month ago.
Boiled Potatoes in preparation for the Potato Sage Pizza
Basic Dough Recipe from Joy of Cooking: All About Vegetarian, Two 12-inch pizzas
Combine in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:
1 package (2 1/4 tsps) active dry yeast
1 1/3 c warm water (105-115 degrees F)
3 1/2-3 3/4 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
Mix by hand or on low speed for about 1 minute to blend all the ingredients.  Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly coated with olive oil and turn it over once to coat with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.  Grease and dust 2 baking sheets with cornmeal; or place on a baking stone (if you have one)in the oven and preheat for 45 minutes.  Punch the down and divide it in half.  Roll each piece into a ball and let rest, loosely covered in plastic wrap, for about 10 to 15 minutes.

Pureed Classic Tomato Sauce waiting to top the pizza
Flatten each ball of dough 1 at a time on a lightly floured work surface into a 12-inch round, rolling and stretching the dough.  Place each dough circle on a prepared baking sheet; if using a baking stone, place them on baker's peels dusted with cornmeal.  Lift each edge and pinch it to form a lip.  To prevent the filling from making the crust soggy, brush the top of the dough with:
Olive oil
Use your fingertips to push dents in the surface of the dough (to prevent bubbling) and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Spread in an even layer on each pizza:
Classic Tomato Sauce (optional)
6 oz.  mozzarella cheese shredded  
Potato Sage Pizza ready to eat
For White PIzza with Potato and Sage, follow the instructions above, but forgo the tomato sauce.  According the Joy of Cooking: All About Vegetarian, American labeling laws state that if doesn't have tomato sauce, you can't call it pizza.  This would astonish some Italians, who frequently eat their pizza with just a touch of tomato or even none at all.  Top the pizza with:
8 oz. potatoes, boiled and very thinly sliced while still warm
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

If using a baking stone, slide the pizza off the baker's peel onto the baking stone in the preheated oven.  If making the pizza on a baking sheet, place the pan and pizza in the oven on the bottom rack.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven, slice, and serve at once.

It is delicious!
Pizza with Classic Tomato Sauce, mozzarella, and basil ready to eat
Check back next Sunday for my favorite pizzarias.
Have you experimented with homemade pizza making?
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