clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

RBR Tailgating: Pizza

“Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard and believe in yourself.” - Bill Murray

Author’s Note: I wrote this Tailgate for the LSU game. It’s my habit to sit down with a glass of wine on Thursday night and go over the draft I wrote earlier before sending off to be scheduled for publishing. When I got home from dinner last Thursday I sat down to do just that. The problem was that I was at my wife’s cousin’s house in Baton Rouge holding an empty laptop bag having left the actual laptop on my desk in Birmingham. Sorry about that guys.

I love making pizza though and I really like these recipes, so I’ve excised the LSU stuff and altered it for this week’s opponent.

If you don’t know me, and to be fair that with the exception of two of you that encapsulates the lot, you have no idea that among my chief pleasures is reading murder mysteries.

As murderous authors, the Brits are better at it than us. Maybe it’s in my head, but “I didn’t do it” is all well and good in mid-Atlantic or a Southern lilt and maybe even a decent Cali-Valley girl, but in a Souf London tirade you almost hear the post statement fill in of “gov.” It’s just spectacular.

I’m currently raging against the world as the latest in my favorite series has been well reviewed in Scotland and I can’t read it until December 31 when the North American release happens, because… my wife who edits books and actually negotiates such things tells me that rights are regional and I just have to have patience. But I don’t.

I’ve read twenty plus books in this series. I’ve named my ninety pound German Shepherd mix after the protagonist. That name, if misheard, is of the sort that people might think is a little racist. They have to mishear it, but still. I took the risk. Give me the book.

The mystery, of another series, I’m currently reading has the most extraordinary line. “We’d all like the same again please. Three gins and tonics.”

Microsoft Word has that phrase underlined in green so you know there is something off. Kindle says I’m only 30% into the book, but I think I know who the murderer is. He didn’t say “gins and tonic.” Nor did he say “gin and tonics.” He said “gins and tonics.” While it is technically okay, that’s weird. It’s the kind of thing that an author might come back to. It’s a tag that singles someone out.

So this is a post about pizza sauce, pizza dough, and what cheeses to use but I’m in the mood to say that this is a post about pizza sauces, pizza doughs, and cheeses blends because I like the idea that all but two of you might suspect that I poisoned/shot, stabbed…. No poisoned… that’s the way… someone. So. On to the recipe.

Simple Pizza Dough

- 1 packet (standard ¼ oz.) active dry yeast

- 1 tsp. sugar

- 1 cup warm water (roughly 110˚F)

- 1 tbsp. salt

- 3 tbsps. extra virgin olive oil

- 3 cups flour, preferably 00, but all purpose will do

This is by no means a creation of my own. You can find the exact same recipe on multiple sites. I suspect its ubiquity is that it’s simple and hits the sweet spot between crisp and doughy and almost anyone can have success with it.

If you’d take a piece of advice on the singular matter of pizza dough making, get married.

Hand-made dough is a pain in the ass. You have to knead and knead and babysit what you hope will be a satisfactory final product.

One of the first acts upon engagement is the inclusion of a KitchenAide mixer on a registry list. I can’t say that I know anyone who bought one for themselves just about every married couple I know has one. It’s one of the perks, like filing jointly and getting to burp in front of a girl.

So if you have a mixer, follow these directions as written. If you don’t, where I say mix for two or three minutes, knead for ten to twenty minutes until you get a smooth consistency.

Start by pouring the yeast into the bottom of your mixing bowl along with the sugar to give it something to eat and the warm water to get the reaction started. As long as the water isn’t too cold or too hot you’ll get a quick fermentation that results in a “bloom,” or a foam as the yeast eats the sugar and makes a floating island that always looks like Antarctica to me. This should take no more than five to ten minutes.

Once you have a bloom, add the salt, two tbsps. of extra virgin olive oil, and two cups of flour.

Mix on med low (I start at 2 on my KitchenAide and slowly build up to 4 if needed, but mixers are going to vary in their settings) and add the third cup of flour gradually, pausing to scrape flour from the sides to the middle if needed. When you start to get a clump pause the mixer and give it a touch. If it’s really sticky, add a bit of flour. If it’s too dry, add some water.

When you get a mass that more or less looks like the above, move it to a floured surface and coat the outside.

Move the dough to a bowl and lightly coat with additional extra virgin olive oil.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for forty minutes to an hour.

After forty minutes, punch the dough down, put it back on the floured surface and mold it into a firm loaf.

Cut into three even-ish pieces. You can go ahead and start working the dough right away, but I’ve found that thirty minutes or more (no more than two days) makes it considerably easier to roll out. Just be sure to squeeze out most of the air if you’re storing it in a plastic bag because it’s going to expand and will pop those things open if not given the room.

Simple Spicy Pizza Sauce

- One 28oz. can whole tomatoes

- 5 cloves garlic, smashed or roughly chopped

- red pepper flakes to taste

- salt to taste

Pour the tomatoes with their juices into a bowl.

Tear them by hand leaving them string and chunky. I’ve always preferred the texture of a torn tomato to puree. The flavor is brighter and uneven distribution of toppings is one of the charms of pizza. The juices will ensure that every bite has tomato flavor, but a shifting intensity is rustically cool.

In a sauce pan over medium high heat, sauté the garlic with red pepper flakes to taste. Remember that this sauce is going to sit under a layer of melted dairy, which is going to temper any spiciness you start out with, so a little too spicy at this point is fine.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then bring down to a low simmer.

Stir occasionally and after fifteen minutes salt to taste and feel free to add more red pepper flakes. Let it go a few minutes more and remove from heat.

The sauce is ready to use at this point, but I’d let it cool before putting together your pizza. As soon as you put sauce on dough the clock starts. You only have so long before you’ll have trouble getting moist dough off the peel. Warm sauce shortens that time. This blend should keep in the fridge for three days.

Once you’re ready, take one of your three dough portions and roll it out on a well floured surface. If you are using a baking sheet, move the dough to the sheet now. If you are using a peel and pizza stone, which I recommend, toss a little cornmeal on a well floured peel and then put your dough on it. The cornmeal won’t affect the flavor, but it will act like ball bearings to make the peel to stone transfer a lot easier when you’re trying to get the pie into the over.

I like a combination of sliced fresh mozzarella and grated Fontina.

Using the bottom of a ladle of sauce, and starting in the middle, pour a little and move it outward in circles until you are happy.

Add the mozzarella sparingly. It’s going to spread to cover. Sprinkle with the Fontina.

Toppings are your call. The one I’ve featured below was made with salami, capocollo, prosciutto, and kalamata olives. It was great, but I’ve never been dogmatic about pizza. Mix it up and don’t worry about screwing it up. It’s pizza.

Preheat the oven to 500˚F. If you are using a pizza stone, when you hear the beep letting you know that the desired temperature has been reached wait around twenty minutes to be sure that the stone is at 500˚F as well as the surrounding oven. Cook for ten to twelve minutes and you are done.

I’ve started trying to keep the crust and sauce around in my fridge. I’ll make a cheese-less vegetarian pizza as often as three times a week. Not every week, but it happens. Without the cheese, it’s an open faced vegetable sandwich and one of the most guiltless culinary indulgences I can conjure.

Sorry about the refurbished LSU post for the MSU game. I’ll throw in random Tailgate during the bowl season to make up the numbers.

My big question about this game is how physical LSU was with us last week. By score and all other metrics, we manhandled them. I have been of the opinion that MSU gains because we come into this game beaten up every year. Are we this year?

I wasn’t between the trenches so I can’t say.

We’re headed in to play a tremendous defense, but we are bringing an offense that… I don’t have to tell you. Our defense is feeling their oats off a season high performance (shutouts would seem to more aptly called season low performances.)

I’m curious.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.