I do a pizza post every year because I just love making it. My base dough hasn’t changed and I’ve printed it here multiple times. I say “My base dough,” but I got it from a Tyler Florence post years ago and it is simple and wonderful.
You start with a packet of active dry yeast. It’s been my experience, exclusively, that such packets are ¾ oz. If you run into one that isn’t, cry havoc, let loose the dogs, and glare meaningfully at the assistant manager of your grocery store. The assistant manager. Odds are good that the manager has weathered such complaints so you need to find a someone you can cow.
Put the contents of that package in a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. If you don’t have a Kitchen Aid mixing bowl this gets pretty complicated. I met a girl at a bar and we got engaged and a distant aunt gave us one of the machines because we registered for it. That’s how you set up a kitchen. You may have to spend a few evenings out and flirt more. Your standards are your standards but eventually you are going to want this dough, so keep an open mind and don’t get snippy about the ring.
With the yeast in the bowl add a teaspoon of sugar and a cup warm water, 110° is about right. Let it sit for five to ten minutes. You want a bloom as they call it. You get a puffy muffin top looking thing in the bowl. Add to it a tablespoon of salt, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and three cups of all purpose flour. 00 flour is better, but it’s a pain to find and all purpose works just fine.
Mix it in that Kitchen Aid or simulacrum until it’s just less than sticky, you can add water or flour as needed, and then put it in a separate bowl, toss with a bit of olive oil, and… I’ve always been told to cover it with a slightly damp towel so I do but I have no idea what that accomplishes. I do it anyway and ask Alexa for a 40 minute timer to proof the dough. Punch it down and divide after the 40 minutes and you have dough for three 12” pies.
The sauce I’ve come to rely on is easy as can be. I heat a little olive oil and add three or four cloves of garlic, minced, and then add a ton of red pepper flakes. The thing to keep in mind here is that when making a pizza you are adding dairy, the palliative to capsaicin, as a topping so feel free to be aggressive with the heat. You are reining it back in in the baking and heat brightens flavor.
Next tear a 28 oz. can of tomatoes by hand and toss them in with oregano, black pepper, and salt to taste.
You need a pizza stone. Did I mention that? It’s easily solved by the wedding registry thing.
Heat the oven with the stone inside to 500° and let the stone absorb that heat for 20 minutes. Roll out the dough, dust the peel (that thing you use to put the pie in the oven that looks like a huge spatula) with cornmeal because it acts like ball bearings, put the dough on the peel and work fast. When the sauce hits the dough you have to move, so have whatever toppings you want on the pizza you want ready and sliced. 10 to 12 minutes in the oven and you should be happy.
I think I can pin my love affair with pizza to the opening of a new place in Birmingham in the mid to late 80s. They had all manner of exotic toppings – alligator sausage and heretofore unknown sundried tomatoes – but he had a basic formula and I use it to this day. Tomato sauce, mozzarella, and fontina.
The kid that lived across the street from me got a job bussing tables there and somehow that led to him and I mowing the pizza place owner’s lawn. We charged $20 for most of the yards in that neighborhood. He gave us $80. Turns out pizza was not his main source of income, and he did a bit of time for selling cocaine.
Fifteen years later, I’m working in this fantastic fine dining place. We had amazing personal pizzas, but the best part was that on our computer system we had a guy’s name as one of the buttons. He was the pizza chef at the time, He eventually became the head chef. The guy is still a friend and he amazes me, especially with a simple piece of white fish. I write about food often. I’ve yet to accurately describe his wizardry with fish. I barely knew him at the time. We knew him as the guy with the button on the computer.
That’s not completely true. We knew him as the guy with the button on the computer with the really hot girlfriend. The button was important though.
If an employee pushed the button with his name on it he would make you a pizza as a staff meal. You could make notes about allergies or hatreds but otherwise you were in his hands. You ask the ether and he would provide. I remember a particular one that I’ve recreated more times than I can count: asparagus tips, bacon lardons, and shaved corn. The base was tomato sauce with mozzarella and fontina. He was so creative. It was the best pizza I’ve ever had.
This particular chef, when he was 18 or 19, thought he was pretty good at moving quantities of marijuana through a few airports. He was wrong and spent four years rent free contemplating.
I thought the keys to a good pizza were tomatoes and mozzarella followed by your list of preferred toppings, but I saw the inclusion of fontina and believed there was something revelatory there. I saw it from two sources. I thought fontina, just a touch, was the key to tremendous, Earth shattering pizza.
Now I’m kind of the opinion that the key to making really good pizza involves selling drugs.
It’s not doing time, because one guy made great pie before prison and the other guy did so after.
I haven’t passed this by Erik or any of the other legal minds on the masthead here at RBR, but my advice is that if you want to make great pizza for your gametime friends you need to pay attention to the process of making the dough, nurse the sauce, select the right toppings, and definitely traffic in drugs.
Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.