After all my pizza experiences, the one thing I had yet to do was make my own pizza. So the other night, my girlfriend and I planned a pizza cooking night. When it comes to pizza I am pretty picky and I know what I like. When it comes to cooking, I don't know much and can't always create what I like. So I was a bit skeptical of making my own, but it was something I had to do, to really understand what it takes. I learned it takes a lot.
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Hollywood (the greater area)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
It is not as easy as it seems. Anyone can make an average pizza, but to make a really good pizza it can take years of experience. I actually learned that before I even started to make the pizza, when I looked at a site called Varasano's Pizza Recipe. This site has the most in depth instructions for making pizza on the internet. Mr. Varasano has been in a cycle of trial and error with pizza for a long, long time. His site is very informative and just reading it made me realize how many variables and intricacies making pizza has.
For starters, it is all about heat. Most good pizzas are cooked in an oven that can reach at least 800 degrees, which is usually a coal or wood fired brick oven, or a deck oven. With high temperatures, a pizza only needs to cook for a couple minutes; the dough stays moist and light while getting crispy on the outside, and the cheese doesn't burn. I, of course, had your normal convectional oven. Which goes to a weak 525. I was already at a disadvantage to how good my pizza could be. Not off to a great start. As an alternative, you can jimmy your oven in such a way to trick it into getting hotter, but I skipped that part, for safety reasons.
The next step, which I also skipped, was making the dough. Although it seems pretty easy to do, you just need to plan ahead. Instead I bought a pre-made dough at Trader Joes. Not a cooked dough like those pre-formed Boboli's at your big grocery store. This was a wet, uncooked dough, which actually tasted pretty good. We proceeded to stretch out the dough into a somewhat round and flat shape on our pizza stone. This was supposed to be the part that was the most fun and easiest. However, the dough was not as pliable as it should have been. Every time we stretched part of it, it would spring back. Then, of course, we stretched it too thin, putting several holes in it right away. After 20 minutes, we finally got it to about 12 inches. Of course at this point we had handled it way too much and the flour was mostly gone making it stick to the stone. Moving on...
For the sauce I had taken down a list of Mr. Varasano's top brands and found Cento (San Marizano), which is a brand of whole Italian plum tomatoes from Italy. I shook the can, like he said, checking for too much liquid. Then I tasted it to make sure it was not too bitter. I didn't think it was, but I really just didn't want to go through the process of rinsing the sauce to get rid of some of the bitter taste. In a bowl, I crushed the whole tomatoes with my hands, then I took a potato masher to them, crushing them into a finer sauce that I sprinkled with a touch of salt, oregano and pepper. We spread the sauce on thick, making sure to not get too close to the edges.
For cheese, I experimented with two kinds of Mozzarella. One dry, Polly-O which I was pretty impressed with, and one wet fresh mozzarella. This I liked a bit better. It melted in more and just had a creamier taste. Although the Polly-O was a lot better than I thought it would be.
Then with a few leaves of basil, we put it all in the 525 pre-heated oven.
In about 10 minutes the cheese started to burn a little so we took it out. It looked pretty great. The crust was a golden brown and puffy and the cheese was melted nicely.
The combination of the lack of flour and the too thin crust at parts made it stick to the stone, and when I tried to scrape it off with the pizza cutter it ripped at some points. It did not turn into a disaster though, we managed to get the slices to our plates in one piece. So we had to use our knife and fork a little, so what. It tasted great. The cheese, as I said, was slightly better with the wet mozzarella. The sauce was a little chunky, but not too much in my opinion, though I think there might have been a little too much of it, because it made parts of the crust soggy. Of course the crust was also just too thin in parts. Pretty good flavor, though it could have been a touch sweeter. The crust also tasted good, but was too thin in the middle and too thick at the ends. The thickness was pretty dense and doughy, and the outside didn't really get that crispy. Kelly thought there was too much of a flour taste and not enough basil. Overall though I didn't think it was that bad. Good flavor. It was satisfying to make my own for once and I learned a lot. Next time it will be better.
Kelly's Overall Rating: John's Overall Rating:
Posted by JAB at 8:30 PM