Friday, January 30, 2009

Making Pizza Margherita in the Home Kitchen

I love pizza. Love it. So when I resolved to cut the saturated fat in our diet pizza was something that had to be reworked. I take back what I said about the potatoes au gratin. I hate those stupid potatoes in comparison to how much I love this pizza. Made with about 2 ounces (per pizza) of a low-fat mozzarella, it delivers every good thing that the fat-laden pizzas do, without destroying your body.

A traditional Neopolitan Pizza Margherita is made with whole basil leaves, uncooked tomato puree and fresh Buffalo mozzarella, the wondermous, soft, round soaked-in-brine cheese. My version is slightly different. In addition to the cheese alteration (shredded low fat instead of sliced soft cheese), I use chiffonade Basil - very thinly sliced leaves - and bury them beneath the cheese layer. Uncooked puree is a must. I run whole peeled tomatoes (the Muir Glen variety is my fave) thru a food mill - and voila! - pizza sauce!

Regarding the pizza stone - I do use one, but you certainly can make pizza without it. I have a double electric oven in my current kitchen (not recommending this setup, though it's been serving me just fine) and the stone resides pretty much permanently in the lower oven. I don't bake cookies on it, but roasting meats and veggies seem to benefit from the stone, especially in the electric oven. Electric is a drier heat than gas, and the stone, which retains some moisture, balances the dryness.

One more note - I really only make these for my family. They're time consuming to produce and like waffles, where you're cooking one at a time, don't easily allow the cook to sit down to dinner with everyone else. They make a great weekend dinner - and pretty good leftovers too. To reheat pizza, bake in 500° oven for about three minutes.

Pizza Margerita
Print recipe only here

Makes three pizzas, serving about four people

For the pizza dough
Combine in the bowl of a mixer equipped with a dough hook:

* 1 cup milk
* 1 cup hot water
* 2 T dry yeast
* 2 t sugar or honey
* 1 T olive oil

Add to the liquid ingredients:

* 4 cups flour (I use a combination of white all-purpose and whole wheat)
* ¾ t kosher salt

Using a dough hook mix until the dough comes together, adding more flour as necessary. Once it comes together, dump it out onto a floured workspace and knead by hand until smooth.

Rub surface with olive oil, place in an oiled bowl and cover well with plastic wrap. Let sit about an hour until doubled.

Punch downm, knead briefly, and let it rise a second time until doubled.

Knead again and divide into 3 equal sized portions. Knead each ball until smooth, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and let sit at least five minutes before rolling out.

Preparing the pizzas

* Preheat oven to 500°, putting your pizza stone in first if you’re using one.
* Sprinkle a baking sheet with a thin layer of semolina
* Roll out one of the dough balls as thin as you like it (use a rolling pin to get it pretty thin, then you can stretch it with your fists. When you’ve got it as thin as you can get it, place on the prepared pan.
* Baste the dough with the olive oil/garlic (see MISE EN PLACE on the recipe page)
* Ladle about ¼- ½ cup of the pureed tomatoes onto the dough and spread out evenly using the back of the ladle
* Sprinkle with kosher salt, chiffonade basil and chili flakes (crush them between your fingers as you sprinkle them on the dough)
* Top with as much mozzarella as you like, usually between ¼ and ½ pound per pizza. The low fat version of 2-3 ounces low fat mozzarella also tastes great. Slide the whole thing in the oven for five and a half minutes or until the crust is slightly browned and the cheese is a little browned. If you're not using a stone the baking time will likely be a bit longer - just keep an eye on it.
* Cool slightly, slice, and serve.


Anonymous said...

Here's a quick and easier way to reheat leftover pizza. It works great, no need to heat the oven and wait for pizza stone to heat up. Pre-heat covered skillet for 1-2 min then place slices in and cook until cheese melts. Time will depend on how hot you want it but just a couple of minutes will do. The crust comes out nice and crisp.

Katie Fairbank said...

thank you, oh wise one! would not have guessed i could reheat covered. :)

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