Mamma Mia Pizzeria

Pizza, pizza, pizza. What's left to be said about this delicious, ubiquitous food? Found across the country, in hundreds of varieties, pizza has the kind of universal appeal that makes it a favorite of picky kids, quick eaters, craving students, and high-brow chefs.

I love pizza, as probably most people on this planet do, and probably eat it once a week (if I'm being honest). I love the giant, cheap slices that can be found on almost every block in New York City and the fancy, exotic concoctions favored by Cantabs. Growing up in New Jersey, I experienced pizza with cheese so thick and ropey that you could eat a whole slice with a string of cheese still connected to the box. I'm more partial to thin crust--crispy and light--but I could also appreciate the Chicago version, with a deep, pillowy crust giving way to a frantic mix of cheese, toppings and sauce, so dense you could eat it with a spoon.

One of the best things about pizza, in my opinion, is their incredible versatility. I am not usually an adventurous eater, but I love the absurd and creative pizzas. In my pizza-eating tenure, I've come across (and enjoyed) pizzas topped with macaroni and cheese, fried egg, blue cheese (not all those at once), and something called the "meat lover's pie" which featured sausage, bacon, ground beef, steak, pepperoni, and a death wish (it was so, so, so ridiculously good).

While I am always up for dropping by a pizza place for a slice (I like to determine the closest place to get a pie whenever I arrive somewhere new), I've also had a long and happy history with making my own. My family are regular customers at a local bakery that sells "pizza setups"--pre-baked pizza crust, sauce, cheese, and a variety of toppings. From preschool, I can remember the anticipation of a Verilli's pizza: the trip to the bakery, where I'd usually get a free cookie; waiting impatiently for the oven to heat up; stealing handfuls of the fresh cheese. When we finally pulled it from the oven, you had to eat it with a fork and knife it was so hot and fresh (newbies would regularly burn their mouths).

I still make a Verilli's pizza whenever I go home, but living without it, I'm slowly learning to adapt. Being fond of baking in general, I liked the idea of baking my own dough and choosing my own toppings, so I attempted to make my own pizza dough, to be accessorized with a variety of delicious toppings.

One of the things I hate most about a recipe is setting down to prepare it and then reading something like "Cover with a towel and let sit for 12-24 hours." I've mentioned before about how I prepare and eat my dinners based off how I feel that day; making something a day in advance can be a dicy proposition, as I'm left with something I feel only lukewarm about. But! I resolved to keep the pizza oven burning in my heart and whipped up the dough one Sunday night.

Making it wasn't too different from my other baking experiences--with naan and dinner rolls--except this time I used my fancy mixer to do the grunt work. The recipe (from The New York Times) called for 4-6 minutes of continuous mixing, and when I finally pulled it from the mixing bowl it was so lovely, soft and stretchy, that I wanted to shape it into a bed and snuggle into it. But instead I formed it into a bowl, covered with a towel, and let it sit.

Actually making the pizza was incredibly easy, as it just required that I stretch out the dough (I bought a new pizza pan, with little holes in the bottom to give it a spotted crunchiness. It was good) and cover with whatever toppings I wanted. For my first pizza, I went with a classic Margarita: tomato sauce, fresh mozzerrella, and fresh basil. It was pretty good, and looked pretty enough to paint a pickcha of. The only problem was the pizza dough was still a little chewy on the inside when I pulled it from the oven. I fixed it with the next pizza (the dough makes enough for one big one or two medium-sized ones), crisping it in the oven for 5 minutes before adding any toppings. I tried one of The New York Times' Recipes for Health: an arugula, goat cheese, walnut-topped pie (I swapped out the mushrooms). It was so so good and practically screamed "I will make you feel better about yourself." I ate it, and I did.

3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.

The morning or the day before cooking, prepare the dough.
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.
Stir in 1 1/2 cups cold water and olive oil until a rough dough forms.
Set the bowl on the mixer and, using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed for 1 minute.
Increase the speed to high and beat for 4 to 6 minutes, until it becomes a wet and vaguely menacing mass. (If it forms into a ball, lower the mixer speed to medium-high. If not, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides once.)
Scrape and pour the dough onto a heavily floured work surface.
Keeping your fingers, the countertop and the dough well floured, fold one dough end over the other so that half the floured underside covers the rest of the dough.
Let rest for 10 minutes.
Cut the dough into 2 equal pieces.
Shape each piece into a smooth ball.
Place each ball on a well-oiled plate, generously dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
Let the dough rise until it is at least doubled in size, about 3 hours.
Punch the dough balls down, shape into rounds and place each in a quart-size freezer bag.
Refrigerate dough between 1 and 24 hours.

1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 ball fresh mozerrella, sliced thin
15-20 leaves fresh basil
1 teaspoon fresh pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Roll out the pizza, using your fingers and the heels of your hands, onto a pizza pan
Lightly brush with olive oil
Cook for 5-10 minutes or until the crust is very lightly golden and stiff to the touch
Cover with tomato sauce, mozerrella, and basil
Sprinkle with pepper and oregano
Cook for 15-20 minutes or until mozerrella is melted
Remove and let cool before serving

1/2 recipe whole wheat pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 ounces goat cheese
4 walnuts, shelled and chopped
About 1 heaped cup arugula leaves
1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon walnut oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone inside, if available.
Roll out the dough to fit a 12- to 14-inch pizza pan.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet, and add the mushrooms.
Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and moist, four to five minutes.
Season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.
Crumble the goat cheese into a bowl, add the walnuts and lightly toss together.
Brush the dough with 2 teaspoons of the remaining olive oil, and top with the mushrooms.
Sprinkle on the thyme, and place in the oven.
Bake 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle the goat cheese and walnuts over the crust, and return to the oven for five to 10 minutes, until the crust is nicely browned and the cheese has softened.
Remove from the heat.
Toss the arugula with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and the walnut oil.
Scatter it over the pizza, and serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment