Pizza used to be one of those foods that I feared to make. I thought, for some reason, that good pizza was in the realm of unattainable foods like curing my own prosciutto or making hard cheeses. But, I tell you!, no longer. I have conquered my fear of pizza and I’m not looking back. Some people will tell you good pizza is all about the crust, while others swear by the sauce or the toppings. Well, I’m here preaching that good pizza is all about the marriage of crust with whatever you put on it (sauce or no sauce, toppings or no toppings). I’d be okay with really good crust topped with olive oil and herbs (but then it becomes a thin focaccia bread). Whatever you choose to place upon that thin bit of bread we call pizza crust should be of the best quality you can find.
This is why, for my first homemade pizza ever, I choose my toppings carefully: olive oil, caramelized onions, fresh sliced tomatoes, italian sausage, fresh basil, and mozzarella and pecorino romano cheeses. The next two, two nights later, included sauce. The first, a meat pizza, was topped with: pepperoni, italian sausage, caramelized onions (I had some left-over), fresh sliced tomato, and mozzarella cheese. The second, a veggie pizza, had: roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, and mozzarella. Both were given a sprinkling of pecorino when they came out of the oven.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself! Back to the crust. The crust is key. You need a thin crust that is still substantive enough to stand up to your toppings. A crust that doesn’t overpower the rest of the players, but that can stand on its own as something tasty and chewy and crisp. I turned to the folks over at The Artisan for help. I have fallen in love with their focaccia bread recipe and decided I could trust their pizza dough recipe as well. I was not led astray. My three crusts rose beautifully and, especially the two that I let rest in the fridge for two days, stretched out easily into rounds.
A note on cooking your pizza: a hot oven! I was pleased to learn that my oven will heat up to 550ºF, and I cranked that heat all the way up and let it sit, once preheated, for another half hour or so before starting to assemble my pizzas. I also have a good, thick pizza stone to cook on. Pizza stones are great for pizza, of course, but they are good for all kinds of rustic breads and serve as heat insurance for anything else you cook in your oven. Just leave it on the bottom rack and it’ll help to keep your oven at temp, even when you open the door to check on your goodies.
I could give you a pizza recipe, but I think that’s going too far. The key is finding a dough that you like, and covering it with toppings that you enjoy of the best quality that you can find.
What are your favorite toppings?