Saturday, December 10, 2011


A quick post about a WAY to make pizza, rather than a full on recipe (everyone has their favorite pizza dough recipe, OR a buck for a bag of dough at TJ's is a totally great substitute for making your own).

This method is what Mario Batali suggests as a pizza process in his book Molto Gusto (I've referenced the book here before, you should totally get it - gorgeous recipes, most of them vegetarian, but some meat too, totally terrific!  and great photos, one for every recipe, which is awesome).

Basically, you par cook your dough on the STOVETOP!  You can do many crusts at once and freeze them for super quick pizza making in the future!  You need a nice heavy cast iron skillet (if you don't have one, go to a thrift store near you and buy one for a buck.  Or, go to a kitchen store and buy a new one for 20 bucks.  Read up on how to use and care for them here).

Anyway, you heat a cast iron pan on the stove top over medium heat for several minutes.  Make sure your dough is lovely and rested, soft and at room temperature.  Pat out small rounds of dough (4 oz. if you have a scale - which if you bought a pound of dough at the store means you're dividing your dough into 4 pieces) - just big enough for an individual pizza size, maybe 8-10 inches when it's patted out (however big your cast iron pan is would be a good way to decide this).  Press the dough out (Mario recommends using a mix of flour and semolina to dust your surface, because the semolina gives you a little extra crunch in the final pizza); as you press it out, leave a little rim around the edge, but with the main part as thin as you can possibly make it - in fact, when you think it's thin enough, tell yourself you can get it just a little thinner.

Throw it in the preheated pan and cook it for a few minutes, until lightly brown and dry looking on the underside, with some darker brown spots.  Flip it over and cook for slightly less time, until the dough on the second side is definitely dry with some golden spots.  You can press on any thicker spots at this point to encourage them to cook through.  Remove to a rack or cookie sheet to cool completely.  Continue to do this with all your dough.

The fun thing is, you can make pizzas now, but you can also save some crusts for later - they freeze incredibly well.  Thaw before you use them.

So the actually turning into pizza part I must differ slightly with Mr. Batali, much as it pains me to do so.  His instructions have you top the par cooked crust with your preferred toppings and then slide it under the broiler.  In my home oven, this resulted in amazingly crusty tops, but soggy bottoms!  I don't like that in a pizza.  SO I heated my cast iron griddle (wide and totally flat; if you only have a cast iron skillet with high sides, I'd recommend using an overturned cookie sheet, to make sliding on crusts topped with sauce a cheese easier), and put it in the oven on the top rack under the broiler set on high to preheat, so that I could throw the pizzas on that (I'm afraid the heat of the broiler would kill a pizza stone, can anyone confirm or deny this?  I don't want to test my theory on MY pizza stone) - anyway, the cast iron base provided toasty heat to crisp the underside while the broiler melted the cheese (and browned the salami) and turned the top crust mahogany and crispy like I've never managed before.

Next time I might go so far as to briefly broil the crust UPSIDE DOWN before removing it, putting on the toppings, and sliding it back under the broiler right side up.

A warning he gives is that you really want to top and broil these one at a time - so plan this for the kind of meal where that would work out for you.  You don't want to have a bunch of them sitting with sauce and cheese and what-have-you on top for any length of time before they go under the broiler or the crust will get soggy.  NO TO SOGGY PIZZA!  So the method is, top the crust as fast as you can and broil it!  Eat it!  Top and broil another!  And another!  Axel F and I ate three of these for dinner once and were very full (but not uncomfortably so).  So I'd bank on 1-2 per person.

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