As a born and raised New Yorker, I LOVE PIZZA!!!! Real pizza, from the small hole in the wall pizzerias in every NY neighborhood that have been there at least for 2 generations.... I really missed it when I moved down here to the land of "Papa Johns, Little Caesars and the many other so called corporate pizza shops". Now don't get me wrong, things are changing and there are some really descent pizzerias here too....finally! I've discovered though, that a really good pizza is not that hard to make. It's a lot of fun too!! All the components, the dough, sauce and toppings, can be prepared a day ahead and the final product can be made the day of. Your family and friends will really enjoy the pizza making experience. Here's how you can make it at home:
Everything you will need to make 3 pizzas:
1 Dough recipe
1 Pizza Sauce recipe
Shredded mozzarella cheese
A pizza stone or red quarry tiles (from a tile shop)
Your favorite toppings (spinach, olives, feta...)
Semolina or corn flour (for dusting on the pizza peel or pan)
salt & pepper
The Dough (makes 3 Pizzas):
This New York style pizza dough recipe is an adaptation of master bread baker, George Greenstein's recipe.
3 cups warm water
1 heaping teaspoon active dry yeast (1/2 package)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup all purpose flour
5 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
*Note: make the pizza dough at least 1 day ahead
You can use a table top mixer like Kitchenaid if you have one. If you do, then cut the kneading time down from 15 minutes to 8 minutes. The method I used below uses no fancy equipment, just regular mixing bowls and my hands :)
In a mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to soften. About 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the salt with the bread flour and whisk it to incorporate the salt throughout the flour. Never add salt directly to yeast!!! The yeast will die and your hard work will go down the drain....not good!
Add the olive oil and the cup of all purpose flour to the yeast mixture and mix well. Add the bread flour and salt mixture and knead it for about 10-15 minutes. Knead it well. At this point, you can knead the whole mixture on your CLEAN countertop. Perfect for releasing stress! Punch it, pull it, roll......If anybody upset you that day, just picture them in the dough....lol!! You can add a little more water if the dough is not soft enough. It should be somewhat soft, but not sticky.
Transfer the dough to a clean, oil coated bowl and turn top to bottom until coated with oil. This will allow the dough to rise without sticking to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until doubled in volume (about 40-60 minutes).
Punch down the dough and cover it again with plastic. Refrigerate overnight or for 24 hours. This step should not be skipped! Fermenting the dough in the refrigerator adds tons of flavor and makes it much easier to stretch the dough and form it into a pizza. You can leave it in the refrigerator up to 72 hours.
The Sauce (enough for 3 pizzas):
28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
3 oz tomato paste (put the rest in an airtight container and freeze for another recipe)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
3 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried basil
Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until incorporated. That's it!!! You can make the sauce a day ahead or the same day. I like to make it a day ahead for convenience and also, more flavor :)
Time to make the pizzas!!!
VERY IMPORTANT: Place the pizza stone in the oven and preheat your oven to 550 degrees at least one hour before cooking your pizzas. Make sure that your oven is clean, to avoid burning the house down :o
The high heat is necessary to cook the dough properly and to get it nice and charred and crispy on the bottom.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut and separate it into three equal parts. Let it rest for 15 minutes so that it may come to room temperature.
Stretch each portion of dough into a 14 inch circle. Use your hands to stretch it. NEVER USE A ROLLING PIN!!! Stretching the dough by hand keeps it nice and light. Stretch it around using your fists while turning and stretching the dough. Careful not to tear it. It may not look like a perfect circle the first try, but it doesn't matter. It will still taste delicious.
If you have a handy dandy pizza peel, dust it with some semolina or corn flour to prevent the dough from sticking and allowing it to transfer onto the pizza stone easily. If you do not have a pizza peel, you can use the back of a round or rectangular baking sheet.
Place your stretched out pizza dough onto the peel or pan and spiral one or two ladles of pizza sauce over it. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle some salt over it. Transfer it carefully onto the pizza stone in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the crust begins to brown.
Remove the crust from the oven and sprinkle as much cheese as you like. Return to the oven and cook 3-4 more minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Turn the broiler on for the last minute of cooking to get a nice char on the edges of the crust, just like a N.Y pizza!
The Greek Pizza
Follow the directions for the NY style pizza and just add some :
Chopped baby spinach
Feta (of course!)
Slice red onions
Sliced Kalamata olives