Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New York-Style Pizza

It seems like an innocent, simple endeavor: let's make pizza at home. For those who've tried and lived to talk about it, you know where this road can take you. First you're googling around the interwebs trying to pick between fifteen pizza dough recipes that all look roughly the same. Then you're making dough in a bread machine, or looking at a blob of sticky dough that hasn't risen. Finally you're crying on the inside as you sneak down the frozen foods aisle at Whole Foods to pick up their pizza dough 'cause no one will know the difference. You haven't even gotten to the sauce yet. 

If this doesn't sound like you, then congratulations, you're relatively normal and smart enough to order your pizza from the pros. But to us lesser mortals, let's talk about a homemade pizza worth writing home to mom about. And since we're from America's northeast, we're talking a New York-style pizza. A traditional New York-style pizza is thin and wide and foldable. It has a light coating of a simple tomato sauce and isn't opposed to the addition of some red pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese, oregano, or garlic salt. 

While you may get better results with a fancy pizza stone and pizza paddle, don't fret if you're empty handed. Grab a metal baking tray, sprinkle some corn meal on it so the dough doesn't stick, and then gently spread out your dough. I find the best results come from stretching the dough with your hands (you can learn to toss the dough if you're a masochist) rather than spreading it out with a rolling pin. The thinner you can get the dough, the better the outcome. Get the oven as hot as it will go, style it up yourself with your own favorite toppings, and cook the pizza for about 12 minutes (or until it's got the char you desire). In this household we stick to plain cheese, as the lady prefers the simple things in life.

Below are recipes for a simple tomato sauce and a handmade pizza dough (don't be scared) from Diane Morgan and Gemignani's fabulous book: pizza.  

New York-Style Pizza Dough
pizza (Diane Morgan & Tony Gemignani)
makes 3 to 4 12" pizzas
  • 5.5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 1 package (2.25 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1.25 cups ice-cold water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
In a small bowl, stir the yeast in lukewarm water with a fork.  Let the yeast dissolve for about 5 minutes. In another small bowl, combine the ice-cold water, sugar, salt, and olive and stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Place 5.25 cups of flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Stir the yeast mixture and the cold-water mixture into the flour using a wooden spoon, and mix the dough trying to incorporate as much flour as possible. Once the mixture looks like a complete mess, put down the spoon, get your hands in there and begin to knead the dough (this may seem intimidating, but here's a helpful video to illustrate how this process should look). Knead the dough for about 10 minutes mixing in the remaining flour if necessary. Place the resulting ball of pizza dough in a large metal bowl and cover it with plastic wrap.  If the dough is left out it will rise in about 2-3 hours, otherwise the dough can be placed in the refrigerator and allowed to rise overnight. Once the dough has risen, it can be split into 3 or 4 smaller balls which can be used immediately, refrigerated for a few days, or frozen for months.

New York-Style Pizza Sauce
  • 14.5oz diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 6oz tomato paste
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tsp dried basil (or a light handful of chopped, fresh basil leaves)
  • 3 tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 0.75 tsp salt
It doesn't get much easier than this: combine all the ingredients and use immediately, or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a week. Bring to room temperature before using. The sauce is best if you can let it sit for an hour or so before using it, and it also works nicely as a simple pasta sauce or as a base to a sausage dish for later in the week. 

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