PASSIONATE PIZZA … you can make it at home!

In another life we had a pizzeria in the city.  We introduced artisan pizzas to Vancouver away back when.   Our pizzas  won awards,  but they  did more;  they participated in romance (an engagement ring nestled in a bed of basil says I love you),  fed a political campaign,  nourished actors and rock bands, and became more than just a pizza in a box to our customers.  It was pizza made with passion,  pizza both tender and crisp with broad shoulders and bold flavours.

If you have a pizza stone you can bake amazing pies, and say good-bye to cardboard crusts and oily cheese.

You must start with a good crust.  Make your dough very slack,  dough that sticks to your hands.   Have a light hand with your toppings, just a few.  Buy good quality cheeses, season with salt and pepper.  You’ll never order take-out pizza again.

DO NO SUBSTITUTE ANYTHING in this recipe for dough.  Especially do not    substitute  whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour.  If you only bake with whole wheat flour, just this once give over.  You don’t make pizza everyday.

ALL-PURPOSE PIZZA DOUGH (with some pizza-making suggestions)

MAKES TWO TWELVE PIZZAS

This is a simple bread dough, which you can mix by hand or in a stand mixer.   Roll out small pizzas if you have trouble making the big ones.

2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (l packet)

1 cup warm water (105F to 115F)

1 tsp. honey

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing the pizza crusts

3 cups all-purpose flour in total.  (put 2 1/2 cups in bowl and set aside 1/2 cup for kneading) NO SUBSTITUTION

1 tsp. salt.

In a bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bread bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.  Add the honey and stir together.  Let sit for 3-4 minutes, or until the water is cloudy.  Then stir in the olive oil.

If you are using a stand mixer combine the flour and salt and add it to the yeast mixture all at once.  Mix together using the paddle attachment, then change to the dough hook.  Knead at low speed for 2 minutes, then turn up to medium speed and knead until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook , about 5 minutes. Hold on to the machine if it bounces around.  Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand for 2-3 minutes longer.  This is when you  may add the 1/2 cup dough you’ve set aside.   Remember it’s a very slack dough that makes a grand pizza crust.  The dough should feel silky and smooth and elastic.  When you press it with your finger it should slowly spring back.

If you are kneading the dough by hand mix together the yeast, honey water and olive oil as directed in a large bowl.  Combine the flour and salt.  Fold the flour in a cup at a time using a large wooden spoon.  As soon as you can scrape the dough out in one piece, scrape it only a lightly floured work surface and knead it for ten minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, rounded size down first, then rounded side up.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and leave it in a warm spot to rise for at least 30 minutes, but I think the dough is better for a least a 1 hour rise.

You can make pizza dough ahead and let it rise in a covered bowl in the refrigerator.  Just punch it down and knead it a few times when you’re ready to roll it out.

Dive the dough into two to four equal balls,   and shape each ball by gently pulling down the sides of the dough and tucking each pull under the bottom of the ball, working round and round the ball 4 or 5 times.  Then, on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball the ball around under your palm until it feels smooth and firm, about 1 minute.  Put the balls on  a tray and cover with a damp towel, and leave them to rest for at least 30 minutes.  At this point, the dough balls can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for l to 2 days.  You will need to punch them down again when you are ready to roll out the pizzas.

Place a pizza stone in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 500F.   Do this at least an hour before you bake the pizza.

Form your pizza, either  by spreading the dough with the heel of your hand, or using a rolling-pin to get an even circle.  Form a slightly thicker raised rim around the edge of the circle.  Brush everything with a little olive oil.  You can transfer the pizza to a lightly oiled pizza pan, or you can bake it directly on the stone.

Now get creative .  Spread the dough a little marinara sauce or pesto sauce,   or simply top with a mozzarella cheese.  Add a couple of toppings, sprinkle with a little fresh or dried herbs.  Now dust a pizza paddle with semolina or cornmeal and slip it under the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the baking stone or into the pizza pan.    You can place the pizza pan on the stone-the heat from the stone will help it achieve a crisp crust.  Bake until the cheese topping is bubbling and the right of the crust is a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Using the pizza paddle to slide the pizza out of the oven and onto a cutting  board.  Use a pizza cutter or a sharp knife to cut the pizza into slices and serve immediately.  Enjoy.

PIZZA TOPPINGS:

Two of our favorite pizzas have the following toppings.

#l  home-made tomato sauce,  mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese,  baked then topped with prosciutto and arugula and generous grinds of black pepper.

#2 mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, blue cheese, caramelized onions with fresh thyme and pitted Greek olives.

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