Easy as Pie

Pizza pie that is! Unless there is something really crazy going on (you know, like Christmas) every weekend, we have a pizza night. And not the kind where we call in for delivery. Home made pizza. Back in the pre-baby days I used to make everything by hand – the dough, the sauce, etc. Ok, not everything I wasn’t hand making mozzarella or anything. These days I usually use jarred sauce, especially because our local grocery store makes a really nice jarred sauce that simple basic ingredients (no sugar or weird stuff!). And also, because I don’t have that much time.

So your ingredients are simple: for the dough you’ll need yeast, flour, water, salt & olive oil and for the pizza you can pretty much use whatever you want. I do love the classic margarita pizza which is simply fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil. Yum. A favorite is spinach & mushroom we also like Italian sausage meat out of the casing, and when I was pregnant I was into peppers and onions (I hate bell peppers usually). I put tons of fresh garlic on every single pizza I make

So starting with the dough – warm a mixing bowl with some warm water- dump the water out. Add your yeast (I use 1/2 a package but have been known to use an entire package sometimes) and about a cup of warm water. I always test the water first-if it’s too hot to dip your finger in you will kill the yeast. Stir the yeast until it’s dissolved then add 2 teaspoons olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Then add the flour. You’ll need about 2 – 2 1/2 cups but add it slowly starting with about a 1/4 – 1/2 cup (tip: you can usually tell if your yeast is ‘active’ by sprinkling in some flour to the mixture – if it starts too look kinda bubbly, you’re in business).

I mix the dough in my kitchen aid mixer using the dough hook but you can use a hand mixer or knead it by hand. Gradually add the rest of the flour until it is all mixed and the dough is not sticking to the sides or to your hand when you try and take it out. If you feel like it’s too sticky, add more flour and continue to knead/mix. If it’s too crumbly add some more water. Once you get the dough to a good consistency;
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Take another mixing bowl, and coat it with a thin layer of olive oil and put your dough in, rolling it around to coat it with the oil. Cover it with a tea towel, put it somewhere warm to rise. It should take about an hour, but our kitchen is super warm all the time so it’s usually ready for me in about a 1/2 hour. (tip: don’t try and let dough rise in a room with open windows or drafts. Unless, you know it’s like August in NYC)

I usually take the time while the dough is rising to chop whatever veggies I am putting on and to slice the cheese. I prefer fresh mozzarella and am lucky enough to live in a place where I can get the best and freshest mozzarella. But there are a ton of national brands that make decent fresh mozzarella as well (Bel Gioso comes to mind) and I think places like Whole Foods make it in store.

You’ll know the dough is ready when it puffs up and doubles in size. Like so:
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Preheat the oven to about 450 (true story: I just turn my oven up to the highest temp which is 500) Flour a piece of parchment paper, punch down the dough and place it on the parchment. I use a rolling pin to get it nice and thin. Here’s a caveat: I like thin crispy crust, and cook it on a pizza stone in our oven – the parchment makes it easy to slide off the stone. If you are using a pan I think you can simply ‘press’ the dough out into the pan. I’ve also heard of people sprinkling the pan with corn meal to make it crispy. There is also this whole thing about the water in different states and places making the dough come out different thus making the crust come out differently so I apologize if you too love thin crispy crust and follow this to a tee and your crust doesn’t come out really crispy. Anyway, here’s what my crust looks like when it’s ready to be topped:
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Now for the toppings: My most favorite pizza place in the world (though I have not been to Italy) puts the cheese down first and I swear by this. So, fresh mozz, sauce, garlic, veggies, basil. Right before I put it in the oven, I sprinkle it with olive oil and some fresh ground pepper. Let it cook for about 15-20 minutes without opening the oven, then check on it. I usually cook it altogether for about 30 minutes, or whenever the cheese starts to get little brown-ish bubbles on it.
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Enjoy! Ivy sure did!!
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