pizza margherita

January 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

This one comes from Gourmet, January 2009 (*sniff*. pouring one for my homie). This isn’t anything flashy or spectacular, but, instead, one of those quiet, simple staples. you know, the kind you whip up on nights when the agenda only includes watching downton abbey (and maybe also getting sucked into the not-terrifically-well-done pre-downton abbey documentary about turn of the century english manor houses).

i note before we begin that gourmet is very insistent that a pizza stone is necessary for this to work out. as someone who refuses to buy any kitchen-related-thing that fails to serve two purposes at minimum, i am insistent that this remains both edible and delicious without a pizza stone. that said, if you have one in the cupboard, they instruct that it be preheated in the oven at 500 degrees for a minimum of 40 minutes before baking (so throw it in when you set aside the dough to rise and are just starting the sauce).

the stuff for the dough (which gourmet credits to Chris Bianco, of Pizzeria Bianco, in Phoenix):

1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
3/4 cup warm water, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

*so, i was actually planning to try this pizza dough recipe:, but then i realized that it requires an overnight in the fridge.  maybe someday i’ll learn to make with the advance planning.  barring that, someone else should give it a go and report back.

the rest of the stuff:

1 (14- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice (i used Muir Glen, which, if memory serves, ranked fairly highly on the last Cooks Illustrated canned whole tomato taste test)
2 large garlic cloves (gourmet says “smashed,” i say “finely chopped” after finding one of those “i only regret one thing about the recipe” posts elsewhere on the internet).
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 basil leaves plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon sugar
6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (NB: yes, they mean it. please, for the love of all things delicious, do not attempt this with supermarket or pre-shredded mozzarella. you will regret it).

like i said, in its current form, this is a non-flashy staple.  trusty sidekick wants the sauce to be a little more exciting.  brainstorming resulted in the following for your consideration:  herbs de provence, mushrooms, possibly something to give it a little “kick”– 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes and a couple of extra cloves of garlic?

The dough how-to:

ok, before we begin. gourmet thinks that this dough can be a little bit wet and a little bit sticky. gourmet is just being diplomatic and kind. this dough is very wet and almost unbearably sticky. i ended up re-flouring a lot (even after adding the scant 1/3 cup of additional flour to the mix). this was mostly from absolute necessity. so please do make sure that you have plenty of extra flour on hand.

Stir together yeast, 1 Tbsp flour, and 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t appear creamy, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Add 1 1/4 cups flour, remaining 1/2 cup water, salt, and oil and stir until smooth. Stir in enough flour (1/4 to 1/3 cup) for dough to begin to pull away from side of bowl. (Dough will be slightly wet.) (me: *ahem*)
Knead on a floured surface, lightly reflouring when dough becomes too sticky, until smooth, soft, and elastic, about 8 minutes. Form into a ball, put in a bowl, and dust with flour. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 1/4 hours.

tomato sauce how-to (which you should make as the dough rises):

Pulse tomatoes with juice in a blender briefly to make a chunky purée (i used my new immersion blender. which is AWESOME. and serves far more than just two functions).
Cook garlic in oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until fragrant and pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add tomato purée, basil, sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 40 minutes. Season with salt and cool.

(at some point you should preheat to 500 degrees, unless, of course, you have a pizza stone, in which case you should have probably done this ages ago).

the assembly:

Do not punch down. Dust dough with flour, then transfer to a parchment-lined pizza peel or large baking sheet. Pat out dough evenly with your fingers and stretch into a 14-inch round, reflouring fingers if necessary. (ok, this could be me, or it could be the dough. but “pat out dough evenly” wasn’t going to happen without me completely losing my cool. so i rolled it out quickly with a rolling pin into an approximate rectangle. and we all lived).

Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1-inch border (there may be some sauce left over). Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2- to 3-inch border.
Slide pizza on parchment onto pizza stone. Bake until dough is crisp and browned and cheese is golden and bubbling in spots, 13 to 16 minutes. Using peel or baking sheet, transfer pizza to a cutting board. Cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with some basil leaves before slicing.


Gourmet says “dough can be allowed to rise slowly in the refrigerator (instead of in a warm place) for 1 day. Bring to room temperature before shaping.”  It also notes that the tomato sauce can be made 5 days ahead and chilled.

Um, they also have this:  which provides the step-by-steps for making your own mozzarella.  i haven’t tried it yet, but eeeee! how fun does that sound?!?  (NB: I am ignoring the part of the recipe that calls for rennet)

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