“Great Home Made Pizzas” has almost always seemed like an oxymoronic statement… The dough isn’t quite right, the oven isn’t hot enough, it isn’t worth the hassle for the most part. Oddly, I have always found home-made pizzas to be well worth the effort, and the effort is fun to boot. I first posted about homemade pizza here and then a second post here — both of those efforts were at the beach, where we have a fairly powerful Viking stove, plus pizza stones to help the pizza along.
So when Mrs. MM gave me this link to some pizza dough (adapted from Roberta’s, in Brooklyn) featured in the New York Times recently, I thought we should make some pies… I made the dough EXACTLY as described in the recipe, down to the use of “OO” super fine flour mixed with all-purpose flour, and the dough seemed really nice just before use. A complication in this equation is that “00” flour refers to how finely flour is milled in Italy, and the protein or gluten content can easily range from middle to high gluten (6-12%)… so if the recipe doesn’t specify a brand of “00” flour or it’s gluten content, you could still end up with less than the intended results. I would give this dough a rating of 8 out of 10 and blame some of that on our extremely hot AND humid weather conditions, otherwise I suspect this is as good a dough as you can make at home. I also let it rise for a long time in the fridge, which I suspect is noticeably better than a quick rise in a hot and steamy kitchen.
Following instructions to shape the pies gently, using only one’s fingertips, the dough didn’t seem to bubble as much as I would have liked it too. Maybe the yeast wasn’t as good as it could be. And I was timid about stretching it out until it was really quite thin, worried I would have difficulty transferring it from wooden peel to pizza brick/stone.
We ended up with oddly shaped oblongs, trapezoids and what not, but it didn’t seem to make a difference to taste…
…this first pizza was just tomato sauce and mozzarella, stuck into a large brick “hearth” inside an oven at max temperature for the previous 30-40 minutes.
We added some chopped basil when the pizza was out of the oven for a classic margherita. Pretty good, but dough undercooked by a minute or two.
The next pizza, with caramelized onions and red peppers was significantly better, and perfectly cooked.
A pizza with peeled shrimp and onions also turned out nicely. Oh, and I should mention at this point that the cook had forgotten most of the classic fixings for pizza on this beach trip, so we had no pepperoni, prosciutto, ham, mushrooms, etc. and had to make do with what was in the larder and fridge.
And tempting fate a couple of weeks later, we decided to make some pizzas in Manila, in a relatively horrific La Germania oven in the city, with a maximum temperature of say 450F or so and NO pizza stone or wooden peel. Instead, I lowered and doubled up the racks and placed 6 fire bricks on a rack, then a flat cast iron pan on top of that, and pre-heated the oven for 45 minutes before cooking the pizzas. Our first pizza, with some anchovies and cheese turned out a solid 8 or so.
On another pizza we put very thinly sliced prociutto that glistened with fat as the heat of the pizza warmed the ham.
And on yet another pizza, some prosciutto and fresh arugula, a near 9 on my homemade pizza scale. So don’t be scared of making pizza at home. With a bit of care and practice, you can achieve delicious results at a fraction of the price of “artisanal” pizza places. :)