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Pizza Chronicles, Part Five: A Field Guide to Pizza Excellence?

May 31, 2007

Red Pepper and Spinach Pizza

Our house is right on the main road running through Jamaica Plain, a road traveled at most hours of the day and night by buses and trucks that can’t take the windier and narrower alternate route into Boston. Very noisy buses and trucks. My bedroom windows are situated in such as way as to really effectively transmit that noise right from the street level straight to my bed. It’s truly amazing, a real feat of engineering! What this means for a light sleeper like myself is that once summer’s arrived and the windows are open, I’m woken up every morning at 4.30, when the first bus rumbles by, electonically squawking “Route 39, Forest Hills to Back Bay, Route 39.” Lately, various mental stresses and strains have preventing me falling right back to sleep, and this morning I said to myself, “F*&% it, I’m just getting up! Hell, the sun’s already up! Why not me?”

This explains why, by the time I got the DMV at 8.30 am, I was already grouchy.

There is no group of people in this world better skilled at causing ladies to want to yell lots of swears and weep copiously than the fine people at the Chinatown branch of the  Massachusetts DMV. Needless to say, I found myself in a bureaucratic hell spiral for most of the morning, gaping incredulously at the lack of logic and competence around me.

What the does any of this have to do with pizza? Kneading, that’s what. When I came home from work, half asleep and almost grouchier than I was at 4.30 in the morning, the last thing I wanted to think about was food. But I have all this produce and it’s going to go bad and I’d already planned it all out and and and fine, I thought. I’ll just make dinner. 20 minutes later, after a few minor mishaps resulting I’m sure from the lack of brain coordination happening in my world today, I was standing at our worn, wooden counter, slowly kneading a ball of smooth, warm, yeasty smelling dough, and I felt infinitely better.

In this installment of my ongoing pizza experimentation, I went back to Giada’s Bon Appetit recipe yet again. My last disastrous experience needed to be remedied, and I wanted to find out how the recently discovered cooking method would work out with this dough. I also considered that I should start keeping some kind of laboratory notes or field log or something, to keep track of my various methods and variations, you know, so my experimental results are valid or something. I may even eventually pull all my field notes (heh) into on garguantuan post on the best pizza methods. But for now, today’s pizza-making variations:

Dough: 2 c.  all-purpose flour (1 c. wheat, 1 c. white), ¼ of an ounce of active dry yeast, ¾ c. warm water, 3 T. olive oil (Giada’s recipe)

Temperature: 550F, preheated for one hour

Baking surface: The back of an aluminum baking sheet

Rise time: One hour out in a warm kitchen, one hour in the refrigerator, 45 minutes on the counter.

Each pizza I’ve made so far has been better than the last, and this was no different. I used a rolling pin to roll it out, and until my pizzeria technique improves, I’m definitely going with the rolling pin in the future. It was sooo much easier to get a nice thin crust without holes and tearing. In fact, why both with the fancy techniques when this works so freaking well?

Thin rolled crust

The only issue with the dough this time is that it was really, really wheaty. I’m not sure why it stood out so much, when I’ve used equal parts whole wheat to white in the past. This dough was too dense, and the wheat flavor kind of distracted from all the good stuff on top. I do like to use whole wheat, so I’ll have to experiment with different ratios in the future.

The baking sheet method is definitely key, until I get a pizza stone, or the kind of pan with holes in the bottom. The crust still isn’t crispy in the middle, but it is one the outside, and this one was the crispiest. I let it cook for eight minutes, and it was the perfect amount of time. Oh, and when it baked, it grew breasts. It was a boobed pizza:

Boobed

And toppings? I used about two cups of grated part-skim mozzarella, about a cup of baby spinach (or “teen spinach,” as the receipt from the market noted—what?), and some sliced red, yellow, and orange bell peppers. I cut up all three small peppers, but only ended up using about half the cut up bits. And they were beautious peppers, too—really brightly colored and crisp and super delicious. Surprisingly delicious considering they were supermarket peppers. I topped it all with a small handful of crumbled sheep’s milk feta, and after it was cooked, I sprinkled a little bit of dried oregano, salt, and black pepper over the whole thing.

The verdict? I’ve got the temperature down—550F is the hottest my oven can go, and it has worked the best so far. Again, the baking sheet method will be my superstar method until I can get my hands on something better. And this recipe is a keeper, I think, once I can work out a good wheat to white ration. It rolls out really well and has great flavor even without a 24-hour refrigerated rise time.

And my bad mood: After a few slices of this deliciousness, I was feeling almost 100% better.

Thinnest yet

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2007 7:00 am

    har! the boobs! I love the boobs! ‘kay not just anyone’s boobs.. just your pizza boobs! hahahaaa

    I LOVE your pizza posts.. KEEP EXPERIMENTING! This one looks amazing – I heart red, yellow and orange bell peppers with a burning, searing passion.

    And you know what? I just went back and looked at the boob picture again – it’s like the cheese and peppers are the colorful bustier holding up the perky boobage. Why, I think you’ve created pizza porn, my friend. Party on!

    xoxo

  2. June 12, 2007 2:40 pm

    I second my pal Lisa that this pizza looks amazing!

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