Sunday, April 12, 2015

Homemade Artisanal Pizza

Red Pizza

Hello, Chickadees! America's Test Chicken (ATC) is proud to present the inaugural ATC post. The Chicken was busy in the kitchen making pizzas.
True to form, the Chicken tried more than one way and presents here not only the successes, but also the SCAFUs (Situations Chicken All Fowled Up).

First, the red pizza, so-named because it has tomato sauce on it.

You can find the dough recipe below. But now, a few chicken scratchings about the recipe and process:

Using parchment paper keeps the elastic dough from pulling back so far during roll-out. Plus you can pick the finished pizza up by the paper edges for transport to the oven and maneuvering on the hot pizza stone.

The Chicken sauteed many of the toppings before assembling the pizza. This assures the ingredients are well cooked and, importantly, reduces the moisture on the finished pizza. The pizza stays crisp and doesn't get gummy in the middle.

Here, check it out yourself:

Music for this video: "We're Gonna Rob the Supermart Tonight" by SWCampbell. Used by permission.

The glory of this recipe is that you can use whatever ingredients you have on hand for toppings, perfect for cleaning out odds and ends in the refrigerator. And you determine the amounts and combinations of toppings.

The Chicken used:
  • jarred red sauce
  • pan-fried pepperoni slices
  • sauteed onions
  • sauteed red bell peppers
  • jarred sundried tomatoes
  • minced garlic
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • chopped Kalamata olives
  • pre-packaged shredded cheese
The Chicken pre-heats the oven with the pizza stone inside to 450 degree Fahrenheit.

After three minutes of baking, rotate the pizza, slide it off the parchment onto the stone and bake three more minutes.

The parchment will look like it might burn, but it won’t. It does get very brittle. 

A pizza peel or similar tool would be a great help.

Let the finished pizza rest a couple of minutes before cutting with a pizza cutter or large chef’s knife.
Language note: The Chicken has determined that "artisanal" is Italian for "misshapen".

1 packet of active dry or instant yeast (¼ oz or 7 g) 1½ cups (355 ml) water 

3½ cups (497 g) flour

Dash of salt

5 tablespoons (75 ml) oil 

Oil to coat bowl and baking sheet

Mix yeast in water and let sit for 15 minutes. For instant yeast, it is not necessary to wait 15 minutes.

Mound flour on board or countertop and make a large well in the center with your fingers. Pour the yeast mixture, salt and oil into the well. Mix the flour into the liquids gently with your fingers until all the flour is incorporated and the yeast and oil are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Form a ball with the dough, place in an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the ball with oil. Cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set the bowl in a warm place.

Wait until the dough has risen and doubled in size then punch it down.

White Pizza

For variety, Test Chicken #2 (the younger, prettier one) chose a white pizza.

The fun was in choosing from all the yummy toppings.
As with the red pizza, you can use any combination of toppings. Heck, just clean out the fridge, it's all good!

We chose :
  • goat cheese
  • chopped capers
  • onions pre-sauteed
  • mushrooms pre-sauteed
  • fresh baby spinach and arugula
  • minced garlic
  • chopped kalamatas
  • shredded cheese, optional
As for the wax paper – I honestly thought I had some parchment paper, but when I couldn’t find it (hint: organize) I used wax paper instead. SCAFU alert! You’ll soon see why that wasn’t such a good idea. Wish we'd had the foresight to video the alarm going off and my husband waving a towel at it to dispel the smoke. It was pretty funny, but you'll have to use your imagination!

Disclaimer: no pizzas were injured in the filming of this video!
Music for this video: "She Shines" by SWCampbell. Used by permission.

A couple of notes about the wax paper: If the smoke pouring out of the oven didn't discourage you from using it and send you scurrying to the grocery store to buy parchment paper, keep some of these "lessons learned the hard way" in mind.
  • First, if you use wax paper there's a likely chance it will stick - and I do mean stick - to the pizza and you'll spend a lot of frustrating time trying to scrape it off.  
  • Second, it even worked its way into some of the folds of the pizza dough (when it was rolled out, I think) and that made it very difficult to remove!
Actually, you really don't need paper (wax or parchment) at all. But if you choose that route, be prepared for it to be a lot messier and prying it off the stone will probably rip it into pieces. (well, that could save time cutting it into portions - but not recommended!) Second, you don't really need a pizza stone either. However, it does make it crispier and the oven temp will be more stable.

Having said all this negative stuff about using wax paper, I feel obligated to say that the smoke did not affect the taste of the pizza in any way. It was delicious!

SCAFU (Situation Chicken All Fowled Up):
During one pizza attempt, the Chicken inadvertently almost made crackers because the rising dough was in a place that was way too warm. The outside of the dough ball was crispy!

Fortunately the crispy areas were thin and small, so the Chicken was able to incorporate them into the dough without much problem.