Peetser or pizza, however you pronounce it, you gotta admit a well made slice of pizza is pretty freaking amazing. If you’re not sure how much I love my pizza, this is the 6th post devoted to the stuff (first there was the one about the dough, and how to make pizza margherita at home [which is it’s own style of pizza]…then there was the potato-pesto pizza, which if you’ve never tried, do so now, there was also my pizzogi [pizza+pierogi] experiment, and then there was the dessert pizza from way back, when this here semi-amateur blog was in it’s infancy [sorry, the photos on that one got deleted, so you’ll just have to use your imagination, oh and there’s no recipe, so you’ll really have to use your imagination], and to make this sentance the longest run-on sentence ever, while we’re talking about how old this blog is [we were?] my 2 year blogiversary came and went, without any recognition (July 6th), so yeah, we’re officially hitting the big time baby!…wow that was a long sentence…can we keep going?? Hell yeah!…Um, so how have you been? Awesome, great job…let’s get going shall we?)..anyway, I kinda lost my train of thought there, but bottom line – I like my pizza. One thing I never really discussed is how I make pizza at home (not the shortcut method from the margherita pizza post).
Making pizza at home right, is for the most part impossible, well at least in my oven, which is only good for thoroughly heating up my apartment to about the surface temperature of the sun. Come to think of it, I should try cooking my pizza outside of the oven in my apartment, but that would be madness! Anyway, to properly cook pizza, you need an oven that can get up to at least 500 degrees, and hold it there (that last part being the challenging part), and the hotter the better. Some of the real deal pizza ovens crank it up to 800-1000 degrees. Those types of ovens (usually utilize wood or charcoal to achieve that temperature) will crisp up your pizza without drying it out too much.
The next thing to discuss with cooking pizza (or anything for that matter) is transfer of heat. Did you ever put your hand in water that’s 212 degrees (boiling), did you notice how you burnt your hand? Yeah, that kind of sucks. Now try putting your hand in an oven that’s 350 degrees. It’s hot, but you can keep it there for second, and not burn yourself. Now go ahead and touch the metal grates in the oven. Now I’m not sure why you keep on listening to me, but that burnt pretty bad right? So what gives? Well the oven uses air to transfer the heat from the heating element to penetrate your food, and as it so happens, air is a pretty crappy heat transferor, as opposed to water or metal, which are much better at transferring heat. Now if you want to crisp something up real quick, like the bottom of a pizza, we really have to consider proper heat transferring options.
There are a few tricks people use, but the one most people know about is a pizza stone.
A pizza stone is basically a non-glazed ceramic tile (and if you want to save yourself some dough, you can go to home depot and get a few non-glazed ceramic tiles [making sure they’re non-glazed], but since the people who work there aren’t that bright, I haven’t had much luck with it, but you can try), and basically it gets really hot, and transfers it heat nicely to the bottom of the dough. The thing about the stone is it’s density; it’s like a big reservoir of heat, but you need to fill that reservoir, which is why in order for the stone to work, you need to pre-heat the oven, and keep the stone in there for at least 30 minutes. I know that sounds like a lot, but you can’t just put pizza on a cold stone, and expect it to do it’s magic. In my pre-foodie days I tried to make pizza at home on a cold stone, and lemme tell you, the only magic it does, is magically make every centimeter of the pizza dough adhere as tightly as possible to the stone…not a fun endeavor.
The other two tricks I know are the skillet-broiler trick, which I explained in the margherita post. Or if you want you can make pizza on a sheet pan, that you place on the bottom of the oven. I’ve done this when I’m too lazy to lug out my pizza stone (which is in three pieces, because I broke it..but it still works), but I don’t think this has the same results as a pizza stone, but it’s definitely better than putting the pizza straight in.
Allrighty, so now that we have our pizza stone mightily pre-heating in the oven, how do we get the darn thing in there without burning myself again!? Well in comes the pizza peel. Which is pretty much an overgrown spatula. One word of caution, you want to make sure the peel is well floured (or you can use corn meal for a more authentic feel) to make sure the pizza slides off.
When people hear that I use a pizza peel, they think I’m nuts. For some reason, pizza peel is where most people will draw the line in their descent into becoming a foodie (side point – I hate that term). A pizza stone – that’s somewhat normal, a pizza peel? Well you’re just insane. It’s kind of like the difference between having a pepper grinder, and grinding your other spices also. You have a pepper grinder? Ok, that’s normal. You grind your own spices?? Lemme guess you grind your own meat also…YOU DO?! Seriously, what is wrong with you??
Call me crazy…I call it a commitment to making good food, right, but…I’m currently digressing right? Allright, let’s get back to pizza making, and if anyone wants to discuss how I feel about food, feel free to leave a comment, or email me, or whatever, I’m really always free to talk food (it’s part of my “craziness”).
Ok, so now that we’ve covered my pizza making antics, I got to be honest with you, the reason I dragged you down here today, isn’t really to share a recipe (um, couldn’t you have told me that like 40 minutes ago before I wasted my time reading this?!? Thanks a heap), but more to brag. You see, a while back, I submitted a recipe to The Kosher Scene for their Shavuos recipe contest, and I won a cheese basket from The Cheese Guy! Pretty amazing right? (Yup, shavuos…and yes, I’m fully aware it’s August…but to be fair, I did only got the basket in the beginning of the month)
As great as mozzarella is, I truly do love me some monteray jack cheese. It melts so nicely, and it really tastes great, and it doesn’t sound like a fancy cheese that people will think you’re all snobby about. If you haven’t tried it, it’s readily available kosher, and please, please buy a block of cheese, and grate it yourself. Remember how I’m a crazy food guy, and I do all these weird things in the kitchen? Well yeah, I grate my cheese. Why? Because it’s really better. You see, pre-shredded cheese is coated with some form of starch, which prevents clumping, but because it’s a starch, it will gobble up all that moisture, and leaves your cheese, well less moist. I’m not trying to tell you you’re going to go to foodie hell if you don’t grate your own cheese, and yeah even I use pre-shredded sometimes (hey I’m not always superman in the kitchen, and I get lazy too), but if you want to do it right, try grating your own cheese, and tell me it doesn’t make a difference.
To make the actual pizza, I roasted the pepper on the stove top, by literally burning it over the flame, on all sides, and then covering it with plastic (you can just stick it in a ziploc bag), and after 10-15 minutes, the skin peels off real easy, and you have yourself roasted red peppers. To cut the pepper (fresh or roasted), lop off the top and bottom, and make a slice down, and open it up like a book. Remove the seeds and ribs by running your knife parallel to the board, and slice into battons.
For the olives.
Now I know you’re going to laugh at me, but I own an olive pitter…
well let me re-phrase, my brother in law, the Phoenix Fresser owns an olive/cherry pitter, which he left at my place, so I have an olive pitter on hand, to pit these kalamata olives. To quote Alton Brown, olive/cherry pitters are “unitaskers,” and we generally frown on unitaskers, unless it’s a fire extinguisher, but I had one, so I used it…there are a few DIY ways to pit olives if you’re so inclined.
The dough I used was at 67% hydration (67% of the flour was water by weight), brushed the dough with olive oil, then topped with tomato sauce (homemade obviously, but because of my severe bout of verbal diarrhea today [my morning patients all cancelled on me today], I just don’t have the time to digress…we can further the discussion on facebook or the comments if you so desire), then topped with the chopped olives and peppers, and then with the monteray jack cheese. Popped it into my blazing quasi-inferno of an oven, with the pizza peel, and let it cook away.
As you can see, it didn’t brown and char as much as I would have liked it to, but it was in there for about 15 minutes, and was starting to dry out, so I had to take it out. It was still good, but not as crispy as I would have liked
Here’s a shot of the bottom of the pizza, otherwise known as the “under carriage,” and you can see there are some spots of char, but again, I would have liked some more.
Ok so that’s pretty much it.
Thanks again to The Kosher Scene, and to The Cheese Guy for the awesome cheeses.
Until next time