Fried Pizza

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Fried Pizza

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Published prior to 2008

Fried pizza? Hey, open up your mind; olive oil and pizza dough have been bosom buddies probably since the first Neapolitan mom flattened leftover scraps of bread dough and tossed them in the oven for a few minutes to serve as a snack while the "real" bread was baking. Thereís no hard and fast rule that says pizza has to be baked in the oven exclusively; Iíve enjoyed grilled pizzas in the past, so why not fried? After all, fried dough is one of my favorite carnival treats. And Pizza Hut(r) pizza gets its extra-crisp bottom crust from a significant layer of hot oil in the bottom of the pan, which "fries" the crust as the top of the pizza bakes.

The next question is, since when is pizza a picnic food? Since Iíve been eating it, cold, for breakfast since I was old enough to climb up on the counter and open the cardboard box left there from the night before. Thereís no law that says pizza has to be eaten hot; I have to admit, itís a bit more tasty fresh from the oven, but if you donít mind congealed cheese (I donít), then cold (well, room temperature) pizza is no different than a tasty sandwich. Now, Iím not unconcerned about food safety, and would never store a meat-laden pizza at room temperature, and I do generally refrigerate all leftover pizza; but if a piece of plain cheese or vegetable pizza happens to sit out on the counter overnight, itís going into my mouth, not into the trash.

The following dough really benefits from an overnight rest in the fridge before shaping, as this extra time, at a low temperature, allows the natural acetic acid (produced by the growing yeast) to develop, giving the crust an understated but very nice tang, and a delightfully crisp-chewy texture.

1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached all-Purpose Flour*
1 1/4 cups (6 3/4 ounces) semolina*
3 tablespoons (1 ounce) King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver (optional, but helpful)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon (3/8 ounce) Pizza Dough Flavor (optional, but delicious)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) olive oil
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water

*Use a total of 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour, if you don't have semolina.

Mix and knead together all of the ingredients-by hand, mixer or bread machine-till you've created a rough, slightly stiff dough. Don't over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but doesnít need to be perfectly smooth; the gluten will continue to develop as the dough rests.

Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes; then refrigerate it for 4 hours (or up to 36 hours); this step will develop the crust's flavor.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Shape each piece into a round, between 6 3/4 and 8 inches in diameter (after cooking, the smaller size will be 1-inch thick, the larger size about 1/2-inch thick). Note: Any thicker or thinner than that doesnít seem to work well-thinner crusts develop burned spots, and thicker crusts donít cook through before the outside is overdone. Place the dough rounds on a well-floured surface and let them rest, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.

Baking: After about 30 minutes, heat about 1/4-inch olive oil in a large frying pan to 370°F to 375°F. Use a giant spatula or pizza peel to transfer the pizzas to the oil, one at a time; fry till the bottom crusts are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Use a pair of tongs to turn the dough over, and fry for an additional minute or two, until just beginning to color (this will keep the top crust from becoming soggy when you add the toppings). Be sure to let the oil reheat between pizzas.

As the pizzas cook, transfer them to a baking sheet, and top with your favorite vegetables, meats, and cheese. Note: toppings (meats, etc.) should be pre-cooked, if necessary. Bake the pizzas in a preheated 450°F oven, on the middle rack, for about 8 minutes, till the toppings are hot and bubbly and the pizzas are cooked through. Yield: 4 small pizzas.

Nutrition information per serving (1/2 of a pizza, crust only, 85g): 271 cal, 11g fat, 6g protein, 37g complex carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 401mg sodium, 87mg potassium, 3mg iron, 5mg calcium, 62mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Spring 2002 issue.