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The following pizza crust recipe, which we developed for our catalogue (and also featured in our Baking Sheet, in the guise of a double-crust "portable" pizza) begins with a poolish, or starter. This, to us, makes the quintessential crust -- brown, crackly, chewy and delicious, not just a soggy cardboard-like base for toppings. The few days we spent testing the various toppings below were quite exciting for our fellow King Arthur employee-owners; not only would that great pizza-parlor aroma fill the building, we brought down tray after tray of hot, fragrant squares of pizza topped with all kinds of different ingredients. Truly, there was something for everyone. (And everyone asked for the recipe, which is always a good sign!)
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
Combine all of the ingredients, in a medium-sized mixing bowl or the pan of your bread machine, mix till everything comes together, then cover (cancel your bread machine) and let rest overnight, or for about 6 to 12 hours. (You can certainly do this early in the morning and have the starter ready for late-afternoon pizza baking.)
Dough Manual/Mixer Method: In a large mixing bowl, combine the poolish with the water and flour, mixing just till the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients, and knead the dough with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until it's semi-smooth. If you're kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and knead the dough till it's semi-smooth, about 7 minutes; give yourself (and the dough) a couple of minutes' rest midway through. The reason this dough isn't kneaded to its full development is that it will continue to develop -- i.e., the gluten will continue to become strong and elastic -- as the dough goes through its first fermentation. By the time you're ready to bake it, it should be just right -- developed just enough to give you a chewy, nicely risen crust without toughness.
3/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor* (optional, but delicious)
1 teaspoon instant yeast*
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil (or garlic oil, basil oil, or another flavored oil of your choice)
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 1/2 hours, turning it over to redistribute the yeast about midway through the rising period. When fully risen, it should be just about doubled in bulk.
Bread Machine Method: Place the water and flour into the pan of your bread machine with the poolish, program the machine for Manual or Dough, and press Start. As soon as the dough is cohesive, cancel the machine and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients, program for manual or dough, and press Start. After about 7 or 8 minutes, when the dough has formed a ball but it's still somewhat rough-looking on the surface, cancel the machine. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise as indicated above.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it in half. Shape each half into a round or oval; if you like relatively thick-crust pizza, begin with a 9-inch round; for thinner crust, make a larger pie. If you've got a baking stone, set the pizzas on a piece of parchment cut roughly to shape. If you're going to be baking the pizza in a pan, place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the pizzas with an acrylic dough cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rest while you preheat your oven to 500°F and prepare your toppings. (If you want an ultra-thin crust pizza, skip this resting period and put the pizza directly into a preheated oven; just make sure you've got your toppings ready.)
If you're using a baking stone (and we highly recommend it for pizza), use a giant spatula or peel to transfer the pizza and parchment to the stone. If you're using a baking sheet, place the sheet on the lower rack of your oven. Allow the pizza to bake for 4 minutes, then remove it from the oven and add the toppings. Return the pizza to a middle oven rack (unless you want its bottom really blackened), and bake for an additional 8 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the toppings are bubbly. Remove the pizza from the oven, and serve as soon as possible. Yield: two 10-inch thick-crust pizza, or two larger thinner-crust pizzas.
As you read through the lists of ingredients for our favorite pizza toppings, you'll notice they all include garlic. It just so happens that the assertive flavor of garlic enhances most vegetables, and this time of year we like to use all the garden vegetables that we can. Please feel free to cut down on the amount or eliminate the garlic altogether if it's not a flavor that you like. (On the other hand, Sue says that if one clove is good, two or three will be better, so some of you may want to increase the amounts.
When testing these recipes we found that some vegetables are much better roasted before using as toppings, and with others it really isn't worth the extra effort. The most important part is baking at a high heat: at temperatures around 500°F, the moisture in the vegetables evaporates very quickly, and you end up with a nice product that retains its shape and color. We found that eggplant is a bit tough unless it's sautéed or roasted. Mushrooms seem to be fine either way, cooked or not, so long as they're on top of the cheese; the same goes for tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini.
We figured we'd give everyone a chance to share their favorite pesto recipe -- this one is Sue's. Pesto, fresh tomatoes and mozzarella is a delightful combination, and mirrors closely pizza alla Margherita, a basil, tomato and mozzarella pizza created in Naples in 1889 to honor Queen Margherita, the consort of Italy's King Umberto.
1 cup firmly packed fresh basil leavesFirst, make the pesto. Wash and pat dry the basil. Remove the stems. Put the oil and garlic in a food processor, and blend until the garlic is finely minced. Add the basil leaves and the nuts. Pulse the food processor until the basil and nuts are finely minced, but haven't become a paste. (If you don't have a food processor, just dice the garlic and basil as finely as possible.)
1 to 2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup walnuts (or almonds)
2 medium-ripe tomatoes
1 cup shredded mozzarella, cheddar, or Monterey Jack cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Slice the tomatoes. Spread half of the pesto on each partially baked pizza, top with half the cheese, and arrange the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle with black pepper. Finish baking the pizza as directed in the basic crust recipe. Yield: 2 pizzas.
Garlicky Spinach Pizza
This one had all the garlic-lovers sighing happily (preferably NOT near the non-garlic lovers!)
1/4 cup olive oilMince the garlic finely, then add the salt and olive oil and stir to blend. Wash the spinach and remove the larger tough stems. Slice the mushrooms.
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
3 cups (1 pound) packed fresh spinach leaves
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
Brush the garlic olive oil atop the partially baked pizza. Top with the spinach, crumbled feta cheese and sliced mushrooms, and finish baking as directed in the basic crust recipe. Yield: 2 pizzas.
Roasted Vegetable And Ricotta Pie
2 tablespoons olive oilMix the olive oil, vinegar, and herbs in a bowl. Slice the zucchini and summer squash in 1/2-inch rounds, and quarter the mushrooms. Toss the vegetables with the marinade, then spread them on a baking pan and roast them for 10 to 12 minutes at 425°F, turning occasionally. Set them aside to cool.
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 2 teaspoons fresh)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium (1 pound) zucchini
2 medium (1 pound) summer squash
2 cups fresh mushrooms
1 red pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese
Char the red pepper by placing it under the broiler for a few minutes, turning, or by turning it over the flame of a gas burner. When the skin is black all around, set the pepper under a dish towel or in a paper bag to cool. When cool, scrape the black skin off , remove the seeds, and slice the pepper into strips.
Spread the ricotta cheese over the partially baked pizza, leaving a 1/2-inch margin around the edges. Add the marinated vegetables, and finish baking as directed in the basic crust recipe. Yield: 2 pizzas.
Eggplant Parmigiana Pizza
If you like eggplant, you'll love this pizza. It's like having a piece of crusty bread and mouthful of eggplant parmigiana in each bite.
1 large (1 1/2 pound) eggplantSlice the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Sprinkle with a good quantity of salt (1 to 2 tablespoons), and set aside in a colander for at least 30 minutes (this process will draw the bitter juices out of the eggplant). After the eggplant has set, rinse it quickly but thoroughly with cold water, and pat it dry. Brush it with oil and garlic, lay the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast for 10 to 12 minutes in a preheated 425°F oven. Set it aside.
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup shredded cheese (a mixture of parmesan, provolone and mozzarella is good)
3 to 4 plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
To assemble the pizza, spread 1/2 cup sauce on each partially baked pizza. Top with the eggplant, the cheese, then the sliced plum tomatoes. Sprinkle with basil and oregano if desired. Finish baking as directed in the basic crust recipe. Yield: 2 pizzas.
Pissaladière, a specialty of Nice, on the southern French coast, traditionally includes anchovies, black olives and a large quantity of onions. We've substituted salty capers for the salty anchovies (though you may add anchovies, too, if you're a fan), and tempered the pizza with fennel and goat cheese.
2 pounds onions, sliced (2 large onions)Sauté the onions in the oil until they're translucent and some are just starting to brown. Stir in the drained capers, sliced fennel, and the pitted olives. Spread this mixture on the partially baked pizza. Top with the crumbled goat cheese, and finish baking as directed in the basic crust recipe. (If using anchovies, we suggest adding them after taking the pizza from the oven, as their flavor will be better.) Yield: 2 pizzas.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup drained capers
1 pound (1 bulb) fennel
1/2 cup pitted black olives or pitted Kalamata olives*
4 ounces goat cheese
*Available through our catalogue.