Friday, March 21, 2014

The Ultimate Pizza Margherita: Homemade Magic

Making homemade pizza must be one of the most rewarding and satisfying culinary endeavours. Once mastered, there is no point of return. One pizza stone, a pliant mound of soft round dough, some homemade tomato sauce, a heap of grated mozzarella, fresh fragrant basil leaves and half a dozen salty mouth puckeringly fabulous anchovies, and you're all set. If you haven't got the time to make your own pizza dough, no matter. Any good bakery or supermarket these days sells their own for less than a dollar to two — a good deal at double the price. Customized with your own favourite herbs, cheeses, vegetables, sliced meats or esoteric garnishes, and you're away to the races. Less than 10 minutes in the oven and it's love at first bite.

Rolled into a rough round shape, the dough is place on a pizza stone and the edges brushed with olive oil

Warmed homemade tomato sauce is spooned on top

The sauce is spread around the top of the pizza dough

Sprinkled with grated mozzarella cheese

Dotted with anchovies

And finished with chopped fresh basil

Cooked in the oven for 15-20 minutes and buonissimo!

Pizza Margherita
Serves 6

Pizza Dough:
3 1/2 cups "00" Flour
2 tbsp salt 
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast 
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ball mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 jar of anchovies, about 30-40 filets
1 cup flour or cornmeal
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only

To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture and oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until the mixture is too stiff to stir, then mix with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until smooth, elastic, and only slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Divide it into 8 pieces and shape each one into a ball. Freeze any dough not being used immediately. Cover with a tea towel and let stand for 15 minutes before stretching the dough. 

Place a pizza stone in the oven then preheat to 450°F. Dust a large work surface with flour, and stretch the dough into a round pizza-shape. When the pizza stone has come to temperature, using oven mitts, remove it from the oven and place a heat-proof surface. Place the round of rolled dough onto the pizza stone and brush the edges with olive oil, then spoon on some tomato sauce and and sprinkle with grated mozzarella. Garnish with anchovies and top with basil leaves. 

Transfer the pizza stone into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the pizza is golden brown. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm while you make the other pizzas. We usually serve guests one slice each while the next pizza is cooking in the oven, so everyone gets to enjoy a hot slice. It's the best!

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