Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pizza Night

Yikes, 2 1/2 months since my last post. What can I say, except that life has kept me busy these last few months?  I am, however, making a new resolution to be better about keeping up with all of my various blogs.  No, really. I mean it this time. 

About once or twice a month, usually on a Friday, we have homemade pizza night.  It's great fun and everyone is always happy since they get to put on (or leave off) whatever toppings they want.  We've been doing it for years now, and have the process down to the point where we pretty much never order delivery anymore.  Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I make a damn fine pizza. ;)

I usually make thin-crust pizzas on a pizza stone, but I've been wanting to give the pan pizza recipe from America's Test Kitchen a try for some time now.  Of course, I'm too cheap to pay for a subscription to their website (especially since I already own one of their cookbooks), so a simple Google search brought me to a copy of the recipe on this blog.

Confession time: the hubs and I are big eaters.  Ok, we're pigs, especially when it comes to pizza.  Even our 4-year-old daughter has been known to devour four or five adult-sized slices of restaurant/delivery pizza.  When I read that this recipe made two pizzas which would feed 4-6 people, I was a bit skeptical that this would be enough food for the three of us since the individual ones we normally make are much bigger than 9 inches.  Also, over the years, we have each become more firmly ensconced in our individual tastes.  Troy is big on pepperoni. I love sausage and mushrooms. The kiddo does not like veggies of any kind.  I knew that if we didn't each have our own pizza, there would be issues. So I doubled the recipe to make 4 pizzas.  Yeah, in retrospect, it was a little bit crazy.  Here's the doubled recipe, with a few other minor changes from the original.

Pan Pizza
Dough Ingredients
3/4 c. olive oil, divided
1 3/4 c. skim milk, warmed to 110 degrees
4 tsp sugar
4 2/3 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra for counter
2 pkgs (or 4 1/2 tsp) instant yeast
1 tsp table salt

3 c. tomato sauce
6 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
pepperoni, sausage, bell peppers, onions, etc.

1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. 

2. Combine warm milk, sugar and 1/4 c. olive oil in measuring cup. 

3. In the bowl of stand mixer, combine flour, yeast, and salt with dough hook. Turn machine to low and slowly add milk mixture. Once the dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until dough is shiny and smooth, about 5-10 min.  [If the dough does not want to come together (this can vary depending on weather, humidity, etc.), add a little water, a teaspoon at a time until it starts to form a ball.]  My dough was very stiff and not as smooth as I would have liked, but I just went ahead with it after 10 minutes of kneading.

4. Turn dough onto lightly floured counter, and gently shape into ball.  Lightly grease a large bowl with cooking spray (I just re-use the mixer bowl) and place dough in greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until doubled in size, about 30 min.

5. Coat each of four 9-inch cake pans with 2 TB of oil. [I cut this down from the three tablespoons in the original recipe since 2 seemed to coat the pan just fine.]

6. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter, divide in 4 pieces, and lightly roll each half into ball. Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll and shape dough into 9 ½ inch round and press into oiled pan. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm spot (not in oven) until puffy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes. 

7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

8. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Ladle approximately ⅔ c. sauce on each round, leaving ½ inch border around edges. Sprinkle each with about 1 ½ c. cheese and add your desired toppings. * I

9. Bake until cheese is melted and starting to brown around edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let pizzas rest in pans for 1 minute. Using spatula, transfer pizzas to cutting board and cut each into 8 wedges. Serve.

*The original America's Test Kitchen recipe was for pepperoni pizza, and they recommended you microwave the pepperoni on a paper towel first to render out some of the fat to keep the top of your pizza from getting greasy.  Troy and the kiddo used mini turkey pepperonis, which didn't have quite as much oil, so we skipped that step.  I used turkey Italian sausage, which I browned in a pan first.  I also added a ton of mushrooms and some caramelized onions to my pizza, but I was worried they'd dry out, so I put them under the cheese.

I cooked up three pizzas and put the remaining dough ball in the fridge for tomorrow.  I'll update with how it held up when I get the chance.  

The Verdict
All three pizzas were excellent. Very different from our usual, but in a good way.  The crust was lovely: thick and soft and chewy.  My only minor complaint was that it was a teeny bit on the bland side, so next time I will likely season it with a little salt after shaping it in the pan. I liked that with the thicker crust and the pan, we could really load the pizzas up with sauce and toppings, compared to what we normally make, so that was also a nice change.  The biggest bonus was that I could cook all three at once, whereas I'd previously been limited to one pizza per stone.  

Oh and the portion size? Well, I definitely underestimated how filling the crust would be.  The kiddo ate about 1/4 (or 2 slices) of her pizza.  I ate about half of mine.  Troy (who was starving by the time they came out of the oven) managed to completely polish his off, but I think he probably hurt himself in the process. 

I really like that I can start making the dough for this as late as 4pm and still be ready to eat by 6. I'll definitely be working these into the rotation. 

Edited to add:
I made another pizza with the leftover dough last night and was very pleased with the results.  Because the dough was so cold when I took it out of the fridge, it didn't rise as much after putting it in the pan, but I kind of preferred it this way since it meant the crust did not end up as thick, and I had more room for toppings.  I rolled it big enough to have crust going up the sides of the pan, which again, made the crust thinner overall. In homage to my Chicago roots, I filled it more like a deep dish pizza, using some chunky homemade tomato sauce (with meat) and frozen spinach that had been defrosted and squeezed to remove excess water.  It was no Giordano's, but it turned out pretty dang good.  Now I'm thinking I need to try deep dish next. ;)

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