I was feeling inspired this weekend, due in part to two factors. One, I had read the New York Times’ Dining section last Wednesday, which was all about pizza, and right off the bat, Mark Bittman assured us that anyone could make decent pizza dough. I had always known this, of course, I just didn’t want to go through the process of making the dough, waiting for it to rise and ferment a bit, then go out and get fresh mozz. The other factor was a shoot I was on last week for ABC, at a suburban pizza joint (which will remain nameless until that story runs in a few weeks); I kept a close eye on how the pizzaola was making the pies, and seriously, it didn’t look that difficult – he just had a much better oven than I do. But thanks to my food processor, it took me all of two minutes to make the dough, and while I let it rest and rise, I ran over to the store to get fresh mozz and some basil. I had everything else, including a pizza stone already heating up in the 500 degree oven, and an inexpensive pizza peel I had bought at Sur la Table a year ago.
I opened a jar of good quality canned tomatoes, added some pureed fresh tomatoes and a little bit of tomato paste, then blended them up in the processor as well. It wasn’t exactly Great Lake or Bianco, but it wasn’t too bad either:
I still had some shiitake mushrooms on hand, so I sliced those up. There was also some pepperoni in the fridge, so I used that up as well, since I had enough dough for at least two or three pies. The key, it turned out, was not over-kneading the dough, working on a floured surface, and then working quickly, so the dough didn’t stick. When I went to the oven to transfer it onto the pre-heated pizza stone, I had one minor accident, but it was quickly remedied, and afterall, no one but me was going to see the finished product.
The finished pizza was pretty good, I have to admit. I think next time I would let the dough sit at room temp for another hour or so, to develop some character; maybe I would add more salt to it as well. But overall, a success, and if you have a food processor, I would say give this a try. Mangia!
Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, or more as needed, plus more for kneading
1 teaspoon fast-rising yeast (2 teaspoons if you’re in a hurry)
2 teaspoons salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as necessary
1. Put the 3 cups flour, yeast, 2 teaspoons salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water through the feed tube. Process until the mixture forms a slightly sticky ball, about 30 seconds. If the mixture is too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 to 10 seconds after each addition. If the mixture refuses to come together, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time and process until it does.
2. Rub a little olive oil or sprinkle a little flour onto your hands and shape the dough into a ball; wrap in plastic. Let rest at room temperature until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. Or, if time is tight, let it rest at least 20 minutes before proceeding. Or refrigerate for several hours, deflating if necessary if it threatens to burst the plastic. (Or divide in half, wrap each ball in plastic, slip into a plastic bag and freeze.) Let it return to room temperature before proceeding.
3. Reshape the dough into a ball and cut in half, forming 2 balls. (From here on, use olive oil if you’re cooking on baking sheets, flour if on a pizza stone.) Put them on a lightly floured surface (a pizza peel is ideal), sprinkle with flour and cover with plastic wrap; or brush then with a bit of oil and place on a lightly oiled sheet. Let rest for about 20 minutes, while you heat the oven to 500 degrees.
4. Press a dough ball into a 1/2-inch-thick flat round, adding flour or oil to the work surface as necessary. Press or roll the dough until it’s as thin as you can make it; let it rest a bit if it becomes too elastic. (Patience is your friend here.) You can do two baking sheets at once, or one after another, as you’ll have to if using a peel. If doing the latter, slide the dough from the peel onto the stone.
5. Sprinkle the pizzas with olive oil (just a little), salt and rosemary. Bake for at least 10 minutes, perhaps rotating once, until the crust is crisp. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.
Yield: 2 pies, 4 to 6 servings.