Have a Family Pizza Night !

Best-Ever Pizza

Growing up in Toronto, I lived next door to a very large, very lively, multi-generational Italian family. Every fall, a truckload (literally) of San Marzano tomatoes would be delivered, and they would make their own pasta sauce and can the sauce and tomatoes for use throughout the year. This was no “Ragu”, it was the real thing. They also had a brick oven/BBQ in their backyard, which is where I came to love super thin crust pizza cooked in a very hot oven – so hot that the crust would bubble up immediately upon contact. Beyond yummy!

Saturdays are usually pizza night in our house, and nothing tastes better than a homemade pie. It’s important to have a super-hot oven (550 – 600 F) which requires you to break down and order a commercial grade baking stone. This is the one that I ordered online, after going through one-too-many clay ones that you can purchase at Target, etc.

http://www.bakingstone.com/

I leave mine in my oven all the time – and it’s key if you want that super-crunchy crust on homemade bread (which requires misting – and will crack the regular type stones – but not the Fibrament).

Pizza Dough

2 tsp bulk or 1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (100 – 110 F)
1 tsp granulated white sugar
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
Oil or shortening

Note: I make my dough ahead of time, whenever it’s convenient, and store in an oiled plastic tub with a lid and vent. (I like the large Sterilite one with the red seal and pop-up vent).
I will oil the bottom, sides and lid so the dough doesn’t stick, and cover with plastic wrap before putting lid on so dough doesn’t dry out, and then pop in the fridge until ready to make the pizzas.

I love my Kitchen Aid mixer for making the dough; little people love to help with this, so it’s best to pre-measure 4 cups of flour with the salt, blend together and have ready so you can just add slowly while mixing. The remaining  ~ 2 cups of unsalted flour is for dusting the kneading board and adding as you knead. Don’t overmix in the mixer; the dough is ready when it starts to pull away from the paddles, and will still be “sticky”.

Proof the yeast by stirring in the 1 tsp sugar into 1 cup of warm water. You can use a candy thermometer, but I gauge by testing on the back of my wrist. Sprinkle the yeast over the sugar-water and set aside in a warm, draft free place.

(The inside of the not-in-service microwave is where I usually stash the yeast as it’s proofing).

When yeast has foamed up, stir into sugar-water mixture, mixing thoroughly and then add to large mixing bowl.
Gradually start to add flour – salt mixture, incorporating as you go. Transfer to a floured board; knead, adding more flour until the dough can’t incorporate any more. Transfer to oiled container and store in fridge. (It tastes best if allowed to rest 24 – 48 hours, rather than using right away).

Basic sauce

2 cups coarsely chopped peeled san marzano tomatoes, or, alternatively,
1 large can san marzano tomatoes (I prefer Cento brand).
¼ cup good quality olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp finely minced fresh garlic (or roasted garlic — really good!)
1/2 tsp sea salt (adjust to taste; we’re on a low-sodium diet in this house)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a medium sized mixing bowl; use immersion blender to crush tomatoes and mix ingredients. Our family likes the tomatoes to not be too finely crushed. Cover and store in fridge, allow flavors to marry.

Making Pizza

Preheat oven to 500 + F.
Divide dough into quarters – one quarter makes one large pizza.
Stretch and roll out dough to about ¼ thickness.
Crimp edges; spread with approx ½ cup sauce.  The olive oil will come to the top of sauce; stir thoroughly before spreading on the pizza.
Add shredded cheese and whatever toppings you like.
I then like to sprinkle finely chopped fresh basil and a light dusting of oregano or grind a light dusting of the Italian herbs blend on top of all before putting in the oven.

(I also like to let the pizza “rest” for a few minutes before popping in the oven. You can pre-make as many pies as you will need in an “assembly-line” fashion, and let them rest before baking, as the pies will bake pretty quickly if the oven is super-hot and your baking stone is pre-heated properly.)
I sprinkle my baking stone with coarse corn meal, and bake the pizza right on the stone and not in a dish. A wooden pizza peel is handy for transferring the pizza to and from the oven, but not essential.  Bake for about 8 – 10 mins, or until edges of crust are crisp.
Transfer to a large clean cutting board and allow to cool slightly before cutting into wedges.

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