Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bakers Corner: Margherita Pizza


I'm super excited about this post! The header says it all doesn't it? After close to 3 years of blogging, I've got my hubby to do a guest post on my blog :)

First, I'd like to open this post by briefly introducing him to my readers. For the sake of maintaining anonymity (and a certain air of mystery), let's just call him A. If you have read my 'About' page, you will know that I credit A with pushing me to start my own blog. He has always been incredibly encouraging and supportive of whatever I do and I am thankful for that. He is one the biggest foodies I have ever met with a vast knowledge of world cuisines, ingredients and flavors. He has sharp tastebuds and a sophisticated palate which makes him the chief food taster and critic in our household! He usually takes over the mantle of head chef from me on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The other days of the week, he is my dependable sous chef! He had volunteered to contribute to my blog a long time ago but somehow that never transpired. A few weeks ago, I asked him to do a guest post for October and I was glad to note that he still was enthusiastic about it. He suggested that he would make pizza since it was not featured on my blog before. Generally, he is the pizza maker at home and he has always used store-bought pizza crust. For this post, he wanted to make everything from scratch. Believe me when I say that he is solely responsible for selecting the recipe, buying the required groceries, the entire cooking process, the presentation and the photography. He even went out and bought a pizza stone and peel, since he thought it would improve the browning and texture of the crust. I was touched by his level of commitment and effort :)

The pizza turned out great! The crust was crisp, the top was cheesy, the marinara sauce had great depth of flavour and the pizza was perfumed with lovely basil. I will be requesting demanding for it again soon! 

Okay, so this is where I say goodbye to you. I have absolutely nothing to do with whatever you see below the dotted line :D

Handing over to A now....

★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★

Hi readers, this post has been a long time in the coming. I had promised Megha more than an year ago that I would be write up something for her blog, but never got around to doing it. I do have the patience for cooking, not so much for writing. Anyway here I am making my debut and I have to say I'm very happy to be doing this. The way Megha's blog has evolved over the years is quite impressive and makes me proud to be a part of.

Italian food has always been one of our favourite cuisines and we regularly end up having pizza or pasta at least once a week. The idea of making a homely rustic pizza at home has always been on our mind but considering the countless local pizza joints and easy home delivery options we somehow were never were motivated enough to try it. Now that we have, and the way it turned out, I'm pretty sure this could become a regular thing.

When it comes to cooking I'm a stickler for the tried and tested and haven't yet reached a stage where I invent my own recipes. The recipe for the pizza crust I'm presenting here has been adapted from a combination of Alton Brown and Bobby Flay's recipes from Food Network. My pizza sauce has been adapted from Emeril Lagasse's recipe also from Food Network. I'm also a great believer in having the right tools and ingredients for cooking, and generally don't take any shortcuts in techniques or make any compromises with my ingredients. So that's how we ended up going out in search of, and buying a Pizza stone, which I believe is the best surface for baking a pizza. A pizza pan can be a good secondary option but if you can find a stone, that's what you should go for. Pizza stones distribute heat uniformly, and being porous allow moisture to escape from the dough resulting in a much crispier and firm crust. For the toppings you can do your own thing and go all out and have fun with it.

The pizza I chose to make is the ever popular Margherita, simply because it's a classic, and has some easy to put together toppings. The combination of basil, cheese and tomato has a simple yet fresh flavour that tastes wonderful.



Notes on measurements:

Measurements can always be a tricky thing and their definition can vary greatly based on the recipe or region. Moreover when measurements are specified in cups for solids and liquids it kinda drives me crazy because I prefer working with more well defined units. Baking is a science so the more effort you take to get your quantities right the more you'll be rewarded. So here are the conversions for the different things that are used for this recipe.

1 cup bread flour =  136 grams
1 cup all purpose flour = 125 grams
1 cup water = 240 ml
1 envelope yeast = 2 1/4 tsp = 7-8 grams
3 1/2 cups tomatoes = approx. 600 grams
40 deg C = 104F

Total Time: 2 hrs (includes prep time & inactive time)
Baking Time: 20 min
Makes: Two 12-inch pizzas
Recipe Source: Adapted from recipes by Alton BrownBobby FlayEmeril Lagasse

The Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

- 1 cup bread flour
- 3 cups plain/all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
(Note: Using bread flour will give you a much crispier crust. All-purpose flour will give you a chewier crust)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 envelope instant dry yeast (or rapid rise yeast depending on your patience)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups water, 40 degrees C (yeast is most active at this temperature)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch Italian herbs
- Pinch Garlic powder
- Pinch Onion powder

Directions:

Combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian herbs and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add 1 cup of the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat adding the remaining water in small quantities until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

Grease a large bowl with 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or wet kitchen towel and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. (I heated up my oven to 50C, switched it off and placed the dough in it). Once risen, punch down the dough, fold it in a few times and place back in the bowl for about half hour and let it rise again. Once done turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece of dough out using a rolling pin or stretch by hand till they are about 12" diameter or the size of your pizza pan/stone. If your dough is too sticky when rolling add more flour. It's important to ensure that your rolled out dough can later easily slide onto the pizza stone in the oven. If not making the second pizza now, you can store the second dough ball in the fridge for a week.






The Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 medium onion, diced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 1/2 cups whole, peeled, canned tomatoes in puree roughly chopped
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 sprig fresh oregano
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

When the pizza dough is rising, prepare the Marinara sauce.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion and garlic, stirring, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chopped basil and the herb sprigs and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Remove and discard the herb sprigs. Stir in the salt and season with pepper, to taste. Use now, store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.



The Margherita Pizza

Ingredients: (For 1 pizza)

- The pizza dough you just prepared
- Your freshly prepared marinara sauce
- About 8-10 slices of mozzarella cheese
- Fresh mozzarella balls
- A bunch of fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Roughly layer the pizza base with the mozzarella slices leaving about a half inch of empty space on the edge. If you don't have mozzarella slices (which aren't commonly found) you can use shredded mozzarella or any pizza cheese. Mozzarella slices give you a very even layer of cheese on the base and the toppings don't get mixed up with the cheese as in the case of shredded cheese. Leaving a bit of empty space on the edge of the base gives you a nice raised edge when the pizza is baked. Brush the edge of the pizza base with olive oil to give it a crispier edge crust.


Spread the marinara sauce evenly on top of the cheese layer. Break the mozzarella balls into chunks and place around the pizza uniformly. Do the same with the basil leaves tearing of the bigger leaves if necessary. Your pizza is now ready for baking.




Place the pizza stone in the oven (generously dusted with flour) and preheat to 250C. It's important to place your pizza stone into a cold oven and let it heat up gradually or else it will crack due to sudden thermal shock. Once the oven is heated up, it's time to put your pizza into the oven. Gently slide the pizza onto the stone taking care not to disturb the toppings and also watch out for the hot pizza stone. Bake the pizza for about 20 mins or eyeball it till you see the edges of the pizza turning a beautiful golden brown. 


Once done take out of the oven and rest for a few mins. Use a pizza cutter or knife to cut the pizza into slices, season with chilli flakes and Parmesan and you are good to go!

Hope you enjoyed this experience of pizza making and be sure to look out for more of my posts (hopefully) sometime in the near future.

5 comments:

  1. Love the guest blog :) Was impressed with the details and reasoning behind each step/requirement. Inspired to try this now :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ditto, Akshay! Loved your guestpost, A!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a great debut your hubs made Megha :) the pizza looks perfect and so delicous! I honestly don't like the commercial pizzas you get in the fast food joints and would prefer a rustic one anyday. Nice post!

    ReplyDelete

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