Monday, May 7, 2012

Just When I Thought We Were Outta The Gluten Woods... and focaccia day comes creeping back into our schedule. I'd just gotten used to what it was like to ingest protein again. Yet, somehow, I can't think of anything better than pizza or focaccia.

While not actually proven, it is thought that pizza originated in Naples. It's made all over in Italy, but the styles are quite different as they are with focaccia, as well. I'm a purist at heart and I like things on the simple side. For me, the Florentine version of focaccia made with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt is really the way to go. Though, I will say that one of the most delectable things we had during our trip to Sicily was a tomato and onion focaccia antipasto dish. Our friend, Josephine, is Sicilian and she kept talking about this particular focaccia while we were there and we finally ran into it toward the end of the trip:
Holy delicious. Fluffy, chewy, flavorful and irresistible. Josephine was not exaggerating in her description or love of this amazing bread.

Focaccia dough is basically the same recipe used for pizza dough but there is significantly more olive oil. You also top it with olive oil as well so there's really a lot of good flavor that shines through. I could eat this every single day of my life with a nice glass of red wine and a little prosciutto. It just might be the perfect food as you can see, pre and post baking:
Major drool.

The pizzas we made were also divine in their simplicity and flavor. People, it could not be easier to make good pizza dough. I cringe at the thought of someone buying either a frozen pizza or 'fast food' pizza like Dominos when they could be making fresh, homemade dough in no time at all. All it takes is a little planning for whenever you choose to make it so it has time to rise. The recipe we used was delicious. I've made a few different pizza doughs before but this recipe was just right, crispy and chewy all at once. We made it as a thinner crust because we divided the dough up to be on the smaller side but you could certainly make it one big, thick pie if you wanted, too.

Chef left it up to us how we'd like to make one of our pizzas so I stayed with the traditional pizza margherita. I'd always wondered why it was named 'margherita' and we found out that it's named after Queen Margherita in honor of her visit to Naples. The red tomato sauce, green basil and white cheese represent the Italian flag. Fun fact, eh? It turned out great and was so tasty:
My very favorite of the day was the pizza bianca con rucola or white pizza with arugula. White pizza has got to be one of the greatest things, ever. It's made so many different ways but traditionally, it should be just cheese and dough. In America, we add things like garlic or toppings that just aren't supposed to be there (I love a good plop of spinach on top of white pizza, myself) and, in this case, we actually added lovely, peppery arugula. We tossed the arugula in olive oil and lemon juice with a touch of salt and pepper. On mine, I actually baked my crust first, brushed with olive oil and salt, and then added fresh ricotta and topped it with the arugula. Oh my good lord, was it ever delicious:
This is the most perfect summer dish for a get-together with friends. Nobody likes to eat heavy food when it's hot out and this just fits the bill completely for what you'd crave on a warm summer night. It's light, super easy to make and totally scrumptious. Pair it with a crisp glass of white wine and you're set. I think I'll replace my 'I could eat focaccia every single day of my life' with this instead. I can't wait to make it again soon and to do so for friends. 

One last addition to the day was making calzones. We used the remainder of our pizza dough and filled it with anything of our choosing. I did roasted vegetables of all kinds and added in mozzarella, as well:
I'm not normally the biggest calzone fan - not because I don't love them, only because they're usually 90% dough and 10% filling - but not these. I stuffed mine super full of the veggie mixture so each bite was nice and balanced. All that was missing was a good, spicy tomato sauce for dipping.

I'd say this day in the kitchen made for one happy Valerie. So happy, in fact, that I'm sharing the pizza dough recipe with you in hopes that you'll indulge me and make it one day, soon. I'd even call it fun to do and it's a perfect weekend meal to make be it just for yourself, with friends or especially with kids, if you have them. Sorry about the grams, it's how we're taught in the kitchen. This is about the best conversion, though:

Pasta per la Pizza (Pizza Dough)
2g (a teaspoon or so) active dry yeast
340g (12 oz) warm water (not hot water, that'll kill the yeast)
660g (23 1/4 oz) flour
25g (3/4 oz) extra virgin olive oil
12g (1/2 oz) salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water and combine all ingredients in a bowl. (A good test for the yeast is to let it sit for a while dissolving until it starts getting foamy or frothy which means it's alive and good to go. If it doesn't foam, the yeast is dead and you'll need to start over with a new batch.) Mix by hand until the dough comes together. Dump dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about five minutes until smooth and elastic. (The dough should spring back nicely when you poke it.) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and top with a little olive oil to prevent a "crust" from forming. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in volume for a minimum of three hours at room temp or overnight in the refrigerator. Punch down dough after it rises, divide if necessary and place on a lightly floured pan, loosely covered. Let rest about one hour. Knead again for a minute or two. 

You should be all set to go from here! You can certainly use a rolling pin to roll out the dough but we just stretched it by hand. I like how that makes it a bit misshapen, it keeps it unique and personal. ;)


Just an additional comment on the dough since you inquired, Rachel:
  • No, you don't need a pizza stone at all. A stone is used to crisp up the crust, nothing more. It's not at all a requirement for pizza making, it's just a suggestion but definitely amazing for those thin crust pizzas that you want to get crisp all over. 
  • As far as cooking time goes, I didn't look at a clock. I just kept an eye on the dough every so often and, as soon as it was brown, I took it out. Mine was stretched out super thin so I don't think it even took 10 minutes. Depending on what texture you like your crust to be will depend on cooking time so just watch it and you can certainly poke at it too from the center out to make sure it's cooked and to your liking. 
I hope this helps! More than that, I hope you make it, soon. Just because you're making an Italian inspired pizza dough doesn't mean you can't cover it with country ham like I know you want to do. ;)


Ray Ray said...

I want to try this! Do you need a pizza stone? What's the best way (heat and amount of time) to cook?

Allie A said...

Well, no wonder I love Margherita pizza - it was made and named for a QUEEN!

PS - I can't wait to try and make this dough. I will most certainly send you pictures of the disaster that awaits...