I've advanced again and I'm on to FoodBuzz Challenge #5! Thank you for all of the votes and wonderful comments, I enjoy reading each one! So on to Challenge #5 which is to put my spin on one of my favorite foods - PIZZA!I have to admit upfront that I am a total pizza snob. Growing up in New Haven is why I have a passion for pizza! As any good foodie knows, New Haven is home to some of this country's best pizza. Some of my first food memories are waiting in line 30 to 60 minutes for a booth at the famous Pepe’s or Modern Apizza. To this day, in rain, sleet or snow, unbearable hot or unbearable cold people wait outside of these institutions for their classic pizzas. From a young age, all I knew was good pizza. When I moved to Providence for college I was still able to get my pizza fix at the Italian shops on Atwells Ave and Al Forno. Today, I live 30 minutes south of New Haven and still drive up there (and wait in line) regularly for a pizza dinner. I'll also travel for a good pie. Last year on our trip to Italy we went out of our way to Naples, the birthplace of Neapolitan pizza! Needless to say, these pizza experiences have spoiled me.
For this challenge my standard pizza made with store bought dough just won’t do. I normally make a thin crust pizza at home on a pizza stone in my electric oven (cranked up as high as it will go). It’s pretty decent but not blog worthy. So looking for ideas this past week, I stopped by a bakery in my neighborhood and saw the most amazing looking focaccia. It was topped with sauce, spices, a little cheese and immediately inspired me!! I read through American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Peter Reinhart, (which is excellent for anyone wanting to make a homemade pizza) and grabbed a recipe which I’ll include below.
I'm experimenting with the dough but want to otherwise keep the traditional flavors for this challenge. I'm staying true to my roots on this one so you won’t be seeing any exotic flavors (eh hem, pineapple & ham – for instance). I chose the focaccia pizza because it’s a different spin on what I'm use to and and the dough can bake in my humble oven. It has a wonderful flavor and can be eaten on its own or piled with toppings. The recipe is easy to make but it does take a bit of time for rising and resting of the dough (2 days). I added my own twist by letting the dough rise with the sauce on it so the tomato and herb flavor really gets into each bite! Chris (who also LOVES pizza) and I are trying to eat a more vegan diet with less dairy. This works for us because a small amount of Parmesan goes a long way (instead of a pizza dripping with mozzarella). The Parmesan can also be totally omitted for a completely vegan version!
Here's the basic recipe, though I highly recommend using the book:
The recipe will make a 12" x 17" sheet or four 9" round thinner focaccia.
5 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups ice cold water
1/4 cup oil
With a large metal spoon, stir together everything but olive oil until combined - about 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes; add the olive oil and resume mixing for 4 more minutes. At this point I switch from using a spoon to mix dough to using my hand. I use my hand like a dough hook since I don't have a large mixer.
The dough should now have formed into a sticky ball. Again, let the dough rest for another 5 minutes. Mix dough for another 4 - 5 minutes. The dough should be sticky yet able to hold the shape of a ball. If it doesn't add more flour. Place dough in a bowl with olive oil and turn to coat. Immediately cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Dough will roughly double in size.The dough has to reach room temperature before you can work with it so take it out of the refrigerator 5 hours before baking. Once dough has reached room temperature (it takes about 2 hours) divide into quarters taking care not to mash the air bubbles. Line a 9" cake pan with parchment and pour enough olive oil into tin to coat paper. Place a quarter of dough on paper. With your finger tips, press over the dough to create dimples and to push dough toward pan edges. If the dough springs back let rest for 5 minutes and try again. At this point, spread a thin layer of sauce on dough. Let the dough sit for 2 -3 hours. Preheat oven to 500. Place pan in oven for 15 minutes. Once the dough top feels cooked to the touch, remove the pan from the oven.
Now top your pizza! I topped my pizza with: red onions that were lightly sauteed in olive oil, a few fire roasted tomatoes, sliced artichokes, kalamata olives, salted browned garlic chips and a bit of Parmesan. Bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes. When you remove the pizza, top with fresh basil, thyme and a light drizzle of olive oil. Let cool for a few minutes and serve!!
While I was taking photos I had to stop and put the camera down to have a slice! Chris took the opportunity to turn the camera my way since my hands were full and there wasn't much I could do. I have to say that although my heart and taste buds will always prefer a thin crust style, this pizza hit the spot. It's definitely a recipe I will add to my repertoire. Also, if you haven't made dough at home, it's really no big deal - the dough is quite easy to make and fun to work with. I can't tell you how thrilling it was the first time I sliced into this pizza and saw how light and airy it was!
I hope you've enjoyed reading about my focaccia pizza! I'm having a ton of fun putting together these posts! If you like my FoodBuzz Blogger Challenge posts please vote to keep me in the competition & also feel free to comment! I love reading your thoughts and suggestions.