Friday, September 24, 2010

From Naples with Love!>Pizza a Culinary Canvas

Pizza, the gift to the world from Naples Italy first appeared in NYC at the turn of the last century. It was not until the end of WWII until it really caught on thanks the returning GI's craving the Pizza that they had enjoyed so far from home.
Now Pizza is a multi billion dollar a year business. It has become fast meal brought to our doors in 30 min or less and just a phone call or a mouse click away. However it has became Americanized and for the most part a shadow of its former self barely recognizable from its humble beginnings.
Pizza has become the Culinary canvas that is only limited by your imagination to truly create your own personal masterpiece with different cheeses and toppings.
 Having been fortunate to have spent some time in Italy in my travels I fell in love with the food, wine, and culture of an amazing place. (If you ever get the chance GO!!!)
I have feasted on the Pizza from Naples. The first bite was amazing. I thought I heard the angelic choir... This was Pizza the way it was meant to be. Simple not complex, no 3 lb of toppings, just good tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, sea salt, olive oil, topped with fresh basil and a  thin crust that was crispy on the outside with warm and chewy on the inside, simply amazing.
I became an instant convert, "a Pizza Purest."
 It was clear to me that the crust is the most important part, followed closely by the sauce you don't want it to thin. Pizza of this quality dose not show up at the door in 30 min or less. If you live where I do it is 75 mi to the closest delivery point. Delivery is not an option. So I have through trial and error developed a Pizza very close to that Napoleon delight that I enjoyed so much.
 These ingredients will make an incredible Pizza on their own or used as building blocks to create your own masterpiece. Enjoy!

Prep time: 24 hrs                         cook time: 15 min            serves: 4

Pizza Dough:


2 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
3/8 tsp bread yeast ("regular yeast" not bread machine or rapid rise)
1 cup warm water

 Measuring cup & spoons, Med mixing bowl, Plastic wrap, Olive oil,Stand mixer or food processor, If mixing and kneading by hand; additional flour for the bench.


Coat the inside of a  med bowl with 2 tbs olive oil and set aside.
 Place in the bowl of the stand mixer or food processor, flour, salt, yeast, place the dough hook on the mixer and mix on low about 1 min to distribute the yeast and salt.
 Add all the water and turn on mixer set on 2-3 until dough starts to form a ball and no dry flour remains, stop mixer and allow to rest for 10 min. This allows the flour to hydrate.
After 10 min restart mixer on 1(low) knead dough 5-7 min, stop mixer and pinch off a small piece of dough work in to a flat disc and slowly begin to stretch it out. this is called "Window Paining." If you can stretch the dough thin enough to see light through it you are fine. If the dough tares you will have to knead it a little more.
remove the dough and form into a ball place in the oiled  bowl and coat with the olive oil cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.for 1 day to ferment.
*(note dough can be prepared 5 days in advance or frozen for up to 6 months.)

Pizza Sauce: makes enough for 6 med or 3-4 large pizzas


1 six oz can of Tomato paste 
1 tbs (aprox) Kosher salt
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
1/2 tsp Red Pepper flakes
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (if you can get San Marzano tomatoes from Italy they are the best)

Tools: Wooden spoon, Heavy bottomed skillet 10- 12", Blender, Can opener.


 Process the diced tomatoes in the blender into a chunky puree, a few quick pulses should do it.
 Place skillet over a med/lo heat and add oil and red pepper flakes along with a pinch of salt. Steep for about 10 min. Add the tomato paste and fry it in the oil about 5 min, it will change colors from bright red to maroon and the oil should be red. This is an important step as it develops a deep tomato flavor that is sweet and deep similar to sun dried tomatoes.
Slip the skillet partly off the burner and move the tomato paste to that part and add about 1/3 of the processed tomatoes over the hot side of the skillet. Add salt as if you where salting food on your plate. Cook until you can pass the spoon through and leave a clear path in the bottom of the skillet. Stir it in to the tomato paste an push it to the cool side of the pan. Repeat for the remaining puree 1/3 at a time. Place in sterilized glass jar and refrigerate up to 3 weeks.

Assembly of the pie:

Tools: Steel pizza pan, Kosher salt, Corn meal,  Pastry  brush, Pizza wheel, Cutting board

Preheat your oven to 500 ยบ F for 1 hour

On Pizza day remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to rise about 6 hours, punch down and allow to raise again about 1 hour.
Prepare the pan, brush a light coat of olive oil on the bottom and sides, sprinkle with a little Kosher salt and dust with corn meal.
Place the dough in the center of the pan and work from the center to the outside.
I use about 1/3-1/2 cup of sauce per Pizza. Place the sauce in the middle of the dough and with the bottom of a large spoon work the sauce evenly to the outside edge leaving a thin but even layer.
 Apply the toppings of choice and place in the oven on the center rack  and bake for 15 min. Remove from oven add the cheese and return to the oven 2-3 min until the cheese gets all bubbly and just begins to turn golden brown on the top.
Remove from oven, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh basil leaves.

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