Pizza Chronicles: White Pizza with Brussels Sprouts, Caramelized Onions & Bacon. Red Pizza with Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions & Ricotta

12 Jan

I have been making pizza a few times a month for the better part of a year.  The internet is overflowing with pizza dough recipes.  There are articles, essays, recipe collections, step-by-step guides dedicated to the art of making pizza at home.  Celebrated home cooks and revered professionals have all weighed in.

The thing is it is easy to make pizza at home but it is very difficult to make very, very good pizza at home. It really is a problem of equipment. Professional pizza ovens register somewhere north of 800º.  Most pizza is cooked directly on the surface of  those blistering hot ovens.  The pizza dough makes contact with the surface crisping up almost instantly.  In the very little time that it takes the dough to bake, the toppings brown, the sauce bubbles and cheese melts.  End result: perfect pizza.

My oven doesn’t do that well much past 425º.  Irregardless of how clean it is our smoke alarm goes off each and every time I try to push it, sending our cat flying upstairs and  reducing Isabella to tears.  I have to make do with it somewhere between 400º and 425º.  All of the pros will tell you that you must have a pizza stone, it is the only way to kind of, sort of mimic those professional ovens.  They are right. We had a pizza stone, but we left it in an oven one or two moves ago.  Since then I have used, with varying success, a cast iron skillet and aluminum sheet pans.

I was waiting to write about making pizza at home until I had perfected it.  Waiting to be able to tell you exactly how to do it.  But it has been close to a year and it hasn’t happened.  I have made so many different recipes that I have begun to lose track of the results.  So, from now on, I will write about each attempt; what went right and what needs to be adjusted.  I have a feeling that this will continue until we build our wood burning pizza oven in our dream outdoor kitchen – that is at least 10 years away – so let the Pizza Chronicles begin.

This week’s recipe comes to us from Serious Eats.  The verdict:  The white sauce is delicious, and this is coming from someone who has been known to order her pizza with extra tomato sauce, both on the pizza and on the side to dip.  The crust was pretty good.  Not quite as chewy or soft as I envision my perfect home-made pizza but flavorful and sturdy, crisping up nicely on the bottom and supporting the toppings nicely.

New York Style Pizza Dough

5 cups unbleached bread flour

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar or honey

1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3/4 cups warm water (read the directions on your yeast – active dry yeast requires water at 100º or so, instant yeast is 70º).

If you are using active dry yeast combine yeast, water and honey/sugar in a bowl and stir, let sit until frothy – add to the flour and mix according to directions below.  If using instant yeast combine all ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer with the bread hook attached.  Let mix until the dough comes together.  Let rest 5 minutes and mix for a further 2 minutes.  Divide into three evenly sized balls.   If you aren’t planning on using it right away put it into a freezer bag and freeze.

Coat the dough lightly in olive oil, place in a bowl and cover, put the bowl in a warm place until doubled in size (approximately 4 hours) or let rise overnight in the refrigerator.  If you let the dough rise in the fridge take the dough out at least 2 hours before you plan to make the pizza to take the chill off of the dough.

Sprinkle your counter with corn meal and roll the dough out to the shape that will fit your pan.

Pre-heat your oven to 400º for at least one hour before you intend to put the pizza in.  If you are using a stone, it should be in the oven.  I have been using a regular sheet pan (very clean!) in place of a pizza stone. I have also used a cast iron pan with some success.  Whatever you plan on cooking the pizza on, it should be in the oven, pre-heating.

White Sauce

1 small onion diced finely

1 clove of garlic finely diced

1/4 cup heavy cream

Salt, Pepper & fresh Thyme

Sauté onion until translucent, add the garlic and sauté one minute.  Add heavy cream and let reduce slightly.  Season with salt, pepper and add fresh thyme.

Make your pizza!

When the oven is hot carefully take the stone (or sheet pan or skillet) out of the oven.  Lay the rolled out pizza dough on the pan and very, very quickly top with whatever you have on hand.  A lot of recipes will tell you to top your pizza and transfer it to the hot surface using a pizza peel (I have a lot of cooking and baking tools, a pizza peel is not one of them) but I have yet to do that successfully – the toppings slide off, I burn myself and end up cursing in front of my two year old, who then repeats, with startling clarity, the choice words that I had strung together.

This pizza made use of those brussels sprouts I have been eating all week.  Half of the pizza was spread with the white sauce and topped with raw brussels sprouts leaves, diced, cooked bacon and caramelized onions.  The other half was spread with tomato sauce and topped with ricotta, thinly sliced raw mushrooms and caramelized onions.

Put it into the oven and bake until the crust and toppings are golden, the sauce is bubbling and any cheese has melted.  This pizza took about 12 minutes.

The pizza dough was not exactly what I had hoped for but the toppings were fantastic.  A combination that I will definitely repeat.

Do you have any pizza making tips or tricks?  Please share!

Pizza bianca

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