Everyone loves pizza in one form or another: thin crust, pan, hand-tossed, bagel, wood fired, grilled, gourmet, New York style, Chicago style, Lazio style, Sicilian style and the list goes on . . . . Then, one can add any number of toppings and sauces to suit individual tastes. I, personally, think of Italy when I consider the origin of pizza. Regardless of where it was initially enjoyed, pizza enjoys a long history with its simple crust of flour and water. I have heard that even Vergil wrote about it in the following passage:
"Beneath a shady tree, the hero spread His table on the turf, with cakes of bread; And, with his chiefs, on forest fruits he fed. They sate; and, (not without the god's command,) Their homely fare dispatch'd, the hungry band Invade their trenchers next, and soon devour, To mend the scanty meal, their cakes of flour. Ascanius this observ'd, and smiling said: 'See, we devour the plates on which we fed.'"
- Aeneid, Book VII
Hmmmm . . . it sounds like pizza to me.
I have worked with a pizza crust recipe for several years now. I have modified it and seasoned it in a continual effort to create the ideal crust.
10 1/2 cups flour
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 4 Tablespoons sugar plus a 1/2 teaspoon for proofing yeast
- 3 1/2 Cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
- 3 Tablespoons active dry yeast
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
Note: Occasionally, I use 1/4 - 1/2 cup of wine in place of the equivalent amount of water. This adds a wonderful flavor.
Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of warm water. Sprinkle a small amount of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon, over yeast mixture to proof it. Let it sit until the mixture foams and increases to 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Meanwhile, combine flour, salt and the 4 tablespoons of sugar in a large mixing stationary mixing bowl with the dough hood attached.
I currently utilize my Bosch mixer but I have also been successful with my Kitchen Aid as well. After the yeast mixture has increased in volume, pour it in to the flour mixture. Turn the mixer on low speed to incorporate the liquid into the flour. Repeat this process with the remaining warm water and oil.
When the flour and liquid are sufficiently combined increase the mixer to speed 2 on the Bosch or speed 4 on the Kitchen Aid and knead the dough for 6 minutes. The dough will be sticky and little difficult to work with at this point. Place it in a large greased bowl. Cover with Cling and Wrap or a similar product. Place the bowl in a warm spot for about 45 minutes or until the dough is doubled in volume.
In the meantime, grease 3 large jelly-roll pans or cookie sheets. Now, lightly sprinkle the pans with cornmeal. When the dough is doubled separate it in to 3 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece into a rectangle just slightly larger than the pan. Carefully place the crust into the pan, trying not to tear the dough as you move it. I utilize a large spatula and a wooden spoon to help me at this point.
Now, add your favorite sauce, cheese and toppings. I generally use Mozzarella cheese, a small amount of very sharp cheddar and a sprinkle of Parmesan on top. My family enjoys pepperoni as a topping. My daughters and I love vegetable toppings like thinly sliced onions and green, yellow and red peppers liberally spread across the pizza.
Bake the pizzas in a oven set to 425 degrees for about 25 minutes. This is not a science: play with your oven to achieve the best baking results. This recipe makes 3 large pizzas. You can divide the recipe by 1/3 to make 1 pizza.
"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire