Time again for making pizza in the brick oven up at the cabin. My Opa built it over 30 years ago, in the same style as the one they used when they lived in Paraguay. Of course, those of you without a Paraguayan brick oven are welcome to use a regular oven, and this is the process I will describe here.
The dough, which needs to be started the day before, and the sauce recipes are from A16 Food and Wine by Nate Appleman and Shelley Lindgren. This is my favourite pizza crust and I believe it is worth the extra effort, but I hear there is also some really good ready-made pizza dough out there, like the one at Trader Joe’s.
This recipe makes enough for 3-4 medium-sized pizzas with a thin crust. Of course you can make yours with any toppings you like, but I recommend that more is less. I’ve only included toppings for one pizza here, so you can come up with a few other ideas for toppings for the other ones. Our favourite combination of toppings this time around was the prosciutto and mushroom one, but I didn’t manage to get a picture of that one.
What you need for the crust:
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1 & 1/2 cups warm water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups “oo” flour or all-purpose (I used all-purpose)
What you need for the tomato sauce and toppings for one pizza:
- one 28-ounce can of tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find them)
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 7-8 baby bocconcini, sliced
- 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved and seeds removed
- a few tablespoons of pesto, store-bought or this recipe
- about 1/2 cup grated smoked gruyere, or cheese of your choice
What you do:
1. Begin preparing the dough a day before you want to make the pizza. You can do this by hand, but it’s just a bit more work. Pour the warm (not hot – just body temperature) water into a mixer fitted with a dough hook and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Leave it for about 10 minutes and it should become foamy – if it doesn’t your water was the wrong temperature, or the yeast is dead. Stir in the olive oil and salt. Add the flour and mix on low for 2 minutes. Knead on medium-low for about 10 minutes – it will pull away from the bowl and begin to look smoother. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead once more on medium-low for 10 minutes – it will be smooth and quite soft. If it seems much too sticky you can add a little more flour. Coat a bowl with a little olive oil and then coat both sides of the dough with olive oil, placing the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge over night.
2. In the morning remove the dough from the fridge and punch it down. Fold the sides of the dough under and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it sit in a warm (not hot) place until about 2 hours before you are going to use it.
3. Punch the dough down and divide it into 4 pieces. Form them into balls and cover them with a damp towel for about 2 hours. By this time the dough should have doubled in volume. If it starts to get a skin on it you can spray it with a little water.
4. To prepare the sauce, just put the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and squish them into little bits with your hands. Add the salt.
5. Preheat the oven to 500-550 F.
6. To form the crusts, shape the dough into a disk with your hands. Push down in the center with your palm and pull the dough out gently with your other hand, rotating slightly until you have a crust that is about 10-12 inches/25-30 cm in diameter with a slightly raised edge. (or you can use a rolling-pin) Dust your baking pan generously with flour and place the crust on it. I don’t have a proper pizza stone or pan, and the baking tray I used worked just fine.
7. Spread some tomato sauce onto the crust, then the tomatoes, dollops of pesto, bocconcini slices, and the gruyere on top.
8. Bake for 6-7 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden, and the top is bubbling.