Pizza at Home
This pizza dough recipe, an adaptation of a focaccia recipe from Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, is rather simple and leaves out the steps of beating down the dough and multiple risings. Just have patience to wait about 4 hours and you will have very good dough. The pizza here in the picture has a pesto base with shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan, and toppings of sliced red peppers, sliced cremini (baby portobello) mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, and pitted kalamata olives. Some tips: If you are using a block of mozzarella, freeze for about 15 minutes to make shredding easier. For extra-fine, snow-like parmesan, use a microplane grater. Italian fontina cheese also makes a great addition.
1 packet active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups of water
2-1/2 teaspoons fine salt
Combine the yeast, half the flour, and water in a mixing bowl. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
Mix in the remaining flour and salt with a wooden spoon. Work in until well combined. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 15 minutes or until dough is silky and somewhat sticky. You can also do all this using a mixer fitted with the dough hook. All the flour should be worked into the dough. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand for 3-1/2 to 4 hours in a warm place. Dough will be double in size.
Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 500 degrees F. Yes, it will be hot!
Divide the dough into quarters and mold each piece into mini pizzas. Keep unused portions covered to prevent drying out. Dough can also be refrigerated for next day use or frozen for later use. Form pizzas by stretching the edges and working dough around in a circular motion. Don’t worry if the pizzas are not exactly uniform. Consider that Roman pizzas are oblong.
Place the formed pizza dough onto a pizza peel that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Now you are ready to make the pizza. Start with a base of sauce or pesto, add cheese(s), and finish off with toppings of your choice.
Slide the pizza back and forth on the peel so that it comes close to the edge. Slide it onto the pizza stone and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust edges are slightly brown. Toward the end of the baking time you can use tongs to check the underside of the crust for doneness and color. It’s also easier to remove the pizza with tongs onto the peel or a breadboard. Yield: 4 personal-size pizzas.