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Iced Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Pie

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Raspberry-Nutella Bars

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Spaghetti With Tomato Pesto

Parmesan Sesame Biscuits

Two-Minute Chocolate Mousse

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce 

Creamy Chive Risotto Cakes

     
Brown Sugar Pie 

The Best Homemade Dinner Rolls
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Chocolate Bark with Granola and Sea Salt  

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Friday
Oct082010

Pizza!!

October is National Pizza Month!  But every month is pizza month here at the Circle B Kitchen, and we’ll find any excuse to make it.  We LOVE pizza, and although I’ve been making it for about 30 years now, it seems I’m always tweaking this and fiddling with that.

When we were designing and building our place here, one of the things I REALLY wanted was a pizza oven, so our architect (who also happens to be The Husband) designed it into the garden area right off the kitchen door.  Then he went and built the whole thing with his own two hands, and a more beautiful pizza oven would be hard to find.  It works perfectly and I absolutely love what it does for pizza.

Of course, it took me some time to get the hang of starting the fires and keeping them going,

and how to get the hearth hot enough, or not too hot, how to use the coals, etc., etc., but after 3 years, I think I have it pretty well figured out, and when I don’t manage to screw it up, we can turn out some pretty tasty pizza.

 

Everyone has their own idea of what a good pizza is, and I think that’s as it should be.  Pizza should be personal.  You should have a relationship with your pizza, and you should get to have it exactly as you like.  I mean, if you want a cheeseburger pizza with caviar and spam, you should get to have that, right?  Who cares!  It’s pizza!

Personally, I like to keep pizza simple.  I really like the pizza crust to be the star and the toppings to be lovely adornments that complement but don’t detract. 

The sauce should be light with a hint of tomato sweetness and the cheese should be, well, kinda melty.

I could go on for about 40 pages about pizza dough, but at the risk of leading you into mind-numbing boredom, I’m going to try and keep this short.  Yeah, right.

1.  I prefer making my dough with bread flour.  I’ve tried all-purpose flour and 00 Italian flour, but only the bread flour seems to give the dough the heft and lightly chewy texture we like.

2.  I start my dough with a biga (flour, water, yeast and sugar), which I make early in the morning and let ferment until late morning or mid-day.  Then I add the dough ingredients to the biga, which not only contributes flavor, but texture as well.

3.  My dough is fairly wet (usually between 50 and 60% hydration) which makes it rather sticky to work with.  I’ve learned how to handle it and it’s not hard, really, but a moist, sticky dough really gives a nice rise and great texture to your final pizza.

4.  I let my dough rise a little longer than most recipes call for.  The longer the yeast gets to hang out with the flour, the more flavor develops, so my dough usually rises for about 4 to 5 hours, with a “punch down” about half-way through.  I’ve also been known to make the dough the night before and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight.

5.  My pizzas turn out better if I stretch my dough thinner rather than thicker.  The hearth in the pizza oven is usually between 600 and 700 degrees, so there is less chance of burning if the pizza cooks quickly.

6.  You DO NOT need a pizza oven to make great pizza.  When weather prohibits use of the outdoor oven, I can still get great pizza from my pizza stone indoors.  I like to crank up the oven as high as it can go and let that stone preheat for at least 45 minutes before I cook. 

7.  If you have trouble getting your pizza to slide off your paddle and onto to your baking stone, just place a sheet of parchment paper on your paddle, assemble your pizza on the parchment and slide the whole shebang into the oven.  After a couple of minutes you can pull the parchment out from under the pizza and re-use or discard it.  This was a life-changing discovery for me!

Now if you’ve read this far, you are officially as pizza crazy as we are.  We make no apologies for our obsession and neither should you.

So happy Pizza Month, everyone!  We should all just grab our favorite pizza recipes and make as much pizza as we possibly can all month long.   Please feel free to share your favorite toppings/sauces/recipes.  One of the things I love most about making pizza is that it's such a great communal experience.  It's fun, it makes everyone happy and it's just dang good!

My Pizza Dough and Sauce

Click here for a printable recipe

Biga
2 1/4 tsp (or 1 pkg) active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1 T flour

Dough
1 biga recipe
4 ½ cups (approx) flour
1 cup lukewarm water
3 T olive oil
1 T salt

Sauce
1 large can of whole tomatoes (preferable San Marzano)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil or oregano
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of sugar, if necessary

Step One:  In a large bowl combine all biga ingredients.  Whisk well.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it ferment several hours until you’re ready to start your dough.  (I’ve let the biga sit anywhere from 1 hour to 6 hours.  The longer the better, but it will still work if it only has a short ferment time.)

Step Two:  To make the dough, sift 4 ½ cups of flour into the bowl with the biga mixture.  Add 1 cup warm water, oil and salt.  Mix well either by hand or mixer.  Knead on medium high speed for 3 to 4 minutes. The dough should be sticky, so flour your hands.  Remove and knead with both hands for 5 to 6 minutes.  Add more water or flour by the teaspoon in order to have an elastic ball of dough.

Step Three:  Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for a couple of hours.

Step Four:  “Punch” down the dough and fold it back into a ball, cover and let rise another couple of hours.

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of your oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

Sprinkle a little flour on your countertop and with flour-covered hands, re-knead the dough and divide into 4 balls.  For each pizza, stretch (or roll) the dough into a round that’s about 10” in diameter.  Place a piece of parchment on your pizza paddle and then lay the pizza on top.  Cut the excess parchment from around the dough and add your sauce and toppings.  Slide the pizza onto the baking stone and cook until the dough is starting to brown and the sauce and cheese are bubbly (you can remove the parchment paper partway through the cooking). 

For the sauce, place the tomatoes in a blender (or use a hand blender) to create a smooth sauce.  Heat the olive oil in a 10" saute pan and add the tomatoes.  Cook the tomatoes for about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the basil (or oregano), salt and pepper.  Heat through and add a teaspoon or so of sugar, if needed.  Let this simmer for another couple of minutes and then remove from the heat until ready to use.

Reader Comments (26)

LOVE homemade pizza, it's incredible. We just ate at this local pizzeria called Pizzeria 712 and we had a gourmet cauliflower bacon pizza. Mmmm :)

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Says

Cauliflower and bacon would be amazing on pizza!! Thanks, Sarah! That's definitely going on the list of "must try" pizza toppings.

October 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Whoa! I thought I was in Naples for a moment! I LOVE your pizza oven! Very talented hubby. Awesome photos with the flaming oven Patrice, I have to get away from this computer, it's 11:15 PM and suddenly I'm starving!

October 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermarie

Thanks so much, Marie. The oven is great fun, and I will pass your nice words on to The Husband.

October 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

The tip about parchment paper is worth the price of this entire post!!! Don't have a good homemade sauce recipe either so will give yours a try.

October 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaula

I concur, Paula. The parchment paper thing is a total game-changer when it comes to homemade pizza!

October 9, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

WOW! I am so jealous. Your very own pizza oven - sweet! The pizza looks delicious. But I have to admit that I'm still a little scared working with yeast but this looks worth getting over my fear.

October 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

Tanya, I think the best way to get over your fear of working with yeast is to just do it. Make some dough and don't worry about getting it perfect. Just have fun with it. I think it's one of the most satisfying things you can do in the kitchen. Hope you give it a try!

October 10, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I so wish we had an oven like that, it's on our todo list next time we 'remodel' our yard. Here's one of our pizzas:
Pizza With Sautéed Leeks, Grilled Mushrooms and Goat Cheese Whipped with Lemon Zest


We just have weekly pizza parties with friends, but since October is pizza month (we didn't know), maybe we should do Wednesday too :)

October 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnders Heie

Oooh, that mushroom pizza with sauteed leeks sounds fabulous! Must give that a try. Any night is pizza night as far as we're concerned, Anders. Thanks for stopping by!

October 13, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

WHOA!!!!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me?! I haven't read the entire post yet, but all I want to say is you are a LUCKY woman! I want that stone oven !!! Arrgh...now I am really jealous!!!

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdelina

Well, Adelina, I don't know what to say, but thank you. It truly is an awesome thing of beauty and a joy to cook in.

October 14, 2010 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Great looking oven you have there! The woods smoke give it a much better flavor!

November 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJazz Rules

Would your hubby be willing to share plans/tips re: the oven he made for you? after a cursory internet search I have found nothing nearly as visually pleasing and most options seem quite expensive. I am curious if this is something we could do, being quite handy with DIY projects. Thanks in advance to you both for any info you are willing to share. Your site and recipes are inspiring!

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShai

Thanks so much, Shai. It really IS much less expensive to build your pizza oven yourself. My husband used the plans in the back of The Bread Builders (by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott) for the technical aspects of the oven. The stone and masonry work around the oven he just did himself (he's pretty experienced in this) using "moss rock" that he purchased from a local rock yard. He "dry set" the stone, meaning there is no mortar between the stones, which is an old traditional way build to rock walls. I hope that's helpful, and I hope you get your pizza oven!!

July 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

We tried the Crust recipe last night and it was the best pizza dough we have ever made! THANKS CHICKIE!!!

October 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

I visit a lot of websites in my job and I have to say that this one is THE MOST comfy, "sit a while and visit," most welcoming, warm and homey sites I have ever encountered. It is so nice to be here, and your recipes are WONDERFUL!

Thank you for this.

January 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ'Marinde Shephard

This is awesome!!! Can't wait to try! So greatful for the recipe. I'm fortunate to have friends who are fabulous pizza makers. Each year at the end of the camping season 3 or 4 families head out to our favorite camping spot and the final night we prepare pizzas in the wood fired oven at the outdoor kitchen. There has been some great creations but one of our favorites has been jerk chicken with marinated aritcokes, mushroom and mozza.

January 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

That sounds some like some good pizza, Christine! Nice to have a wood-fired oven at your favorite camping spot! That sounds amazing! Thanks for stopping by!

January 14, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

I put in a web search for Oatmeal Bake recipes because I wanted something healthy for breakfast and was fortunate to find a great sounding recipe on your website. So after I finished the oatmeal recipe and was waiting for it to finish
I began to drool over all the other recipes you have. Like everyone else I have Wood Burning Pizza Oven envy and now want to build one for myself. One trick I use at home to make a crusty, slightly blackened crust is to pre-bake my dough on a pizza stone at 450 for about 7 minutes. Then I pull it out and lay down my cheese first, then top with sauce and other toppings. This way the cheese doesn't over cook and dry out. I can eat a whole pizza by myself! Thanks for my newest favorite food website!!

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris Woodall

Thanks, Chris! Nice to hear from you... great pizza idea!

October 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

My husband is a contractor. He has the skill to build a pizza oven. Did you have instructions??? I would love to know more about the pizza oven itself.

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

My husband used the plans in the back of The Bread Builders (by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott) for the technical aspects of the oven. The inside (dome and hearth) are firebrick. If you're really interested in making your own pizza oven, The Bread Builders is an invaluable resource. There are lots of other great plans out there on the web too. LOTS of people building brick ovens these days. They're great for bread and roasting meats as well as pizza. Have fun! Hope you get that oven built!

October 20, 2012 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

Prometo comerla

January 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterraul

First of all, I agree with the other commenter: you have a really wonderful, welcoming site. And your recipes are to die for. I've started clicking on your recipe archive first when I'm planning the week's menu. Thanks for all your great pics, recipes, tips and glimpses into your life.

Secondly, thanks for the info re: the pizza oven. I've wanted to build one for years but didn't quite know how to start. I do have a question about this, though. Do you ever have trouble with bugs or animals making nests because it's such a cozy spot? Do you keep it closed up somehow, when you're not using it?

Third (sorry for epic comment), what do you think about letting the pizza dough ferment for a week or longer? I've got it bookmarked somewhere on my laptop, but I remember reading a site where this guy was trying to make Margherita pizzas like the ones they serve at Keste in NYC, and he said he likes really fermented dough, like a week or more. Have you ever done it that long?

March 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersalt

Thanks so much for the nice comments about the blog, Salt, and I'm so glad you're enjoying the recipes! That's a good question about the pizza oven, because I've often wondered why animals aren't more drawn to cozy up in there, but no, it's never happened. So far, no nests. Of course, we get bugs and spiders, but they don't last long once we get the oven fired up. Most of them just go scurrying out when we start getting the fire laid. And about the dough, I've never let it ferment longer than overnight. If you'll notice with my recipe, I begin with a starter that sits out for several hours before you add it to your dough ingredients. This gives the dough a really good flavor. But letting the dough sit in the fridge for 24 hours gives it even more flavor. I'm not sure how the yeast would do sitting in there for a week, whether it would still be vigorous enough at that point to create much of a rise in the dough. Might be worth a try though. Nice to hear from you and please keep us posted if you try that!

March 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterPatrice Berry

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