Food for Comfort – Pizza for the Soul

Posted by Brittany Reese on November 16, 2018

In most cultures and religions sharing a meal and cooking are ways in which we share our love for each other. In light of recent events, I wanted to share a  recipe to make with your family, friends, and neighbors. It’s a quick, easy recipe that can be individualized and get everyone involved. I’ve included instructions for a margarita-style pizza but you can get creative with the toppings.

Prep: 10 mins

Makes: 2 pounds

Ingredients

Pizza Dough

  • 2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for dusting

Pizza Toppings:

  • 1 cup pureed or crushed San Marzano (or Italian plum) canned tomatoes
  • 2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced with a garlic press
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 large pinches of kosher salt
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, plus more for serving (I use my microplane)
  • 7 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (*preferably fresh mozzarella not packed in water)
  • 5 – 6 large fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnishing
  • crushed dried red pepper flakes (optional)

 

Directions

  1. Preheat Oven and Pizza Stone: Place the pizza stone on the center (or top third) rack of your oven, and preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees Fahrenheit (for at least 30-45 minutes). If your oven does not go up to 550 degrees, heat it to the absolute maximum temperature that it can go. If it can heat to higher than 550 degrees Fahrenheit, even better!
  2. Pour 1 1/2 cups warm water into a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk sugar, oil, and salt into yeast mixture. Add flour and stir until a sticky dough forms. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and brush top with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 1 or 2 times before using.
  4. Dough can be stored in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic, in refrigerator up to 2 hours. To freeze, wrap dough in plastic and freeze in a resealable freezer bag up to 3 months. If you plan to use it in a recipe that calls for half a batch, divide it before freezing.
  5. Preheat Oven and Pizza Stone: Place the pizza stone on the center (or top third) rack of your oven, and preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees Fahrenheit (for at least 30-45 minutes). If your oven does not go up to 550 degrees, heat it to the absolute maximum temperature that it can go. If it can heat to higher than 550 degrees Fahrenheit, even better!
  6. As the oven is preheating, assemble the ingredients. In a small bowl, stir together the pureed tomatoes, minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pepper, and salt. Set aside another small bowl with the cubed mozzarella cheese (pat the cheese with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture). Set aside the basil leaves and grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for easy grabbing.
  7. Separate the dough into two equal-sized portions. It will deflate slightly, but that is OK. Place the dough on a large plate or floured counter top, cover gently with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Assemble the Pizza: Sprinkle the pizza peel (alternatively, you can use the back of a baking sheet – but it will be harder!) with a tablespoon of the cornmeal. Gently stretch one ball of pizza dough into roughly a 10-inch circle (don’t worry if its not perfectly uniform). If the dough springs back or is too elastic, allow it to rest for an additional five minutes. The edges of the dough can be slightly thicker, but make sure the center of the dough is thin (you should be able to see some light through it if you held it up). Gently transfer the dough onto the cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or baking sheet.
  9. Drizzle or brush the dough lightly with olive oil (teaspoon or so). Using a large spoon, add roughly 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce onto the pizza dough, leaving a 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch border on all sides. Use the back of the spoon to spread it evenly and thinly. Sprinkle a tablespoon of parmigiano-reggiano cheese onto the pizza sauce. Add half of the cubed mozzarella, distributing it evenly over the entire pizza. Using your hands, tear a few large basil leaves, and sprinkle the basil over the pizza. At this point, I’ll occasionally stretch the sides of the dough out a bit to make it even thinner. Gently slide the pizza from the peel onto the heated baking stone. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbling and caramelized and the edges of the pizza are golden brown. Remove the pizza carefully from the oven with the pizza peel, transfer to a wooden cutting board or foil, drizzle the top with olive oil, some grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and chiffonade of fresh basil. Slice and serve immediately and/or prepare the second pizza.
  10. If you’re serving two pizzas at once, I recommend placing the cooked pizza on a separate baking sheet while you prepare the other pizza. In the last few minutes of cooking, place the prepared pizza into the oven (on a rack below the pizza stone) so that it is extra hot for serving. Otherwise, I recommend serving one pizza fresh out of the oven, keeping the oven hot, and preparing the second pizza after people have gone through the first one! The pizza will taste great either way, but it is at its prime within minutes out of the oven!.

All images and text ©A Beautiful Plate.

TIPS FOR SUCCESS:

  • Semolina flour has a high burn point than regular flour, and ensures that the dough will not stick to the peel when transferring the pizza to the oven.
  • There is no need to dissolve the instant dry yeast in warm water before using (as commonly believed). Active dry yeast has been reformulated in recent years to contain significantly smaller granules and will not have trouble dissolving into the dough. However, it isimportant to ensure that your active dry yeast is indeed alive and well. Double check your expiration date and when in a doubt, proof it using these instructions.
  • If preparing the dough in advance: once the dough has rested for two hours, separate into two portions, wrap each piece of dough well in plastic wrap, and place them in a freezer-safe bag. The dough can be chilled in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours or frozen for 3 months. Thaw the dough in the refrigerator, and allow it to stand at room temperature (in a greased bowl, covered with a kitchen towel) for at least 30 minutes before using.

Brittany Reese is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, group exercise instructor and food lover. Do you have questions or comments? Fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you very soon.

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