Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pizza with Tomatoes, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Mushrooms, and Sausage

Pizza here in France can be good though being made and presented differently than to what I was accustomed in New York City, as in having crème fraîche sometimes substituting for tomatoes and of course containing various French cheeses like Gruyère.   Excellent pizza is usually sold from a specially dedicated truck or a kiosk often kept in permanent locations.  However, some restaurant chains, whose names I will not mention, should be ashamed of themselves, or at least the people who pay to eat the kept-hot-under-lamps sawdust crusts/canned fillings should be.


I miss seeing industrious NYC pizzaiolos adorned with their colourful neck bandanas as they energetically flip large circles of pliable dough while dewdrops of artisanale sweat moisten their earnest faces all the while smiling at their sidewalk admirers through the gleaming, plate-glass shop windows.  You just have to go in and get some of what they are making.

My pizza though inspired by the NYC style, that is, it boasts of a very thin and tasty crust and abundant cheese, is of course, not baked in a professional oven.  My home oven will only fit 8 inch pizzas, so the slices are not the typical over-sized triangles of NYC pizza.  Many people aspire to be NYC natives, but unless you can walk gracefully down a busy city while delicately folding a huge triangle in half and eating it without pausing in your stride or dribbling any of its molten ingredients down the front of you, then this jury of one will hold her verdict.

Ingredients
Makes two 20 cm pizzas plus extra dough to be frozen for two more 20 cm pizzas.

  • Flour, white, 425 grams
  • Olive oil, extra virgin, 1 T
  • Salt, preferably coarse, 1 tsp
  • Yeast, active dry, 2 tsp
  • sugar, 1.5 tsp 
  • Water, warm, about 250 ml
  • Tomatoes, plum, fresh or canned, about 6
  • Mozarella, sliced thinly, approx 300 grams, about 22 slices,
  • Parmesan, grated, 1/2 cup*
  • Sausages, sweet Italian or Toulouse, removed from casings, sauteed, two
  • Mushrooms, fresh or frozen, lightly sauteed in olive oil, 1 cup* (canned may be used, but they will taste less appetising;  frozen mushrooms can release a lot of liquid, so drain them and use their juices for broth)
* based on the American measure of 8 oz 

Equipment

  • Pastry board or glass chopping board which will also be used as a peel to place safely the pizzas into a hot oven
  • Silicon or very thick cloth oven mitts/potholder
  • Resistant-to-high-temperature shallow oven pans or a pizza stone
  • Oven-proof parchment paper
  • Mixer with dough hook, though dough can be kneaded by hand
Making dough

The night before make the dough which will be left overnight in the fridge for a slow, cold rise to develop irresistibly tasty, naturally forming chemical compounds.  Put flour in the bowl of a bread mixer and make two wells, one for the yeast, sugar, and warm water and the other for salt and olive oil.


Mix for about 12 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.  Remove from hook and place in a lightly oiled bowl.  Flip the dough ball over so the oiled surface is on top.  Cover and keep it overnight in the fridge twelve hours as a minimum and twenty-four hours as the maximum.


Assembly

The next day, preheat oven and pans to 475 to 500 (as hot as you can bear working with such heat) degrees F.  Remove dough from the fridge and let warm to room temperature.


Lay out all the toppings.  Break up the cooked and cooled sausage meat into tiny pieces, using your fingers and separating the amount into two equal portions.  Put the sauteed mushrooms on a plate and separate into two equal portions.  Keep the sliced mozzarella and grated Parmesan close by, dividing them into two equal portions.  If tomatoes are fresh, remove skins by dipping briefly in boiling water and chop coarsely.  If canned, just chop them.  Divide the tomatoes into two equal portions.

Preparation of crusts

Weigh out into two equal balls.  Wrap one for the freezer for future pizzas and halve the remaining one.


Place the two smaller balls on their floured oven paper and flatten with your hands a bit.  Then with a finger depress all around the perimeter an inch in from the edge to allow for the crust.


As dough warms to room temperature, it will be easier to pull and press the balls into two round circles.


Finish stretching and pressing the two crusts till their diameters are roughly 20 cm, and the circle is about 1/8 to 1/4 thick.  I love this part of the process.  Perhaps it was my years of working with pottery clay and throwing pots that enables me to enjoy working with dough--my fingers became very sensitive to the thickness of clay walls as I would raise rotating cylinders on the wheel.  Pizza dough's stretchiness is pretty accommodating.  Your finger tips have loads of nerve endings, so let them tell you if the crust has been evenly stretched; just work out the thicker parts and fatten up the thinner parts as the dough is very elastic.  You could just press the dough into a round pan, but making a pizza circle free form is a lovely skill to have.


All the toppings are set out

Spread the tomatoes on both circles.  Lay the sliced mozzarella and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

These Mozzarella slice are too thick, so try to keep them much thinner

Distribute the sausage pieces and end with a layer of mushrooms.  Using a glass/wooden pastry board as a peel, slide the pie with its paper into the HOT pan/on the stone in the HOT oven.  Take great care in doing so, using adequate protection for your hands.


Bake for 6-7 minutes and then rotate the pans and bake for a further 6-7.  Remove the pans, sliding the pie and its paper on a cutting surface.  Since home ovens are way less hot than professional ones, the bottom will not have the characteristic spots of charring, but it should be a nice golden brown.  Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, make four slices The too thickly sliced Mozarella caused a cheese-lava spill--certainly a delicious and appetizing one--but still, causing a diminishing of its finger-food status.  And yes, I still fold these smaller triangles in half as a nostalgic gesture.

Any uneaten pizza can be frozen and be reheated either in a covered casserole in a 350 degrees F oven for about 30 to 45 minutes or in the microwave.  If still frozen, the pizza will take longer to get fully hot. And please, if you are one of those oddballs who enjoy congealed, tepid pizzas, I don't want to know about it!


With plentiful rain, the grass has grown tall and is too much a treat to be passed up by Dayo.


Autumn is the best time to plant garlic, though an early spring planting would work also.  I grew enough this season to be able to use my own stock. I am using the largest bulbs from the late July harvest.

The biggest heads are on the left

Per Margaret Roach at A Way to Garden if only the biggest garlic cloves are selected, then eventually all that will be harvested are jumbo heads of large cloves--artificial selection at work.  The cloves are separated and only the larger outer ones are planted.  The rest of course are happily eaten.  If in a pinch, it is possible as long as the garlic has not been treated to suppress sprouting, to use supermarket/farmer's market garlic for your planting.  If you are interested in growing your own or improving what you are already growing, make sure to check out the various relevant posts written by Margaret--she knows her stuff!


Loosen soil with a spade or fork, remove weeds, add compost, and rake level.  With the rake's end make furrows about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart in a block bed.  Put cloves about 4-6 inches apart in each short row.  Cover the furrow with earth and tamp down.  Normally, I would thoroughly moisten the bed with a light spray, but the soil is still quite soppy from almost constant rain.  The rain is doing a good job preparing the garden for the winter as it is terribly stressful for plants to endure winter if their roots are dry.

Note the the few back rows are already tamped down

As the temperatures continue to fall, I am on the guard to protect any vulnerable plants and have potted up the chives.  They will spend the short winter on a sunny sous sol window.


There are several young sweet bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) shrubs in my gardenBay leaves are one of the ingredients comprising bouquet garni, an indispensable feature in French cuisine. The leaves are harvested from all around the plant as to prevent bare spots and set out to dry for about two-three days.  They are then stored in recycled spice bottles.  As their invigorating fragrance is one of my favourites, I often toss a nice handful into my hot bath.


There usually is one head of broccoli that bolts into flowering because of a surprise bout of warm weather.  Their soft-yellow is a welcomed addition to the typically sombre autumnal palette.


This Abelia with its lovely arching branches is about thirteen years old and spent most of its life in a small pot on the balcony of our Grenoble apartment.  It is very happy to be in real soil and to be near bees that love its honey fragrance and nectar, hence its name. It is a wonderful, semi-evergreen bush for the garden as it holds visual interest all year round.  It sparkly white flowers are mostly gone and in their place are red sepals.


À la prochaine!

RELATED POSTS

Improvements on my basic pizza recipe