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I am making the finest pizza in this city. Or close to it. And so can you.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

There is a new pizza joint open in town, only it isn't a "joint," it's an upscale offering from a restaurant group that has already brought us upscale Americanized Mexican cooking and upscale hamburgers and baloney.  There's quite a bit of excitement about this new pizza place, and I suspect that we will all be visiting and dropping more money on a pizza than we are used to spending.  We may be wowed by this turn of events, convinced that it's worth it to spend that kind of money.  It may well turn out to be the greatest pizza that this city has produced.

But I doubt it.

Trust me, friends, making pizza isn't rocket science.  It can be, of course, for those professionals who are perfecting the perfect pie which they will then repeat over and over for great profit.  But for the rest of us, the  casual pizza lovers who simply want a damn good pizza, it's really pretty easy.

You only need six ingredients:

water
yeast
salt
flour
crushed tomatoes
cheese
(whatever you add beyond that is up to you, but really, to me, the mark of a great pizza is how how it tastes in its simplest form)


You need three pieces of equipment:

a pizza stone (there's a way around this if you don't have it)
a pizza peel (that cool-looking piece of wood with a handle that you use to side that pie in and out of the over)
a pizza wheel (to cut your finished pizza)

As an investment, the ingredients will cost you about $13 for the ability to make more than one batch of pizzas (you might have to buy more cheese, depending on your proclivities).  The larger, long-term investment is for the three items that will turn your oven into a pizza oven.  Together, these will probably cost you about $35 and will give you the means to make and serve homemade pizza indefinitely.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that same $48 will get you a couple of individual pizzas and a couple of drinks at the new place, at least according to an online review I read.

The hardest part about making pizza, and it ain't that hard, is making that crust so that it will stretch out and not tear or clump up like a hockey puck.  Now, there's no-knead pizza dough, and it's easier than anything and doesn't require any equipment other than a large bowl.  The recipe is everywhere; here's one version.  All you do is stir flour, yeast, salt, and water a little bit, then cover it and let it rise for a long long time.  Then you put it in the refrigerator, and you have dough for days.  And, yes, of course, you could cut the recipe in half.

You put your pizza stone on the bottom rack of your over and put the temperature as high as it will go (500 degrees in most ovens) and let that stone heat for a good 30 minutes.

Get your wooden pizza peel, dust it thoroughly with some flour, put an orange-size piece of dough on there and slowly flatten it and stretch it and then a little more until you've got a disk that you can get your knuckles under and gently work underneath it and stretch it around and around the center and edges until you've got a thin dough that you can set on your floury peel, cover with some crushed tomatoes and grated mozzarella cheese (or slice fresh mozz) and slide it into the oven.  At that temperature, it will bake for 10 minutes or less before it's done.

Ah, bliss.

And what a hero you will be to whomever else is in the house when you pull that pie out of the oven.  And what is more gratifying than being able to make your own pizza and to realize that what you've made is as good as or better than most any other pizza in your city, certainly way, way, way better than the ones in the freezer case or that are mass-produced by the pizza chains.  And, much cheaper.  I'm not kidding.

Sure, practice makes perfect, and your first one may not be exactly the way you want it, but even the first time, maybe with a few "imperfections," I'm sure you will be able to fashion a serviceable pizza, or better.  Like most things, it's mostly a matter of not being afraid of what you are doing and not trying to do it too quickly (usually a result of that fear).

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