In honor of the opening of the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, we hosted a few friends for an Italian evening of wine and pizza. We love making homemade pizza; our stone lives in the oven pretty much full-time. I picked up a lovely 1998 Barolo to kick the evening off, and the pizza party began. Last night's lineup:
Mozzarella (low-moisture, not fresh)
Baby arugula (scattered over the top after the pizza comes out of the oven)
Since this was an after-work event, we cheated and had a guest pick up a ball of dough at a local pizzeria -- most will do this, and it costs just a few dollars. However, pizza dough is easy to make, and handy to have around. You can make it a day ahead and leave to rest in the fridge, which lends to thinner, crisper crust; or you can cut it into smaller balls and freeze them for last-minute pizza prep. Our foolproof pizza dough recipe:
Just under 3 c. bread flour
1 c. warm water
1 pkg instant yeast
1 Tbsp oil
Small pinch of sugar
Heavy pinch of salt
Preheat oven to as hot as you can get it. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add water and oil; mix. If you have a stand mixer, knead with dough hooks for five to seven minutes, until pliable. Otherwise, knead by hand for 15-20 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and set in a lightly oiled bowl, covered, until it's doubled in size. Punch down the dough and knead to redistribute bubbles. Cut in half and let rest for several minutes. Roll each half out, alternating direction ot maintain an even, round shape. If dough snaps back, let rest for a few minutes more.
Sprinkle flour or corn meal lightly on the pizza peel. Gently lay one round of dough on the peel, and arrange toppings; a light hand is essential here. Give the peel a gentle shake to make sure the pizza doesn't stick, open the oven door and gently slide the pizza directly onto the pizza stone. Bake until bottom is crusty, seven to 12 minutes.
[Photo: DPaul Brown, from our cookbook]