In my 60 years of this current life, I have eaten mounds and mounds of pizza. I have tried all styles, different types of mediums (dough, tortilla, and breads), sauces, toppings, cheeses. Anyone who knows me has heard me state, “I admit to it, I am a pizza snob.” I have been asked several times to write an article on making pizza. I am doing three better, I am doing a trilogy of articles covering this first style, New York; then Sicilian and finally Chicago style.
Being born and raised in New York, eating pizza is a staple of a true New Yorker. There are two basic types in any pizzeria: Neapolitan is round in shape with a reasonably thin crust (not wafer thin, around 1/4"), with sauce, aged mozzarella cheese, garlic powder, and various toppings. Usually made in a gas oven, the dough is stretched (occasionally tossed, but that is mostly a show for the tourists), covered with a sauce primarily made of canned tomatoes and Italian herbs cooked into a sauce, and liberally covered with cheese. The slices are large, filling one paper plate, and usually folded when eaten.
|One slice takes up a full sized paper plate.|
|Thin crust, crispy and perfect.|
The second most common style of pizza in New York City (that is the 5 boroughs; and Long Island) is the Sicilian, or “square” pie. Characterized by its thick crust, Sicilian pizza is baked in an oiled pan, giving the crust a completely different taste from that of its round counterpart. The crust of a Sicilian pie is much thicker (like a nicely baked bread) than the Neapolitan, and usually has a thicker tomato sauce as well.
Chicago pizza is a deep dish pie made in a reverse fashion than the New York style. Not bad really, but that is for another day.
Here comes the complaint, there is not any place in the Four Corners area that makes a great New York pizza. Some come close to a pretty decent pie (yes, we call it a pizza pie) like Thatzza Pizza in Monticello, or Zak’s in Moab. Domino’s in Cortez, Colorado has come the closest so far, I am just not a huge fan of the over spiced sauce they use. They have a pie called the “Brooklyn” pizza, and if they bake it for 25 minutes, instead of the usual 20, than it is pretty close to the real deal.
My main complaint is that most places under cook the dough, so the crust is pale and doughy, or the dough is so thick, that it is gooey in the center. Instead of using good mozzarella, it is usually a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar and jack cheeses. Why? Mozzarella is the number one cheese used on pizza, but provolone, asiago and parmesan can be added as well. Also, why so cheap with the sauce? A smear just does not justify calling it a pizza. At this point, might as well skip the tomato sauce, put a smear of ricotta cheese (NOT cottage cheese), then a layer of shredded mozzarella, sprinkled with Italian herbs. There you have it folks, the White Pizza, and yes, such a pizza does exist.
Well thanks for letting me rant about pizza; I am a pizza snob and I do not intend to ever apologize for it. Oh, and what is my absolute favorite type of pizza? Pizza of course!
Basic Pizza Dough
1 cup of warm water
2 tsp. sugar (to feed the yeast)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yeast
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Put warm water (80 to 110°F) into a bowl. Add salt and sugar, mix with a spoon. Add yeast, mix and let it sit for about 10 minutes. If the water is too warm, it will kill the yeast; too cold, and it will not awaken.
Start mixing, with a fork, by gradually adding flour and olive oil. Once it is too thick to mix by fork, remove to a floured, wooden board; start kneading by hand. Knead the dough until you have a smooth ball. If the dough cracks it is too dry. Add water bit by bit until if forms a smooth ball. If your dough feels more like batter, it is too wet and you need to add flour bit by bit. If you need to add water or flour, do it by small amounts; it is easier to fix too little than too much.
Coat the dough with olive oil, place it in a large bowl and cover it with a clean, cotton towel. Let the dough rise for about an hour at room temperature, then punch it down, so it deflates. Let it sit for about another hour. If you want to use it the next day, put it in a refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap.
Put the dough on a lightly floured surface; a pizza peel (wooden board with a handle) is easier for transferring the pizza from surface to surface. Put a bit of flour on your hands; using the balls of your finger tips and hands, make it into the shape of a circle by stretching it out from the center outwards. If you’re having a problem stretching the dough by hand, use a rolling pin until the dough is about 1/4" thick.
The average size of the pizza will be about 16” which can be transferred to a pizza pan or stone. You get better results when you use a pizza baking stone. The pizza stone should be preheated to 450F for an hour prior to baking, and should be placed in the middle of the oven.
Spread out evenly about 1-1 ½ cups sauce; then add favorite toppings such as cheeses, meats and/or cut up vegetables.
The oven should be preheated to 450F. Bake for 20-25 minutes; the crust should be browned and crisp, but not dark. Remove from oven, use a pizza cutter for easy slicing up and serve.
Makes 8-10 slices, depending on how it is cut up.
Ground Beef Pizza