Saturday, January 28, 2012

La Pizza Rossa (The Bread Lover's Pizza)

 We've all heard of the meat lover's pizza, the cheese lover's pizza, and the veggie lover's pizza.  Meet the new bread lover's pizza.  The crust on this pizza rossa is at least one and a half inches thick, giving a whole new meaning to thick crust pizza.  

The dough on this pizza is dimpled, which allows room for more toppings, creating a harmonious balance between the thick crust and what lies on top. Creating good dimples in your dough is the secret to this pizza.  Each dimple is like a secret holding extra little bits of sauce and cheese. 

 As written, this recipe called for topping only with a homemade tomato sauce. I wanted to make my pizza more of a main course pizza so I added the standard cheese and pepperoni.  Feel free to customize this pizza as you wish.  There are so many different variations that would be good with this thick crust.  This recipe makes a huge pizza that easily fills up a large sheet pan.  You will have enough pizza to feed a large family or a small crowd.  

La Pizza Rossa
Adapted from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros
Makes 12 to 15 pieces

1-3/4 cups warm (comfortable to your fingers) water
1 (3/4-ounce) cake fresh yeast, crumbled or 1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

Tomato Topping:
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and squashed a bit
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
3 basil leaves, torn

cheese, pepperoni, sausage, veggies (optional)
12 ounces of shredded mozzarella
pepperoni, to your liking
about 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
sprinkle of parsley, basil, and/or any other herbs

Put the water, yeast, honey, olive oil, and 3 fistfuls of the flour in a bowl.  Mix with an electric beater until smooth.  Cover the bowl and leave for 20-30 minutes, until the mixture froths up and looks foamy on top.  Mix in the rest of the flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons of salt.  The dough will be very soft and sticky- don't be tempted to add more flour.  Now, using a dough hook, mix for about 4 to 50 minutes so everything is completely incorporated.  If you don't have a dough hook, just mix it with your hands, slapping it from one side of the bowl to the other as it will be too soft to knead.  Cover the bowl with a couple of cloths and leave it in a warm and draft-free place for about 1-1/2 hours, or until the dough has puffed up well.
Note:  I turn my oven on warm/lowest setting and leave the bowl on top of the oven.

Very lightly oil an 11 by 15 by 1-1/2 inch baking pan.  Punch down the dough with one firm blow to the center.  Spread the dough gently onto the pan, right out to the edges, working it with your palms to stretch it along the pan.  If it won't stretch easily, leave it to relax for another 5 minutes and then gently stretch out the dough, starting from the center and flicking your palms across it.  Make sure the dough doesn't break anywhere and that it is more or less evenly spread.  Put in a warm draft-free place.  Arrange four glasses around the pan and drape a couple of dish towels or a towels over them like a tent to completely cover the sheet (so that the dough doesn't stick to the cloth as it rises).  Leave for 45 minutes or so, until the dough has puffed up.
For the tomato topping, heat the oil with the garlic in a saucepan and, when you begin to smell the garlic, add the tomatoes, basil, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook for about 15 minutes over fairly strong heat, until the sauce loses its wateriness and starts to look thick and bubbly.  If you like, you can whiz it a couple of times with a handheld blender to make it a little smoother, but still keep some chunks.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450F.

Dimple the top of the dough here and there with your fingers so that the tomato has some nests to settle into (take care not to deflate your dough, though).  Scatter the tomato sauce over the top and gently spread it out with the back of the ladles.  It may seem like a lot of sauce, but it keeps the pizza lovely and moist.  Top with other toppings, if using.  Put the pan in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes (depending on the strength of your oven) until the pizza is golden and a bit crusty here and there.  Check that the bottom is crusty and crispy, too, and cook for longer if you need to.  Cut up into squares to serve.  I think this is best warm, but it can also be served at room temperature, or reheated.
Theme: Potluck 

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