Monday, August 1, 2011

my muffins imploded, but at least there's always pizza. (no, that's not suggestive.) (...i hope.)

ahoy there, my darjeelings! (...i know. i just said that. someone slap me with a mahi-mahi.) it's sunday night, and do you know what that means? drats, i was hoping you did, because my brain's rather muddled and i can't tell from one day to the next what anything is supposed to mean. blame it on the ever-present heat and the fact that i took a visit to the plasma donation fairy today and my low blood sugar means i'm loopy.

aaaaanyway, on this traditional breakfast-in-bed, movie-watching, general loafing day of wishing we didn't have to go work our jobs the next morning, i was going to go with a banana bread recipe based solely on the fact that my father is a hilarious creature and always called my mom's sunday banana cake 'banana roadkill coffee cake' and i wanted to post that here just to make somebody, somewhere giggle. buuuut unfortunately i lacked enough flour to make a loaf and went with muffins instead, which then decided to go all overlooked soufle on my ass and deflated in upon themselves before i could even get them out of the oven, so naturally they're not showing up. (the pilot decided they were tasty, and ate one out of the muffin pan with a fork. so, quasi-success?)

so instead, i've decided to do what i never do, and actually post what i said i would post next. i know, color yourselves shocked. (if there were a crayola color for that, i'm thinking it'd be somewhere in the rouge family. between 'burnt sienna' and 'barn red'- 'shocked!') and so instead of roadkill coffee cake, i present to you: pizza, courtesy of the pilot's month-long jaunt to visit italy last spring. he went scuba diving, saw mt vesuvius and vatican city, and even the original pizza restaurant that started the whole goshbedanged thing. so to mend the jealousy he knew he obviously caused to me toiling at my office job in the desert, he brought back with him limoncello and a recipe for the original italian pizza margherita. it's certainly not a complicated recipe, but that's it's greatest asset, if i do say so myself. it's a great basic dough and it works wonders for breadsticks and calzone shells too, and you can add all kinds of seasonings to the dough if you do so desire. (i almost always desire, but for the sake of simplicity, i kept the dough unchanged for this little blogtacular excursion.)

this recipe makes enough for one hugemongous pizza, two sheet-pan sized pizzas, or what we generally do, four personal-sized pizzas because we are unique individuals, or something. the original margherita has just three toppings- tomato, mozerella, and basil- and while you can do up said pizza with nearly anything you want, i do rather profess my love for the original because of its clean, summery, perfect taste. though i'm not above throwing everything from the deli case on there to give the pilot a case of the meat sweats (his words, not mine) and/or the entire contents of my veggie crisper if i feel like being healthy for whatever reason. in any event, if you start off with the basic ingredients and build from there, i'm telling you, this is a delicious pizza that you will either snarf up all on your own or offer up to your friends much to their accolades. (i actually once got a 'pizza master of the universe' when i brought this to a party. true story.) (did that make me sound full of myself? cause i swear i'm not. it belongs to italy, after all.) (i like parenthetical thoughts.) anywhatsofreakingever, i now present on this lazy sunday:

pizza margherita

for the dough, you'll need:
3 cups of flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons quick-acting yeast
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil

for the basic toppings, get thee from the pantry:
4 to 5 roma tomatoes, depending upon how tomatoey you want your sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
a whole bunch of basil - at least 12 leaves, but more if you want
8 oz fresh mozerella - you can do non-fresh, but to be authentic, seriously, do yourself a flavor favor and grab one of those fresh in brine bits of mozz at the store. i promise.

(and clearly, if you want to make your pizza even more nomtacular and high-maintenance, then by all means gather whatever manner of pepperoni, sausage, bacon, alternate cheeses (permesan, bleu, feta, fontina, romano, whichever), and fruits n veggies (peppers, mushrooms, olives, sliced tomatoes, onions, pineapple) and really, just top these bad boys with whatever your heart desires.)

alright. so first things first, get the dough going so it can proof 'n poof while you're taking care of the other pizza components. into a large bowl, go ahead and add the flour, salt, and yeast. mix the dry ingredients together and then add the water slowly, about 1/3 cup at a time. it can take anywhere from just under a cup to a cup and a third, but usually i find 1 1/4 cups works just about right. mix it until it forms a cohesive ball of dough, and don't be afraid to get in there with your hands if you have to. (oh, don't whine. dough comes out from underneath fingernails.) when you've got it all mixed into a lumpy, sticky dough ball type thing, pour a bit of olive oil on top of said ball type thing and kind of smear it all over the bowl, so that your dough and bowl are both covered in oil. this will help flavor it and let it rise without sticking to the sides of the bowl. om om nom. cover the bowl with a damp towel (or whatever you've got- hell i have to do mine in a pasta pot and cover it with a dry towel because i'm awesome and poor) and let it rise in a warm spot- like on top of the fridge or in the (clearly turned off) oven or microwave- for an hour.

while that's happening, it's time to start prepping the other pizza ingredients. first things first, reduce your tomatoes for the sauce. go ahead and chop your roma tomatoes (you can use whatever kind of tomato you want, honestly, but i find romas are the tastiest and most authentic) and add them to a small pot that's on medium heat with the olive oil in it. sprinkle in the salt, and with a fork, start smushing, smashing, and generally taking out your aggressions on the tomatoes so that they reduce and turn into more of a sauce and less of a heap of tomato chunks. continue cooking them until you have what's basically a smooth sauce, though some tomatoey lumps are perfectly fine- it adds character, and all that. remove it from the heat cause you don't want that burning, obviously.

wash up the basil under running water, and then slice each leaf into two or three slivers. after that's taken care of, go ahead and prep your mozerella. i find it works best to chop four thick slices- one for each pizza- and then cut each of those slices into two thinner slices, and then those into thirds or quarters, so that you have between six and eight pieces of cheese for each pizza. if you're putting anything else on your pizza, this would be the ideal time to prep it. also, about 20 minutes before the dough is done proofing, go ahead and start preheating your oven. turn it up to at least 500 degrees, and if it goes higher, then by all means, fire it up.

alright. after an hour, go ahead and get your dough ready for some pizza action. you can turn it into one huge pizza if you've got the ability, or two big pan pizzas if you wish, but at casa del pilot n writer, we prefer to do ours up individually. your dough should have risen to at least twice it was when you originally kneaded it into delicious submission, and it'll be a bit poufy and squishy to the touch.

mmm. doooough. give in to the dough. it loves you.
*pilot edit* I love this pizza, its not quite like what I had in Italy but its still damn good pizza! *pilot edit*  ( apparently that's what happens when you're using your boyfriend's computer and he needs it and you leave blogger open for like, seriously, 2 seconds and he gets all up in your bloggity business. but at least he said it's good, right...?)

anyway, go ahead and prep your two baking sheets with a little bit of olive oil- not too much, because it does have a lower smoke point and you don't want *too* much burning and smoking action. and remember there's olive oil on the dough as well. so quarter your dough into four lumps of squishy yumminess, and put them on the lightly greased baking sheets. (if you're truly worried about smoking with the olive oil, you can use butter or a spray like pam. who am i to judge, i'm advocating throwing bacon and pineapple on an authentic pizza, so, clearly nothing is sacred and we're all going to culinary hell, where i bet they make you eat everything with sporks.)

this is really how much basil you want. no joke. it's so delicious
though, that you can't argue. true story. you can't. can't!
okay. now that you've got your four dough lumplings, spread them out by hand into roundish pizza type formations. you can lift it up and toss it like a showoff, but i've learned my lesson and i know that in a game of me v. gravity, gravity always wins. i prefer to spread it out on the sheet itself, but, to each his or her own. anyway, now that you've got your dough spread out into something resembling pizza shapes (sometimes mine come out square, sometimes they come out round- it's all about making the dough your bitch), make sure they're relatively even and there aren't too many lumps or holes. take the tomatoes you reduced earlier and give an equal portion to each pizza. spread that goodness around, and then top with an even smattering of the basil leaves. authentico yumminess!
but wait, there's more! clearly. because a pizza without cheese is a silly pizza indeed, and i say that as someone who shouldn't even eat cheese because of the late in life lactose intolerance that SUCKS SO BAD oh my good lord. go ahead and grab your cheese wedges and place them evenly on your pizzas, taking care to cover the majority of the basil leaves because you want the cheese to melt over them and protect them from drying up in the oven. (fun fact: i giggle when i say 'cheese wedges' because for the longest time when we were kids, my brother and i called them 'cheese wedgies' because we were weirdos. ah, youth.) (not a fun fact but a helpful hint: if you're going to put any spinach on your pizza, now is the time to do it, btw. make sure you get it under the cheese because just like the basil, you want to protect it from crispity crunchety oven dryness.) if you're putting anything else on your pizza, obviously now is the time to do so, and i will say that even on this recipe excursion i actually only let one pizza get away with being a true margherita, but that's not my fault because there was bacon and sausage and spinach and tomatoes and onions that were about to turn the corner and go bad if i didn't use them soon and more than being on the ground, bad grades, and country music, the pilot abhors wasting food. so there. i apologize for all these really long sentences, by the by.

and now, it be baking time, y'all. go ahead and, using oven mits obviously, install those baking sheets side by side on the top or middle rack of your preheated to at least 500 degrees oven. if you can crank it above that, go for it, but for the sake of argument and recipe, this is for around 500 degrees because some of us have to slum it with not as awesome ovens. le sigh. anyway, after seven to eight minutes, clad your handsies in some potholders and turn the baking sheets around so that the pizzas get some even rotation. let them cook another seven to eight minutes, and by now they should be smelling like a good pizza should, which is delicious. take a peek at them and if you see brown bubbles on bubbling cheese and that the crusts have turned goldenish to light brownish, congratulations, it's a pizza! go ahead and remove the trays from the oven and place them on top of the stove to rest for about five minutes, cause i warn you now, that ish is gonna be hot like lava.

nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom.
and now you have pizza! obviously the pictures of my finished products are not necessarily that amazing to look at, and clearly i took some liberties adding a ton of stuff that isn't part of the authentic pizza margherita club, but there's one down there in the corner that's relatively traditional so at least i'm not a *total* hypocrite. in any event, for the true experience, go ahead and put a little red pepper flake on a slice of your choosing (in italy, they call it 'multo picante'...and hearing the pilot say that never fails to make me giggle) and go to chow town.

see, i told you this was an uncomplicated recipe. would i lie? well sometimes i suppose i would, but not in this case, because this stuff is delicious and i wanted to share it with you because that's just the kind of generously awesome person i am. at least, i hope so. as i'm currently sitting here trying to bank on some good karma because the telemarketing job i have right now is sucking my soul out and i'm waiting to hear if i have a job offer or not from a place i'd reeeeally like to work at, i figure if by sharing the goodness of pizza i can put some positive energy out into the world, then by jove (who's jove?) i shall do it! or something. so, until next time, fingers crossed that i don't have to call people and annoy them for every much longer, and also that i might get a gig working with animals instead of automated dialers. until next time, my margheritas, enjoy the pizza and happy august. or something.

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