Pizza Dough Trickery
While I don't know about the supermarkets in your region, but here in New York, most supermarkets sell balls of pizza dough. Near me there are two different markets which sell pre-made dough. The major chain market and a small local Italian food store. The major chain version is drier and less sticky. I'm going to discuss uses for both types. Now I'm not talking about pre-made crusts, as those have fewer uses in the kitchen. Since I do poorly with yeast applications, I always buy the premade dough.
For the record, nothing created in Italy counts as real Pizza. Italians make Tomato Pie. Pizza is a mutant bastard child of tomato pie and a brick of cheese. We will cover the classic new world Pizza and several other options.
New World Pizza
Ok, New York style. What do you expect, I've lived in New York my entire life, of course I cook New York style pizza.
What you will need
- Pizza Dough - I prefer the drier version for this application, I'll mention why later on.
- Tomato Sauce - Your favorite jar variety works, the demand is very low in volume and will not justify making a vat of homemade (not that I can)
- Cheese - Mozzerella is traditional, any good melting cheese will work, you can even mix and match. Jack, Colby and Swiss are also good options to add to the mix. A lot of places sell fresh mozzerella, but this is actually a bad idea for pizza because you won't get good coverage. I'll talk about that in the process, below.
- Toppings - pick your favorites.
- Corn Meal - That's right, corn meal. I bought a single canister for $3 a while back and still haven't run out.
- Sheet Pan - I use a cookie sheet. I've never needed a round pizza pan.
- Hot Pads, and/or overn mitts, four in total, any combination of the above.
- Spatula and a knife or pizza cutter
What to do
Dust the sheet pan with corn meal. This is to keep your pizza from sticking to the pan. If you check the underside of the slices you get from a real pizzaria, you'll find corn meal ganules embedded into the crust. So don't worry, the flavor won't get in the way. You could do this with flour, but the taste is atrocious. I tend to use the drier dough here because it doesn't cling to my hands as much. Flatten your dough and spread it out as much as you can before laying it upon the pan. You may want to stretch the edges somewhat past the edges of the pan. This is because the dough will contract when you let go and this will get the edge of the dough as close to the edge of the pan as you can. Do not fret if you can't line it up perfectly. This phase can be frustrating as the dough doesn't like to cooperate. Food doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to taste good.
when the dough stops shrinking on you, and you can live with the shape, it's time to move on. Apply a tablespoon of sauce to the middle of the dough and spread it out with the back of the spoon. It will look like there is too little sauce, and you will see a lot of pale zones in the sauce layer. Do Not add more sauce unless you can't actually get the sauce close enough to the outside. We want the cheese to have spots to cling to the crust so that the toppings don't all slough off when you try to eat it.
Now we want to top the pizza. Spread the non-cheese toppings on the sauce now. Now I'm going to mention why we didn't want the fresh mozzerella for this. Fresh mozzerella is very soft, and doesn't survive a cheese grater very well, so anyone applying the cheese to the pizza will cut it into rounds, and what you will get is too little cheese focused in too few spots - aka Italian tomato pie, not pizza. Now, while there are times in which the flavor of fresh mozzerella is preferrable, but what we're about to do with it means that the flavor difference will be destroyed, plus, it will add too much moisture to the system. When in doubt about what you're about to buy, squeeze the package. If it feels soft and squishy, it's fresh mozzerella, we want the firmer cheese. If you buy bricks, you will have to spend time at the cheese grater. Shredded or grated drier melting cheeses are what we need. Apply cheese to the extent where it looks like you have too much. It will mound high above the crust. This is what we want. If you can see red, add more cheese.
You don't strictly need to preheat the oven, but set it around 350 when you start working. 350 is the default for most American baking tasks, get used to that number. Put your sheet pan somewhere near the middle of the oven and let it cook. While it's cooking, lay out two of your hot pads/oven mitts on the counter, have the other two ready for your protection. You want the cheese to be browned on top and fully melted. By that point, the crust will have cooked through. Extract the pan from the oven and set it atop the two pads you layed out before. (Don't forget to turn off the oven.) Now there is a vitally important step - walk away. You must let it sit and cool down so that the now liquid layers of cheese can set up and won't make a horrid mess when you try to cut it. After a few minutes, come back and make sure you can run the spatula under the entire pizza. If you used an appropriate amount of corn meal, you should have little difficulty separating the crust from the pan.
Cut and serve.
This isn't a pizza related form except for the fact that we are going to use the same pizza dough to make them.
What you will need
- Pizza Dough - The drier form will be easier to work with.
- Sheet Pan
- Hot pads or oven mitts
- Spatula, and a knife or shears
What to do
Lay out a small dish of corn meal near your work station. Cut equal sized lumps of dough from the main ball and roll them into small spheres. Press the bottom into the corn meal and set it on the sheet pan. Repeat until you run out of dough or space on the sheet pan.
Preheat the oven to 350 (keep getting used to that number). Once at temperature, place the sheet pan into the oven near the middle and wait about seven to ten minutes. The rolls should be cooked all the way through. Remove them from the pan and serve.
I realized that I gave two dishes for the drier pizza dough, and haven't listed any for the sticker version. This is yet another quasi-classic dish which will get me a lot of hate because I'm doubtlessly doing it wrong, but I don't care.
What you will need
- Pizza Dough - we want to take advantage of the stickiness of the dough in this case, so the less dry version is better.
- Corn Meal
- Cheese - Mozzerella and ricotta are traditional, you can add any melting cheeses you want, and fresh mozzerella isn't a hindrance here.
- Pizza Toppings - pick your favorites
- Egg Yolks - If you just have eggs, we will cover the separation below.
- Red Sauce - your favorite variety.
- A food safe brush.
- Sheet pan, hot pads, spatula
What to do
Dust the pan with corn meal. Preheat the oven to 350 (again). Spread out the dough in much the same way as for the pizza above. Spread the ricotta cheese on only one half of the dough. Lay out the other cheeses and toppings atop the ricotta. Fold the uncovered half of dough over the toppings and roll the edges together to seal the contents in.
If it seems like too much work, you can forgo the egg wash, just be aware that your calzone will be pale. It's up to you.
To make the egg wash if you only have eggs, lay out three small bowls on the counter. Carefully crack your eggs along the circumference at the middle and separate over one of the bowls. Do your best not to drop the yolk out of the shell, but let any whites that fall land in one of the bowls. Shift the yolk back and forth between the shell halves, trying to exclude the egg whites, letting them fall into the bowl. If you lose the yolk and it breaks, discard the contents of the first bowl and start over. You will lose some eggs until you've practiced for a while. Once the yolk is free of the whites, dump it in bowl three. If there are no yolk drops in the first bowl, dump its contents in bowl two. If there are yolk drops, discard the contents instead. There is a reason for this, but it makes no difference at this time. Once you have several yolks, break them with a fork and blend them well. You can freeze the egg whites for use in dishes which call for only egg whites.
Brush the yolk over the top of the dough. Put the sheet pan into the oven near the middle. Let it cook until the top of the calzone becomes golden brown. Serve with a side of red sauce.