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How to Make Thin-Crust Focaccia Pizza

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[Photographs: Cameron Mattis]

Many Slice'rs, myself included, use various pizza hacks to approximate the heat of a wood oven in a standard gas or electric home oven. Similarly, minimalist, thinly stretched dough is often used to embody the Neapolitan ideal of a puffy, springy, and well-charred crust. These endeavors are worthwhile; even unsuccessful attempts at authentically Neapolitan pies usually produce delicious results.

The other night I wanted to try something different. I wondered what would happen if I accepted the limitations of my home oven instead of trying to overcome them. Because the comparatively low heat of a home oven impedes a puffy, crisp-chewy cornicione more than any other aspect of a pizza, I decided to try a dough whose texture and flavor did not depend on extreme oven rise and charring, the focaccia recipe from Peter Reinhart's American Pie.

This dough, which produces a highly flavorful crust reminiscent of the long, rectangular pizzas found in Rome, is as easy to make as Jim Lahey's no-knead dough and easier to manipulate. Like Lahey's recipe, Reinhart's focaccia requires no kneading and depends on high hydration and a long rise to produce gas bubbles, well-developed gluten strands, and a complex, yeasty flavor. The dough tastes distinctly of salt and olive oil, and it emerges from a hot oven beautifully browned with a crispy exterior and a light texture.

I thought the focaccia dough would be flavorful enough to stand up to assertive toppings, so I made one pie with chorizo, roasted peppers, and caramelized onions and another with fresh artichoke, garlic, shallot, and lemon.

After my family devoured the pizzas so quickly that I couldn't even get an undercarriage shot, I concluded that my high expectations had been met.

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Focaccia Pizza Dough

- makes three 11-by-17-inch pizza crusts -

Adapted from American Pie by Peter Reinhart.

Ingredients

26 oz. unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt
2 1/4 tsps. instant yeast
2 1/2 cups ice-cold water (40°F)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Procedure

1. Combine flour, salt, yeast, and water and stir by hand, dipping your fingers or stirrer repeatedly in room temperature water, or with a stand mixer until the ingredients come together and form a loose, very sticky ball, about 3 to 4 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes.

2. Add olive oil and stir by hand or with a stand mixer until fully incorporated, about 3 minutes. Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil. Form dough into a ball and add to oiled bowl. Roll to coat all over with oil, so as to prevent dough from sticking to bowl as it rises. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. The dough will have at least doubled. Let rest at room temperature for 2 hours prior to using.

Chorizo, Roasted Pepper, and Caramelized Onion Pizza

- makes one 11-by-17-inch pie -

This recipe may make more toppings than necessary for one pie, so plan to make multiple pies or use the leftovers in another recipe.

Ingredients

1/3 recipe focaccia pizza dough
Extra virgin olive oil
3 bell peppers, preferably a mix of colors such as yellow, orange, and red
1 large Spanish onion
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 3 oz. canned crushed San Marzano tomatoes or premium plum tomatoes
About 10 thin slices spicy chorizo
About 1 cup fresh mozzarella
Parmigiano-Reggiano

Procedure

1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to cook the pizza. Let rest on an oiled plate or countertop to come to room temperature.

2. Preheat broiler on high.

3. Remove top and tip from peppers. Cut a vertical incision through the flesh of each pepper with a chef's knife, then cut in a circle around the interior of the pepper to remove stem, membranes, and seeds. Arrange prepared peppers skin side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet and slide under broiler as close to the heating element as possible. Broil until skins are charred and blistered, around 5 minutes, then seal peppers in a plastic bag to sweat. When peppers have cooled, remove skins with your fingers and thinly slice.

4. One hour before you plan to cook the pizza, preheat oven on maximum heat with a pizza stone placed in the oven's hottest spot. Use convection heat if possible.

5. Thinly slice onion. Lightly coat a small skillet with olive oil and heat over medium low. Add onion, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending how soft and sweet you want the onions.

6. Meanwhile, lightly season tomatoes with salt to extract excess liquid and place in a strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth set over a bowl to drain. Save accumulated tomato juice for another use.

7. Generously oil an aluminum cookie sheet or baking tray. Place dough in pan and use your fingertips to spread as far as possible, preferably to the edges of the pan. The dough will be very thin. Top lightly with tomato sauce and arrange chorizo slices, peppers, and onions evenly, leaving a little under an inch of bare dough around the edges. Top with large chunks of mozzarella.

8. Place cookie sheet on pizza stone and bake until crust is deeply caramelized and cheese is bubbly and slightly browned, around 8 minutes at 550°F. If you want to brown or char the toppings and top crust more, slide under the broiler close to the heating element for 1 or 2 minutes.

9. Top with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Slice and serve.

Fresh Artichoke Pizza

- makes one 11-by-17-inch pie -

This recipe may make more toppings than necessary for one pie, so plan to make multiple pies or use the leftovers in another recipe.

Ingredients

1/3 recipe focaccia pizza dough
Extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
3 globe artichokes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
White wine
About 3 oz. canned crushed San Marzano tomatoes or premium plum tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
1 small shallot
About 1 cup fresh mozzarella
The zest of 1 lemon
Parmigiano-Reggiano

Procedure

1. Remove pizza dough from refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to cook the pizza. Let rest on an oiled plate or countertop to come to room temperature.

2. One hour before you plan to cook the pizza, preheat oven on maximum heat with a pizza stone placed in the oven's hottest spot. Use convection heat if possible.

3. Halve lemons crosswise and squeeze juice into a bowl of cool water. Add 3 of the spent lemon halves to the bowl and reserve the remaining half.

4. For each artichoke, remove fibrous outer leaves with a sharp chef's knife or serrated knife. Slice off the top of artichoke. Trim the tip off the stem and remove the choke with a spoon. Use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the fibrous outer layer of the stem and the bits of green still surrounding the heart. Rub the cut surfaces with the remaining lemon half as you work to prevent oxidation. Deposit each trimmed artichoke heart in the bowl of acidulated water. See this tutorial for a step-by-step guide to prepping artichoke hearts.

5. Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high. Thinly slice artichokes, including stems, and add to skillet. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized. Add enough wine to come halfway up artichoke slices and cover the pan. Cook at a lively simmer, stirring occasionally, until artichokes are easily pierced by the tip of a paring knife, about 10 minutes, removing lid to allow liquid to reduce if necessary.

6. Meanwhile, lightly season tomatoes with salt to extract excess liquid and place in a strainer lined with paper towels or cheesecloth set over a bowl to drain. Save accumulated tomato juice for another use.

7. Thinly slice garlic and shallot.

7. Generously oil an aluminum cookie sheet or baking tray. Place dough in pan and use your fingertips to spread as far as possible, preferably to the edges of the pan. The dough will be very thin. Top lightly with tomato sauce and arrange artichoke slices, garlic, and shallot evenly, leaving a little under an inch of bare dough around the edges. Top with large chunks of mozzarella.

8. Place cookie sheet on pizza stone and bake until crust is deeply caramelized and cheese is bubbly and slightly browned, around 8 minutes at 550°F. If you want to brown or char the toppings and top crust more, slide under the broiler close to the heating element for 1 or 2 minutes.

9. Top with lemon zest and finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Slice and serve.

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