Until Paisano's came along last year, you could not, for love or money, get decent New York-style pizza in Hong Kong. If you've ever had proper New York-style pizza you'll understand how much of a tragedy this was. My pizza cravings went unsatisfied by the meagre local offerings: Pizza Hut (ick!), Spaghetti House (gross), Pepperonis (mediocre but better than nothing), and Pizza Express (nice UK/Continental thin crust, but not the same as a New York plain slice). Oh for a proper New York cheese pizza, or for the white pies of Connecticut. I still have fantasies over an Italian sausage & caramelized onion white pizza that I had several years ago at the Fat Cat Pie Co. in Norwalk, CT. Other girls might dream of Brad Pitt, but I can't get that memory of those perfectly browned onions on a light, thin, crispy crust, out of my mind. (Yes, I'm sick and have an addiction! I freely admit it!)
After experimenting with baking bread at home, I had a Eureka! moment when I realized that pizza is essentially just flat thin bread with toppings, which meant I could probably make it at home. This meant I could make white pizzas, plain cheese pizzas, margherita pizzas...the world was my
For me, pizza is all about the crust and the dough. I like my crust to be light and airy, crispy but not too chewy. I can't bear spongy or soggy pizza bases. I tried a couple of dough recipes but was never satisfied with the results (too bready, too soft, too ....). Finally, I found the GOLD recipe for pizza dough and now that I've found it, I'm going to stick with it.
Unless you've been hiding under a metaphorical rock for the past few years, you've probably heard of Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe, made famous by Mark Bittman at the New York Times. It's not surprising then that the easiest and best recipe for pizza, which is at its most basic just a yeasted flat bread with toppings, also comes courtesy of Jim Lahey and his Sullivan Street Bakery.
I don't use a pizza stone or peel or any fancy equipment, just a baking sheet greased with olive oil. I never thought I could make decent pizza in a mini convection oven so I bow down and worship at Jim Lahey's feet. (OK, that might be overdoing it a bit but seriously, I am soooo happy to be able to make decent pizza at home and satisfy my pizza cravings!)
Here's a link to the recipe but I usually use my copy of Jim Lahey's book, My Bread, which gives slightly different instructions.
The base is essentially the same (the main difference is how thin or thick you stretch the base crust), so I've been playing around with different toppings.
May 26, 2010: Semi-white pizza with fresh tomatoes but no tomato sauce. I'm very partial to a good pizza bianca - it's less heavy than sauced pizzas.
December 21, 2010: Jon's favourite, with a LOT of cheese (mix of Cheddar, Parmesan, and Mozzarella) and tomato sauce. The uglier cousin due to the molten cheese and tomato that oozes everywhere, but undeniably finger-lickin' good. This one has portabello mushrooms and spicy Italian sausage.
I'm still experimenting with different toppings and crust thickness: these might not be true New York-style pizzas, but I find them pretty damn tasty. :)
Next post will be for another Jim Lahey recipe that's one of my favourite pot-luck and party standby: stecca with garlic and cherry tomatoes.