PIZZA

        Pizza magic:
                      Living Garlic
                      Olive oil
                      Fresh yeasty bread
                      Cheeeese
                      Spicy stuff
                      Sweet stuff
                      Aromatic herbs

        Magic is defined here as outcomes that exceed expectations beyond the degree to which excess outcomes are expected.
        i.e. Things that work better than you think they would.

        * All About CRUST *

        For each pizza:
              3/4 cup warm water
              1 teaspoon sugar
              1 tablespoon active dry yeast (if necessary, 2 packets)
              1/2 teaspoon salt
              About 2 cups Bread Flour (1)
              2 tablespoons olive oil

        The water should be very warm but not hot.  Stick your finger in
        it.  If it stings, cool it until you could just barely stand a
        bath in it.  Pour the water in a bowl of at least 8-cups
        capacity, dissolve the sugar in it and sprinkle on the yeast.
        Let this sit until the yeast rises to the surface, which should
        occur in five minutes or less.  Add a cup of flour and the salt.
        Stir it up and add more flour a little at a time until the dough
        starts to grab the sides of the bowl.  Use a stout wooden spoon
        to stir the dough some more.  It is finished when it is stiff
        enough to hold its shape, but still a bit sticky on the surface.

        Roll the dough into a ball in the bowl and pour in the olive oil.
        Turn the dough over a time or two so it gets oiled all around.
        Cover the bowl with a dinner-plate or any suitable cover, put it
        in a warm place (2), and let the dough rise until it is at least
        doubled in volume.

        If you are making more than one pizza, each crust should rise in
        its own bowl.  You may mix all the dough at once, just divide it
        up into multiple olive-oiled bowls to rise.

        (1)  Bread flour is best.  Unbleached white flour is OK.  Plain
        all-purpose flour isn't too bad.  Do not use self-rising flour.
        I do not use whole-wheat flour.  Try it if you must.

        (2) Dough will rise very slowly if it gets cool.  If you are in a
        hurry, preheat the bowl by filling it with hot water.
        * Yeast Magic *
        Once the dough is in the bowl, set it over a large saucepan of
        warm water.  This is very helpful in cool weather, but make sure
        the water isn't too hot.  Give it the finger, as before.  If it
        is uncomfortably warm for you, the yeasts will not like it either
        and they will spite you by dying.  Ultimate revenge, for sure,
        but yeasts are simple-minded creatures, not much smarter than
        fungi, I'm told.
 

 

                                   * SAUCE *

         1 small onion, finely minced
         1/4 cup olive oil
         28 oz. can Progresso "Crushed Tomatoes with Added Puree"
         10 large cloves garlic or 15 small ones, pressed or minced
         5 tablespoons Louisiana hot sauce (2-3 teaspoons if Tabasco)
         4 tablespoons sugar (don't wince, do it!)
         2 cups water

        Place the onion and olive oil in a stainless or enameled frying-
        pan or shallow saucepan and turn up the heat.  Saute until the
        onion turns yellowish, but don't let it brown much if any.  Add
        tomatoes and everything else.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and
        simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cover,
        and let it sit until ready to use.  Reheat to boiling before
        applying to crust.  The sauce should be fairly thin.  If it holds
        its shape, add more water.

        The Progresso tomatoes listed are the best for this recipe.  If
        you can't get them, then use what you have, and some adjustments
        can be made.  If the tomatoes are whole or in big chunks, chop
        them up before adding to the pan.  If they are in a watery
        liquid, supplement them with 2 or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
        to make it a tomatoey liquid.  Actually, you can make a
        functional pizza sauce with just tomato paste and water, provided
        that you add plenty of garlic, hot sauce and sugar.  Your guests
        will say it is great, but you will know better.

        Do taste the sauce to ensure its flavor.  It should have a bite,
        tempered with sweetness.  If it doesn't sting a bit, add more hot
        sauce.  Remember that you will be using only a thin layer of
        sauce along with a lot of other things, and if it isn't strong it
        won't come through.  Hot pepper mellows out as it cooks, so taste
        the sauce shortly before assembling the pizza.

        This recipe makes enough sauce for about five normal-sized
        pizzas.  It freezes well.  Don't throw it away.  To use frozen
        sauce, place a chunk of it in a pan with a little water, another
        clove of mashed fresh garlic and a dash of hot sauce.  Bring it
        to a boil before the crust is cooked.  Freezing sauce seems to
        deplete the flavors of garlic and hot pepper, so freshen it up.
 

                           * GETTING IT TOGETHER  *

        Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

        To assemble the pizza, grease-up your fourteen-inch round pizza
        pan or a 9 x 14 inch oblong pan by spreading 2 or 3 tablespoons
        of olive oil on it.  Use your fingers.  Wash your hands.  (Not
        necessarily in that order.)  Hold the dough-bowl over the pizza
        pan, flip it upside down, and hold it there until the dough flops
        out.  Press the dough down in the middle with your fingers, and
        keep pressing downward and outward to make a flat, even crust-
        shape to the edges of your pan.  Do not touch the outer edge of
        the dough with your fingers if you can help it.  The edge of the
        crust will be edible if you leave it puffy, a tooth-breaker if
        you don't.
 

        If you prefer a light, tender crust, let the mashed-out dough
        rise in a warm place for five to ten minutes.  If you want a thin,
        crunchy crust, put it in the oven immediately.

        Put the pan with the crust in the preheated oven.  Yes, that is
        right, you should cook the crust a short time before you put on
        the sauce and toppings.  And yes, that sounds strange but do it
        anyway.  Pre-cooking the crust is part of the magic of this recipe
        and not knowing to do it is one reason most people can't make
        good pizza.  The degree to which you pre-cook the crust
        determines how crisp it will be.

        When the crust just begins to brown at the bottom edge, take it
        out and spread on the sauce.  Sprinkle the sauce heavily with
        sweet basil, a tablespoon or so.  You might also sprinkle lightly
        with oregano, a half-teaspoon or so, but I am not sure this is an
        improvement.  Then put on the cheese and toppings, as described
        below.  Return to the oven and bake another 10 minutes or so
        until the cheese becomes bubbly.  Do not let the cheese brown.
        Browned cheese tastes like death.  Slice and serve hot with lots
        of beer or red wine.
 

                            **************************
                            *  HARD & FAST RULES  *
                            **************************

        > Warn your guests:  Hot pizza bites back!  They may be accustomed to
        the barely-warm pizza that is delivered in a restaurant or by
        truck.  Oven-fresh pizza is dangerous and may scald the
        uninitiated.

        > Use only fresh garlic.  There is no substitute for it.
        If you use garlic powder please do not blame the result
        on me.

        > The same goes for olive oil.  It adds a distinctive flavor to
        the crust.  Olive oil needn't be expensive.  You can buy large
        cans of Italian or Spanish olive oil for about $13.00 nowdays.
        In general, Italian oil is lighter and more refined, Spanish oil
        more pungent and aromatic.  Exceptions abound.  Extra Virgin
        olive oil is more expensive but worth the cost, as it provides a
        wonderful aroma and flavor.  Introversion olive oil stays in the
        can.  Unless you will use it in a month or so, olive oil should
        be kept in the refrigerator or it may become rancid.
 

                            * THE ORDER OF THINGS *

        If you are starting from scratch, start the dough first.  It will
        then be rising while you prepare the sauce and will reduce the
        overall preparation-time.  You should expect pizza from scratch
        no sooner than 2 hours from the time you start.  Once you have
        polished your procedures you may reduce this time to an hour by
        having sauce ready-frozen and using extra yeast in the dough.

        The crust should be pre-cooked, as described above.  The sauce
        should go on next, with a good sprinkling of sweet basil.  If you
        are going to add meat, do it now.  Pepperoni or sausage should be
        in direct contact with the sauce. If you have guests that are

        vegetarian or just picky, save a few pieces to decorate the top
        so they can tell what is in each pizza.  You might have to tell
        them to look at the pizza in order to know what is on it.

        Parmesan or Romano cheese should be on top of the sauce and/or
        meat, followed by the Mozzarella or Provolone.  It is permissible
        to mix the cheeses, but some of the distinctiveness of the
        flavors is lost.  High-moisture Mozzarella may heal back into a
        lump after it is cut up.  This may be averted by tossing the
        chunks of mozzarella with grated parmesan, giving them a dry
        coating.

        Vegetable toppings go on top of the cheese, to ensure that they
        get cooked at least a little.
 

                             * TOPPINGS *

        Minimum cheese is 1/4 pound shredded mozzarella and 1 oz shredded
        or grated Parmesan.  Provolone and Romano cheeses substitute very
        well for mozzarella and Parmesan, respectively.  "Casino Brand"
        mozzarella is not bad, but whole-milk cheese like "Polly-O" is
        better.  Fresh-grated Parmesan or Romano is both better and less
        expensive than the pre-grated green-can kind.  Packaged chunks of
        Kraft or Stella Parmesan are usually available at Publix, but the
        cheese specialty shops often have better for less.  If you can
        find a good pecorino (sheeps' milk) romano I heartily recommend
        using it.  It is rich; moderation is required.  I like to mix
        1 part pecorino romano with 2 parts parmesan.  Locatelli Romano
        is a very good brand, often available at Publix.
 

           * HOW MANY & HOW MUCH OF WHAT *

        Many new pizza-chefs overdo the toppings.  Perhaps this is
        because of our exposure to commercial pizza establishments and
        their glowing descriptions of the pizza "with everything."  This
        kind of hype tends to support the notion that a "kitchen sink"
        pizza must be the best.  It may be edible, but chances are it
        would taste better if some of the toppings were put in the salad
        instead.  Many toppings conflict with each other and with the
        pizza itself.

        My suggestion is that you first make a few cheese pizzas with no
        extra toppings.  If you must have toppings, try just one at a
        time or one of the combinations listed below.  This will allow
        a better evaluation of your efforts and encourage appreciation of
        the pizza itself.

        I like to use one meat and one vegetable topping per pizza.  Some
        classic combinations include:

          Pepperoni and Mushrooms
          Sausage and Black Olives
          Pepperoni and Green Peppers

        SAUSAGE
        Use Mild Italian Sausage.  Do not use "Breakfast Sausage"
        as it is seasoned with a lot of sage which is incompatible with
        the other flavors common to pizza.  Avoid "Hot" Italian Sausage, it

        is seasoned with too much red pepper.  One-third pound of sausage
        is enough for a pizza.  Slit the skin and remove the ground meat.
        Lay it in a frying-pan, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of sweet
        fennel seeds and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh-ground black pepper.  Turn
        on the heat and mash up the meat with a spatula while it cooks,
        breaking it into little chunks.  When all the pink is gone, it is
        done.  Cover it and set aside until you are ready for it.
 
        Italian sausage does not keep unless frozen.  To use frozen
        sausage, cut off as much as you want, slit the skin and run water
        over it until you can remove the skin.  Then cut it into thin
        slices, like pepperoni.  This procedure actually improves its
        texture, as Italian sausage tends to be coarsely ground.

        PEPPERONI
        Pepperoni should be sliced as thinly as possible and cut into
        four wedges.  You can stack a bunch of slices and cut them in
        unison with a sharp knife.  You get better and cheaper pepperoni
        from an open deli-case than in the sealed packages, as the close-
        fitting plastic allows the packer to sell you more water.

        MUSHROOMS
        Mushrooms should be as fresh as possible.  Don't ever decide to
        buy mushrooms before you look at them.  Have an alternative in
        mind in case you can't find any that are really fresh.  Good ones
        will be a bright grey-white color, plump and round with no
        bags under their eyes.

        Wash the mushrooms, slice them about 1/4 inch thick or thinner
        and put them in a stainless or enameled saucepan.  Do NOT add
        water or salt.  They will produce their own juice.  Adding salt
        will make them lose too much juice, they will shrink and be
        tough.  Cover them and cook over medium heat until they just
        begin to boil.  If you must have your mushrooms salted, drain
        them and sprinkle some on them just before they go on the pizza.
        SAVE THE JUICE from the mushroom pan!  It is primo mushroom
        stock.  Put in and a few of the mushrooms in a plastic container
        and freeze it.  Use it in your next gravy, or heat it with some
        milk, butter, salt and pepper for an excellent cream of mushroom
        soup.
 
        Another fun way to prepare mushrooms is to "squeak" them.  Wash
        and slice as above.  Melt two tablespoons of butter in a frying
        pan, preferably cast iron, over HIGH heat.  If you don't have
        real genuine cow-salve BUTTER, use your best olive oil.  Do not
        use margarine.  Heat the butter until it starts to brown, or the
        olive oil until it starts to smoke, and throw the mushrooms in.
        Keep the heat up.  Stir them around frequently:  If the pan is
        hot enough, they will soon squeak when you stir them.  Cook
        several minutes until the juice has evaporated and they begin to
        brown.  Sprinkle with a little bit of thyme.  Try one, being
        careful to notice how good it tastes.  Imagine what else you
        could do with them, and who you might invite over to try your
        invention.  Me, for instance.  Then distribute the mushrooms on
        the pizza in a planfully random manner.
 

                Jimmy Yawn * 7/26/85
                   rev again 11/19/94
                   and again 2/16/95
                and once again 8-30-98