Homemade pizza has been on my mind for what seems like years. I love the idea of making dough from scratch, waiting for it to rise, then having a few friends over and letting them choose their own toppings from a wide and varied array. In my mind, I picture balls of creamy mozzarella, a stack of freshly chopped basil, San Marzano tomatoes, thin sheets of prosciutto to drape elegantly across slices, a little bowl of red pepper flakes, maybe a mound of fresh straciatella or smoky ricotta if we're feeling luxurious. And of course, glasses of cold, bubbly prosecco making the rounds.
Sounds like the most awesome dinner party ever, right? But things have gotten in the way. For example, my irrational fear of yeast. My lack of a pizza stone or pizza peel. My innate distrust of any recipe that requires I wait around for 18+ hours for something to "rise." But as with anything seemingly difficult or scary that I really want, I've taken little baby steps toward the goal. I've taken it slow. Clipping various pizza recipes here and there. Ordering a pizza stone from Amazon (but not the pizza peel--not yet!). Studying up on Jim Lahey's famous no-knead dough. And this weekend, I finally took the plunge.
I got a little reckless with it. When I discovered that a pizza peel was pretty crucial to pizza-making with a pizza stone, I went rogue and decided to try it out with a cast iron pan. Instead of following one recipe to the letter, I combined a bunch of recipes to fit the equipment I have and the ingredients I like. And you know what? It turned out just fine. Better than fine--it was completely delicious. The crust was a great medium-thin thickness, chewy in the middle and crisp on the outside, and the simple combination of toppings I chose for my first effort were just right.
This recipe is great for summer, when you don't want to turn the oven to 500 degrees. All it takes is a flip of the dough on your stovetop over medium heat and a quick blast under the broiler. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. xo
Jim Lahey's Pizza Crust
Makes 2 balls of dough (enough for two 10-12-inch cast iron pizzas)
3 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup room-temperature water
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours. If dough is slow to rise, stick it in your oven to make sure there are no drafts interfering with the moisture levels. Divide the dough in two and shape each into flattened balls. (Dough can be frozen at this point.)
Cast Iron Margherita Pizza
Makes 1 10-12 inch pizza
1 ball pizza dough, rolled out for 1 10-12 inch pizza
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into small chunks
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or julienned
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Preheat broiler. Add olive oil to a cast iron skillet set on medium heat. Add pizza dough to pan and cook until dough starts to bubble, about 1-2 minutes. Flip and immediately spread tomatoes with juice over top of the dough, leaving about 1/2 inch border. Lay down torn pieces of mozzarella. Let bottom cook, another minute. Transfer pizza in cast iron pan to oven and broil until cheese is melted but still a little runny, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and red pepper flakes, to taste.