Homemade pizza is misunderstood. Many home cooks think it's difficult to make, but it doesn't take all that much time or effort and always tastes fresh and terrific.
Knowing how to make a good crust is the key. Few home ovens are hot enough to make pizza that's really crisp, so when I make pizza for Karen and the kids, I solve the problem by partially baking the crust for about 5 minutes on a very hot preheated pan sprinkled with plenty of cornmeal. Then I add the sauce and toppings and return the pizza to the oven to finish baking.
The topping is entirely flexible, of course. Roast peppers, leftover mussels or clams, Italian sausage, olives, thin slices of salami, capers, and anchovies are all candidates for inclusion, along with or in place of the eggplant.
Makes One 10-Inch Pizza; Serves 2
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1 large egg
2 cups fine dry bread crumbs (see Note)
5 slices eggplant (about 4 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick each), unpeeled
Olive oil, for frying
Cornmeal, for pan
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Pizza Dough (Recipe Follows)
1 cup good-quality commercial tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
8 ounces commercial mozzarella cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
Canola or other vegetable oil, for the bowl
|1.||Preheat the oven to 450°F.|
|2.||Beat the egg in a shallow bowl; spread the bread crumbs on a plate.|
|3.||Cut each eggplant slice into 1-inch-wide strips. Dip each strip first in the
egg, then in the bread crumbs to coat completely, shaking off any excess. Place the strips as they are coated in a single
layer on a plate.|
|4.||Pour oil to a depth of 1/8-inch into a large,
heavy skillet. Heat over medium heat until a sprinkling of bread crumbs sizzles on contact. Add enough eggplant strips to
fit into the skillet without touching and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 30 seconds per side. Using a slotted
spatula, transfer the strips to paper towels to drain while you fry the remaining strips.|
|5.||Place a large, rimless baking sheet in the oven to get hot while you assemble the
pizza. Place a second rimless baking sheet on your work surface to use in shaping the pizza; sprinkle this sheet liberally
|6.||Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Place
the pizza dough on the work surface and pat it into a thin 10-inch circle with your fingertips. Transfer it carefully to
the cornmeal-covered baking sheet, re-forming it into a circular shape as necessary, then carry the baking sheet over to
the oven and slide the dough circle onto the hot sheet already in the oven. Bake until the dough has started to puff and
the surface has formed a crust that's beginning to brown just a little, about 5 minutes. Remove the baking sheet with the
crust from the oven.|
|7.||Spread the sauce evenly over the crust
and sprinkle with the pepper flakes, then with the mozzarella. Arrange the fried eggplant strips over the mozzarella and
return the baking sheet to the oven. Bake until the cheese has melted and is browning slightly, about 10 minutes.|
|8.||Let the pizza rest for a minute or two before serving.|
|Pizza Dough (Makes Two 10-Inch Pizza Crusts)|
|1.||Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a medium-size bowl and stir to mix.
Let stand until the mixture foams, about 5 minutes.|
|2.||Add the oil and salt to the yeast mixture and stir well to blend. Add 3 1/2 cups
of the flour and stir until the dough that forms cleans the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface
and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent stickiness.|
|3.||Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough
to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in
bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.|
|4.||Punch down the dough and divide it into
two equal portions. Freeze one portion wrapped in freezer wrap to use within a month. Let the dough you're using rest for
about 5 minutes before proceeding with the pizza recipe.|
|How to Make Bread Crumbs|
|One slice of bread will yield approximately 1/3 cup of dry bread crumbs.|
|For Fresh Crumbs:|
|I use soft, fresh bread crumbs to bind together ingredients in dishes where a slightly moist texture is
desired. One slice of bread will yield a scant 1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs. Use bread with a firm crumb such as a
day-old peasant loaf, Italian bread, or as a last resort, a packaged sliced bread like Pepperidge Farm or Arnold.
Trim away the crust, tear or cut the bread into pieces, and pulse them in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
Ideally, homemade fresh bread crumbs should be used the day they're made, but no longer than a day or two later.
If this isn't possible, they can be frozen in an airtight container, where they will keep indefinitely.|
|For Dry Crumbs:|
|To make the best dry bread crumbs, the bread must be perfectly dry. To dry it, arrange
the slices in one layer on a baking sheet and place in a pre-heated 300°F oven until the bread is thoroughly dried
out and lightly browned.|
|For Coarse Crumbs:|
|Break the dried bread into pieces and grind in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.
|For Fine Crumbs:|
|Use the processor but fit it with the grating blade.|
|Homemade dry bread crumbs can be stored in an airtight container or zipper-lock plastic bag
in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 6 months. |
Excerpted from STAFF MEALS FROM CHANTERELLE copyright © 2000 David Waltuck, Melicia Phillips.
Reprinted with the permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.