Tuesday, August 5, 2014

homemade thin crust pizza + pesto + potato + manchego

It's one of those rare days in San Diego where the clouds congregate low and heavy in the sky, and they choke the air with their presence. They cried. Last week I made this awesome Manchego and Marcona Almond Pesto, which you should definitely check out, but I was beginning to get tired of the ol' pesto on bread or mixed into pasta. After hours of scribbling ideas into a notepad, ripping them out, and missing the trash bin, I decided what I needed was to whip up a batch of fresh pizza dough. 

I love making pizza, even making and kneading my own dough, but what I love most about making pizza is figuring out what to put on it. In the past I've tried Alfredo and Scampi, Sloppy Joe's, even a Quintuple Meat (Pepperoni, Ham, Bacon, Brisket, and Sausage) Pizza. This time I wanted to make something simple, simple but elegant, and I don't think it gets any simpler nor elegant than Pesto, Potato, and Manchego. Plus you won't guess how easy making your own pizza dough can be.

There are a couple key steps to consider when you're making pizza dough:

1. The water has to be warm, but not too hot, 105-110F is ideal. If you don't have a thermometer dip your hand in the water. Imagine the perfect temperature for giving a baby a bath and it should be similar. 

2. Your yeast has to be alive. Yeast is a living ingredient and chances are you've left your yeast packet sitting in the pantry for way too long. You want a time period? According to eatbydate.com, an unopened sachet of yeast will last 2-4 months in the pantry or 4 months in the refrigerator. Not very long isn't it. 

3. Kneed it. Some people get impatient when they make dough and forget that you need to kneed it until the dough becomes elastic and smooth. That can take anywhere from 8-15 minutes. If you have a stand-mixer you have no excuse not to kneed the dough long enough. 

4. Finally additional flour is okay. Most people fail because they rely too much on the recipe. My recipe (or Bobby Flay's recipe, whoever you want to give credit to), is never going to be one hundred percent right. Everyone's ingredients react differently and vary between cooks. You need to use your better judgement to add more flour or to subtract. If things are getting too sticky don't shy away from dusting the countertop with a little more flour. Too wet of a dough won't get crispy or brown quickly enough in the oven. 

The first step to make this pizza dough is too mise en place (put things in place). I know from experience that making dough can be a messy job and it'll be even messier if you need to measure teaspoons and cups while your hands are all doughy. Combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Add more flour if it sticks to the sides and resembles more like a batter than dough. All-Purpose Flour will give you more of a chewier crust, while Bread Flour will be crispier. It all depends on your preference (it actually depends on what you have).

Once it comes together and isn't as sticky, scrape it out onto a well floured surface and sprinkle the salt on top. Kneed the salt into the dough, adding flour as necessary. The reason why I added the salt later is because I saw it on a TV show once and it looked scientific-y. Meet me in the comments. 

After you've been kneading, or have been watching the stand-mixer knead for 10 minutes, check if the dough is ready by slightly indenting the top of the dough, if it springs back you're good. You can also tell if it's done if the dough is elastic and smooth. If not, keep on kneading and adding flour if things stick. Tuck the ends underneath to stretch out the top and make a large ball, then put it in a well greased bowl rubbed with olive oil to proof. Wrap it with cling film. A proofing box would be ideal but having one would either mean you're in a professional kitchen or Europe. Microwaves are proofing boxes to an American. Place your cling wrap wrapped bowl inside the Microwave,  and let it proof for an hour or until it has doubled in size. Don't turn the microwave on, just let it sit in there. One time I wasn't thinking and when and accidently turned the microwave on and made a huge mess. I guess it wouldn't have been that bad if I turned it off immediately but I didn't, it took my a good five seconds. 

While your dough is proofing you can prepare the pesto. I already made a recipe for that so just click the link below next to the ingredients list. In the meanwhile you can also grate some extra manchego. 

When the dough has doubled plop it onto a lightly dusted countertop and move it around so the entire dough gets covered. Divide it into thirds. Preheat the oven to 500F and place a baking stone on the middle rack. If you're like me and don't own a baking stone borrow one from a friend...or flip over a large cookie sheet and put it in there for the meantime. 
NOTE: The baking stone/cookie sheet has to be larger than the size of the pizza you are making, otherwise it will hang over the edges and burn onto the oven rack.

Coat one ball of dough with flour and place it on a well-floured surface. Using your fingertips, gently flatten the dough into an 8-inch disk, leaving an inch or so of outer edge thicker than the center. Using your hands, gently stretch it into a 10-12 inch round, working along the edges and giving the dough quarter turns as you stretch it. It's up to you how thin you want it. 

Transfer the dough onto a pizza peel coated with flour or semolina, cornmeal is fine as well, and top with a thin layer of the pesto. Mandolin thin slices of potato and arrange them on the pizza. I don't prepare the potato ahead of time because sometimes it will oxidize and turn red and it makes for an ugly presentation. Slide the pizza onto the stone and bake it for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is brown and the cheese as melty and shimmering. You don't want to leave it in there too long or else the cheese with brown and crisp up, rather than be gooey. 

Wait a little to slice and serve. Serve it hot. I feel obliged to remind you about the other two balls of dough, but once you devour the first one I guarantee you'll be searching for the others. 

There you have it, a delicious pizza topping combination and an awesome recipe on how you can make your own thin crust pizza at home. And as always, 



3 1/2 - 4 cup flour, plus more for rolling and as needed
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup water, 110F 
2 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 teaspoon for coating bowl

1 medium potato, sliced thinly
grated manchego, or any other melty cheese

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