Monday, September 04, 2006

La Festa al Fresco - Margherita Pizza

I noticed creampuffsinvenice announced her La Festa al Fresco challenge awhile back and I have been thinking about what I'd like to make... for a long time now. I even stopped by the library and picked up a few cookbooks to get a little inspiration. I brought home a few including Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian. This cookbook is not only inspirational and beautiful but it makes you so hungry you have to keep sopping up the drool as you flip the pages.
After finding a few recipes that looked mighty delicious I settled on Pizza Margherita since the others didn't have much in terms of fresh ingredients. Plus, I was planning on company today and I wanted something fun to make with them. So, I got to work on a double batch of the dough before heading out to stop at the local farmstand. Once the dough was tucked away to rise I set out to pick up the plum tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella to complete the meal.
Once home I sliced everything up and arranged it for easy pizza assembly and started on dessert.  Make you own pizza night is one of my favorite way s of entertaining.  Everyone can help themselves to the toppings they like and everyone gets involved.

Pizza Dough
adapted from Saveur Cooks Authentic Italian

1 7-gram packet actice dry yeast
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c cake flour
1 tsp. salt
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c cornmeal

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 c lukewarm water in a large bowl. Set aside until yeast begins to activate, about 10 minutes. Combine flours and salt in a small bowl. Add 1 cup flour mixture to yeast and stir well. Mix in 1/2 cup water, then add another cup of flour and continue to stir. Add remaining flour, then gradually stir in about 1/4 cup water and mix well. The dough should be fairly soft but not too wet.
2. Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead with the heels of your palms until it has a smooth, uniform texture, about 10-12 minutes. Divide dough into 2 equal balls. Coat the insides of 2 medium bowls with 1/2 tsp. oil each. Place dough in bowls, cover with damp cloths or plastic wrap. Set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 1/2 - 3 hours.
3. Punch down dough from one bowl, make a ball, and flatten it on a cornmeal sprinkled peel or sheet. Stretch dough into a 12" circle with a slightly raised edge. Add toppings and slide onto a hot pizza stone.
4. Bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 10 - 12 minutes at oven's highet setting. Drizzle with a little olive oil on each and serve.

For the Margherita toppings I sliced, seeded, and salted 2 pounds of plum tomatoes. I let the salt pull out the extra moisture before layering them on the dough. I also added a little pepper for taste. Then I added the sliced mozzarella and topped it off with the torn basil. After pulling them out of the hot oven I added a little extra fresh basil and oilve oil. Ciao!

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