Monday, January 28, 2008

JOHN CHUCKMAN ORIGINAL RECIPE: PIZZA - CRUST AND SEVERAL SPECIAL TOPPING COMBINATIONS

I have been a serious cook for decades, this being one of the reasons I was able to serve as restaurant reviewer for a metropolitan newspaper. When I say "a serious cook," I mean someone who goes beyond using the recipes of others and creates his or her own. From time to time I will post some of mine.


CHUCKMAN’S PIZZA MEDITERRANEAN

If you follow the directions, you will enjoy one of the best pizzas you've ever eaten.


Whole wheat or white crust – recipe below
Thin layer tomato sauce – recipe reference below
Oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
Crumbled (pre-cooked) Italian sweet sausage
Thinly-sliced canned artichokes
Thinly-sliced onion, salted and soaked ahead
Thin-sliced red pepper, salted and soaked ahead
Fresh mushrooms, thinly-sliced
Kalamata olives
Mozzarella cheese - grated
Fontina cheese - grated
Olive oil


PIZZA CRUST – USE ALSO FOR A NICE FOCCACIO

Whole Wheat Flour and All Purpose Unbleached Flour mixed dry – up to 60% Whole Wheat - 3 Cups Total (Note: pour about 3 ½ cups – saving a bit for dusting later – also amount of Flour absorbed by water varies with climate and weather).

Note: If you do not want Whole Wheat crust, use only All Purpose White.

Lukewarm Water - 1 Cup
Regular dry yeast – 1 Teaspoon
Salt – about 1 Teaspoon
Oil – to use as required
Sugar – pinch or two (not required but helps yeast rise faster)

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NOTE: NEW APPROACH ON PIZZA CRUST

I've learned and tested an interesting new approach to this crust. It yields a crust that is nicely honeycombed with air pockets, resembling an artisan bread. Simply use more water, about 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 Cups, leaving everything else the same. You will get a very wet dough which you can almost pour onto baking sheet; it is easily spread with hands kept wet by rinsing in water.
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Place yeast (and sugar if using) into container with warm water. In about 5 minutes, providing room is warm, this is ready to mix with flour. Pour about half of flour mix into large bowl with yeasty water; stir until incorporated; add a splash or two of oil; add more flour and stir more; continue until you have desired consistency which is not too sticky.

Leave dough to rise – Suggestion: cover bowl with plastic wrap and then a tea towel –place bowl over sauce pan full of hot tap water – this will assure good rising even when room is not hot. Depending on conditions, rising will take 1 or 2 hours.

Dust risen dough for rolling out – Oil large cookie sheet and roll dough with rolling pin, or you can use hands pounding and stretching. Once sheet is covered, lightly oil top of dough. Cover rolled dough with plastic wrap loosely and place cookie sheet over pan of hot tap water for
second rising.

When dough has risen, remove plastic and bake briefly in preheated at 450 . About 3 to 4 minutes should do to par-cook crust – this gives better crust results than putting toppings on raw dough. Remove par-cooked dough from oven and allow to briefly cool.

Dress the Crust with desired toppings – recommended order: sauce, cheese, chunky toppings. Bake again in 450 oven for between 5 and 10 minutes. You must watch because different thicknesses of topping will need more or less time. You can check edge of crust after first 5 minutes.

Corn Meal Option:

Sprinkle bottom of oiled cookie sheet with golden corn meal before rolling out dough. Adds a pleasant crispness and taste.

Note for variations in crust:

If you use about 1/2 to 2/3 more water, you will get a very sticky dough which cannot be rolled and must be spread out by hand. Doing this will yield a chewier crust filled with the air pockets characteristic of gourmet breads.

Another variation is to use Pastry Flour instead of All-purpose Flour and to incorpoate an egg white in the dough. Some gourmet pizzerias use a crust like this produces. It is good, but not my favorite.

Note for Foccacio: Dough is baked only once – 5 to 8 minutes at 450. Watch it for perfect light gold color. It is first brushed with oil and lightly sprinkled with coarse sea salt.

You may also very lightly sprinkle with parmesan grated. Try light lightly sprinkling with Rosemary. If you want garlic twist, crush a few cloves with salt in a mortar and pestle, then add to oil.


GENERAL TOPPING NOTES

Use my general red sauce from Eggplant parmesan (below). You may leave out pepper flakes or increase them as per your taste. In a pinch, use a good bottled sauce.

Toppings like Italian sausage or bacon should be lightly pan-cooked before putting on pizza. Cooking time for crust is not adequate for such raw ingredients to fully cook unless they are used in tiny slices.

Classic cheese topping is Mozzarella, but Mozzarella and Parmesan (or Asiago) or Fontina and Provolone (my favorite for a cheese pizza) are excellent. Grating the cheese works best for even melting.


A CLASSIC COMBINATION

Chunks of Sweet Italian Sausage and Onions (treated as above). Serve with simple green salad with red vinegar and oil dressing.


MY NICOISE PIZZA

Use chunks of canned tuna; Kalamata or Nicoise olives; thin slices of Fennel; Small par-boiled chunks of potato; small slices of par-boiled greenbeans; a few capers; anchovies; crumbled hard-boiled egg; ultra-thin tomato slices on bottom.

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