Wednesday, May 15, 2013

New York Style pizza - a veggie supremo served at home

Blogging, I have learnt makes you look at food in ways you probably won't realize possible. For one, there is the excitement of blogging about it when it turns out delicious and you also become lot more open to trying new things you probably wouldn't have done otherwise. When I started blogging about a year and 5 months back (Gosh, has it been that long already??), honestly I was not this adventurous in my cooking. Cooking has always been a stress buster for me but it was limited to what I was familiar with. Given my own personal 'don't eat this, don't like this', I always stuck to the known and stayed safely away from the unknown. Baking, as I have mentioned umpteen times here on the blog is something I have eyed for a long time but only recently found the courage to deep dive into. For all purposes, I am still a novice in this area. Looking at all the yummy breads and cookies Baking Partner's were making these past few months, I gathered up some bravado to join the group and this is my very first challenge on the  group and I got lucky with a New York Style pizza recipe.

Pizza was an alien food in my childhood, see I grew up during the simple times of Iyengar bakery masala bread or a churmuri for snack. Pizzarias were not even heard of in my neighborhood in Mysore. Now every street corner has a Pizza Hut or a Pizza Corner or some other joint serving very Desi flavors of toppings on pizza in addition to the usual toppings you will see world over. Pizza is one of the things at the top of the list that every Indian will try when they cross the proverbial 7 seas :-), we also came armed with wisdom such as pepperoni is not pepper, pepper is another name for Shimla mirch and cheese burger is not a vegetarian burger etc generously provided by friends that were already conversant with how things worked. So we did try pizza at Pizza Hut (isn't that where every one goes?) and fell in love with the thick crust or the pan pizza and there was no looking back.

Then once when we were visiting the gambling city Las Vegas a few years back, we took the inlaws and the little girl to an Italian joint for dinner and ordered pizza. When the really thin, flappy pizzas came to the table, nobody relished it. Coming from the land of fluffy idlis and thick masala dosas we like to have that texture and meat in everything we eat and so our first experience with thin crust was a total disaster and year after year, pizza after pizza we stuck to our pan pizzas.
I have made Peter Reinhart's pizza a few times over the last 6 months and we are not new to home made pizza anymore. But when I saw this challenge about New York style pizza, I told family that atleast for the sake of pictures, I had to make a thin crust pizza. To define what constitutes a New York style pizza, I went to our omni-present, free source of gyan - Google and did what every one in  my situation would do, asked some questions (well, I typed them :-)) and was flooded with so much information overload that almost fried my brains. That was too cheesy (even for a pizza post), ok I will stop right here with my PJs. Here is a summary of what I learnt, thank me if you find it useful and truthful but feel free to blame the un-validated information on the free internet if any of it is useless or not true :-).

New York style pizza - by pizza standard this is a thin crust pie, the crust though thin is not crackly crisp. The slice when held up should bend down but not break or tear. I also read that there is a strong belief that the special minerals in NYC water is what makes this pizza special and hence a lot of restaurants get water from NYC to make the pizza dough!!!!!. I find that a great tasting pizza is made when you mix the dough, put it in the refrigerator for over 72 hours before baking the pie. I would however issue a warning here, do not tell your family you are planning to make pizzas when you mix the dough, you will be inundated with, "is it ready yet? has it not fermented enough" every few hours that it reminds you of the long past toddler days when the question used to be, "are we there yet? how much longer?" :-). Coming from both the teenager and the much older father, this can be a bit overwhelming.

The cold ferment or known otherwise as slow rise where the dough is pushed into the refrigerator soon after it is mixed in and allowed to very slowly ferment over 3-4 days develops a wonderful flavor for the pizza. And then there is the sauce, a pizza crust is after all a form of bread and the sauce is one of the layers that takes it closer to being pizza.
And then what is a pizza without toppings? The best part of a home baked pizza is each to his/her own can make a personal pizza with the toppings they relish. So, I prepare a bunch of toppings and keep them ready and we put as much and as many of those on our individual pizzas. In addition to the canned pineapple and grated cheese that DD loves, I also semi-char a few other vegetables such as  sliced onions, asparagus, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes (yes more tomatoes), zucchini.

“There's very little in my world that a foot massage and a thin-crust, everything-on-it pizza won't set right.” ~ G.A. McKevett

Needless to say, this was one hit pizza at home, I made it twice in the last 3 weeks and used different toppings each time, so rest assured, all the pictures on this post were taken in my kitchen albeit on different days. 

Recipe sources as suggested by Baking Partners
Pizza sauce -
Pizza crust

What do you need to make New York style pizza? 
Makes 2-14 inch pizzas
For the pizza dough
3 cups high protein flour (also called bread flour)
1/2 Tsp instant dry yeast/rapid rise yeast 
1+1/4 cup water (room temperature)
1+1/4 Tsp salt
1.5 Tsp olive oil
For the pizza sauce
4 large size ripe tomatoes (or you can use 1 can of whole peeled tomatoes as the original recipe says)
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tblsp butter
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 Tsp dried oragano
8-10 fresh basil leaves (or use 1 Tsp dried basil)
1/2 onion sliced thin
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/4 Tsp sugar
1/2 Tsp red chili flakes (adjust to taste)
Other ingredients (quantities based on personal preference)
Flour to dust
Toppings of choice (suggested vegetarian toppings - egg plants, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, asparagus)
Grated cheese (mozarella)
How do you make New York style pizza? (
Making the pizza dough
  • Pour water into a big bowl.
  • In a separate dish, sieve flour once, add salt and yeast and mix it well. 
  • Pour the flour mixture into the bowl with water and mix it by hand and bring it together into a single mass. Sprinkle a Tsp or so water if the dough is very hard. 
  • Once all the dry flour is mixed in, add the oil, take the dough ball onto a flat surface and knead it for 3-4 minutes. 
  • Smear the sides of a big bowl with a couple of drops of olive oil, put the dough ball into and cover it tightly with a cling wrap. 
  • Put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise for the next 3-4 days (remember longer the better taste)
  • If you are using fresh tomatoes, make slits in the skin, put them in a bowl with water, microwave for 6-8 minutes or until the skin starts to fall apart. 
  • Let cool and peel the skin off. take the tomatoes and pulse them in the blender. You can leave it a little chunky or grind it smoother depending on your personal preference. 
  • If you are using the canned tomatoes, just open the can and pulse the tomatoes and keep it ready. 
  • add minced garlic, oregano, chili flakes and salt and roast for a minute to two or until it is fragrant. 
  • Heat a pan on medium heat, add the oil and butter, let the butter melt.
  • Add the tomato, shredded basil leaves, sliced onions and sugar and let it come to a boil on medium heat. 
  • Reduce the heat and let it bubble slowly stirring occasionally until the sauce thickens and reduces by half. By this time your kitchen will be smelling heavenly. 
  • Switch off, let cool and refrigerate until ready to use. 
Assembling the pizza
  • Take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator atleast 2-3 hours (depending on the climate) and let it come to room temperature. This will also increase the dough in size. 
  • Gently press down the pizza and divide it into 2 balls (or 3 if you want smaller diameter pizza). 
  • Pat the dough ball gently into a circle and roll it out into the size you prefer. 
  • Preheat the oven to 500F with a pizza stone inside it, if you do not have a pizza stone, you can bake it on top of an inverted cookie sheet.
  • Spread a layer of the sauce on the crust.
  • Put toppings of choice and top it with grated cheese. 
  • Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake for 7-8 minutes or until the crust turns golden brown. 
  • It is important to pre heat the oven to the temperature. 
  • Yeast in this recipe is strictly on a "as needed" basis, it is a small quantity that kicks off the fermentation but so small that it doesn't kill the sugars in the flour and render your pizza tasteless. If you are in a hurry, reduce the cold fermentation time by keeping it outside but never increase the amount of yeast used.
  • Pizza is typically hand tossed but it takes some practice to get to that stage. I normally pat the pizza base into shape and use my rolling pin for a thin crust. 
  • The sauce stays good up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, so you can make it in larger quantities and use it multiple times. 
  • I usually either saute my chopped vegetables in the cast iron pan on high heat with a drizzle of oil or roast them in the grill. Make sure, you don't actually cook the vegetables soft, they just need to lose the raw bite.  

This is part of Baking Partner's challenge recipe


Vineetha said...

enjoyed reading the pizza story, glad that ur family enjoyed it,it definitely looks yummy !

Savitha said...

Very detailed post and lovely pizza.

Sandhya Ramakrishnan said...

Very well written post! Thoroughly enjoyed reading through the story. The pizza looks awesome as well :)

beingFab said...

That was a fun read, loved your step by step instructions!!

NamsVeni Pothas said...

wow. very much new recipe . it looks very attractive and yummyy.
eager to taste it.picturs very colorful.

Shannon R said...

The eggplant looks fantastic! I'll need to add that to my toppings list!

Trisha said...

This is my first post for Baking Partners too. The pizza looks lovely. I love how versatile it is in terms of topping.

Premas Culinary said...

wow this topping tempting me too much,yummy pizza...

Swathi iyer said...

Glad you enjoyed the pizza and love unique topping of your pizza.

Akila said...

Yummy pizza

Hamaree Rasoi said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post...I have not made pizza base at home yet... you have done great work

Achu said...

Lovely :) So good clicks :) Hope u enjoyed!!!Visit my space once u r free.

Amrita Vishal said...

Lovely read and amazing pizza

Priya Suresh said...

Seriously loved those toppings, beautifully written and well executed pizza.

Kannada Cuisine said...

Awwwwww, that looks super duper