pizza

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It is perhaps time to speak about pizza.

I am alone for two weeks while J is in South Africa for work. I was planning on writing a post on what one cooks when you find yourself suddenly alone, but it’s turned out much less interesting than I’d hoped (salads, scrambled eggs), so for now all I have to tell you is that I have a heavy teaching load at the moment, which means that when I get home in the evening I mostly drink wine and read Adrienne Rich and Shulamith Firestone and The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, strange but satisfying bedfellows, and that tonight I’m making pizza.

(Before I get to the pizza, listen to this delightful piece on the history of fudge, from the very same Oxford Companion: “An 1880s fudge-making fad among students of elite American women’s colleges, especially Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith, fostered the use of the new creation. The young women made fudge in their dormitory rooms, often in tin boxes balanced on the chimneys of spirit lamps, and later in chafing dishes (occasionally, fire rather than fudge resulted).” I have spent an inordinate amount of time this week imagining what it must have been like being a woman at Vassar in the 1880s making fudge with other women in her dormitory room, and if this doesn’t sound like the best life you could possibly ever live then we clearly have different priorities.)

Back to the pizza. We’ve been making the same pizza for almost four years now. The dough is one of two recipes – we either use Peter Reinhardt’s from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, or the flatbread recipe from Casa Moro. The Reinhardt recipe requires proving the dough in the fridge overnight, and this is mostly the method I follow even with the Moro version. I find this to be the key issue in producing a silky, manageable dough. Like all of us, dough has a deep and abiding need to rest. Give it that. Once it has proved for a long time (between 12 and 24 hours), you are able to work it into a really thin base. For tomato sauce I make Marcella Hazan’s version, never anything else. The beauty is in its simplicity: just tomatoes (I use canned San Marzano), an onion, and butter. The butter brings out the slight sweetness of the tomato, the richness of it a lovely foil against its acidity, and against the assertiveness of the onion.

As to toppings – we usually do just mozzarella and one or two other elements – either anchovies, or olives, or whatever is lying around the fridge – some soppressata, or artichokes, or like tonight, some ramps (!!) I scored from the farmer’s market over the weekend.

Finally, what pizza desires just as much as a long rise is a hot oven. I bake mine at the highest temperature an oven has on offer.

 

 

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