Homemade Pizza Fiorentina
Remember the episode of the "I Love Lucy" Show where Lucille Ball gets very flustered working in chocolate factory? It was a similar comedic scene at my house when my husband and I would try to make homemade pizza using store-bought pizza dough. It was always sticky, slimy and difficult to control. We'd let the dough rise as instructed on the package and finally get it rolled into a relatively round shape. I'd turn away for a moment to get the toppings and the dough would contract itself back into the shape of an amoeba with holes in it! So frustrating! We were determined to get it right, so we took a pizza making class at Sur la Table in Canton CT. We were amazed to learn how simple the process was to make the dough from scratch. All you need is flour, yeast, water, salt and oil. No more sticky store-bought dough for us.
Making homemade pizza is a great way to use up leftovers. You can top it with any combination of meats or vegetables; our favorite topping is Pizza Fiorentina with garlicky sautéed spinach and an egg. First we bake the pizza topped with the spinach, then crack an egg into the center and continue cooking until the egg is set. As you cut into the pizza the egg oozes onto the spinach - perfecto!
The recipe below makes enough dough for 4 individual pizzas. I usually make two 8-inch pizzas for supper and save the rest of the dough to make calzones or empanadas another day. Store the leftover portions of dough wrapped in plastic in the fridge. Be aware that the pizza dough will continue to rise and expand, so check the wrapper every so often to make sure the dough is still covered.
Another secret to our success is to use a square of parchment paper when rolling out the dough. You keep the dough on the parchment as you transfer it to the hot pizza stone. The dough won’t stick to the parchment paper as it bakes making cleanup extremely easy. This way you don’t need to use any crumbly semolina or cornmeal to coat the pizza stone.
HOMEMADE PIZZA DOUGH
Makes 1 pound of dough; enough for 2 (12-inch) or 4 (8-inch) pizzas
¼ cup warm water
1 ¼ teaspoons yeast
3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus a little extra
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 cup water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
Put the warm water into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. Stir to make sure all the yeast has been incorporated.
In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook combine the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix on low speed to combine. Add the cup of water and 3 tablespoons of olive oil and knead the dough about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic, or knead by hand for 10 minutes.
Shape the dough into a smooth ball, place it in a lightly floured bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Form each portion into a small ball and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
3 cups baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
Salt and pepper
1 cup tomato sauce (or your favorite jarred pizza sauce)
2 teaspoons dried oregano (or pizza herb blend)
6 ounce package of shredded cheese (all mozzarella, or Italian mix)
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Put a pizza stone (or baking sheet) in the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Allow the pizza stone to preheat for at least 30 minutes so it is extremely hot.
Wash the baby spinach leaves and put in a large saucepan. Any residual water clinging to the leaves will help to cook them. Cover the pan and cook on low heat for 2 minutes until the spinach has wilted. Drain out any excess water.
Add the minced garlic and olive oil to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For each individual pizza, take one piece of pizza dough and roll into an 8 inch diameter circle on a lightly floured surface (preferably parchment paper). Brush some olive oil on the dough and spoon on ¼ cup of tomato sauce, leaving a half-inch edge with no sauce. Top the sauce with a half-teaspoon of dried oregano or your favorite pizza herbs.
Put a quarter of the sautéed spinach on the pizza, leaving a little space in the middle where you will place the egg.
Sprinkle a couple ounces of shredded cheese all over the pizza. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top and carefully place the pizza on the hot pizza stone.
Bake for 3 minutes, then open the oven door and quickly crack an egg into the middle of the pizza. Bake for an additional 6 to 8 minutes until the dough is golden and the egg has just set. Serve immediately.
For an additional burst of flavor and color, I like to top each pizza with another drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes. Bellissimo!