Jon and I have always loved making pizza at home. But honestly, I always buy that pre-made dough they have at Trader Joe’s and kind of feel guilty about it, like it’s cheating. Recently I’ve just been buying that dough and tossing it in the fridge, where it sits until it goes bad and I throw it away. I feel compelled to buy that dough at Trader Joe’s even though I know I won’t use it. I don’t know why I do it. Making pizza is one of the easiest and most fun dinners. But despite how much we both love this meal, we had kind of abandoned it.
Until the other day at work when one of the cooks at the restaurant where I work, David, made homemade pizza for family meal. His dough was really good and he also made fresh tomato sauce, with sausage, broccoli rabe and mozzarella for toppings. Poor Dave was churning out dough and pizza toppings for 25 people for like two hours before we sat down to eat. It was such a fun family meal and everyone ravenously attacked the trays of pizza as Dave brought them out. I had been hoarding pieces in the back as he made them, secretly stuffing little scraps in my face when he wasn’t looking. At the end of the day, all I wanted to know was how he made that dough. My inspiration to make pizza at home was renewed, and I was also determined to figure out my own recipe for dough.
Now that there are fresh tomatoes at the market, I buy them every time I pass Union Square. At least tomatoes never go bad in my fridge, so I don’t feel bad compulsively buying them daily. When I have a ton of them in the refrigerator, I make tomato confit. I really like this recipe because it is so easy and you can do so many different things with both the tomatoes and the leftover oil. That tomato and garlic flavored olive oil is so good you could drink it (I think Jon secretly does when I’m not home). The confit tomatoes are tangy, vibrant and versatile. With my constant tomato confit-ing and the pizza dough ideas in my head, I decided we’d make simple tomato pies with the confit as the sauce and fresh thyme.
I love the Neopolitan pizza dough recipe we used from Peter Reinhart’s book. The dough was flavorful, light, and crispy on the outside with just a little bit of chewiness on the inside. The olive oil and salt in the recipe shone through, and you could really eat this dough plain, topped only with a little oil and salt. But we ate them topped with my tomato confit, and they were scrumptious. The dough has to be made ahead of time, but the wait was more than worth it. Me and Jon have big plans to buy a pizza stone and throw a big pizza party. Hopefully that will happen this summer. But I have to say, I’ll never have to buy that Trader Joe dough again!
(Makes 1 large pizza or lots of little ones)
For the Tomato Confit:
1 pint ripe vine tomatoes
3 cups olive oil
1 head of garlic
1 small bunch of thyme
Salt and pepper
1. Core and halve the tomatoes. Place in a small glass baking dish along with garlic and thyme. Season well with salt and pepper.
2. Cover tomatoes with olive oil until they are completely submerged.
3. Place foil over the top of the baking dish and cook at 250º for an hour and a half or until tomatoes are very soft.
4. Remove tomatoes from oil. Reserve oil for another use, bread dipping is a good one.
5. Dice tomatoes and use as sauce on pizza.
For the Pizza Dough:
(adapted from Peter Reinhardt’s Artisan Breads Every Day )
5 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 ½ tbsp honey
2 cups room temperature water
2 tbsp olive oil
(You can do this by hand, but I used a mixer and will describe that process below)
1. Combine all ingredients in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Mix dough on lowest setting using the paddle attachment for 1 minute. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
2. Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dough on medium-low speed for 3 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft.
3. On a lightly oiled, clean surface, knead the dough gently into a ball. Cut into five equally sized pieces and place on a lightly oiled pan, covered with plastic. You can also put them into individual, lightly oiled sandwich bags. Refrigerate overnight.
4. Remove dough from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake your pizzas. Place them on a lightly oiled tray or platter and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
5. When you are ready to roll out your dough and have your toppings ready, flour a clean work surface. Use the tips of your fingers to press the dough into a circular shape and create the crust.
6. Once your dough is formed into a circle, use your thumbs and the backs of your hands to gently stretch the dough into a larger disk.
7. When your dough is the size and shape you want, place it on a floured, parchment lined baking sheet, or a pizza stone if you have one.
8. Top pizza with sauce and desired toppings. We lightly brushed the crust of our pizza with the reserved tomato confit oil and put sea salt and fresh thyme on our tomato confit ‘sauce’.
9. Bake pizza for about 5 minutes at the highest temperature your oven will go to. Rotate the pizzas halfway through baking.
10. Enjoy hot pizzas immediately!
© 2011 Jonathan Meter and Jessica Hertle