I’ve been posting recipes here in the Forno Bravo cookbook for months, but oddly enough I have yet to tackle pizza, one of the cornerstone outputs of our wood-fired beauties. Perhaps it was a subconscious reticence to test my mettle against seasoned pros – like telling Mario Batali how to make pasta. But here we are: I’m posting a pizza recipe, and will be doing so for the next few weeks. I hope they are worthy.
You will notice that my dough recipe is slightly unorthodox. Instead of using a high-gluten flour, I use regular all purpose and then add vital wheat gluten. I find that this produces a dough that is lighter and more crispy, while still maintaining a nice chewy consistency on the inside.
For the dough (makes 4 pizzas):
1.5 C warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1.5 tsp honey
3.5 C AP flour plus as needed for dusting
1 T vital wheat gluten
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 T extra virgin olive oil
For the pesto (enough for 4 pizza and then some):
1/4 C pine nuts
1.5 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 C extra virgin olive oil
3 oz fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper as needed
For the pizza (to top 1 pie):
3 oz asparagus
4 oz fresh mozzarella
freshly grated parmesan as needed
1 fresh chicken egg
cornmeal as needed
To make the dough, combine the water, yeast and honey and allow to bloom for about five minutes, or until slightly foamy. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, wheat gluten and salt. It is important that the wheat gluten is thoroughly cut into the flour – adding liquid straight to wheat gluten will result in a rubbery mass. Once the dry ingredients are mixed, add the water mixture along with the olive oil and knead with the dough hook attachment until the dough is smooth and proper gluten development has occurred, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight to retard. The next day, about 3 hours before you’re ready to make pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator, put in a warm spot, and allow the dough to rise until it is double its original size.
While the dough is doing its thing, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the pizza. To make the pesto, first toast the pine nuts in your wood oven, tossing frequently, about 2-3 minutes. Place the nuts, parmesan, garlic and olive oil in the carafe of a blender. Season with salt and pepper. Start the blender, and with the motor running add the basil leaves in 3-4 batches, working quickly to avoid excess oxidation. Blend just until smooth, adjust seasoning and set aside.
To prepare the asparagus, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Trim the woody ends from the asparagus, then cut each spear into 1-inch pieces. Blanch in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds, then drain and allow to cool.
Once your dough has risen, remove from the bowl and divide into four equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, dusting with flour as necessary. Cover the dough balls with a slightly damp dish towel and allow to proof for 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to make pizzas, shape one ball into a disc using your preferred method. Place on a peel liberally dusted with corn meal. Spread on a thin layer of pesto. Top with the mozzarella and asparagus. Add a sprinkling of fresh parmesan.
Transfer to your wood oven and bake. As you all know, cooking time is going to vary depending on how cranked up you have your oven. As a result, this also affects the timing on egg placement. If you’re running super hot, crack an egg into the middle of your pizza right before you go into the oven. If your cooking time is more in the 5-6 minute range, wait 2 minutes after you’ve started baking your pizza and then add the egg. You may need to play around with it – what you’re looking for is a nice set white and a runny yolk to meld into the cheese and sauce and create unctuous, creamy deliciousness.
Once the pizza is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Show it off to all your friends, then use a fork to pierce the yolk and distribute it around the pizza. Slice and serve.