Today the 13th day of October it is my mom’s name day. It is a typical Greek traditional celebration to celebrate the day of the saint or martyr that you are named after. So today it is my mom’s day and we are celebrating by making the best pizza ever. It is all that my mom’s cooking is all about simple ingredients, simple flavors that they highlight and accentuates the taste of simple ingredients, like feta and tomato. And this is the bottom line of the greek cuisine: simple ingredients brought together in a simple manner. So this sort of pizza is just that. And I call it sort of pizza, because it does not share anything of the typical pizza characteristics, sauce, melted cheese, thin crust. It is on the contrary puffy, with just tomato and feta a non melting cheese. I am making two version the original and still king, my mom’s and mine a more gourmet take on it. So let’s get started.
The ingredients are simple:
- 2 cups of bread flour
- 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 roma tomatoes
- Feta cheese (1/4 lbs)
- Olive oil
- Salt and peper
- 1 cup of airlum colorful tomatoes
- Feta cheese (1/4 lbs)
- Olve oil
- Salt and peper
- Arugula for topping
Start by peeping the yeast. Yeast needs food and warm conditions. The later is provided by 3/4 cups of warm water at 95F (35 C).
When the water is warm add the sugar to dissolve it.
Add the yeast.
Disolve it completely. When it is done it will have a nice head similar to the beer foam. That is due to the metabolic action of the yeast eating the sugar and producing CO2. The CO2 is very important in baking. Either in the case of the yeast, or in the case of the baking powder it is the gas that is released and gives lift to breads, cakes and in this case the pizza dough. Imagine a cake that has no air pockets. It will be dense heavy and not really stable. So it is essential to use good yeast. In this case it is active dry yeast. Active dry yeast is the most commonly utilized yeast for noncommercial bakers in the United States. It consists of coarse oblong granules of yeast, with live yeast cells encapsulated in a thick jacket of dry, dead cells with some growth medium. Under most conditions, active dry yeast must first be proofed or rehydrated. A fun trivial is that it was developed during WWII to travel easy in all conditions for the US army marching from the cold forests of Germany to the blazing hot desert of Africa.
The meantime let’s prepare the flour. Measure the two cups and…
…sift them. The why has been discussed quite extensively in the past. We will focus on the type of flour. In the US there are three major types of white wheat flour: cake, all purpose and bread. In the rest of the world also are know as soft, medium and hard. The grade refers primarily to the protein content, low medium and high. In the award wining post on the fanouropita we discussed the role of the egg in baking. Now let’s see flour. Flour is the backbone of the baked goods. It is the structure and the spine. So when we bake the leavening inflate the dough the four is setting in place to maintain the structure. Flour does that with the magic of protein. Flour has gliadin and a glutelin, two protein that react with water forming long strands called gluten. Gluten is a three diminutional structure that is strongly elastic and make bread and pizza dough chewy. Unless you need a chewy cake, you will have to use a flour that will provide structure but less gluten, that is therefore cake or soft flour. In this case we need heavy structure to support the pizza, and also we need the sauce and the toppings of the pizza to cling on something to remain in the mouth for more enjoyment. So here the choice is clear. Bread Flour. You can probably get away with all purpose, but the crust will be too… floppy. Whole wheat is also an option as it is not processed and contains a lot more protein. It is however heavy flour so you will need more yeast (probably double).
Now is a good time to add the salt too.
Look at that during the discussion our yeast has woken up and it is ready to use.
Add to that 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Pour the entire thing in the flour.
Stir to mix.
You might need to switch to a more suitable tool.
Now it is time to work the dough. Work it for 3, 4, 5, 10, 15 mins. Until it becomes really bouncy. The working blends the water and the flour. the dough becomes very elastic and will be very bouncy in touch.
Oil the bowl.
Add the dough.
And loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let it to raise in a warm spot. I use my oven. It was a small pilot light that manages to keep the temperature always around 85 F. The best option. Otherwise it might take some more.
Let’s focus the attention to the toppings. Take the little airlume tomatoes, and cut them.
We done that before many times.
Chop chop now…
For the roma tomatoes we have a different plan.
Cut them in half across the equator.
These are some of the most empty tomatoes I have seen. Never mind.
We will grade them.
The benefit of this method is that the peal is left behind. Oh mommy wisdom.
Now here is the topping 1. One for my mom’s version (roma tomatoes) airlume tomatoes.
And now the last part of the equation the feta cheese.
That we will break down and crumble with a fork.
And here are the toppings. As simple as it gets. You might be tempted to add other stuff. Try. But it will not get better. Simple things like oregano are reducing the quality of this amazing dish.
By now the dough has doubled in size. Even more than double.
Flour lightly the top.
Punch the dough down. Not really punching. What we will try to do here is to redistribute the the gas that has been produced. The little bubbles or pockets of air we create is the seed of the dough bubbles that we will be produced later.
Flour the bench. Here is my home made sifter. A strainer with a spoon. When you shake it, the flour rains down. Best sifter ever.
Place the dough.
Cut it in half.
Take one half and start pulling it to form a disk.
Use your knuckles to further flatten it out pushing tabards the ends. This will also create the lip of the crust that i so characteristic of pizza.
Oil a pan and put the dough in. Make sure it is stretched enough before you put in the pan. The oil makes it hard to stretch it.
Add some more oil on top. The oil will by a barrier from the water coming out of the tomato. Plus makes everything tasty.
Add some pepper.
And top it with the chesse. Don’t pat the cheese on top. Just spread it around with your fingertips.
Follow that with the tomatoes (both cases).
And follow that with some extra olive oil.
Bake in a 500F oven (or the maximum your oven can sustain).
And here it is! Pizza number 1.
And here is Pizza number 2.
If you played your card rights with proper lubrication, the pizza is not even sticking on the pan.
Cut and serve.
And here is served. With some arugula, just for a spike.
And here is pizza number 2. My mom’s. It is better to be honest.