MoM Aug ’09 ATK American Classics: Pepperoni Pan Pizza

We’re still cruising through our Magazine of the Month selection, America’s Test Kitchen’s ancillary publication of “American Classics”.

Actually, I take the “cruising” comment back. Earlier this month we were cruising. Seeing as how the month is up in two weeks and I’ve only gone through three of the recipes, cruise control is off and I’m racing to the finish line like Snake Plissken racing to the Manhattan containment wall! Save me, Lee Van Cleef!

At any rate, I’m hoping to have a total of three selections from the MoM up by the end of the week.

Sliced Pepperoni Pan Pizza

So let’s talk pepperoni pizza. I love the idea of making pizza at home, but crust is often an issue for me: If I have to purchase dough, I figure I may as well skip the whole thing and just get delivery. After going through a multitude of different pan pizza crusts, the Test Kitchen came up with one that isn’t greasy or overly doughy, and is very little effort. I made my dough entirely in my food processor and no kneading is necessary. The pizzas can be made in 90 minutes from start to finish, which isn’t bad when you’re making the dough from scratch!

Degreasing the pepperoni is also a quick and effective little trick — it’s microwaved on paper towels for 30 seconds before topping them on your pie.

Baked Pepperoni Pan Pizza

I would have added more pepperoni than what you see here, but I made a mistake and accidentally bought some perverted concoction that had been marinated in Tabasco sauce. Hoo boy, was that hot! Had this been normal pepperoni, I would have thrown on twice as much.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza – Dough
Adapted from ATK American Classics
Makes two 9-inch pizzas

1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons skim milk, warmed to 110 degrees
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 200 degrees. When oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Lightly grease large bowl with cooking spray. Coat each of two 9-inch cake pans with 3 tablespoons olive oil.

Mix milk, sugar, and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in measuring cup. Mix flour, yeast and salt in food processor. Set machine to dough and pulse to mix dry ingredients together. In three batches, add milk mixture while pulsing the dough. After the dough comes together, turn the machine to on, and let the dough mix together until it forms a ball and is smooth (about 2 minutes). Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, gently shape into a ball, and place in the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in warm oven until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Transfer dough to lightly floured surface, divide in half, and lightly roll each half into a ball. Working with 1 dough ball at a time, roll and shape dough into 9 1/2-inch round and press with knuckles into oiled pan.Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm spot (not in oven) until puffy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees.

Precooked Pepperoni Pan Pizza

I found that this dough was not at all difficult to work with. It doesn’t require kneading and doesn’t need a lot of flour in order to roll out. It’s not sticky, is easy to handle, and rolls out quickly without making a mess.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza – Tomato Sauce
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
table salt and ground black pepper

Topping
1 (3.5 ounce) package sliced pepperoni
3 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

While dough rises, cook oil and garlic in medium saucepan over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat to medium, and cook until slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Put half of pepperoni on single layer on microwave-safe plate lined with 2 paper towels. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Discard paper towels and set pepperoni aside, repeat with remaining pepperoni and paper towels.

To assemble: Remove plastic wrap from dough. Ladle 2/3 cup sauce on each round, leaving 1/2 inch border around edges. Sprinkle each with 1 1/2 cups cheese and top with pepperoni. Bake until cheese is melted and pepperoni is browning around edges, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let pizzas rest in pans for 1 minute. Using spatula, transfer pizzas to cutting board and cut each into 8 wedges. Serve.

Pepperoni Pan Pizza

Other than the extra-hot pepperoni, I loved these little pizzas. I’d be proud to make these for an informal get together on a Friday night. The simple, crushed tomato sauce with garlic, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper was delicious and supported the pepperoni and cheese nicely. The pizzas do take a bit longer than a weeknight meal should (especially if you’re super hungry) but they turn out really well and are, surprisingly enough, really filling.

Our Magazine of the Month has this pizza, plus a gazillion more great American classics, so it would be well worth your while to pick up a copy. It will be on the stands until mid-October.

No, I don’t get any money to promote it, I just feel obligated to!

Weeknight Cooking: Pizza Margherita

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Now do I have your attention? And no, we will NOT be purchasing premade dough. For this pizza, we will be making our own.

I received a book on pizza as a gift and right away I was turned off by the recipes for dough. Dough is time consuming and usually involves the kneading process, which really isn’t my thing. It takes time and work, and I imagine myself laboring over a hunk of dough for hours until it’s done.

That isn’t the case at all.

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This book, “Pizza: 50 Traditional and Alternative Recipes for the Oven and Grill” by Dwayne Ridgaway is fantastic and has some really simple dough recipes. If you make your own dough, it will be much easier than you thought – with the added bonus that you will be so proud of the fact that you actually made a dough. Of course, as a timid first-time pizza maker, I started with the simplest dough and pizza listed: Basic Pizza Dough and its counterpart, Pizza Margherita.

I listed this dish as a “Weeknight Cooking” selection, but I have to include this caveat: The dough takes 1 – 1.5 hours to rise, so making the dough itself wouldn’t be considered part of the Weeknight Cooking bit. However, one Basic Dough recipe makes 2 pizza doughs, and they will keep in your freezer for up to 3 months. I tested this out, and two months later I was able to thaw out and use a perfectly fine pizza dough. If you have it in the freezer and can thaw it, this dish counts as a Weeknight Cooking selection, as the pizza takes 10 minutes of prep time, and 10 minutes of cooking time. A 20-minute meal. Eat your heart out, Rachel Ray.

Let’s start with the dough.

Basic Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups warm water, about 110 degrees F to 115 degrees F
1/4 ounce package of active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour or fine ground yellow corn meal
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing bowl
1 teaspoon salt

It’s pretty simple. Combine your water, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Mix it up and try to get the dry lumps broken up. Then set it aside for about 5 minutes – the top will get a little foamy/bubbly.

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Add only 1 1/2 cups of flour, semolina or corn meal (I use corn meal) and 1/3 cup olive oil. Mix by hand using a wooden spoon.

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Start to add the rest of your flour in 1/4 cup increments, stirring after each addition, until all of the flour is incorporated. The dough will still be slightly sticky. Admittedly, I was nervous about the sticky dough – my compulsion was to add more flour so that it’s smooth, but you don’t want to do that, because the dough will pick up more flour as you’re kneading it.

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Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface (I used a cutting board) and knead for about 3 – 5 minutes. I confess that the short kneading time is what really sold me on this. For some reason I had an idea that I would be kneading for a half hour. All I ended up doing was folding it in half, pressing the ball of my hand into it, turning it, and repeating the process. I did that for about 4 minutes and gave up on kneading.

Coat a large mixing bowl with oil and put the dough in it. Roll the dough around until the oil has covered the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and and place in a warm, draft-free area to double in size. This will take about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.

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After the dough rises, punch it back down to its original size and divide into two equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. One can be wrapped in air-tight plastic wrap or freezer bags and kept in the freezer for up to three months. The next one will be rolled out and topped with pizza goodness.

No pictures for this, I’m afraid, because it all happens so quickly.

Pizza Margherita
1 round basic pizza dough
28 ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, drained and seeded
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon coarse cornmeal
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
8 fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Roll out your pizza dough to fit the pan you’re cooking it on. Depending on the type of pan you’re using, you may want to place a layer of parchment paper on top of the pan. I use parchment paper when I use my thin-crust pan. If you don’t use parchment, use the extra cornmeal to sprinkle on the bottom of the pan.

Open up your can of tomatoes. I do love the plum tomatoes, but they’re hard to find where I live, so I will sometimes use peeled plum tomatoes. I usually find those packed with fresh basil leaves, which is fine. After opening the can, I just remove the basil.

I have never found the tomatoes seedless. What I end up doing is taking the tomatoes out of the can, one by one, splitting them open with my fingers and rinsing out the insides in the sink. Gordon Ramsay might call me a donkey and throw me out of the kitchen for that – I have no idea. It’s fast, efficient, and keeps all of your mess in the sink. Also, I doubt that cans of whole, peeled plum tomatoes without seeds exist. So just buy the regular cans and gently rinse the seeds out into the sink. Place the tomatoes on your cutting board and dice them up.

Throw them into a bowl with only 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil (I use flavored olive oil – you can find flavored olive oils easily in the supermarket), garlic (for this recipe, use fresh and not jarred), and salt. Combine gently.

Top your pizza dough with the tomato mixture and slices of fresh mozzarella. (And in case fresh mozzarella is a new concept to you, it comes as a big, white ball. You can pick it up in the cheese department of your supermarket.) Drizzle with remaining olive oil.

Bake your pizza at 450 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and basil. Serve that baby with some vino and enjoy.

Here it is again in case you’ve forgotten!

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