Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Making Pizza Round...And the mistakes it took to get there

I have made my own pizza for years. It's easy. But it's never been pretty. Square, squiggly, pulled, pushed...shape just didn't matter. Size did. Toppings did. Taste did. And my pizzas tasted great.

But now, part of my job as food editor for Florida Table is to do the food styling for photo shoots...well, for Florida Table AND for Boca Raton Magazine. If it has to do with food, they call me in.

Tomorrow they want a model eating/making/cutting pizza. My first instinct was to buy crusts, but then I knew they would look like cookie cutters. So I bought a couple of my family's favorite pizzas--you know, for those times I am not around to coddle them with homemade pizza--which are Freschetta Brick Oven pizzas...but they are square. So I still had to figure out round on my own.

I made three recipes worth of dough.

That was the easy part...and the book, my favorite The Italian Baker by Carol Field, said this particular recipe (Pizza alla Siciliana) makes enough for one 15-inch pizza. Okay. My oven can cope with could I make it round?

So I turned the first batch out. Patted it into a neat disc. Started rolling. I got a PERFECT circle. Trouble is, it was more like 19 inches across. It was definitely a LARGE pizza. I didn't even know how I was going to get it from the counter to the oven.

I thought I'd try using the pizza peel and the back of a very flat cookie sheet. Brilliant, right? Wrong. The dough stretched, sagged, pulled and fell. Through the oven rack...

So I split the second batch into two pieces. I rolled a perfect, smaller circle. This circle I tried to move to a cookie sheet, but it lost all shape as I did it (that's it below the over-sized monstrosity)...Strike two.

Then I spotted a huge ceramic platter that I've had for years. It was a gift from one of my best friends ever, Donna. It's so big it doesn't actually get pulled out that often. But now, it was just the ticket. I rolled out a third piece of dough (the second half of batch two). Perfect circle. Because this recipe is so wonderful, nothing sticks...I gently slid that circle onto the platter, then I made tiny adjustments so it was even all around.

And the platter even fit into the oven.

Repeat two more times. End result: three par-baked shells for a photo shoot. I am so proud. And the ruins? Topped with fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, a touch of real Parmigiano-Reggiano and some fresh basil plucked from the patch of dirt in front of the condo: Can you say dinner?

And just for the record, let's add learning to toss pizza crusts to my list of things to do in 2008.

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