Pizza is always a good idea. Growing up near New York City, I have had my share of excellent slices. It’s one of those unique foods where the plain cheese “canvas” is just as good as the dressed up version – whether that be meat lovers, veggie or something more epicurean like caramelized onion and tallegio.
A few years ago, I attended a bachelorette party/cooking class in Providence, RI. The bride, a food & wine lover, couldn’t think of a better locale than her favorite restaurant from her college days – Al Forno. During the class we made incredible dishes liked baked pasta with cream & five cheeses, a berry tart with creme anglaise and grilled pizza. The best part about the class was enjoying our hard work, along with several bottles of wine. The second best part – getting all of the recipes so we could try these dishes at home.
Over the past few years I’ve taken this little booklet out several times, for one recipe in particular – the Al Forno Pizza Dough. Years ago I would have thought someone was crazy to make their own pizza dough, but once I started following the steps I realized it wasn’t all that challenging and the final product was worth the effort. This recipe is too good to keep to myself.
Al Forno Pizza Dough
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- extra virgin olive oil
1. Sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup warm water (105-110 degrees) and allow it to dissolve and activate, about 5 minutes.
2. Combine the flour and salt and mound onto a cool work surface, creating a high-walled well in the center (VinEatsi note: this should be a stable surface, ideally something like granite, which is naturally cool)
3. Combine the yeast mixture with 1 1/2 cups of cool water and pour into the well.
4. Slowly begin to mix the water and flour, a little at a time, moving your fingers in short, counter-clockwise circles around the border of the water (VinEatsi note: the first time I did this, I spilled 1/4 of the water onto the floor through a tiny break in the flour dam. Lesson learned – don’t be over zealous with the circular motions).
5. When the dough is firm enough to hold its shape, scrape the remaining flour over it and knead until the mass is smooth and shiny, approximately 7 minutes.
6. Transfer the dough to a bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil to prevent a skin from forming, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place, away from drafts until doubled in bulk. About 2 hours.
7. Punch down the dough and knead once more. Let the dough rise again for about 40 minutes, punch down again and form into balls (VinEatsi note: I usually do 5, but this is up to you).
I’ve found the easiest way to stretch out my dough – since I’m not a professional pizza spinner – is to use the back of a cookie sheet and some olive oil. Using quick delicate strokes, spread and form the dough to your desired shape, then quickly transfer it to parchment paper. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
Pizza is very easy to make at home with the use of a pizza stone. Years ago, I purchased a pizza stone from Crate & Barrel – it’s inexpensive and functional and fits in my tiny oven. Note that the pizza stone should be heated and cooled with the oven – otherwise you run the risk of cracking it.
Recently I had a craving for pizza with goat cheese and happened to have just one frozen ball of pizza dough still in my freezer. I removed the dough to let it thaw and then went to shop for ingredients: red onion, proscuitto, arugula, mozzarella and goat cheese. I lightly dressed the raw dough in shredded mozzarella, then layered on the other ingredients. I then carefully slid the parchment paper onto the hot pizza stone, which was just removed from the hot oven, then quickly back into the oven. In 10 minutes the pizza was perfectly crisped and ready to enjoy. I sprinkled some more fresh arugula and parmesan on top, then served it alongside a small salad of arugula with a balsamic drizzle.
Reasons I really love this pizza dough:
- It’s easy to make
- Responds well to freezing and quickly defrosts
- Makes a great thin crust pizza with a unique chewiness to it
- Great for parties – guests can bring fun ingredients or you can provide a variety of fun, interesting toppings
- Fun for kids – they love pizza and can be hands on with making their own
Wine pairing with pizza: try a Lambrusco (slightly fizzy Italian red), Syrah or Cabernet with heavier toppings like meat. For lighter toppings like veggies or a white pizza, Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc will be perfect.
I’d love to know what’s on your perfect pizza. Leave me a comment below!