The Dancer That Pizza Built: Margherita on the Bahbie

August 18, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Makes 2 10" pizzas
Author Notes

The daughter had been in Florence for a month before I joined her there. She had developed a strict adherence to the 10,000 calorie a day dancer's diet, a major component of which was pizza. And in Italy, pizza isn't the calorie-laden thing it can be here. Rather, the crust is wafer-thin, yet magically tender. Toppings are judicious and few. Cheese is gently fluttered over at the end. The objective is a total taste experience in which the crust participates, yet nothing overpowers. It truly is nearly magical. Bottom line: she ate a s***load of it with utter abandon.

Lydia, the trip never would have happened without you and your laser-focused dedication to what you do and love. This is for you, with extreme gratitude for being your mother. —boulangere

What You'll Need
  • For the Amazing Crust
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
  • 10 ounces warm (100 degree) water
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • For the Ethereal Topping
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes of your favorite shape and color
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • A handful of basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Parmesan cheese
  1. Make the dough for the crust. Measure all the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Swish a measuring spoon through them to disperse the yeast before adding the liquids. Add the water, olive oil, and honey. Mix on low speed until the dough comes together and leaves the sides of the bowl. Add a tablespoon or so of flour if need be. Stop the mixer when the dough has come together. You don't want to give this dough much at all in the way of kneading, otherwise it will tend to be more bread-like, and that just isn't what you want at all. Stop the mixer, remove the hook, cover the bowl with a piece of plastic (NOT a towel!) and let proof at room temperature until it has doubled in size. A NOTE HERE: sdebrango has a wonderful method for proofing pizza dough day-long in the fridge, which I think is brilliant. So make your dough in the morning before leaving for work. Set in in the mixer bowl covered with plastic into the fridge. Go to work . Think about pizza. Come home, take it out. Let it come to room temp while you build/light your fire and make your topping.
  2. While the dough is proofing, start your fire. I use charcoal grills, so if you do too, build a good honking big fire. Be sure the bottom draft is open. Once it has burned down to coals, scatter them over the bottom of the grill, set the grate in place, and set a pizza stone on it. I have a stone that I've designated as grill only. Close the top. Set the bottom and top drafts to half open. If you use a gas grill, heat it to high, set your stone in, and reduce heat to medium-high.
  3. While the grill is heating and the dough proofing, start your topping. Slice the tiny tomatoes in half lengthwise. Smash, peel, and mince a couple of cloves of garlic. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of olive oil. When it's hot (it will shimmer, or ribbon), add the tomatoes and a pinch of sea or kosher salt. When the tomatoes are very tender, and if they spatter too much, turn the heat down some, add the garlic. Stir it all together and reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and let everything get nice and soft and concentrated.
  4. Chiffonade your basil. Chiffonade is French for ribbon. You're going to cut the leaves in the direction of their cells' growth so as not to encourage browning. Pull of some lovely, large leaves, probably 3 or 4 per pizza. Lay them one atop the other, stems and tips matching. Roll them from stem to tip like a cigar. Set the roll on your board and slice them as thin as possible. Into ribbons.
  5. When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a gently floured board. Divide it in half. Tenderly round up each half. Work with one at a time. Pat it out, working from the center outwards, When it is about 10 inches in diameter and no more than 1/4' thick, stop. Dust a wooden peel or the back of a baking sheet with cornmeal, polenta, or semolina. Lift the pizza dough onto the peel. Spoon some of the luscious, concentrated sauce (not too much) onto it and use the back of the spoon to spread the sauce around the surface of the dough. Proceed directly to the grill. Slide the pizza (the cornmeal-polenta-semolina will act line tiny ball bearings) onto the screamingly hot stone. Close the lid. If using a gas grill, turn off the heat. Charcoal/wood, damp down the top and bottom vents. Your heavenly creation should be blistered, browned, and ready to eat within no more than 5 minutes.
  6. Open the grill. Scatter the basil chiffonade over the pizza and grate some Parmesan cheese over it. Close the top for a couple of minutes, then open it, lift the pizza out with the peel. Cut it, serve it, and eat it immediately. Imagine that you are in a country where a musical language is spoken and the light has a golden-sepia hue. Raise a glass of wine and announce, salute!
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37 Reviews

boulangere September 4, 2011
I'm so glad the dough worked for you, sdebrango. The combination of AP and a bit of cake flour gives it that great extensibility and tenderness. And your refrigerator rise method is sheer genius. Thank you.
boulangere September 5, 2011
I've done it in the oven just lately, too, and it worked just fine. That good smokiness you get from grilling it is really nice, but we were having thunderstorms that night, so . . . It was so flaming hot when I first made it that I was taking showers that were a few token degrees off cold.
boulangere September 5, 2011
Most parts of my yard are shaded at various times of day by large trees, but my deck takes a direct hit from the sun practically all day. I could probably grill a pizza right on it. It's only usable during the shoulder seasons. I don't dare put up an umbrella because of late afternoon winds that could easily put it right through a kitchen window.
boulangere September 5, 2011
But the dough is really the point of it all . . . .very glad it worked for you.
Midge September 3, 2011
Another beautifully written recipe. You sound like an awesome mom, boulangere. My favorite part of eating pizza in Italy--besides the obvious-- is that everyone gets their own.. When I first went to Naples I was stunned to see the most svelte women polish off an entire pie themslves.
boulangere September 4, 2011
Oh, yes! The joy of consuming an entire pizza cannot be overstated. Thank you so much, Midge.
maryderby August 26, 2011
LOVE THIS!!!! Merci bien!!!
boulangere August 26, 2011
Ah bon, pas de quoi!! Dites-moi lorsque vous allez l'essayer!
healthierkitchen August 25, 2011
What a lovely headnote and recipe! So nice to read about your obvious devotion to and admiration of your kids!
boulangere August 25, 2011
Oh, thank you, hk!
Schwerve August 24, 2011
Margherita pizza is probably my favorite style of pizza, and this one sounds amazing! I cant wait to try it out! We have a great local farmers market a few days a week where I'm sure I can find some really good ingredients! Summer time is the perfect time for this pizza, and I really want to make it before the season is over!
boulangere August 24, 2011
Farmers market, fresh ingredients - that's what it's all about!
wssmom August 22, 2011
What an amazingly wonderful headnote and recipe! Isn't having a wonderful, talented daughter the absolute BEST?!?
boulangere August 22, 2011
Oh, seriously! And thank you.
Dominica D. August 21, 2011
thanks for the pizza stone bbq technique - my boyfriend will thank you also as it means i can resist the purchase of the table top pizza oven i have been threatening for awhile now.
boulangere August 21, 2011
Oh heck, my bbq stone has a giant crack in the middle and I still use it. Hope it works well for you.
Bevi August 20, 2011
The joys of mother with a beautiful and talented daughter.

This is inspiring and a marvelous reason to resurrect the charcoal grill. The memory of an elusive pizza in Sienna almost 15 years ago may become a reality.

boulangere August 20, 2011
Oh, I hope so!
mrslarkin August 19, 2011
boulangere, i think i love you! :)
boulangere August 19, 2011
Blushing . . . ; )
boulangere August 19, 2011
Seriously, thank you, Mrs L
EmilyC August 19, 2011
Another fantastic recipe, boulangere, and your headnote about your daughter is simply lovely. And as others have said, I can only dream of being able to eat 10,000 calories a day ... sounds like heaven ... especially when you're living in Italy!
boulangere August 19, 2011
Thank you, EmilyC. Fortunately, she shared bites.
aargersi August 19, 2011
This is just the best - your writing and recipes are poetic. The 10,000 calorie a day diet sounds fantastic too - but I am pretty sure I would not look at ALL like Lydia if I tried it!!!
boulangere August 19, 2011
You are so kind. I kind of pulled the number out of thin air, but I don't think I'm off by much. I felt sort of like an anthropologist, observing the eating habits of a highly active individual in a very hot climate.
Sagegreen August 19, 2011
What a great recipe and story. Oh, those 10,000 calorie a day days have long passed (gymnastics in college), but go, Lydia!
boulangere August 19, 2011
Thank you so much. I have to admit it was fascinating to watch her plow through calories with such joy.
lorigoldsby August 19, 2011
Beautiful pic, beautiful daughter and a great mother-daughter memory. Isn't it wonderful to spend time with your adult daughter and marvel at the woman she's become, and think, "...and I helped!"
boulangere August 19, 2011
Yes, Lori! Although I'm not sure how much I helped - she was born fairly headstrong. Thank you.
drbabs August 19, 2011
This just made me cry.
boulangere August 19, 2011
checker August 19, 2011
As I said in response to your generous comment on my last submission: somehow I doubt that we will get the amazing, svelte figure that your beautiful daughter has from eating this but it will still taste good, right? ;) She looks like a dancer, and that is so remarkable! I am proud for you, if that makes sense...
boulangere August 19, 2011
Your comment is extremely kind and generous, and thank you profoundly for it. It sounds easy, and she has a very natural talent, but in fact she works very hard to hone it. We should all be so lucky.
ibbeachnana August 18, 2011
Pizza on the grill is just about a once a week thing around here and while I have tiles in all of the house ovens, a thick stone is now and forever in place on the grill. By far turns out the best thin crust pizzas in just minutes.

I'll have to try the crust that you mention, next time.
boulangere August 18, 2011
Oh yeah, dedicating a stone to the bbq was one of my more enlightened ideas.
LydiaPW August 18, 2011
You are amazing. Point blank.
boulangere August 18, 2011
So are you, my dear.