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Author Notes: If I could only chose one thing to eat for the rest of my life it would be pizza – mainly because there are so many delicious variations it would be hard to ever get sick of it. I love to create different flavor combinations, and this is one I started playing around with last summer when my garden was producing an abundance of small eggplants. My latest tweak is the addition of garlic-oil sautéd bread crumbs to sprinkle on the pizza right before serving. I used the garlic oil in the sauce as well to give it an added dimension of flavor. The result was delectable, and my husband and I almost finished 2 pizzas by ourselves!
I realize this recipe is long and seems like a lot of work, but don't bail without giving it a chance. Once the dough is made, the rest of the prep can be done in about the time it takes to adequately heat the pizza stone or steel. The pizza cooks quickly, too, so you can feasibly be eating your first slice an hour or so after getting started with prepping your toppings. Notes: Feel free to use a different dough recipe if you've got a favorite, or even ask a local pizzeria if they will sell you a couple of dough balls. I like to work with the dough straight from the fridge – when it's warm it stretches too easily. I also like to divide my toppings ahead of time so that once I start using them I don't lose track of quantities (but that's probably a bit obsessive). If you have trouble finding a 14.5 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, you may use a 28 ounce can instead – just double the sauce ingredients, and use 3 ½ tablespoons oil and 2 garlic cloves to infuse the oil. I'm sure you'll find another use for the leftover sauce.
Makes: 2 12-inch pizzas
Pizza Dough (adapted from Roberta's Cookbook)
grams all-purpose flour
grams 00 flour (okay to substitute all-purpose)
grams fine sea salt (scant 2 teaspoons)
gram rapid-rise yeast (scant 1/4 teaspoon)
grams extra virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)
grams 95º water
- Stir flour and salt in a medium bowl to thoroughly combine. Make a well in the center. In a smaller bowl stir yeast, olive oil, and water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use your hands or a spoon to gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet. When they are thoroughly combined, cover and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes to hydrate the flour.
- Lightly flour about about a square foot of counter space. Transfer dough to the floured area, then knead it for several minutes, flouring your hands or the counter as needed. It will be fairly sticky at first, but should become a smooth dough after several minutes of kneading. Divide the dough in half, and form each half into a smooth ball. Place the dough on a floured quarter sheet pan (or similar), then lightly dust with flour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap.
- Allow dough to rest at room temperature for 3-4 hours, until it has approximately doubled in size, then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to 36 hours). Alternately it can be refrigerated immediately and used between 24 and 48 hours later. It will develop more flavor if it's made a day or two ahead, but if you decide late Saturday morning that you want pizza Saturday evening you can definitely make it happen.
Sauce (adapted from Flour Water Salt Yeast), toppings, and making the pizza
ounces can peeled whole tomatoes
large clove garlic
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
small eggplant (~10 oz/ 285 grams)
3/4 to 1
teaspoons kosher salt
teaspoon fine sea salt
teaspoon dried oregano (or 3/8 teaspoon minced fresh)
generous pinch red pepper flakes
cup dried bread crumbs
15 to 16
ciliegine (cherry-sized) balls fresh mozzarella cheese (~6.4 oz/ 180 grams)
cup grated parmesan (2 oz/ 60 grams)
large basil leaves
- Place a pizza stone or steel on a middle rack in your oven, so the broiler is about 8-inches from the top of the stone/steel. Heat your oven to 500º F (or 550º if your oven goes that high). Allow the oven to heat at least 45 minutes before baking the first pizza.
- Drain the tomatoes in a strainer (set over a bowl to catch the juice for another use if desired). Allow to drain for 10 to 15 minutes, then transfer to blender.
- Meanwhile, crush the garlic clove, then skin and chop it. Combine the garlic and olive oil in a small skillet and place over medium low heat. Once it gets fragrant and bubbles are forming around the garlic bits, lower the heat to as low as your stove goes. Continue to heat for 8 to 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool for several minutes. Strain the oil through a mesh strainer into a small bowl. Save the garlic!
- Thinly slice the eggplant crosswise while the oil and garlic are heating. You are shooting for slices between 1/16th and 1/8th inch. Use a sharp knife or a mandolin. Using the kosher salt, lightly sprinkle one side of each slice, then arrange the slices in a colander, fanning them around so they are overlapping but none are stacked directly atop another. Allow to drain for 10 to 15 minutes, then wipe the moisture and excess salt away with a clean, lint-free kitchen towel, or paper towels.
- While the eggplant is draining slice the cheese balls into halves and grate the parmesan. Make the sauce by adding 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil, the reserved garlic, fine sea salt, oregano, and pepper flakes to the blender with the tomatoes. Blend until smooth.
- Heat the remaining garlic oil in the small skillet over medium heat for several minutes. Add the bread crumbs, stir well to combine, and sauté until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat. As long as the bread crumbs are only golden brown, they shouldn't burn from the residual heat. If they got a little browner just transfer them to a plate to be safe.
- Chiffonade the basil while the bread crumbs are cooking.
- When all of your ingredients are prepped you are ready to construct your pizzas. If you are using a pizza stone, switch your oven to broil at this point to help heat soak the surface. If you're using a steel this step is not needed.
- Lightly flour about a square foot of counter top, and very lightly flour a pizza peel. Remove one dough ball from the fridge, and place it on the floured surface. Lightly flatten it with your fingertips starting at the center and working your way to the edges. Flip it over and repeat. Pick up the dough by the edge and rotate it vertically to allow gravity to help stretch it. Once you feel like you're on the edge of losing control of the stretch, place the dough over both of your fists in a horizontal orientation, and rotate it until it has formed a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to the pizza peel.
- Spread about 1/4 cup sauce over the dough in a thin layer avoiding the outer 1/2-3/4 inch of dough. Sprinkle with about 1/4 of the grated parmesan and 1/4 of the basil. Place an eggplant slice in the center, then use about half of the eggplant slices to cover most of the sauces, shingling them in slightly overlapping circles. Drizzle-dollop 3 to 4 more tablespoons of sauce onto the eggplant, then evenly arrange half of the mozzarella and sprinkle 1/4 of the grated parmesan on.
- Jiggle the pizza on the peel to make sure it is sliding easily. If it is stuck anyplace, gently raise the dough and sprinkle a pinch of flour under the sticky area(s) until the pizza is nicely mobile.
- Transfer the pizza with a quick forward shake so the edge of the pizza is toward the back of the stone/steel. Once it hits the stone/steel, you will be able to slide the peel out from under it. If you are using a stone change the oven setting back to bake, and allow the pizza to cook for 4 to 5 minutes before change the setting back to broil for another 1-2 minutes. (The crust rim should be poofy and the mozzarella balls about half melted before you switch to broil.) The pizza is done when sauce is vigorously bubbling, the cheese is melted, and there are some deep brown spots on the rim of the crust. If you are using a steel, only allow the pizza to bake for 2 to 3 minutes before changing the setting to broil or the bottom of the crust may get overly charred (a "leopard" crust is good, solid black is not).
- Use the peel to remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle it with about 1/4 of the basil, and about half of the bread crumbs. Slice and eat. Repeat the process to make the second pizza.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe with Parmesan
- This recipe was entered in the contest for The Best Thing You Ate This Year
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Mash-Up Recipe