My husband and I have lived in our neighborhood for the last thirteen years. I can't say enough wonderful things about it. I love the old homes and how none of them look alike. I love having a difficult time getting a good walk for exercise in because there are always too many neighbors to stop and talk to. I love how everyone looks out for their neighbors. Heck - I even love our Fellini Kroger!
Seven years ago, Marcus and I decided we wanted to buy a house here. We wanted to stay in Old North but thought we were priced out. So we looked in surrounding neighborhoods. One gorgeous spring day, we ventured to another neighborhood in the area - one with gorgeous older homes but a little rougher around the edges.
As we drove up to the house we planned on viewing, we noticed a couple of men arguing loudly. As we walked up the steps, we heard gunshots from a couple blocks away, exactly where those two men had been yelling. I distinctly remember watching the realtor's hands tremble as we tried to get the lockbox open - fumbling in his haste to get inside. All three of us burst through the door, slammed it shut and proceeded to move out of the way of any windows. The realtor quickly called 911 and reported the gunshots.
It was at the moment that the complete absurdity of the moment hit us. All three of us looked at each other and all three of us busted out laughing at the same time. We laughed and laughed so hard that I had to wipe tears from my face. I turned to Steve and gasped out "Steve - quick question. Is this the crappiest condition under which you've ever had to show a house? Do you win the office pool for this one?" After we had calmed down, I remember Marcus turning to me and saying "We might as well check out the house" which set all of us off again. The realtor asked "what the heck do we do now because I really think we should wait a bit before leaving" so I made the suggestion that we order pizza but of course we would need to have it delivered. We all died laughing again and the concept of getting pizza delivered has been an inside joke in our family ever since.
Fridays are Pizza Fridays in our home. We have some wonderful options for pizza in the area but my cheapskate nature keeps us from partaking of it too much. For $1.06, I can make two pizza crusts and our pizza can have any toppings we want on it. We've been making this pizza crust recipe for the last eight years but it's only been in the last two years that we've made it a tradition to have pizza on Friday nights.
I'm not going to get into a debate over what makes the perfect pizza. Friends have been won and lost over battles such as those. Instead, I'm going to tell you what I like in a pizza and you can make adjustments based on what you like.
Crust - I like a thin, crisp crust with lots of air bubbles. Here's what we do to ensure that:
- Make sure to heat your oven and baking stone for at least 45-60 minutes before you bake your pizza.
- "Age" your dough for at least a couple of days in the fridge.
- Don't glop on too many toppings.
Sauce - If we're using a red sauce on our pizza, we usually use one of two different sauces. If we're in a hurry, we often will top it with Roasted Tomato Sauce which we've thinned with a little bit of water. If we have a bit more time, we make a quick tomato sauce in the blender using canned tomatoes, garlic and dried herbs.
You can use any kinds of topping or cheeses you want - over the next few months, I'm going to feature some of the different combination of toppings we use. We love trying new combinations but we have several that have made it into our regular rotation.
McPhelps Standard Pizza Crust Recipe
makes 2 crusts
3 cups flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp yeast
1 cup water
2 tablespoon olive oil
I make this recipe using my Kitchenaid mixer using the dough hook but you can also make this recipe using a food processor or by hand. If you're mixing by hand, you'll have to knead a while longer - usually around 8-10 minutes.
Add flour, salt & yeast to the mixing bowl.
Turn mixer on low and slowly add water. Once water has been incorporated, slowly add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
Let mix for 3-4 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
Cover bowl with saran wrap and let it rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place. Punch it down and separate into two pieces.
Roll out on parchment paper until crust is your desired thickness - crust will approximately double in thickness once it's cooked.
To bake, turn oven to 500 degrees and put baking stone in oven. Heat oven for one hour before baking pizza.
Add desired toppings to pizza. For this pizza, we didn't use a sauce - just thin slices of tomato. We also added 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese, 1 ounce of feta, slices of hot and sweet peppers from our garden and plenty of oregano.
Slide parchment paper onto a thin cookie sheet and use this sheet to slide the pizza on the parchment paper directly onto the pizza stone. Let bake 5-7 minutes depending on how brown you want the crust and the topping to be. Use the cookie sheet to remove the pizza from the baking stone.
Leftover dough can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 2 months. I actually prefer the crust when it's aged a couple of days in the fridge. This dough also makes a delicious skillet bread. Heat a pan over medium heat with 1-3 tsp of olive oil in it. Pat the dough out into thin rounds that fit into skillet and cook 4-5 minutes on each side until brown.
Quick pizza sauce:
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes (I love Muir Glen diced tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic
Herbs to taste (I use a mixture of dried oregano, basil & rosemary)
Drain tomatoes. Add to blender or food processor. Add 2 peeled cloves of garlic and herbs. Blend until smooth. I usually drain it again using a fine sieve or a coffee filter for 30-45 minutes.