As Dana mentioned offhand in the last post, while she bought me the wicked awesome Ben & Jerry's ice cream book for our anniversary (as well as this cool signed copy of Robert Pinsky's An Explanation of America which I'm totally in love with), I bought her a copy of a book she'd been wanting--no no, needing--forever: Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. First of all, it's hardly fair to call it a handbook. Yes, it serves as a guide to lead you by hand through step by step recipes for any baked good you have ever seen or imagined or eaten in a dream while riding a pegasus, but I feel like "handbook" implies that it can fit comfortably in the hand, that it is palm sized, that it is--in some way--heftable. It's not. It's really an absolute tome, dense with glossy photos of immaculate confections of every variety interspersed with recipes so tested and perfected I feel it a sin to veer away. This is not something I usually take well. I can't recall a time when I simply followed a recipe without making at least one change. I am a cook who won't take do this at face value. I will not be hemmed in by puny words, I will overcome them, I will beat the recipe and then I will add some freaking cinnamon. This is why I am not a baker.
But here, these baked goods have been so perfected, so polished to a luster that today, just this once, I made an exception and made no exceptions. Today, I followed a recipe.
The recipe in question was actually yet another pizza dough. Remember how I said my passion for pizza was reignited? Yeah. That.
So here is pizza dough via Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook:
1 cup warm water (110 degrees Fahrenheit)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (or honey, I'm just saying)
1 envelope active dry yeast
14 ounces AP flour (about 2 and 3/4 cups)
1 tsp table salt
1.5 Tbsp olive oil
Combine water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl and let sit until foamy (5 or 10 minutes). In a mixer or food processor, combine salt and flour then add yeast mixture and oil. Mix until tacky dough comes together. For me, the dough was pretty dry at this stage. It came together but shaggily. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a smooth ball forms. Plop the tiny adorable dough ball into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled (between 40 minutes and an hour for me). Punch it down and fold back on itself four or five times to reincorporate the air pockets then replace plastic wrap and let rise until doubled again.
The resulting dough ball is enough for two pizzas so turn it out onto a floured surface and split it in half. Stretch each half into a 12 inch circle allowing it to rest a few minutes whenever the dough resists or threatens to tear. Top with sauce and toppings (today, sauce was a can of whole peeled tomatoes, garlic, and some basil. Toppings were zucchini slices, hunks of mozzarella, basil leaves, and olive oil.)
Bake at 450 on a preheated pizza stone until golden brown (12-15 minutes). If you're like me and you can't wait longer than ten minutes and decide you've had it with hovering over the oven just smelling things which are delicious, pull the pizza out, cut it, and start eating, only realizing halfway through your second slice that it wasn't done yet, it's okay. Pop the other slices back onto the pizza stone--which will have retained much of its heat in the handful of seconds it took you to process more than your gollum-like greed for pizza--and toast them all the way up. The pie is best fully browned, the cheese on top blistered, the crust aching to snap and hot enough to sear your hands without leaving permanent scars.
As opposed to the last crust I wrote about, this had a thicker more luscious flavor granted in large part by the addition of the olive oil. Even the color was a bit darker, pushed more toward the bright yellow green of the oil. It has a tight crumb and it's fairly thin (not quite new york style but closer to that than the airy yeasty dough I culled from Eggs on Sunday) and it's really lovely. Don't ask me to pick a favorite because I could agonize for months and never come to a decision. They're both pretty phenomenal crusts to completely different types of pizza.
I'm just ecstatic to have come upon both recipes so close together. It's been a good week. For an unemployed poet, I'm an exceptionally lucky man.