Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Vincent's Pizza

My good friend and a very talented French artist, Vincent, is visiting L.A. for three months. Vincent and I met 2 years ago on his first trip to Los Angeles, and since then I've visited him in Berlin, we've met up in Paris, and now he's back in Cali. It's been great to be able to visit each other in different parts of the world, and to be able to stay in touch via Skype when we're not in the same country. 

Vincent is here with his close friend and collaborator, Elise. You can check out their recent projects here.

Aside from his artistic abilities, Vincent is a great cook. He's incredibly inventive and adventurous in his cooking (he made cereal crusted turkey burgers drizzled with honey and topped with guac the other night), but he also has a handle on classic techniques. Lately, he's formed a minor obsession with pizza and bread making. The other night, while Elise and Vincent were staying at my place Vincent shared his pizza recipe with me. 

In my experience asking people for recipes, I've noticed that my French friends rely more heavily on touch, smell and taste as opposed to cups, tablespoons or other measurements. This pizza recipe is no different. If you're looking for something exact, hit up Mark Bittman or Smitten Kitchen - they are experts at exactitude. I appreciate any and all forms of cooking, but I do think it's worthwhile to experiment with relying on your senses if you're interested in developing your cooking skills. If you're a perfectionist (and I can speak to this), cooking without precise measurements is also a good opportunity to let go and trust your instincts.

This recipe will make 3 pizzas, which you can top with anything you'd like. 

Pizza is always the best.

Vincent's Romana Pizza
Dough makes 3 thin-crust pizzas, serves 4-6

for the pizza dough
300 grams of unbleached all purpose flour, plus 1/4 a cup reserved 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 packet yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup - 1 cup water (or however much you'll need)

for the sauce
canned plum tomatoes
olive oil
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
dried oregano

for the toppings
fresh mozzarella, sliced
shredded gruyere or swiss or both
dried oregano
arugula (optional)
prosciutto (optional)

for the pizza dough
Add 300 grams of flour to a large bowl. Make a well in the flour, and into the well add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 packet of yeast, and salt. 

Start mixing the dough with your hands until the mixture looks like a coarse meal, or very grainy sand. Next, enlist your friend or family member to help you out. 

(Vincent and Elise!)

Have said friend slowly add water to the flour mixture as you continue to mix it all up with your hands. Add water a little at a time. Once the dough starts making a ploppy sound (this is an instruction directly from Vince) and is starting to get very sticky, hold off on adding any more water. Have the same friend slowly add extra flour to the mixture. Vincent says the key is that you want to add flour until the dough no longer sticks to your hands. So you continue to mix the dough while someone sprinkles flour into the bowl, like so:

This is what the dough looks like when it no longer needs any more flour or water:

Cover the bowl with a towel, and leave it in a warm place (near your oven, or out on your porch), and let the dough rise for 3-4 hours. 

While the dough is rising, you can prep your toppings. Make a tomato sauce by sauteing some onions and garlic until they're soft, add canned tomatoes, seasonings, and herbs to the onions and garlic. Simmer everything for 45 minutes, and then puree the mixture with an immersion blender or in a blender. The homemade sauce should be pretty thick; a thicker sauce holds up better on a pizza. Alternatively, you can buy pre-made pizza sauce or marinara.  

Cut up your mozzarella, shred your cheese, and get any other toppings ready.

Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl, kneed it for a couple minutes, and then divide the bowl of dough into thirds.

Preheat the oven to 500°F/260°C. Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly dust the paper with flour.  

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to whatever thickness you would like. Vincent likes thin pizzas, and so do I. He rolled the dough out to approximately a quarter or an eighth of an inch thick.

Once rolled out, the dough basically fits a standard baking sheet. If you are fancy, you could also roll this out into a circle instead of an oval and place it on a pizza stone.

Add sauce to the dough, then top with the mozz, shredded cheese, and dried oregano. You could drizzle this with olive oil if you'd like. 

Bake in the oven at 500°F for 5-6 minutes or until the dough is browned, and the cheese is melted and bubbly. 


At this point, you can eat the beautiful pizza as is. If you would like you can top the pizza with arugula and/or prosciutto once it's fresh out of the oven.

Enjoy with good friends, a glass of French wine, and good conversation. Bon appetit!

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