Caprese Pizza

This Epicurious recipe was worth the amount of time it took to wait for the dough to rise and the pizza stone to warm up.  Both my mom and her business partner, Claudia thoroughly enjoyed it during their meeting for PRS.  I highly recommend this for a Sunday night dinner.

Make sure you have:

  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 7 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 2 1/4 cups (or more) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes or garlic powder
  • 1½ pound cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 garlic cloves
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella (about 8 ounces), or 6 ounces buffalo mozzarella, thinly sliced, divided
  • Chopped fresh basil
  • Optional added ingredients (black/green olives, zucchini, broccoli)
Prepare the dough 1 1/2 hours before you plan on eating.  It needs time to rise.  I started cooking at 6, so with hunger pains decided to cut the rising time down to only forty-five minutes. You could see and feel when handling the dough that it needed to be thicker and fuller resulting in smaller pizza crusts.
 
To prepare the crust, add yeast and sugar to 3/4 cup of warm water. Stir and let sit about 5 minutes until the top becomes a spongy crust.  Mix in 1 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, and here I added in 1 tsp of red pepper flakes and 1 tsp of garlic powder.  Slowly stir in flour then knead either in the bowl or on a work surface for 6 minutes, adding more flour if it becomes too sticky. Grease a large bowl with oil to keep the dough from embedding itself to the sides of the bowl while it rises and add dough to bowl, cover with plastic, and let rise for about an hour and a half or until it’s double the size it started at.  The plastic will gather condensation as the active yeast works the dough to an increased size.

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While the dough is rising, you will want to place the pizza stone on the very top rack of a cold oven and preheat to 500 degrees. 

Also, add a Tbsp of olive oil to a roasting pan along with the tomatoes and some pepper.  Place them on a lower rack in the oven and cook for 10 minutes or until their skins start splitting.  Too much oil will cause the oven to smoke, so add just enough to coat the bottom and the tomatoes.  Let them cool.

While the pizza stone is preheating and the dough still rising, you can take the time to go outside and grab fresh basil (or use your purchased basil) and chop it up.  You can also thinly slice the buffalo mozzarella into little circles and shred the parmesan if you didn’t buy it pre-grated.

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When the dough is doubled in size, split it in half and roll out one portion to a 13″ x 9″ rectangle, or a circular shape if you prefer this.  Let it sit for 15 minutes to settle into the shape and puff up a bit around the edges.  Here I grabbed a paintbrush we use solely for the kitchen and painted on crushed garlic cloves with a Tbsp of olive oil.  Layer on a fine sprinkling of half of the parmesan and take half of your carved mozzarella slices and distribute them evenly across the pizza. Top with the tomatoes and any other ingredient you prefer to add.  Crush on a little black pepper then toss onto the pizza stone in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese a gooey mess and browning like the crust.imageGarnish with the fresh chopped basil.  Repeat with the second pizza.

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My first pizza was a little messy (see picture above). I couldn’t figure out how to transfer it from the baking sheet to the pizza stone and ended up folding it in half then unfolding and rearranging it in the hot oven.  The second pizza (see picture of pizza on stone in oven) I cooked for 5 minutes on the baking sheet until the crust firmed up then transferred it to the pizza stone, which cooks the crust and entire pizza much better than the baking sheet. At the 5 minute mark, the baking sheet probably would have needed another 30 minutes to completely cook the pizza, but because the stone is preheated, it thoroughly cooks the entire pizza leaving a nice crunchy crust. 

I did not buy enough tomatoes, so substituting salt-free canned tomatoes worked just fine on the second pizza.  The fresh mozzarella melts perfectly and isn’t as salty as other cheeses. The recipe didn’t call for garlic, but it was a very nice addition, creating a good balance of spices without adding too much extra salt.  Next time I’ll buy the grape tomatoes which are a little smaller and sweeter than the cherry tomatoes. It will be easier to bite down on a piece of this pizza without stuffing a huge tomato in your mouth or having a hot one fall down onto your face. 

Claudia and my mom were only going to eat one pizza, but between the three of us we demolished both pizzas in one sitting. All that remained was the faint smell of garlic and basil in the air.

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