Today I am launching the new redesign of my blog! One of my resolutions this year was to improve the blog, and with improvement comes increasing professionalization. Jeff got me business cards and my own domain name and I decided to spring for some photo editing software (I'm sure you're shocked to learn that up until now all my photos have been unedited - well, all but two or three, which I applied poor fixes using the software that came with my camera). Now I've switched to a more streamlined blogger template that better matches my business cards. Let me know what you think! I still have some tweaking to do, so I'd love to hear your feedback!
Now, about this pizza. I have been working on improving my pizza making technique as well, and it has certainly paid off. The key is preheating the pizza stone. As soon as the crust touches the hot stone it starts bubbling and cooking through. I have a small pizza stone, so I'm not willing to try my luck sliding a pie on using a pizza peel, but I've found that taking a little time to assemble it doesn't make much difference in the final product (I do try to make sure my ingredients are prepped and ready to go - I wouldn't recommend wandering around the kitchen grabbing things for fifteen minutes while the dough is on the stone, but the five minutes it too me to assemble and photograph the pie was ok). What's lovely about this method is that the crust, rolled thin, gets nice and crispy on the bottom - a feature that had eluded me when I tried other methods. If you can resist eating it right away, it gets even crispier if you remove it from the oven and let it rest on the stone for a few minutes (I have a hard time with waiting, frequently burning the roof of my mouth on my pizza).
While any toppings will do, this is a particularly awesome combination. Jeff had a hard time believing that there was no bacon on the pizza - the smokiness of the mozzarella brings a real meatiness to the table. The earthiness of the spinach is balanced by the sweetness of the roasted peppers, and it's all brought together by the beautiful acidity of the sauce.
The sauce I used is home-canned Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce from Better Homes and Gardens. It tastes like concentrated summer. The peppers were also home-roasted and frozen. That was one of the best preserving projects I undertook last summer. I still have more than a quart of frozen pepper strips. I'm looking forward to devise more delicious ways to use them up. I'm also looking forward to posting directions for various preserving projects this coming summer, so more people can experience the delights of a slice of August in the middle of March!
Pizza with Roasted Peppers, Spinach and Smoked Mozzarella
2 c bread flour
2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 oz instant yeast (1 package)
3/4 c hot water (115-120°F)
1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 c tomato sauce
1/3 c roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
2-3 oz smoked mozzarella (I used a wedge of cheese, which I sliced thin and then cut into squares. Shredded cheese would work just as well, but I wanted a more rustic, artisan look)
several handfuls baby spinach (it cooks down in the oven, so be liberal)
Combine the flour, basil, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and 1 tbsp olive oil and stir until the dough comes together. Turn out on a lightly floured counter and knead for about 7-9 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour. Meanwhile, place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 475°F.
When the rising is done, divide the dough in half (a dough scraper is perfect for this). If you don't want to make two pizzas, put the extra ball of dough in a container in the fridge for a few days, or the freezer for a few weeks. Place your other ball of dough on a lightly floured counter and roll out into a thin circle (or roundish blob, like mine - I try to roll it a bit larger than I want the finished pizza, because it inevitably shrinks when I pick it up).
Remove the piping hot pizza stone from the oven and place on the stove top. Quickly arrange your dough on the stone. Spread tomato sauce on top with the back of a spoon.
Arrange your cheese and pepper slices over the sauce. Try to get even coverage.
Toss a few handfuls of baby spinach on top (no chopping necessary!).
Return to the oven for 6-10 minutes, until it reaches your desired level of doneness. Let cool on the pizza stone for a minute or two, slice and enjoy!