Sunday, April 5, 2009

Prosciutto & Sage Pizza with Homemade Dough

I'm not really into sports. But I'm so into food that if watching sports gives me a viable excuse to make something elaborate, I'll become an instant fan of whatever team my fellow eaters happen to be cheering for at the moment (Villanova, if you must know).

I have to give you the backstory about this pizza before I launch into the how-to's; my grand plan was to make my own ricotta cheese as well as my own dough and make a ricotta and prosciutto pizza. Lest you think I've never had any kitchen disasters, let me share The Ricotta Cheese Disaster of '09. Making ricotta is, ostensibly, easy. You bring a gallon of milk to a simmer, stir in some lemon juice, scrape the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander, and voila - fresh ricotta. Well, the whole bring-the-milk-to-a-simmer thing is where it all went, er...sour.

I could smell the milk burning, but figured that cheesemakers around the world were probably well accustomed to this unpleasant scent. I stirred in the lemon juice, and to my utter amazement, the curds did in fact form into a cheese-like substance. I let it cool for awhile before I gave it a dubious taste, and, sadly, it tasted like burnt milk. In 60 seconds of curdling, my fantasies of parlaying my love of fromage into a post-advertising career raising goats in rural upstate New York were utterly crushed. Sigh. So after an investment of $15 and 2 hours, I had no cheese for the pizza I had promised to make with the LeCroys, and yet another notch in my belt of kitchen failures.

I'm actually sort of happy I ruined the cheese, because I bought the most deliciously fresh and melty mozzarella, which made the Prosciutto and Sage pizza a crispy, savory delight. And I'm proud to say the dough came out really nicely! It was a bit hard to stretch thinly without tearing, but it tasted really good, so that's a success in my book - it just took a little patience and some skillful patching of a few holes. Considering this was the first time I had made dough of any kind - literally, I had never before kneaded so much as a pie crust - I was pretty happy with the results.

Without further ado, I present:



(I used Emeril's easy dough-by-hand recipe, and my only modification was to add one tablespoon of honey to the olive oil/yeast mixture - this recipe yields 2 dough balls that make about a 12-inch thin-crust pizza each)

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour, plus more if necessary
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 T. extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine yeast with water, olive oil, salt and stir well to proof. After 5 minutes, add half of the flour and mix well to thoroughly incorporate. Add all remaining flour except 1/2 cup and mix well with your hands. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead dough for at least 5 and up to 7 minutes, adding enough additional flour as necessary to form a smooth and elastic dough. Dough should not be sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 2 or 3 quart bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, usually at least 1 hour.

Divide dough into 2 portions (for 2 (12-inch) pizzas) and form into balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface, shape as desired and roll out to a thickness of 1/4-inch


(this makes enough sauce for 2-3 pizzas)

1 large can crushed tomatoes
1/3 can tomato paste with Italian herbs (or plain is fine)
splash of red wine
chopped fresh and/or dried Italian herbs; I used fresh basil and dried oregano and parsley
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Mix all ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce has reduced a little. Spread on raw pizza dough that has been brushed with a little olive oil. Save the rest for another pizza (it almost makes a nice marinara sauce, or a good base for vodka sauce.)


About 1/2 c. of the sauce, but just adjust based on how saucy you like your pizza
1/2 large log of very fresh mozzarella cheese (the kind that's really white and has some water with it in the container), sliced thinly (about 1/4" slices)
~10 fresh sage leaves, whole
very thinly sliced prosciutto di parma (I bought a quarter pound at the deli, and we only used about 3/4 of what I bought, but you could easily use all of it or less of it)
freshly ground pepper
fresh parmigiano reggiano for grating over the top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425. Brush a pizza stone with a little olive oil, and sprinkle some cornmeal around (this prevents sticking). If you don't have a pizza stone, just use a baking sheet, or put the pizza directly on the baking rack in the oven. Top the pizza dough and sauce with the above toppings, or with any you like. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, but a keep a close eye on it, because baking times vary based on thickness of crust and type of toppings. Slice with a pizza cutter and enjoy!

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