Perfect Pizza Makes Me Sing, That's Amore!

Our latest selection from Cook the Books Club has been Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, by Kathleen Flinn.  You have to love that title, which was actually an axiom direct from the author's grandmother; given to let the kids know they should not let a bit of burn stop them from eating their toast.  She was definitely a frugal woman.

The memoir was touching, often sad, occasionally humorous, a poignant remembrance of Flinn's childhood and some of her parents' and grandparents', with historical background, mostly taking place in Michigan, though with brief sojourns in California and Florida.  Totally making me happy to be in Hawaii.   Sorry, but to be impoverished would be bad enough without freezing weather to top it all off.

Too funny though, her account of deer hunting in Michigan (applicable to neighboring states as well, I'm sure):
"No one discussed the ethics, or debated gun ownership.  Sitting in the woods quietly freezing with a rifle in your hand was simply a rite of passage.....Even as a young child, I felt fortunate to be a girl."

 Angelo Pellegrini, our previous CTBC author, would be thrilled with all the canning, baking, gardening, hunting and foraging going on in this remembrance.  Most of which stopped however, when they moved from farm life to a city, and with full-time jobs.

Her parents always seemed quite spontaneous, picking up and moving spur of the moment, but of course circumstances played a major role in that freewheeling spirit.  Just to pack up and get the hell out of Dodge must have seemed a godsend.  At one point, a time of horrid weather, economic downturn and unemployment in Michigan, an uncle invited them out to San Francisco to work in his Pizzeria, and learn the restaurant business.   They probably shouted Hallelujah!  At that time pizza was a truly novel food for Mid-Westerners, and these people were not Italians or experienced pizza makers. Thus my food inspiration from the book came about.

After years of my own pizza experiments, I have found what some (not just me) consider to be the perfect formula.  Deb's (of Smitten Kitchen fame) dough recipe and method, with the added trick of baking it in a cast-iron skillet.  Trust me, this is unbeatable pizza and totally wipes anything eaten out or in.  Plus it is crazy easy.

You can make the quick version, finished in under an hour, including rising and baking, or the longer rise which is what I usually do.  I mix up the dough in the morning and stick it in the fridge for most of the day.  In order to eat at 7:00 pm., as we do, take it out about 3:30 pm to finish doubling in a warm place (my oven with just the pilot light works perfectly).  Until that is, you are ready to pre-heat the oven.:)  I have forgotten it in there to almost fatal results.  Put a red twist-tie reminder on your oven knob perhaps.

The dough for a 10" (or 12" thinner crust) cast-iron skillet:

1 1/2 cups (190 grams) flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon (6 grams) table salt
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast for the quick version, and 3/8 teas. for longer rise in fridge
 2/3 cup (150 ml) lukewarm water 
2 tablespoons olive oil

Sprinkle yeast on the water in medium bowl (large enough to handle dough doubling with some space at top), and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add 1 cup flour and salt, mixing til a rough craggy mass forms, adding more flour as needed to hold together well.  Turn out and knead for 5 minutes or until you have a smooth, elastic dough.  Place in an oiled bowl, turn, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled, if you are doing the quick method.  For the slow rise, place in the refrigerator 6-8 hours or overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 450 - 500 F, high as your oven goes.  When the dough is doubled, add olive oil to your pan, fold over and push your pizza dough into the cast iron skillet, out to the edges. (See this video clip on cast-iron pizzas.)  You can throw a clean cloth over it until everything else is ready. 

Add your favorite toppings.  Mine starts with sliced, smoked mozzarella and grated Parmesan, then veggies tossed in some olive oil first, with salt, and perhaps a few herbs. Sprinkle on a bit of minced pepperoni if you like.  If you are are adding on basil and arugula, as in these photos, wait til after the pie is baked.  Restraint is supposed to be my watchword here.  In other words, less might just be better.  It's hard, but I try anyway, remembering pizza I had in Italy.

 I'm not much of a red sauce on pizza person, but do throw that on if you like.  In which case, you might pre-bake the crust first for 5 minutes, as in the video clip.  Otherwise, no need. Bake your pie for 15 minutes.  Serve it up to rave reviews!  Cheers!  I'll also share this with Beth Fish Reads, and the folks over there for her Weekend Cooking.

Feel free to post your response to the book with an inspired recipe by the 31st of May at Cook the Books Club or if you miss out on this round and like books, food, and foodie books, consider joining us for the June/July edition, when I will be hosting with my pick, Scarlett Feather, the only slightly foodie, but engrossing novel by Maeve Binchy.   Hope you'll join us!  And be sure to check out all the reviews and tasty food inspiration from this last read when the round-up is posted by Deb shortly after the 31st.

P.S. I am now making the crust with my sourdough bread starter.  Just as excellent! 3/28/20


Deb in Hawaii said...

Glad you enjoyed it Claudia. Yes--reading about those Michigan winters made me totally think 'lucky we live Hawaii' too. ;-)

Your pizza is gorgeous and I am thinking I need to fly over for dinner because we share pizza preferences--I am not as much of a red sauce fan and I like my pizza piled up high with veggies. Yum! ;-)

Thanks for your entry!

Beth F said...

I've read about that cast-iron pan trick, but I bake my pizza on a stone (probably does about the same thing) and I also grill them. On the other hand, you have me curious, so I'll have to give this method a try -- I'm always willing to learn something new.

Katherine P said...

I read this book not too long ago and really enjoyed it. The rooster story still cracks me up. I definitely agree that being cold on top of all the other hardships just sounds unnecessary! The pizza looks delicious. I don't think I really realized until reading this book what a novelty pizza had been at one time. I'm in my 30s and it just seems like it's always been everywhere!

Carole said...

I didn't enjoy this book as much as others of hers. Perhaps she was a bit constrained by having to be factual. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Margot said...

Pizza in a cast iron skillet is new to me, but I love the idea. I bet it's nice and crunchy. Your pictures are so good they make me hungry.

jama said...

Yum, that pizza looks so good! I can just about smell it! And I do love that book title. Will have to add this book to my TBR list.

Joy Weese Moll said...

What a wonderful looking pizza! The book sounds good, too, but I could really go for the pizza right now!

Tina said...

Pizza is always on my list for takeaway and I make it at home occasionally too. This one looks great. I actually did live in Michigan for a time after my mom died and yeah, it gets coooollld! I grew up in Pennsylvania and the same thing applies, deer season ruled. The first day of deer season was always a teacher planning day.

(Diane) bookchickdi said...

I enjoy a good family memoir and this one sounds terrific.

Debra Eliotseats said...

We like to think we are pizza aficionados 'round here (eating them, not necessarily making them). One of the best pizzas I ever ate was a pepper medley pizza from Grinders in KC? I have got to try this and that pizza dough. Always looking to improve our pizza skills.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

Shame on you Deb for rubbing it in our faces that we live in Michigan and not Hawaii LOL....or even California. Great pizza recipe, thanks for sharing.

Amy said...

I love that your chose to make pizza! ANd I can't wait to try that cast iron skillet crust recipe!

Delaware Girl Eats said...

I've tried grilling pizza but not making it in a cast iron skillet. genius!

Simona Carini said...

I am also not one for cold weather and am glad to live in a place where the thermometer never goes too low. You got me curious about the pizza recipe: I will give it a try soon. Happy Sunday!