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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jersey Style Pizza Sauce.

Rich, delicious, and best of all... easy.

Growing up in South Jersey near the shore, pizza was something we always took for granted. Go to the mall, grab a slice, and hang out. Or walking along the boardwalk with one of those massive slices from the three foot wide pizzas on display. It never occurred to me that what I enjoyed was unique to the Tri-State area.

I found out soon enough. Most of the towns in other states only had chain pizza places, if they had pizza at all. In Germany, I was introduced to the crispy thin crust of the pizzeria outside our base. They were great- and even threw chopped garlic on it before baking - but it wasn't home.

I began looking for ways to duplicate the taste of home. I managed to get the crust right, but I needed the sauce as well. Something with a rich flavor, earthy sweetness, and just a little bite. After much digging and trial and error, I finally created my own version. Some of the techniques are borrowed, but the result is unique. You can use it for pizza, calzones, (or as they call them here, panzerottis,) strombolis, basically anything that has a bread base and is covered with toppings. Try it. You will definitely love it.

You'll need:
Either - 1 28 oz can of crush tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes and 4-6 fresh tomatoes, puréed
1 large or 2 medium onions,cut in half
3 cloves of crushed garlic
2-3 sprigs of fresh basil
Kosher salt
1 tsp. oregano
1-2 tsp sugar
1 tsp. butter
2 tbsp or so olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes

In a medium sauce pan, warm oil and butter over medium heat. Once heated, add garlic stir for about three seconds, and add tomatoes, oregano, a dash of salt, the sugar, and red pepper flakes. Stir until seasonings are blended in, then add the onion halves and basil, as pictured below:

Just the beginning of something great. (Yeah I posed the basil a bit.) 

Reduce heat and simmer, checking and stirring, ensuring the sauce doesn't stick and the onions don't caramelize ( it changes the color and flavor of the sauce... and not too favorably.) Taste along the way - adjust a little if need be, and if you find it too thick, thin it a little with broth (your choice) or tomato juice. Don't think there's enough basil? Add a little dried. It works in a pinch.

Almost ready...
After about an hour and a half the sauce will slowly render down and thicken to the perfect pizza sauce. At that point, remove the sprigs and onions and discard them. Turn off the heat, stir, and let cool a little before putting it onto your fresh dough. Enjoy!

Home made stromboli, using both my dough and sauce.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Tri - State Pizza Dough.

Perfect crust that's hand tossed and folds well, because that's how you eat a slice.
 Pizza dough. The main building block of most Italian style fast foods: pizza, calzones, or strombolis, to name a few. Everyone has their favorite style, but if you ask anyone from New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania and lives somewhere else what they miss most about home - pizza. There's nothing else like it.
Just your average cheese pizza at the Sawmill, Seaside Heights, NJ.
What I found out after I left my home state was that if I ordered pizza, I either ended up with something on a prefab (read cardboard) dough or a flavorless white bread style dough. I couldn't take it anymore. So now I know the way to make what I call Tri - State dough, based mostly on the New York style method. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

A few simple ingredients...

You'll need:
for the starter:
packet of yeast (pizza yeast, if available)
1/2 cup flour (bread flour is best)
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp. sugar

2 cups flour (also, bread flour is best, but all purpose works)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 to 1 tsp. garlic powder

also; extra flour for kneading, and approximately a tbsp. or so of olive oil

In a small bowl, mix starter ingredients and whisk with a fork until thoroughly mixed, set asid for approximately 20 minutes or until foam builds up.
Meanwhile, mix dough ingredients in a large bowl. Once starter is ready, add it to bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough forms. If you are blessed enough to own a mixer with a dough hook, run it at medium low for about 5 minutes once all ingredients are in the bowl.

Lightly flour the mixing surface and knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes, regardless of the original mixing method. Coat the inside of the bowl with a little olive oil. Take the kneaded dough, add a light coat of olive oil to it, and place in the bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise till doubled, about two hours.

Fresh ball of dough.
Two hours later... 

Punch the dough down, knead for a few more minutes, then put in a resealable freezer bag and store in your refrigerator. The cold gives a slow rise to the yeast. giving it that characteristic texture and flavor that makes our pizzas so great.

Recommended cold proof: 24- 72 hours.  The longer, the better. Bring it to room temperature and create your own favorite pizza!
Fresh out of our own oven - one of two loaded pizzas... tasted just like home.

(Note: while it is not recommended to use a rolling pin to get your dough to the desired shape, if you must, it's a good idea to use one made of marble. Gives and even roll.)