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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Exam Time Pizza Cravings

Hi Guys! I must apologise for my prolonged absence from posting - I am studying for my last exam ever! (Well, at least for this degree...=P). And blogging is a useful procrastination tool that I saved for a particularly boring part of stuvac i.e. a few days before the actual exam =P.

Every Sunday in our household used to be pizza day. We used to make the dough in our breadmaker just in time for lunch. And then my brother and I would work together and often fight over what we should put on each pizza. Most of the time it was just tomato paste, cheese, salami and oregano. But they tasted good purely because it was homemade. Unfortunately our pizza days are now non-existent because I work on a majority of Sundays and we've veered towards a healthier eating lifestyle (our pizzas weren't exactly the healthiest creations we've produced with all the cheese and processed meat =P).

Recently I have been having these pizza cravings, because during exam time who doesn't want fatty, artery clogging goodness?! But because my family and i have been so busy we just don't have time to make them (even though the breadmaker DOES do all the work). I decided to revive pizza Sundays for just one day, only because I've been craving it alot and just my luck, last Sunday was my FIRST Sunday off in a long time!

One of the things that our pizzas suffered from the most was an under-baked base. Often because the dough the breadmaker produced was quite dense and thick the base wouldn't cook properly. Many a time did we stand in front of the oven watching our toppings burn to a crisp in a desperate effort to just get the base cooked to perfection. But try as we may, most of the time we'd be discarding doughy chunks of bread while we munched away.
Image Source: KitchenwareDirect

Cue the pizza stone. Another reason why I was keen to make some pizzas was because I had bought a pizza stone along with my ice cream maker from KitchenwareDirect. It was really cheap, only $10, and essentially I got it for free due to the shipping cost scheme KitchwareDirect has (Yipee!). A pizza stone is a ceramic round disc that absorbs the excess moisture from the pizza so the base can cook properly and crisp up. It distributes the heat evenly across the base - and a high temperature is important when cooking breads of all kinds. However, having a super hot oven, whilst cooking your base will burn the rest of the pizza. So the stone acts as a sort of "heat trap" and thus allows you to cook your base and toppings at their respective required temperatures. Genius!

Pizza stones are always placed in a cold oven, then the heat is turned up to about 200C (390F) and the pizza stone is left to heat up for about 40 minutes (less if it is a smaller one). If placed in a hot oven, the stone will most likely crack from the thermal shock. They can also get reaaaaally hot, so it is important to ALWAYS wear mittens and be extremely careful when handling them.The pizza will take about 10-15 minutes to cook (depending on your oven of course =) ).

Here are pictures of my pizza creation process!

Rolled out pizza bases - one large, one small (for'll see why =P)

Plain tomato paste - don't add too much or your base may turn out soggy

Cheese! I'm not a big fan of cheese hence mine has less.
I am teased constantly for my weird eating habits,
like eating cheese on pizza but not by itself....I don't think its weird!
Plus there isn't even much on the pizza! Whatevs =P.
Hungarian salami - all we had on hand...
And finally, some sun-dried tomatoes and olives!
OH and oregano of course =D
The only trouble point I had was transferring the pizzas to the stones. I sort of had to get my brother to help me lift them from their dishes and on to the stones. Lots of sites I read up on suggested spreading the work-surface, or wherever your going to lay your pizza for adding toppings, with cornmeal (not alot....though I'm not sure what counts as 'alot'....) to prevent the dough sticking, and them sliding the pizzas onto the stones. They also suggested using a pizza paddle (also know as a pizza peel) to top your pizzas and then just slide them onto the stones (again making sure to use a bit of cornmeal on the paddle). Think I might need to get me one of those....

Before you use a pizza stone for the first time, it might be a good idea to wipe it down with a damp cloth. To clean them after use, just scrape off any baked on bits with a knife and soak them in warm water for an hour, then leave them to dry overnight on a cooling or drying rack. NEVER use soap or detergent because this will seep into the stone and the flavour will be imparted into the next pizza you cook on it (mmm soapy pizza....).

So, the verdict? AWESOME! The pizzas were crispy and cooked through and just YUM. Satisfied my cravings! And they tasted so much better than I remembered, purely because the bases were well cooked. DEFINITELY get one of these if you either make alot of pizzas or if you just want a good crispy base for your delicious pizzas. They can also be used to reheat pizzas, or cook other things such as pies, bread or cookies (will need to road test that before I preach....)

Next time I'm going to hand make the dough! And probably be more creative with toppings, bit more smart for the heart if you know what I mean.....One thing we did note was that we had ALOT of left-over pizza compared to before. I think our healthy lifestyle has shrunk our stomaches no joke. Not that that's bad or anything =P.

See you soon guys! Follow me if you enjoyed reading!

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