Just look at this pizza! Fresh dough, perfectly formed, topped with the perfect amount of tomato sauce and mozzarella, then baked in a wood-burning pizza oven. Doesn’t it make you want to jump on a plane and go to Italy right now?
Good news–you can make this at home. So put away your passport and skip the jet lag. Franco, the chef at Tuscookany, shared his secrets to making a pizza this good at home even if you don’t have a wood-burning oven. Franco’s first tip? The pizza dough needs to be–BBS! What is BBS, you wonder? Well, after much kneading and pressing, when you form the ball of dough, it should be Baby Butt Soft!
I just spent 10 days eating my way from Rome to Bologna before my return visit toTorre del Tartufoin the hills just outside of Arezzo, for a week-long cooking vacation. It was great to reunite with Chef Franco, Paola and Barbara and make 14 new friends from around the world who were also staying at the villa for the week.
Here we are in the kitchen–thanks, Jean-Luc for the Panorama on your new iPhone.
You don’t have to be a great chef to enjoy a week here. While we spent our afternoons cooking, Debbie’s husband, Rob, hiked and biked through the countryside. And I think he was planning how he was going to build Debbie a wood-burning oven when they returned home to Colorado. Rob and Debbie–let us know when it’s done–we’ll all come visit.
FRANCO’S INGREDIENTS & PROCEDURES
Tomato Sauce for the Pizza
1.5 kg canned plum tomatoes
1 pinch dried oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Pass the tomatoes through a food mill.
Add salt and pepper, 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves, the oregano, basil and finally the olive oil. Stir.
Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use–the taste is better if you make it a day in advance.
It’s okay to drink a little wine while you make this–we did–as you can see.
Franco’s Tip: Don’t cook the sauce.
800 grams plain flour, plus a little extra for kneading
400 ml room temperature water
5 grams yeast
3 TBS. olive oil
Put the water, oil and yeast in a bowl.
Mix the salt and flour and make into a ring on a clean, non-stick surface that you’ve sprinkled with flour. Gradually add the water oil and yeast into the flour, mixing it together until all the flour is incorporated. Keep working the dough until it is BBS. (Baby Butt Soft).
Cover the dough with Saran wrap or a dry towel.
Let dough rise for 20 minutes.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces and make three balls out of each.
Cover them and let them rise for an additional 3 hours.
Franco’s Tip: The dough can be made a day ahead and placed in fridge.
mozzarella, small cubes
onion, sliced thin
anything else you like..
Here’s Franco teaching us how to turn the dough into pizza.
See how he uses both hands–pushing with one, holding with the other. Make sure you flour the surface.
Be careful not to overwork the dough. Keep the motion going until you have a nice round pizza dough. Notice all the stainless steel bowls with all the toppings.
Add just enough tomato sauce to cover, not drown the surface and not too much mozzarella.
It goes into the pizza oven…
…and it looks like this.
DON’T WORRY IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE–I’LL SHARE FRANCO’S SECRETS ON HOW TO COOK ONE IN YOUR KITCHEN OVEN.
This was Franco’s demonstration pizza–we ate it in seconds!
Then it was our turn–here’s Annabie, Mary, Lisa and Jean-Luc building their pizzas. Annabie looks worried, but hers was great.
This is the look I got from Franco when he saw the mess I was making of my dough.
He stepped in to help me and then I added sauce, mozzarella, onions and mushrooms.
It looked like this when it came out of the oven.
Then I topped it with arugula and a really hot chili sauce.
How to make this at home
Heat oven to 500 (or higher if you can).
Put a pan of water on the low rack in the oven.
Have a pizza stone on center rack.
Put sauce on dough and put in oven for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and remove water pan from oven.
Put cheese and other toppings on pizza and return to oven for 5 minutes or until done.
Next step…invite all your friends over and have a party.
Remember you don’t have to cook to enjoy a week at Tuscookany, but it helps if you like to eat and drink.
When you’re not cooking, you can relax by the pool.
Catch up on your reading.
Enjoy a wood-burning jacuzzi.
Or just take in the view and plan your next hike.
That was my room at the top of the tower. It was a real “Stair-Master” workout going up and down, but it helped burn off a few of the calories. Oh…the open door you see leads to the gym, but I never saw anyone rushing to use the Elliptical or Stationery Bike.
But there was always a crowd when the biscotti was cut. Here’s Mala, Mary and Paola sampling it.
My favorite way is to dip it in Vin Santo. I was never a biscotti fan until I tried Franco’s recipe…with his secrets….but that will have to wait until another day. I need to go eat pizza right now.
And at the end of the week, we all gathered for a group photo and received our diplomas. (I passed, even though BBS pizza dough was a challenge for me.)
As always, Enjoy.
What a surprise this week–new readers from very far away. Welcome to my friends in Malta, Algeria and Ecuador. I’m so happy to tell you I now have readers in 91 countries! I’m shooting for 100. Thanks again to all of you! Don’t forget–you can read all about my town at StuNews.