Ken Albala shows how to take a college staple-pizza-and make it 100 percent Californian.
The next time you're craving pizza and are fed up with the expensive, mass-produced versions, make it yourself for a fraction of the cost. (It tastes much better, too!)
Start with one packet of yeast in a big bowl with a cup of warm water and a pinch of sugar. Stir a little and then wait until it gets foamy, about five minutes. Next gradually add three cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt. Knead the dough right in the bowl until smooth, adding more flour if necessary to prevent it from sticking. Cover with plastic wrap. It will take about an hour to rise.
In the meantime, get a bag of the best tomatoes you can find at the market. Cut them in quarters. Heat a frying pan full blast. When hot, add a good drizzle of olive oil and throw in the tomatoes. Don't stir; let them get a good char. Then add a pinch or two of salt, some fresh oregano or basil and a clove of garlic, chopped. Then stir in a cup of red wine or tart juice. Let them cook until they fall apart, about 10 to 15 minutes. When it looks like sauce, pour it through a strainer into a bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon, leaving the seeds and skins behind. Return the sauce to the pot and gently simmer until thickened.
Shred about two cups of mozzarella, set aside. Go finish your chemistry homework while the dough rises.
About 15 minutes before you're ready to bake, crank up the oven as high as it will go.
When you're ready to assemble, place the dough on the baking sheet and press flat with your fingers, leaving a nice rim around the edge of the dough. Sprinkle on the cheese (yes, cheese first) and then drizzle the sauce over. This trick prevents the dough from getting soggy or the cheese from sliding off. At this point you can add whatever you like-sliced fresh vegetables are great, mushrooms and peppers, even walnuts are great. Use whatever you prefer.
Toss it in the oven and bake until it looks like pizza. Cut into wedges and enjoy!
*Recipe adapted from Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger, The Lost Art of Real Cooking (Penguin: 2010).