You can serve this Provencal pizza all summer long when the tomatoes are sweet and the basil overtakes your garden.
Makes one 10-inch pizza
Proofing: 1 hour at room temperature, 70°F to 72°F.
1/3 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, about 10 ounces
5 sprigs of fresh thyme 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup, Bright Tomato Sauce, recipe follows, about 2 ounces
1 medium fresh tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
6 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup, feta, crumbled, about 2 ounces
1/3 cup, about 12 black olives, pitted
3 or 4 large fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
- One hour before baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Put the oven rack on the second shelf from the bottom of the oven and place the baking stone on the rack. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Or even better, use a wood-fired oven for the ultimate pizza results. Fire it up! (More on that later).
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With the palms of your hands, flatten it to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Generously sprinkle a baking sheet with flour. Then, place the dough on the sheet and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to come to room temperature. This will take about 1 hour, but do not let dough sit longer than 2 hours before forming and baking.
- If the kitchen is very cold, place the baking sheet of dough on top of the stove. The warmth of the oven will help the dough warm up and soften. But don't leave the dough there more than 10 minutes; it could over-proof. Turn the dough over once or twice during this time so that the heat permeates it.
- Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingertips, press the dough all over so that it begins to stretch out. Gently pull the dough to stretch it into a round disc. The dough will be noticeably soft when pulled. Lift the dough by one edge and place your fists underneath it to begin to stretch the dough into a circle about 11 to 12 inches in diameter.
- Sprinkle a peel or the back of a baking sheet with cornmeal, then carefully transfer the stretched pizza dough onto it. Spread the pizza with the tomato sauce leaving a 1/2-inch edge of dough around the perimeter of the pizza plain. Place the tomato slices about 2 inches apart on the top of the crust. Don't crowd the pizza with tomatoes, they release moisture and can make the pizza soggy. Scatter the feta, olives, and anchovies over the tomatoes. Strip the thyme leaves from their stems and scatter on the pizza or sprinkle the pizza with the dried thyme. Shred the basil leaves and evenly distribute on top of the pizza then drizzle it with olive oil. Season the pizza with a generous grinding of black pepper.
Baking in the Wood Fired Oven
- Start a fire in your oven
- Move the embers and coals of the fire either to the right or the left side of the wood-fired oven by using an ash stick. Wait 10 minutes, allowing for the temperature to equalize and then use a floor brush to remove the smaller debris and ashes.
- Check the temperature in your oven. When it has reached 650°F, carefully slide the pizza directly onto the floor of the wood-fired oven. Hold the long-handled wood peel with two hands, place it in the center of the oven floor, using a firm back and forth movement to shake and slide the pizza from the peel onto the oven floor. As the pizza slides forward, gently pull the peel out from under it.
- Bake the pizza for about 1 ½ - 2 minutes. Check it and rotate the pizza so that it bakes evenly by using the metal peel. Continue baking for another 1 ½ to 2 minutes until the edges of the pizza crust are done. To remove the pizza from the oven, slide the metal peel under the pizza and use it to lift the pizza out of the oven. Transfer the pizza to a wire rack to sit for 2 minutes so that some of the steam escapes and the crust doesn't get soggy before cutting.
Bright Tomato Sauce
Red Pack Italian-style Plum Tomatoes are consistently sweet and a good value. This is a simple sauce and therein, like everything Italian, lies its genius.
3 cups 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 28-ounce can Italian-style plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 pinches sugar
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and soften it for 2 or 3 minutes without browning it. Add the canned tomatoes and their liquid, the salt and sugar. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes.
- Pour the sauce through a food mill fitted with a medium or coarse plate. Or, press the sauce through a sieve. The sauce is ready to use immediately but should be at room temperature before being spread on pizza dough. (If the sauce seems too watery, return the pan to the heat and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced).
Covered, this sauce will keep for one week in the refrigerator.
Enjoy your Provencal pizza!