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Pizza Margherita

Pizza Margherita
Now a well-loved and widely traveled variety of pizza, this combination was the inspiration of 19th-century Neapolitan pizza maker Raffaele Esposito, who created it to honor Queen Margherita, wife of Italys King Umberto I, on a royal visit to Naples in 1889.

Ingredients:

For the pizza dough:

  • 1 Tbs. (1 package) active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. lukewarm water (105°F)
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for
      working
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

For the topping:

  • 7 oz. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 8 fresh plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped,
     or canned plum tomatoes, drained and
     chopped
  • 1 handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

To make the pizza dough, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until slightly foamy on top, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together the 2 3/4 cups flour and the salt and form into a mound. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture to the well. Using a fork and stirring in a circular motion, gradually pull the flour into the yeast mixture. Continue stirring until a dough forms.

Lightly flour a work surface with some of the 1/2 cup flour and transfer the dough to it. Using the heel of your hand, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Brush a large bowl with the olive oil and place the dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 450°F. If using a baking stone or tiles, place in the oven now.

Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with the remaining flour. Punch the dough down and, using your hand, begin to press it out gently into the desired shape. (If you want to make individual pizzas, divide the dough into four equal-size pieces and shape each one.) Place one hand in the center of the dough and, with the other hand, pull, lift and stretch the dough, gradually working your way all around the edge, until it is the desired thickness, about 1/4 inch thick for a crusty pizza base and 1/2 inch thick for a softer one. Flip the dough over from time to time as you work with it. (Or roll out the dough with a rolling pin.) The dough should be slightly thinner in the middle than at the edge. Lift the edge of the pizza to form a slight rim.

Transfer the dough to a pizza peel or baking sheet, cover with a cotton towel and let rise again until almost doubled in size, about 20 minutes.

Cover the dough with the cheese and then the tomatoes. Scatter the basil over the top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle 3 Tbs. of the olive oil over the top. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until the crust is golden, about 10 minutes more. Drizzle the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over the top and serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Pizza, by Lorenza de' Medici (Time-Life Books, 1993).