Much to most New Yorkers’ aggravation, television screens were added the backseat of most taxicabs last year, effectively poisoning the one place left in the city not already inundated with a constant media blitz. Whenever I get in one, and yes, the television is always on, I immediately hit mute, but then find that I’m watching the images broadcast on the back of the front seat and not this gorgeous city whizzing by and then usually force myself to turn it off completely and restore my view to the window, frustrated that the choice has to be so complicated. I don’t like them one bit.
But. There was this one time, I think I was zipping out to a friend’s this past winter and I still remember exactly what street the cab was on–Houston–when I had to drop everything and turn the volume up because what I saw before me was too awesome to resist: Jim Lahey making Pizza Bianca for a Time Out New York segment. And hoo boy, did I ever fall hard for it.
A little background: Jim Lahey’s name may be familiar because he’s the guy who teamed up with Mark Bittman of the New York Times in November 2005 to show him the No Knead Bread-Making Technique Heard Around the Internet. In New York, he’s famous for his work at Sullivan Street Bakery and in my tiny corner of this city, he’s famous for teasing us for months about opening a pizza place so close to our apartment, I feel certain he’ll be cooking me dinner several nights a week, which is still plywooded despite a promised mid-December opening date not that I’m counting the days, minutes, seconds or anything.
Back to that day in the cab, the video–followed by another of Patsy Grimaldi, making the pizza that made both his first and last name famous–it was hard for me not to press my nose against the screen and I spent the next two months hoping against hope that I would find myself in a cab playing this video again. When this finally happened–an otherwise horrible morning when I was running so late for work, I had no other choice but to throw money at the problem–I was consumed with such joy, it was hard not to jump up and down in the backseat. The funniest part was that it was only then that I realized how remarkably simple it was, but it didn’t stop me from trying to hunt down a recipe as soon as I got home, which brought me to Martha Stewart’s site, and yes, I am totally jealous that he has made that pizza for her and not for the girl who has been trying to sneak peeks at his next effort through plyboard cracks for one-hundred-and-eighty days.
Nevertheless, after gasping breathlessly over this schacciata, as they say it in Italy, for several paragraphs you may be confused as to the fact that it’s just pizza dough with olive oil and rosemary but there is no “just” about it. Finished with a little sea salt, I’m in love with the complexity behind its simplicity. We slice it into odd shapes and eat it with a big mixed greens salad, proscuitto, cheese and toasted marcona almonds on nights when we want a low-fuss dinner. One time–shh, don’t tell anyone–I made it with a pizza dough from a local place when it was too late after the gym to make our own and it was nearly as awesome. I’ve decided I’d rather bring this out, even with a pre-made pizza dough, than any baguette or bread next time we have people over. It doesn’t hurt that it makes the apartment smell like heaven.
Thank you: So much for all of the suggestions for Prague and Vienna, as well as those of you who volunteered your WordPress services. We’ll be in touch!
One year ago: Tequila Lime Chicken
Makes two long pizzas
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add 1 cup cold water. Mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine, increase speed to medium-high, and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, elastic, and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. Split the dough into halves, and form each into a log. Place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.
3. Put dough on a lightly floured baker’s peel. Dimple dough by pressing it down with your fingertips. Work the dough outward toward the edges of the peel until you reach your desired size and thickness, about 1/4 inch. [Or in our case, realize that I forgot to do this, and instead rolled it out!] Drizzle with remaining olive oil, rosemary and sprinkle with remaining salt.
4. Place a baking stone, sometimes known as a pizza stone, in the oven. Set oven to broil, about 520 degrees. Slide pizza onto baking stone with the baker’s peel. Bake until the bubbles range from golden to deep brown in color, 10 to 12 minutes. [Great trick if you don’t have a peel: Use the back of a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.]
Update: I’ve added so many clarifications in the comments, I want to point you to them from here, such as why you don’t have to have a pizza stone, why a KitchenAid is not a requirement and why the broil setting, when you’re not broiling. Happy baking!