When I was growing up, my little town had a free book exchange located on a small patch of grass, just off Main Street. It was a rustic-looking thing, just a covered box on stilts, but it strikes me now as a delightful symbol of small town life. Every neighborhood should have a book and magazine exchange. We’d learn about our neighbors, discover shared interests, pursue new ones, and have something to talk about other than our lawns. I have this dreamy image of families sitting by the curb discussing the latest issue of The New Yorker, or circulating favorite recipes from old cookbooks, or teaching one another how to train for a marathon, learn about wine, bake.
So imagine my delight when my parents retired to a village that has its own book exchange. It’s a converted old smokehouse, dark and musty inside, but the walls are lined with books. People leave all kinds of stuff that nobody would ever want to read: cheaply-bound booklets on microwave cooking or computer manuals dating from the late 80s. Last month, however, I hit the jackpot. Someone dropped off approximately 30 back issues of Saveur magazine, all from the mid-1990s.
On the cover of one issue, I spotted Neapolitan pizza and knew I had to try it. I’ve been making flatbread pizza on the grill all summer, but with the time change and the colder weather, I needed a pizza fit for the oven.
This recipe became an instant classic. The dough is chewy inside, crispy outside, and it requires very little work. So far, I’ve used it for a basic margarita pizza; basil pesto white pizza; prosciutto and balsamic onion pizza; and (pictured here) andouille sausage, roasted red pepper and artichoke pizza.
So I’m deep in the midst of my mid-90s-Saveur-fest, and what do I discover? Saveur magazine chose my blog as one of their “Sites We Love”! I’m so honored, and humbled, and pleased. Specifically, my lemon-curry roasted chicken was chosen as “Best of the Web,” which is fantastic, since that is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite chicken recipe. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t just take my word for it. Saveur loves it, too.
After I finished reading the back issues of Saveur, I returned them to the Smokehouse book exchange to ‘pay it forward,’ you might say. As I placed them back on the shelf, an elderly woman looked over and said, “Oh, were you reading those?”
“Yes!” I said.
“How nice,” she said. “They came from me. Though they’re old, I thought someone might like to read them. They never go out of style.”
Master Pizza Dough
Adapted from Saveur magazine
Makes 2 12-inch pizzas
1 7-gram packet active dry yeast
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1⁄2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup cornmeal
1. Dissolve yeast in 1⁄4 cup lukewarm water in a large bowl. Set aside until yeast begins to activate (it will foam a little), about 10 minutes. Combine flours and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Add 1 cup of the flour mixture to yeast and stir well with a wooden spoon or your hands. Mix in 1⁄2 cup water, then add another cup flour mixture and continue to stir. Add remaining 1 cup flour mixture, then gradually stir in about 1⁄4 cup water and mix well. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet.
3. Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead with the heels of your palms until it has a smooth, uniform texture, about 10–12 minutes. Divide dough into 2 even balls. Coat the insides of two medium bowls with 1⁄2 tsp. olive oil each. Place dough in bowls, cover bowls with damp cloths or plastic wrap, and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 1⁄2–3 hours.
4. Place pizza stone or unglazed tile in oven and preheat at highest setting (not broil). Sprinkle a baker’s peel or inverted baking sheet with cornmeal. Punch down dough from one bowl, make a ball, and flatten it on the pan. Taking care not to overwork dough, stretch it into a thin 12″ circle with a slightly raised edge. Add Margherita or Marinara toppings and slide onto hot pizza stone.
5. Bake until crust is golden brown and crisp, about 12–15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare second pizza. Remove first pizza from oven and bake the second on the same stone. Drizzle a little olive oil on each and serve.