NOT feeling particular talky today so let’s just eat.
Last night, armed with the perfect excuse of utilizing the abundance of eggplants, we had a pizza-rized eggplant parmesan. Paper-thin slices of eggplants pre-toasted under an airy web of grated Parmigiano cheese until curly crispy and golden browned, scattered in between two layers of tangy tomato sauce and bubbling moazzarella cheese. Then, topped with what acted as bursting land-mines of brininess and salt, my new BFF crispy-fried capers that makes it. Just another evidence that I must drop any perfectly wholesome and healthy idea onto a throbbing field of carbs.
May or may not have something to do with my mind-paralysis today… and even if it did, the best kind there is.
” … BURSTING LAND-MINES OF BRININESS AND SALT… “
Makes: 3 medium pizza, or 2 large pizzas
Since the day I started making my own pizza-dough, I found myself increasing the wetness of the dough each and every time (with helps from a friend who knows a lot about doughs). I found that a wetter dough, is a lot easier to spread out and forms a softer and chewier crust, than a drier dough. Yes, it’s stickier and messier, but at the same time, a wetter dough has more fluidity thus less likely to tear, and most importantly, it can achieve a higher rise in the oven.
Handling a wet dough is not hard, if you just keep to a few key-points in the recipe-instructions.
Then in this particular case, I strongly recommend measuring the ingredients by weight. It is extremely difficult to be precise with cups, especially when cups don’t come in uniformed sizes/volumes! The ratio between bread flour and water should be 1 : 0.82 (or up to 0.85 sometimes), by weight! That mean, 100 grams of flour will need 82 grams ~ 85 grams of water, depending on humidity, and types of flour and etc.
** Please note that in this particular recipe, 1 cup = 250 ml.
- Pizza dough:
- 400 grams (2 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) of bread flour
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1/2 tsp of salt
- 1/2 tsp (if let ferment in the fridge), or 1/4 tsp (if let ferment in room-temperature) of instant dry yeast
- 328 grams ~ 340 grams (328 ml ~ 340 ml) of water
- Tomato sauce:
- 2 cans (800 grams total) of peeled Italian tomatoes
- 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of sugar
- More salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Eggplant parmesan topping:
- 2 ~ 3 long Asian eggplants (approx 750 grams)
- Aged Parmigiano cheese for grating
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- 1/3 cup of capers, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil for frying
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 large fresh Mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Chili flakes for sprinkling
To make the pizza dough: Start the night before, or at least 9 hours before serving.
- If you are proofing your dough in the fridge for 18 to 24 hours (starting the night before), use 1/2 tsp of instant dry yeast.
- If proofing at room-temperature (a “cool” room) for 18 to 24 hours, use 1/4 tsp of instant dry yeast.
- If proofing 9 hours before serving (in the morning on the same day), use 1/2 tsp of instant dry yeast and proof at room-temperature.
Mix bread flour, sugar, and instant dry yeast evenly in a large bowl. Add 328 grams of water first, and mix together with a wooden spoon until a wet dough forms (if the dough seems dry/doesn’t come together, add another 10 grams, or 1/2 tbsp of water). Let the dough sit for 15 min for the flour to hydrate, then with your hands, pull the dough up then fold it over itself. Turn it 90 degrees and repeat for a few times. Wait for another 15 min, then repeat again. This helps to encourage elasticity of the dough without kneading.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then let proof either in the fridge or at room-temperature (as instructed above).
To make the tomato sauce (can be made the day ahead): Blend the tomatoes in a blender until smoothly pureed. Set aside. Heat up extra virgin olive oil in a sauce pot over high heat, then cook the garlic and fresh thyme until lightly browned on the edges. Add the diced onion, tomato paste and salt, and cook for 5 min until the onions are soft. Add the pureed tomatoes then turn the heat down to medium-low. Partially cover the pot (or it will splatter) and cook for approx 30 min, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has reduced by almost 1/2.
Taste and re-season with salt (probably need another 1/4 tsp) and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside until needed.
To prepare the eggplant parmesan topping: Preheat the top-broiler on high.
Remove the tips of the eggplants, then cut into very thin (1/8″, or 3mm) slices. Scatter over a parchment-lined baking sheet in roughly a single layer (some overlapping is fine). Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, then grate a thin layer of Parmigiano cheese evenly over the top, season with salt and pepper, then place 3″ under the broiler. Cook until the top surface is nicely browned, then transfer the cooked eggplants to another sheet, and repeat with the rest. Set aside until needed.
To fry the capers, heat 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil over high heat. Add the chopped capers and fry for approx 5 min, until the capers are shrivelled and slightly crispy. Drain through a fine sieve, then mix 3 finely minced garlic into the frying oil (no need for further cooking). Set the capers and garlic-oil aside until needed.
To assemble the pizza: Preheat the oven on 500ºF/250ºC (or higher if your oven goes), with a pizza-stone or a large inverted cast-iron skillet in the middle-rack. Preferably, allow 30 more min after the oven has reached desired temperature.
From my experience, the trick of working with a sticky dough is: You want to oil your hands (no flour needed) for grabbing the dough out of the bowl. Then flour the dough, while you’re spreading it. So, place a parchment paper on the counter, larger than the size of the pizza you’re making (the recipe will make 2 large, or 3 medium pizzas). Lightly oil the surface of the parchment, as well as your hands. Gently separate a portion of the dough from the bowl and transfer onto the lightly-oiled parchment. The dough will be very wet, feeling more like a blob. Then flour the top of the dough, just enough so it doesn’t stick to your hands (dust more flour as you go, but do not over-flour it). Then gently press and spread the dough outward to make it into a thin disk, but careful not to pop the air-pockets within the dough. Think of it more like re-distributing the air-pockets.
Now set the flatten dough on the side and let rest for 20 min, very loosely covered with plastic wrap. Repeat with another dough.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the dough, then a thin layer of toasted eggplants, then tear the mozzarella on top, then sprinkle evenly with crispy capers, then grate more Parmigiano cheese over, then finally, scatter some minced garlic-oil over the topping and brush the dough-edges with the oil. Slide the pizza onto a board by pulling the parchment, then transfer again onto the pizza-stone (or on top of an inverted case-iron skillet). Bake until the crusts and toppings are golden-browned and bubbly, approx 10 min (turn the oven to top-broiler for the last 5 ~ 3 min if the topping needs more heat).
Sprinkle with more crispy capers, and chili flakes. Serve immediately.