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So I want to make a margarita pizza...

Hello all. In a couple days, I will attempt to make a difficult pizza...well, ok, a margareta pizza. I bought fresh mozzarella, and it comes in a container in three, four-ounce balls that are submerged in some sort of liquid (there may be some technical terms for this liquid, but I do not know it). I know that if I just take the balls out, slice them, and put them on the pie, there will be too much moisture still present. Should I just dry the outside of the balls with a towel, or how should I go about getting the moisture out of the balls? Also, in making the pizza, my gameplan is to make the dough, bake it for about 8 minutes at 450 to get the crust semi-firm, take the pizza out and brush with olive oil and add tomato slices with sliced mozz. on top, then put in the oven again for about 12 minutes. Are the temps, time, and order going to give me a good pizza? Let me know what you guys think along with suggestions, stories, or recipes. Thanks :)

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  1. Just me but I do as follows: make a basic tomato sauce (canned tomatoes from Italy, minced garlic, EVOO and a bay leaf or two); make my dough and let it rise; prehaet the oven to 450 (I like to give a good hour for it to heat up); slice the mozzarella thin; grow out back and snip some fresh basil leaves; simmer the sauce for 20 minutes and remove from heat; after an hour split the dough in half (I like a thin crust) and roll out one half; place the dough on a cookie sheet; puncture it with a fork; spread a thin coating of sauce (chunky bits of tomato are fine) over the dough; sprinkle rubbed dry Italian oregano (Mexican is less pungent) over the sauce; tear the fresh basil leaves and scatter them over the sauce; top with mozzarella slices; slide into the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes; remove ffrom oven and let cool; see if I can eat only one piece.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mrbozo

      Would you please share with me why you puncture your crust with a fork? I'm just curious.

      1. re: Boccone Dolce

        I do it to prevent the dough from bubbling during baking. Purely a matter of taste (and for me habit); nothing at all wrong with a blistered crust (in fact I imagine for some that adds a note of authenticity).

    2. 500* oven
      Pizza Stone
      Let the dough age overnight
      Let the dough proof about an hour before you slap it
      Shake off mozz, slice thin and layer on dish to dry out 5 min before you top the pie
      Don't forget the fresh basil once you pull it out
      tomato slices are wet too, I say you'll be fine.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Boccone Dolce

        So, should I bake the pizza a little, take out, top, and put back in? Or should I put all the toppings on the raw dough and bake it all at once?

        1. re: pastry634

          If you like it a bit chewier, blind bake the crust for 5 minutes on a VERY hot stone. Baking it only after topping will result in a thinner crust.

          I would dry the cheese before grating because you do not want any extra moisture on a Pizza Margarita.

          Preheat the stone to the maximum temperature possible in your oven for 20 minutes, and then turn it down to 400° before you put the pizza in to bake.

          1. re: Kelli2006

            wouldn't grating fresh mozzarella create a mess? I'm imagining it would be like trying to grate a banana.

            1. re: hill food

              I should have been more careful and said to slice it with a knife. I like to dry the outside of the ball and the pat the slices dry, as there is a lot of moisture in fresh mozzarella.

              Pizza Margarita is as addiction among pizza aficionados at www.pizzamaking.com

              1. re: Kelli2006

                A properly honed chef's knife will slice anything as fine as you want.

            2. re: Kelli2006

              fresh mozzarella does not need drying or grating for pizza

              I would suggest the OP practice making a pizza today and tomorrow and the next day to see what technique they need for their particular oven.

              1. re: Cathy

                I have never worried about wringing excess water out of the fresh mozerella. I just slice into thin rounds and lay it on the pizza and it comes out fine.

            3. re: pastry634

              No need to pre-bake the dough.

              Just make sure your oven is well-calibrated.

              1. re: pastry634

                I see no need to bake it, open oven, top and bake more- you lose a lot of heat when you open the door. It's a conventional oven, not a pizza oven that can cook a pie in 7 minutes. You want it as blazing hot as possible. I really don't think the amount of moisture on the mozz will make any difference- just shake them good *but that's just me. Ingredients/mistakes can be expensive... And I wouldn't try to grate fresh mozz- that would just be a mess. Someone said try it and see how it goes then do it again when you mean business. I agree. The thinner you slap out the crust, the less chance you'll get for uneven bake. Take pictures!

            4. We make a variant of this almost weekly.

              I also make my dough the night before. Take it out a few hours before using.

              I have a hard time finding good tomatoes in Arizona and I'm not a fan of red sauce on pizza so I roast my tomatoes for this pizza. I'll use Roma(pre-salmonella...sigh) or grape....slice and toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 400 for 15-20 minutes. This sweetens them up and helps with the moisture issue.

              I'll buy the fresh mozz in either the big balls or the small boccocini. For the big one I'll slice them and then lay on paper towels for about ten minutes. the small ones I cut in half and also lay these on towels.

              I form the dough, let it rest 15 minutes then brush with olive oil. Layer the tomatoes, fresh basil on that and then the cheese. Not too much cheese. On to the stone, either on the oven or on the grill(500 in the oven, 550 on the grill), for about 12 minutes.

              If I could find better tomatoes I wouldn't roast(and didn't while I had grape tomatoes in my garden in April and May) but just use fresh. There's a little more moisture but not too bad.

              1. Keep it simple. Heat your oven to as high as it goes and let it stay heated for 15-20min before putting anything in put your pizza stone in too, if you have one.. Dough, Tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil. Put it into the oven until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown. Done!

                1. You've already gotten so many different answers so I'll throw in one more. I have had problems w/ the wetness of fresh mozzarella. I slice it thin and then layer it between paper towels. I also slightly sqeeze the tomato after cutting in half to get rid of some moisture (though my favorite way is to oven roast them first slightly). I preheat the oven 450 for half an hour w/ the pizza stone in. I only make small individual pizzas (easy to transfer and we make our own) so they're done in 5-7 minutes. The only time I'll prebake part of the crust is with focaccia dough and I'm making a thick crust pizza.

                  1. Thanks for the responses everyone. You don't know how excited it makes me to talk pizza with so many other pizza lovers like me :). Anyway, so, from what I gather, I should preheat my oven to about 450-500 with the pan (I only have a round, metal pizza pan, not a stone) in the oven. While that sits in the oven, I spread out the dough on a floured surface on my counter, top it, take the pan out of the oven, and slide the dough onto the pan? Sorry if this question seems dumb, I just don't want the toppings to get displaced everywhere. I am very excited to make the pizza and will definitly take pictures and give a description of the process I used with results :). Keep the suggestions coming! I love talking food with my fellow chowheads

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: pastry634

                      If you don't have a peel (I don't but have one on my list of things I want), you can make it on the back of a baking sheet. I put it on a piece of parchment, with most of the edge cut off, except one tab to pull the pizza onto the stone. I use plenty of corn meal and it slides perfectly onto the stone. But, with the metal pizza pan, I'd probably make the pizza right on it and put it in. The hot stone makes the crust crisp.

                      1. re: chowser

                        So, form the dough and make the pizza right on the hot pizza pan? That sounds a tad dangerous :P

                        1. re: pastry634

                          Sorry, I meant make it on a cold pan. I don't know if heating a metal pizza pan is that important. I've never used one but pizza places seem to use them cold. This might help w/ a metal pan.


                    2. i make my dough a day ahead. i use less yeast, a bit of sugar, a touch of olive oil and some sea salt. oh, i warm the water (pellegrino) ever so slightly before adding it to the yeast and sugar. add the salt and oil later. king arthur bread flour is my current choice. let things rise slowly in the refrigerator overnight. take the dough out of the refrigerator several hours before you plan on eating.

                      sauce is pretty subjective. hand-crushing a can of san marzanos, adding some pepper, dried basil, dried oregano, minced garlic and some citrus (lemon juice or a splash of red wine vinegar) works for me. salt to taste.

                      cheese? yes. grate a hard cheese of choice over your mozzarella. drizzle olive oil over the top

                      i bake my pizzas on a stone in my electric oven. i fire the oven up (500 degrees) an hour before baking the pies. i add basil after i take the pies out of the oven (six-seven minutes).

                      it's all good.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: steve h.

                        Letting the oven run empty at 500F for an hour doesn't sound very good to me.

                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                          it's dreadful from an energy perspective. absolutely mandatory from a pizza perspective. the stone and oven must be the same temperature.

                          1. re: DeppityDawg

                            If you are using a stone, it takes a long time to fully pre-heat. That does create one of the main benefits of a stone - even heat.

                            I have tried to cheat and preheat for 20 mins or so and I wind up with a soft center (bottom).

                        2. Interesting bit of information in my free Cooks Illustrated email newsletter regarding fresh mozzarella.

                          They say that true handmade artisinal mozzarella has more fat and moisture and will melt beautifully. Commercially made fresh mozzarella has less fat and moisture because the machines knead it so that when it is heated or when you attempt to melt the cheese, it tends to become gummy and tough like chewing gum or taffy.(This has happened to me).

                          For dealing with commercial fresh mozzarella, they suggest slicing the cheese and freezing it for 10 minutes and that this will prevent it from becoming gummy.

                          I haven't tried this myself, but thought this tidbit might aid you in preparing your pizza.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Mellicita

                            This is interesting. It explains why the paninis I made with handmade artisanal mozzarella was so much better than other fresh mozzarella I've used. Though, you pay for that difference... I'll have to pick up more and try pizza with it. Did they say anything about the moisture puddling on the pizza?

                            1. re: chowser

                              The article was written with regards to making a "pasta caprese" with fresh mozzarella melting into the warm pasta (or ending up like a gummy mess in the case of the unfrozen commercial grade fresh mozz).
                              They didn't touch on making a pizza with different grades of cheese.

                              In my experience, I haven't had a problem with the artisanal mozzerella puddling moisture on the pizza. But I have definitely noticed that sometimes the mozzarella turned gummy instead of melting. I never correlated it to the quality I bought though... I'll be paying attention now!

                          2. If you're talking about the classic Italian pizza, it's spelled Margherita, after the queen. That liquid is called siero in Italian, whey in English. You can blot the slices on kitchen towels or leave the mozzarella out on a plate in the fridge for a day to dry a bit, which is better. No garlic or other seasonings except fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil. Use the sweetest tomato puré you can find or make your own with a food mill. I have no advice about the crust.

                            What is meant by "fresh mozzarella"? Commercial mozzarella or fior di latte (cow) throws off less water than bufala.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: mbfant

                              the smooshy balls packed in water as opposed to the drier, harder blocks usu. shrink-wrapped.

                              1. re: mbfant

                                Crust for Margherita is only made with 4 ingredients by Naples Law. Flour, Yeast, Salt, and Water. I believe also that it must be cooked in a brick oven at no temperature below 600 degrees. I am sure mbfant knows more on this.

                                I must check into this but I believe the commission on pizza in Naples does not allow a pizza to be called "Magherita" unless it is made with Bufala, I could be wrong but I do know they have strict regulation.

                                Olive Oil must always be drizzled in a clockwise direction !!

                              2. We have shredded mozz as well (Sargento brand). I am going to try to make another again on Thursday. Which do you guys think will produce a better Margherita pizza - shredded or sliced?

                                1. I just made the best Margherita pizza. I grilled the crust on a charcoal grill for about 3 minutes then flipped it over and put filling on. I used my homemade tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and grilled that until the cheese melted. Then arranged fresh basil leaves over all. I didn't dry out the cheese and it worked fine - just drained it.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: sarah galvin

                                    How cool - I did exactly the same thing last night (and it was delicious!)

                                    1. re: sarah galvin

                                      Interesting - did you put the lid on the barbecue once you'd got the topping on?

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        Don't know about Sarah, but I did - I try to get as much heat on top as possible. It's still unbalanced on the grill even with the top closed - more heat on the bottom, not as much to crisp up the top. Which is why you grill the 'topping' side first, before putting the toppings on: besides making sure you don't have a raw top layer of dough, it preheats it to help the cheese melt.

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          Yes, I put the lid on for a moment, too. Honestly, best pizza I have had in a long time. And I made it :)

                                      2. The first Margherita I had was my favorite of all I've tried since: no tomato sauce, just olive oil, mozzarella, fresh basil and slices of Roma tomato. It was a small one, just right for a light lunch for one with a small salad, and the balance of richness and austerity was something I found wonderful. That was at the Bosco's brew-pub in Nashville. The closest to that I've found here in SoCal was almost identical, but ruined by the use of ordinary salad tomatoes, which drooled tomato water all over everything. So now I know enough not to do that, and I'll be similarly careful (thanks to you guys) with the mozzarella. Now all I need to do is get that pizza stone, and a peel...

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          You bring up a good point, Will. Do you guys think that tomato sauce belongs on a margherita pizza? The one I made on Monday had no sauce, and I'm thinking about trying one with sauce tomarrow. I know that the "traditional" one consists of, but taste wise, which one do you guys prefer?

                                          1. re: pastry634

                                            "Do you guys think that tomato sauce belongs on a margherita pizza? "
                                            there's no such thing as a pizza margherita without tomato. technically, you're asking whether people prefer pizza margherita or pizza bianca [white pizza].

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              I think pastry634 meant to ask whether tomato sauce rather than slices of tomato were permissible on an authentic pizza Margherita.

                                              1. re: mrbozo

                                                ahh...well in that case, i apologize for correcting :)

                                                the only "sauce" that really keeps it within the margherita tradition is a quick sautée of san marzano tomatoes with a little garlic or onion. anything more than that and you're venturing into "pizza marinara" territory.

                                                1. re: mrbozo

                                                  Slices are not authentic. Pizza with sliced tomatoes is relatively recent in the scheme of things. The traditional form, which is not only traditional but now dictated by the European Commission for Pizza Napoletana, is crushed pelati spread, like a sauce, out from the center with the skilled movement perfected by generations of Neapolitan pizzaioli. The mozzarella does not have to be bufala. No garlic or onion on a Margherita, just salt, oil, and basil.

                                                  1. re: mbfant

                                                    This is referenced from wikipedia:

                                                    Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana" [11]("True Neapolitan Pizza Association"), which was founded in 1984 and only recognises the Marinara and Margherita verace, has set the very specific rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. These include that the pizza must be baked in a wood-fired, domed oven at 485C for no more than 60 to 90 seconds; that the base must be hand-kneaded and must not be rolled with a pin or prepared by any mechanical means and that the pizza must not exceed 35 centimetres in diameter or be more than a third of a centimetre thick at the centre. The association also select Pizzerias all around the world to produce and spread the verace pizza napoletana philosophy and method. There are many famous pizzerias in Naples where these traditional pizzas can be found like Da Michele, Port'Alba, Brandi, Di Matteo, Sorbillo, Trianon and Umberto (founded: 1916) [12]. Most of them are centred on the ancient historical centre of Naples. These pizzerias will go even further than the specified rules by, for example, only using "San Marzano" tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and only drizzling the olive oil in a clockwise direction. Another addition to the rules is the use of basil on the pizza marinara - it's not in the "official" recipe but it is added by most Neapolitan pizzerias.

                                                    The pizza bases in Naples are soft and pliable but in Rome they prefer a thin and crispy base. Another popular form of pizza in Italy is "pizza al taglio" which is pizza baked in rectangular trays with a wide variety of toppings and sold by weight.

                                              2. After reading all the responses here I would refer you to a book written by Peter Reinhart entitled "American Pie", he is the culinary professor at Johnson & Wales and writes about his journey across the world in search of the perfect pizza, or should I say, what he calls "his idea of" the perfect pizza. He visits all over Europe and documents his findings and also all around the states. It has many recipes for sauces, crusts, toppings, etc .. after using his recipe for crust I never have made another. Please take the time to look him up, you will thank yourself later. He is also the author of "The Bread Bakers Apprentice"

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Jimbosox04

                                                  Funny you mention that, Jimbo. Just the other day, I ordered a book online by Ed Levine about pizza (forgot the name). I can't wait to get it :)
                                                  And about the pizza, I'm thinking about doing half margherita and half with feta cheese. I've always wondered how that feta tasted on pizza. I was thinking about pairing it with some artichokes.

                                                  1. re: pastry634

                                                    feta is excellent on pizza, and it pairs well with lots of other toppings: artichoke hearts, sweet onion, sliced olives, sliced pepperoncini, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomato. [pretty much anything you'd find in a greek salad...except cucumber]. i love to top mine with a little extra dried oregano before baking.

                                                    1. re: pastry634

                                                      I would agree that Feta is excellent on pizza. If you like the taste of that then move on and try Gorgonzola, it is also excellent. I made a Baby Bella Mushroom and Chorizo with Gorgonzola it was absolutely perfect.

                                                      Try this for the crust:

                                                      4 cups All-Purpose Flour ( I use King Arthur)
                                                      1 Tsp. Instant Dry Yeast
                                                      1 1/2 Tsp. Salt
                                                      12 oz. bottled water (cold from the refrig.)

                                                      Mix ingredients in a mixer about 5 minutes until they no longer stick to the sides and just a little to the bottom. Sprinkle with just enough more flour to get it out of the bowl. Immediately divide into 2 and place into 2 sealed containers sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, allow room for them to double, place in refrigerator for at least 1 full day or up to 3 days.

                                                      What this does is allows for slow fermentation and will increase the flavor of your dough. If you use the regular room temp rising method you end up with a crust with no flavor but plenty of rise.

                                                      Try this once and I guarantee that you will be satisfied. When you take the dough out of the refrigerator on the second day or so, allow it to sit at room temp covered with plastic wrap as not to dry out for at least 2 hours before baking (@ 550F). It will stretch with little to no effort and make a lovely blistered crust. You will not need to make an outside crust because any of the dough with no toppings on it will rise beautifully. Good Luck

                                                      I will post some pics as soon as I can get this computer to work properly again !!

                                                  2. If you want to get truly obsessed, head over to http://www.fornobravo.com/forum/ to learn how to build your own wood-fired traditional brick pizza oven. I pour the foundation for mine on Saturday!!

                                                    There's a section of the forum dedicated to sourcing good ingredients, and proven recipes.