IF YOU CAME HERE LOOKING FOR COOKING ADVICE....

....then, my friend, you are in the wrong place. I can occasionally put together a decent pizza, but PBS isn't knocking on my door asking me to do a cooking show. If you want to know about my pizza making techniques or any other of my cooking adventures, read on.

Dressler's Home Made Pizza


A good pizza starts with the crust. So here's how I make mine. First of all, a disclaimer. I don't measure the stuff when I make a pizza. As some of you know, I was Assistant Manager of a Little Caesar's Pizza when I was in High School so technically, you could call me a professional pizza maker. So as a pro trying to help you, the novice, make a good crust, I have put my "recipe" in pictorial form. You can measure out your ingredients if you'd like. Your pizza will still taste good but it won't have any personality. Believe it or not, you can taste personality.

For the crust you will need

and then about

.

and finally one packet of yeast for each cup of water. Yeast was too hard to draw, and the funny yeast picture wouldn't have been appropriate for this web page.

So mix the 85°F to 95°F water (too warm to drink but not hot enough for the tub) with the sugar, salt and yeast. I add the oil last because I don't want to coat the yeast in oil*. Then add in all the flour and stir as much as you can with a wooden spoon. It will seem like there is not enouh water for all the flour, but there is. Trust me. Once you've stirred it as much as you thik you can, take the crumbly dough out of the bowl and knead it ona lightly floured counter top.

You can't knead the dough too much. Knead until you are sick of kneading and then rub the dough ball down with olive oil and put it in a clean bowl. The dough will have to rise for at least a couple of hours before it is ready to roll out into pizzas.

The next step is the sauce. The sauce needs to start about 1 hour before you plan to make your pizzas. Bob Holz, KMD Pizza Group Sauce Specialist, makes a very simple sauce using only onions, crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and Italian Seasoning.

Start by thinly slicing onions, the thinner the better. Sautee them in a generous amount of butter. The longer you sautee them, the sweeter they will be, but be careful, don't burn them. Burnt onions = bitter sauce = bad. Add the crushed tomatoes, a pinch of brown sugar and some Italian seasoning. Let it cook down for an hour or so. If it cooks down too much before you are ready to make the 'zas just add some wine. Wine makes everything better.

Now it's time to make the pizza. Roll out a baseball sized chunk of dough on a floured counter top. This is your crust. Sprinkle some corn meal onto your pizza peel (or a piece of cardboard if you don't have a peel) and put your crust on top. The corn meal allows your crust to slide from the peel onto the stone when you are ready to put it in the oven. Spread the sauce (not too much!) on the crust with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle on the cheese of your choice, then add the toppings.It is important that you have someone observe for quality control. Note KMD Pizza Group QC Specialist Stefan Houff skeptically watching Bob Holz spread the sauce. Also note Stefan's disapproval of Bob hamming it up instead of focusing on the cheese.

Contrary to popular urban legends about cooks and broth, more staff in the kitchen actually make the pizza better. Note KMD Pizza Group Sit Around and Drink Beer While Everyone Else Does the Work Specialist Leslie Rattan also disapproving of Bob hamming it up.

Hopefully at this point, someone who hasn't been sucking down beer and wine has remembered to turn on the oven. Crank it up as hot as she'll go. When I was working at Little Caesars we cooked our pizzas at 670°F. Most non-commercial ovens will only go up to 550°F so that will have to do. Using a pizza stone makes for the best crust, but if you don't have one a cookie sheet will do. Unless you have a lot of extra money lying around, there is no need to go to Lechters or Williams & Sonoma to get a Martha Stewart pizza stone. Any flat piece of rock, tile, stone, brick, clay etc. will do. Be careful that your stone doesn't have any moisture, causing it to fracture (or even explode) in the oven.

Anyway, now it's time to slide the pizza into the oven. A little shufflling and wiggling and the 'za should slip right off the peel and onto the stone. Again, it is critical that you have someone monitoring quality. Stefan is available for an hourly rate of $326 and a beer. Plus travel and expenses of course.

With a stone, a typical 'za should cook for 6 to 7 minutes.Without the stone a couple minutes more to get the crust right. A common rookie mistake in making pizzas is to have all the peels loaded up with uncooked pizzas with one pizza in the oven. Now how the hell are you going to get that pizza out of the oven if all your peels already have pizzas on them? Again, wine and beer only exasparate the problem.

 

The trick to throwing a good pizza party is to get everyone involved. Bob and I usually supply Dressler's crust, Bob's sauce, some mozzeralla cheese and some basic toppings. We request that our guests bring whatever sauce, cheese and toppings they need to make their own special "signature" pizza.It's best if everyone argues over who gets to make the next pizza, and then when it's all over, everyone argues about who made the best pizza, the most attractive pizza, the most interesting pizza and so on. Here again, a lot of wine makes for more interesting discussion.

If your friends aren't very creative or just inexperienced, here are a few pizza ideas...

Dressler's Pesto, Roasted Red Pepper and Feta pizza

(If you can't figure this one out from the name, maybe you should just call for delivery.)

Eric Rattan's "Swissconsin" Pizza

(This one sounds really wierd but everyone who tries it likes it. A good lesson for the rookie pizza maker)

Bob Holz's Pizza That He Makes Every Time

(This pizza is also called the Margherita Pizza for Queen Margherita and King Umberto who reigned over Italy in the early 1700's. It is the "original" pizza designed to look like the Italian flag)

John Porter's Hawaiian Sauce

Jana Van Alstines Signature Pizza

(This is also one of my favorites that sounds wierd but tastes awesome!)

Matt McCormick's "Mushroom" Pizza

Let me first preface this with a little background about McCormick. He's a really bright guy, funny, good taste in music and an overall good friend. No one, however, has ever accused him of being very creative. He makes this pizza all the time. It all started when he got a job waiting tables at an upscale Wisconsin supper club called Morrels. All of a sudden, McCormick is on this huge mushroom kick. Everything he cooks has mushrooms. Mushroom this, mushroom that. It's all great, but he couldn't come up with a better name for it. Could he come up with "Humongus Fungus" or "Boomin' Shrooms" or "Oh My! Fungi!" Not McCormick. The best he could do is "Mushroom" Pizza.

That being said, here, in his own words, is how to make McCormick's "Mushroom" Pizza

If you have a pizza you would like to add to this page, please send me an email and I'll put it up.

 

Dressler's Pesto Recipe (a.k.a. Dresto Pesto, Dressler's Own Sweet Basil Pesto v. 2.0, Bailey Island Pesto Company, etc.)

This is the recipe for sweet basil pesto that I have been dialing in for years. It's actually the label from the first batch of "Dresto Pesto" that I made for Christmas in 1999. Enjoy.

I start by putting the garlic and olive oil* in the Cuisinart. I don't like chunks of garlic, so I want the garlic to be thoroughly processed. Next the nuts, same reasoning here. Finish it off with the basil leaves and finally the cheese. Cheese goes in last. It blends pretty easily. You can put it in baby food jars, little jars from the store, or ice cube trays. I like the ice cube tray method because 1 cube is about right for one serving. Keep the cubes well sealed however, or your roommates may start to complain about ice cream smelling like pesto.

*Dressler's thoughts on food snobs and olive oil

You may notice that you have two main choices in olive oil at the grocery store: "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" and "Olive Oil." Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives. The other olive oils come from the secondary pressings and use solvents to help extract the oil from the stems, skins, pits, etc.

Extra Virgin oils are great for bread dipping and salad dressings because of the more aromatic oils that come from the first press. Along with aromatic, however, comes more volatile. If you use the expensive oils for medium to high temperature cooking, the aromatic oils will evaporate, leaving what is somewhat the same as the cheap stuff.

The long and short of it is use the cheaper stuff for cooking, the expensive stuff for tasting. If you feel that spending twice as much on olive oil makes you a better cook, then by all means, support the Italian economy and add your $25 worth to the trade deficit.

You can find a lot more information about olive oil at http://whatscookingamerica.net/OliveOil.htm