Make a Margherita Pizza with Donna - October 24, 2011 Follow these step-by-step instructions to make a Margherita pizza with Dining Editor Donna Covrett. Ingredients: 1 pkg active dry yeast, 1 tsp honey, 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees, or warm to touch), 3 cups bread flour, 1½ tsps kosher or sea salt, 1 Tbsp or more of extra virgin olive oil, ¼ cup of yellow cornmeal TIP: Like all recipes that use only a few ingredients, quality makes a difference. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in honey and ¼ cup of the warm water. Let stand 10 minutes or until it expands (if it does not create a sponge, either water is too hot or yeast is too old). Meanwhile, in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour and salt. Add 1 Tbsp of oil, the remaining ¾ cup of warm water and the yeast sponge. Mix on low speed for approx. 5 min. until the mixture comes away from the side of the bowl and gathers around the dough hook. If it’s too sticky add a Tbsp or so of flour; if too dry add a Tbsp of water and mix for another minute. Turn out onto a work surface and knead by hand for another few minutes. The dough should have a slight sheen and feel smooth to the touch. TIP: Don’t overwork the dough. Too much kneading overdevelops the gluten resulting in a tough dough. Lightly brush a bowl with some olive oil, place the dough in and turn it over. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel and place it in a warm spot to rise for 30-60 minutes. When ready, the dough should be doubled in size and have some elasticity when pulled. Punch the dough down and divide into two or four pieces. Knead and shape into balls; cover and let rest for 10-15 min. Place the piastra or pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees. The stone needs to heat in the oven for 30 min. after the oven reaches temperature. Dust surface with some of the cornmeal. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into small circle, and stretch the rest of it by hand keeping the outer rim slightly thicker. TIP: The cornmeal adds a nice crunch, but it also keeps the dough from sticking and makes it easier to transfer to and from the oven. Toppings: Tomato sauce, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. TIP: Keep the sauce simple. For a good quick sauce, try the Pomi brand of strained tomatoes with a little salt, pepper and olive oil added. If using fresh Italian tomatoes, make sure they are ripe and flavorful. I slow roast tomatoes in the oven with a little garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper, and olive oil for 1½ – 2 hours at 300 degrees and mash them (or puree them in the food processor for a smoother sauce). Brush the dough lightly with olive oil. Spread with a thin layer of sauce. TIP: An inverted spatula works great. Add sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle with torn basil leaves and a grinding each of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the surface of the pizza stone with the rest of the cornmeal and transfer pizza to it. Bake 10-12 min. or until cheese just begins to bubble. TIP: Using a pizza peel makes the job of transferring the pie to and from the oven a snap, but a rimless flat tray or board works just as well. Coaxing it from one to the other is in the wrist, but sliding a large knife under the pie helps. Cut into wedges and serve immediately with a glass of chianti classico, barbera d’asti, or zinfandel.