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I love the holidays. I like giving gifts and try to find the right present for the right person each year. This doesn't have to be expensive, and last week I talked about a few gifts that keep on giving for that cook on your list. This week is one of my favorite topics: pizza!
Pretty much everyone loves pizza and it's so easy to make at home and so good for you. Here's a few ideas to help make fresh hot pizza at home even easier. One note, don't spend money on expensive pizza ovens -- there's dozens of them out there costing as much as 3 to 5 hundred dollars. Simple tools make for great tasting pizza.
A bread maker. I actually received a bread maker about ten years ago for Christmas. They were the popular gift at the time and I wasn't so sure about it. Boy was I wrong. This guy makes the world's easiest pizza dough.
I have the ExpressBake model made by Oster and it is so easy. Put water, whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, yeast and honey in the bin and 90 minutes later you've got great pizza dough. It's big enough to make dough for 2 large pizzas, but I also regularly use it to make 2 small individual pizzas.
A pizza stone. The pizza that you eat in the local pizza joint is great for one main reason -- it is cooked in a pizza oven. The reason it works so well is the surface of the oven is stone. You can easily turn any oven into a pretty good pizza oven with a pizza stone.
Don't get the small round one but purchase a larger rectangular stone - at least 14 by 16 inches. The surface is big enough to make a large pizza for 4 easily without the worry of spilling ingredients off the edge. Simply put the stone in the oven and preheat to 500°F. Perfect!
That stone is hot and you can dress your pizza on top of it but a pizza peel makes baking so much easier. This is the large flat spatula you see them use in pizza parlors. A great gift for your pizza loving cook.
Once that pizza is out of the oven it has to be cut and there's no replacement for a good pizza wheel. I like the ones that you hold upright like a stick shift because you have more power and control to cut through even the thickest crust. Cuisipro makes fine kitchen utensils and here's their version of a pizza wheel.
If you follow Dr. Gourmet columns and recipes at all, you know that I love using the best quality Parmigiano-Reggiano possible. Nothing will add more flavor to pizza than the best parmesan cheese. Great cheese deserves a great cheese grater and I've been using the Zyliss brand for years.
If you want that authentic pizza parlor feel once the pizza's on the table, make sure to have some red pepper flakes on hand. A cheese shaker filled with flakes completes that pizza at home experience.
Happy holidays! Eat well, eat healthy, enjoy life!
Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
December 3, 2007