I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gia Prima, wife of the late Louis Prima, and she told me a story of how fellow Italians used to call her and say nothing but “pizza, pizza” when she picked up the phone. Mrs. Gia repeated this to me in a voice that sounded like an out-of-breath Marlon Brando. She was apparently known for making good pies.
Some friends and I started what we call “family pizza night” about a year ago. We meet about once a month or every couple of months. Jacqui brings her rockin’ sourdough, Daniel contributes some extra fancy meat toppings, and I usually put the pizzas together since I have to touch all dough that enters my house (ask my husband). This last edition of family pizza night offered a revelation. One of our special guests, a Norwegian priest, baked his way out of a severe depression once. Over the years, he’s worked up a system where he can come home and have pizza ready for his family within 32 minutes. I scoffed when I heard this, guessing that he used some kind of biscuit-type dough made with baking powder. But no, I was all wrong—and he was alright. Thin, beautiful, stiff crust, with large air pockets. His topping of choice, thin slices of raw potato (?) and thicker slices of buffalo milk mozzarella seemed weird at first, but worked really well with a sprinkle of minced garlic and fresh marjoram on top. Potato on pizza? Yes. What’s funny to me about the idea of putting potato on pizza is the fact that potatoes are held in much higher regard in Scandinavia than anywhere else. I used to come home from school (in Sweden) and ask my stepdad what’s for dinner, and he would rub his hands together and say, longingly and lovingly, “Boiled potatoes…” Whatever came with them (moose, cod, venison…) was secondary.
So the trick behind the Norwegian priests’ dough is:
(enough for 4 pies)
1 1/3 water (warm like you’d want it for a bath, warmer than your body)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
6 tablespoons olive oil
enough flour (but as little as possible) to work the dough for 15 minutes straight, by hand
Working the dough for 15 minutes takes stamina, but this Norwegian priest considered running/biking/swimming another Iron Man while under treatment for bronchitis the same day as our pizza party. I somehow talked him out of it, and he settled for kneading instead. You do NOT have to let this dough rise (this is the revelation part) but work it into a thin round and throw it on the hot pizza stone (oven at 500 degrees) followed by whatever toppings you want to use, and lots of cheese.
I’m a believer.