Friday, December 10, 2010

Pizza Dough

Making pizza at home can be a bit tricky if you are not organized because of the prep.  But once you get all your parts ready the pizza experience is awesome and well worth the effort.

The dough needs to sit in the fridge overnight and up to 3 days.  Like with the feather rolls the refrigeration helps the dough become more flavorful and lighter which helps when attempting a crisp finished crust.  If you don’t use all the dough it can be frozen for up to 3 months in a plastic freezer bag and thawed overnight in the fridge when you are ready to use it.

I’m shooting for a thin crust pizza with a crispy finish.  This is possible in a very hot oven that has a pizza stone to absorb the heat.  Place your pizza stone on the bottom rack of your cold oven and turn it on to 500 degrees and let it preheat for at least 45 minutes.

I have become overconfident that the jar of yeast in my freezer will always go to work and rise my bread dough.  So I take a bit of a shortcut (I do this a lot) and skip the “proof your yeast stage” when I make bread.  It’s my rebellious side that calls me to just take a chance that the yeast is alive and will provide me with beautifully risen dough.

If it freaks you out to just go for it, feel free to place your yeast in 110 degree water with about ¼ tsp. of sugar and let it sit for about 5 – 10 minutes until it swells and becomes bubbly.  Then you can continue on with the recipe.

Pizza dough is easy and extremely forgiving.  All it asks for is time.  Then it’s up to you to stretch it to your desired thickness and provide the proper cooking environment.

I got the knuckle pull and stretch down, but not the toss and throw.  If your skills are a little rusty there’s always the rolling pin which was my favorite tool when I first attempted pizza.  But it is a bit hard on the dough and you won’t get as good of a finished crust with a rolling pin.  Generally all I do is press the dough out into a disc on a well floured surface and with my hands I spin and stretch the dough into the proper size.

I divide the dough into 6 portions that can each make a 10” pizza skin that is manageable.  This way each person can have an individual pizza with their own personal toppings.

The trick to keeping your oven from smoking up the house and your stone clean while baking is to use a pastry scraper with a sheet pan under it and scrape your stone clean before adding the next pizza.

PIZZA DOUGH (makes 6 10” skins)
4½       cup      flour
1          Tbsp.   active dry yeast
2          tsp.      kosher salt
1 ¾      cup      hot tap water
¼         cup      olive oil

Place 1 cup of flour, yeast, kosher salt and hot tap water into a bowl of your mixer and mix with the paddle attachment for 2 minutes.  Add olive oil and mix for another minute.

Change to bread hook attachment and add remaining 3 ½ cups flour.  Use the bread hook detached with your hand to mix the flour into the wet mix until the flour has absorbed most of the moisture so the flour won’t fly out when you turn on the mixer.  Then attach the bread hook and mix the dough until it smooth’s out and the dough rises to the top of the bread hook.  This should only take a couple of minutes

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly for about 2 - 3 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Cut into 6 portions.

Form into a ball by pushing the sides into the bottom of the center of the dough.

Place each ball into a small zip top bag leaving a gap in the zip top so the dough can breathe and place in the fridge overnight.
If you are not going to use all the dough at once, put the extra dough in the freezer to use later.

DAY 2:
Remove the dough from the fridge and leave it in the plastic bags on the counter for about an hour.

Make a small circle with flour on your counter and place a piece of dough in the flour.  

Flip the dough so that both sides of the dough have been dusted with flour and cover with plastic wrap.

Let the dough sit for about an hour then stretch to desired size on a floured surface. 

There are several ways to shape your pizza skins.  First press your fingertips into the dough to make a nice disc.

Choice 1: With my hands palm side down I spin and stretch the dough in an outward motion flipping the dough as needed until I get my desired size.

Choice 2: Make a fist with both hands and pull and stretch while spinning the dough.

Sprinkle pizza peel with cornmeal and place the crust on the cornmeal to coat the bottom so it won’t stick to the stone.  I couldn't find my pizza peel so I covered a piece of cardboard with foil.

Spread your pizza sauce on the crust and top with your favorite toppings.  Remember more is only more, if you add too many toppings the crust won’t crisp up.  Shake your dough after each addition to make sure your pizza crust stays loose so it will slide off on to the stone easily.

Preheat pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for at least 45 minutes.  Bake for 6 - 10 minutes depending on your toppings and your oven.  Make sure you peek at the bottom of your crust and rotate pizza if needed (chances are you will need to rotate).

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