Thursday, March 13, 2014

Picture Guide to Pizza Dough

Homemade pizza dough was the very first thing I ever made on my own when I was still a wee teenager living with my parents. The recipe was from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and is the same basic dough recipe I still use. That "dough ball" as we call it was used to make what would become my signature dish, chicken spinach calzones. Lately, I've been working to create the perfect pizza dough.

Though it's not quite perfect, my homemade pizza dough is a handy recipe and a few tweaks can make an ordinary homemade crust just as delicious as the pie at the local pizza shop.

Here are the steps:

  1. Attach the dough hook. Combine 1 cup warm water and 2 1/4 tsp of yeast in the mixer bowl. Let the yeast grow and do it's thing for a minute or two before adding 2 cups of flour*, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp. sugar** and roughly 1 T olive oil. Turn the mixer to "stir."
  2. Continue mixing until the dough forms a ball on the dough hook. Pick up the dough ball, pour about 1 T of vegetable oil into the mixer bowl. Roll the dough around to coat with oil.
  3. Divide the dough into two equal parts. Put each ball in its own ziplock bag. Place in the refrigerator for 1-5 days.
  4. When you're ready to bake your pizza (at least one day after you mixed up the dough), take the bags out of the refrigerator. The bags will have blown up like a super cool science experiment. Isn't yeast amazing? Preheat the oven to the highest temp possible. Mine goes to 500.
  5. Take the dough out of the bags and let it rest in a nice little disk for at least 15 minutes. 
  6. Stretch the dough into a pizza pan. Mine are 15" diameter I think. Top with some sauce.
  7. Bake the pizzas for 15 minutes with just sauce. Add additional sauce if needed along with cheese and toppings and bake for a few more minutes to melt the cheese. At very high temperatures if you attempt to bake a plain cheese pizza for fifteen minutes your cheese will turn black and no eight-year-old child will touch it. If you're putting pepperoni, anchovies, mushrooms, sausage and the works on your pizza, those toppings will protect the cheese, but the eight-year-old will never forgive you for the anchovies.
  8. Remember to take a picture for your blog before someone scarfs up the last piece!
*Pizza dough is a real test of your culinary skills in that you use just a few ingredients but no one can tell you exactly how much flour you'll need on any given day. I've seen recipes that claim you can use a kitchen scale to measure an exact amount that will work every time. I don't believe it. It takes around two cups for this recipe. I try to start with a scant two cups and add more if needed. Sometimes my dough ends up a bit sticky and the result is delicious. Do not be afraid! 
**Slow raising in the refrigerator only works if there's some sugar or honey in the dough to feed the yeast. I use the same recipe sans sweeteners to make dough for calzones and pepperoni rolls letting the dough raise on the counter top for one hour before rolling it into whatever delicious shape it's going to be.