Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pizza Dough

A few months ago we decided to start making our pizzas from scratch to save money.  It turns out that not only are we saving money, but home-made pizza is WAY better than 10968318_10206147660232830_9070452317044119695_nfrozen or take-out.  After experimenting with about seven or eight different recipes, we discovered that this was, by far, the absolute best recipe for crust.  We try to make our crust the night before, that way it has the most flavor.
Pizza Dough from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion (a book James and I highly recommend, and I'm not a person who bakes!)
3 c unbleached all purpose flour*
1 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c water [we've found it helpful if the water is lukewarm]
*The recipe calls for 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour and 1 1/4 cup semolina, but says it is optional.   We've done both, and find that the semolina doesn't make much of a difference, especially given the price. Also optional, 2 Tbsp dough relaxer, which we've never used.
Mix and knead together all the dough ingredients - by hand or mixer - until you've created a smooth, soft dough.  Don't over knead the dough; it should hold together but look fairly rough on the surface.
Cover and let the dough rise for 45 minutes [I just use a dishcloth to cover it], the refrigerate it for 4 hours, or up to 36 hours; this step will develop the crust's flavor. [We usually try to make it the night before, and it's best that way, but we have made it three hours before, and it is still fine, but better if it can sit]
Divide the dough in half.  Shape each half into 9- to 12-inch round (thicker or thinner crust), and place each on a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. [tip: cut the paper after you've put the dough on it!]  Cover the dough and let it rest while you heat the oven (and baking stone) to 500 degrees. [We never cover the dough during this step.  I highly recommend using a pizza stone, just make sure you place it in the oven BEFORE you turn the heat on.  Place the stone on the bottom rack of the oven.]
After about 30 minutes, use a giant spatula or pizza peel to transfer the pizzas and parchment to your hot oven stone; or place the pizzas and parchment on a pan and place on the middle rack of the oven. [We cook one pizza at a time, and use a cookie sheet to place it on the stone.  While the next one is cooking, we prepare the toppings of the first one]
Bake for 4 minutes and remove from the oven.
Top the pizza with your favorite toppings and place directly on the lowest rack of the oven (not the stone or pan) for 8 minutes, until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.
My favorite toppings - all amounts vary as to the size of the pizza, and the amounts we have on hand, so use what you are comfortable with.
BBQ Pizza
barbecue sauce
grilled chicken, shredded
cilantro
smoked Gouda cheese slices
a little Parmesan cheese
onion and pepper mix sauteed until browned (I buy a frozen mix and always have at least one bag on hand)
mozzarella cheese
Chicken Alfredo (my absolute fave!!)
Alfredo sauce, topped with fresh ground pepper medley and crumbled dried tarragon
grilled chicken, shredded
Parmesan cheese
onion and pepper mix sauteed until browned
2 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
mozzarella cheese