Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bake The Book: Pizza Dough

My latest baking adventure from my "Bake the Book" series is pizza dough. This one was a lot of fun because it was something I could whip up and we could use right away. I made the dough and we had pizza for dinner that evening!

The recipe, which I've included below, references a pizza stone...which I do not have. I think this same technique would work fine on any pizza pan or cast iron skillet/pan, as long as you follow the directions and don't listen to your husband about cast iron being non-stick.
wink More on that later.

Mixing up the dough itself is pretty basic. Like all yeast doughs, the hardest part is the waiting for it to rise.

This dough really had a lot more air bubbles than the others I've made so far. I punched some of them out with my hands when flattening it, but when I was rolling out it kind of sounded like bubble wrap from all the "pops" it was making.

My circle wasn't exactly a circle, but hey, who's perfect? I did my best at crimping down the edges, a skill which I obviously still need to perfect. I had gotten my husband a Mario Batali cast iron pizza pan for Christmas (that thing is heavy) and this was the first go round for using it. Back to my reference above, he suggested that there would be no need for the cornmeal underneath the crust, as it wouldn't stick. Famous last words.

Luckily, after putting the pizza dough on the pan, I decided to try his theory and see if it was stuck to the pan already. You guessed it...of course it was! So since I didn't really want to have to order take out, I did my best to repair the damage and lifted as much of the pizza dough I could and slid some cornmeal under it. My fingers were crossed as it went in the oven.

It came out looking beautifully. Nicely golden and the fontina cheese we had melted on top crisped up well. We added an arugula salad mixture with a lemon vinaigrette to the top, with some tomatoes and chicken. Yum. And yes, it did stick to the pan a little in the middle, where my last ditch cornmeal effort did not roam.

But for the most part, we were able to salvage it...and I certainly know what I'm doing differently next time. The funny thing is, that once the pan completely cooled, the crust unstuck itself completely. I guess we could have waited and had cold pizza and it would have been fine!

Recipe #3: Pizza Dough

1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup water
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for brushing
3 1/4 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Semolina or cornmeal

1. Pour the warm water into the bowl of the stand mixer. Add the yeast, whisk by hand to blend, and allow the misture to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until the yeast is activated and looks creamy. Add the flour and salt. Knead the dough on low speed for 2 minutes, or until it comes together in a cohesive mass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the mixer to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.

2. Lightly oil a bowl, scrape the dough into it, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic warp and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

3. Place the baking or pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Be sure to allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the stone to fully heat.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape. Divide the dough in half. At this point, you can refrigerate or freeze all or some of the dough.

5. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, then press down with your fingers or use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a disk about 12 inches in diameter. Alternatively, slip your hands, knuckles up, under the dough and lift it up, then gently sretch the dough by pulling your fists apart. Rotate the dough a little each time you pull so the dough is stretched into an even circle. Brush any excess flour from the surface and underside of the dough.

6. Dust the pizza peel with semolina and set the dough round in the center of the peel. Apply the toppings of our choice, leaving a 1/2 inch border at the edges. The toppings should be in a fairly thin layer. Otherwise they will weigh down the dough and make it soggy.

7. Shake the peel or sheet forward and back to make sure the pizza is loose enough to slide. If it's stuck, use a spatula to lift up the dough and toss a bit of semolina underneath. Once the pizza moves freely, gently shake the peel or sheet until the pizza is at the very front edge. Open the oven door and set the front edge of the peel at the back of the baking stone. With a quick jerk, remove the peel and allow the pizza to settle on the stone. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until the dough is golden brown at the edges and across the bottom. Slip the peel under the pizza to remove it from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Brush the edge of the pizza with the 1 tablespoon olive oil to give the golden crust a beautiful shine. Use a pizza cutter or chef's knife to cut the pizza into 8 wedges and serve immediately.

Source: The Art and Soul of Baking



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