Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Meal: Easy, foolproof pizza dough

Posted By on September 26, 2011, 12:18 PM

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With very few exceptions, I find that I can make pizza at home that's better than most of the pizza I can buy. And, it's much less expensive. The key, of course, to any good pizza is the crust. Dough matters. --- However, you can make terrific pizza dough with very few ingredients and without a lot of muss and fuss. 

Over the years, I've tried many different pizza dough recipes. But, I keep coming back to this one. It's an easy, all-purpose dough -- perfect for making just about any kind of pizza, from classic Margherita to good old pepperoni or a veggie pie. 

Be sure to set aside at least an hour for the pizza dough to rise before using.

This recipe will make one large medium-thick-crust pizza or two smaller thin-crust pizzas. 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour -- I use King Arthur brand

1/2 cup warm (not hot) water

1 tsp. yeast

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Olive oil (for coating the bowl)

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Technique:

I usually use a food processor to mix the pizza dough, but you could also do it by hand in a large bowl.

Combine the water, sugar and yeast and stir until dissolved. Allow the yeast to proof for about 10 minutes before using.

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Next, combine the flour, salt and water/yeast mixture in a food-processor bowl.

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Process until a single ball of dough is formed. If the dough doesn't come together, it's too dry. Add a tablespoon or two of water and continue processing. 

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Remove the dough from the food processor and knead by hand for 6-8 minutes. This kneading helps to warm and break down gluten strands in the dough, which makes for a more elastic and silky product.

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Form the dough back into a ball shape and place in a lightly oiled bowl.

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Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and place the bowl in the warmest part of your kitchen.

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Allow the dough to rise for at least an hour. You can let it rise longer, if you'd like. I'll often make the pizza dough at lunchtime and not use it until dinner. But, be sure to allow the dough to rise for an hour, minimum.

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On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to the shape and thickness you desire. You can divide the dough in half and make two smaller pizzas, or even into quarters for personal-size pizzas.

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Once the pizza base if formed, I flip it onto a pizza paddle sprinkled with corn meal. The corn meal helps the pizza slide into the oven easily. I only dress the pizza after it's on the paddle.

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Top with whatever sauce and other ingredients you desire and bake. Baking times will vary depending on oven temperatures, the thickness of the crust, and the toppings. A thin-crust Margherita pizza (tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil) will cook in under 5 minutes. 

Baking note: I like pizzas that are cooked rapidly in very-hot wood-fired pizza ovens. Pizzas cooked in ovens like those are often cooked anywhere from 750 to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Most home ovens don't go that high (mine only goes to 550 degrees). But, that's plenty hot as long as you give the oven sufficient time to reach its highest temperature. 

Another trick I utilize - after cracking numerous store-bought pizza stones - is I put a thick piece of tile directly onto the oven rack and cook the pizza on it. I simply measured my oven rack and had Home Depot cut tile to fit it. My Home Depot "pizza stone" cost about three bucks.

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Viola!

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