Friday, January 13, 2012

Pizza Dough Tutorial

I love making pizza.  It's relatively quick and tastes so much better than anything you can have delivered.

Don't get me wrong.  I like pizza that's delivered to my door.  Especially when I don't feel like cooking. (That happens?)  But homemade pizza is so ridiculously easy and in the end probably more cost effective than ordering out.

There are two methods I've discovered.  The first, the one I've used for a couple years now, calls for the use of traditional yeast and you'll need about an hour start to finish.  But a couple weeks ago I discovered that Fleischman's Yeast has created "pizza dough" yeast.  It doesn't require you to proof the yeast or let the dough rise. You'll be eating pizza in a half hour, tops.  It's not as "puffy" as pizza dough made with traditional yeast, but it's a whole lot faster and just as tasty.

I'm going to give you a quick run through of the basic pizza dough recipe I use with traditional yeast, because when I have time (like on a snow day or a lazy Sunday afternoon) it's still very easy.

First, start by proofing the yeast.  You'll need to dissolve one and a half teaspoons of sugar in one cup of very warm water.  Let it sit for ten minutes until foam has formed on the top.

Next, combine about two cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, and two tablespoons of olive oil in a large mixing bowl.  I like making my crust using equal portions of all-purpose flour and white whole wheat flour.  It's a little healthier.  The white whole wheat flour does make the dough denser and darker in color.  But it's better for you.

Pour in the water/yeast mixture and stir with a fork until a sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead by hand until a smooth, elastic dough forms.

Wash out your bowl and then coat it lightly with either olive oil or shortening.  Place the dough back in the bowl, cover it up, and let it rest in a warm place for about a half hour, until it has doubled in size.

Next comes my favorite part of making yeast dough.

BAM!  Punch the air out of that sucker!

If you're using a pizza stone, like I do, put it in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees (remember that you'll want to use a pizza peel to transfer to the stone - it's just easier and you can get one for like $10 at Bed Bath and Beyond). If you do have the pizza peel, cover it with aluminum foil and lightly grease with shortening or olive oil, then sprinkle cornmeal over the surface.  If you're using a pizza pan, grease and sprinkle with cornmeal all the same.  This keeps the dough from sticking.

Now carefully stretch the dough by hand on the surface of the pizza peel/pan until a large circle is formed. Use the edges of your hands to form a ridge around the outside edge to promote the crust to puff up during baking.

That's about it!  Add your favorite toppings, and if you want to brush the crust with olive oil it helps it get nice and golden.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

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