Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mama's Pizza Dough

Enough dough to make 4 small pizzas.
I remember when I was little I would look up at my dad as he threw pizza dough in the air. I would watch in amazement as the Frisbee of dough would spin around and then land on his big flour covered hands. I can still close my eyes and smell the yeast, see the flour covering his striped apron and feel the softness of the dough. It's memories like these I hope I can pass on to my kids.
   It's safe to say that my children get homemade pizza way more often than the pizzeria stuff. Not that there is anything wrong with pizzeria pizza - there's not. In fact Numero Uno is our family's favorite. (My husband even tried to ask them to sell us some pizza dough so that we could make our own "pizzeria pizzas" with it at home - they were confused and never sold us the dough; but I digress.) I found this recipe by Alton Brown that I really liked, but it wasn't perfect. I gave it a slight tweak and now you have Mama's Pizza Dough. (I'm Mama, if you haven't figured that part out yet.)
   This is my standard pizza dough. If I feel like a deep dish pizza (like a Numero Uno Pizza) then I will add more sugar to the dough and bake it in an oiled cake pan or on a cookie sheet. I think that regular pizza's should either be cooked in a wood fired oven, or on a pizza stone. Since I don't have thousands of dollars lying around waiting to be spent on a pizza oven (a girl can dream) - I cook mine on a pizza stone. You can buy them at any kitchen supply store or home store (like Linens and Things or Bed Bath and Beyond).  Cooked hot and fast, the pizzas are done in about 7 minutes. It takes longer than that to get delivery - or so I've heard. There is no place that will deliver to our secluded home.
   I have had many compliments on this pizza dough. I brought it to a pool party at a friends house and they just raved! They said it was the best pizza dough they have ever had, anywhere. I also made it once while visiting my in-laws and they asked for the recipe. Now my mother-in-law makes this pizza dough all the time.
Bottom line. It's amazing! Now get started making it because it needs to sit in the fridge for a day (or at least 16 hours) before you eat it, to get the best flavor and texture.
   Enough talking (typing) let's get started.

Here's how I make it:

I put 1/4 cup of sugar in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. (I have more because I'm making a double batch.)

Then I add some hot, filtered water

and I whisk it until I can no longer see the sugar.

I check the temperature of the water with my finger. If it feels warm, but not hot it's ready. (Ideally you want the temperature between 105-110F.)

I add some dry active yeast.

I whisk it all together until the water looks milky. Then I set it aside for the yeast to get foamy.

5 minutes later, there is a nice foam starting, so now I can add my other ingredients.

I add some good, extra virgin olive oil

1 cup of bread flour

and I whisk everything together until smooth.

Now that the yeast has a coating of flour, it is safe to add the salt. (Salt kills yeast, don't you know.)

I add 1 more cup of flour and whisk again.

This time I really beat it vigorously. I'm trying to develop as much gluten as I can, so I end up with a nice chewy dough.

When it gets difficult to whisk, and it's nice and elastic (stretchy looking), I get rid of the whisk.

I completely cover the dough with bread flour (about another 2 cups), and I drag my fingers through it - trying to get the flour around and under the sticky dough.

I also make sure to rub all the flour and dough off the edges of the bowl.

When most of the flour is combined, I sprinkle on a little more flour (because the dough is still very sticky) and I start kneading.

My hand gets completely encased in dough. - It reminds me of "Swamp Thing." Don't worry. I just rub my hands together and the dough comes right off.

See, no more Swamp Thing hand. I just keep kneading in the bowl.  I fold the dough over on itself . . .

and press down.

I repeat this over and over until the dough is smooth. I'm making a double batch today (enough to make 8 small pizzas), so it's a little rough to knead the dough one-handed in the bowl. I turned it out onto the counter to use both hands. (My gracious husband took this picture, in case you were imagining me with 3 hands . . . or some elaborate camera set up behind me. No such anomalies, just my loving husband - he's so nice!)

After kneading for AT LEAST 15 minutes then I will start checking the dough to see if it's ready. I do this by pinching off a small amount . . .

rolling it in my palm . . .

and then stretching it flat. I press it flat with my fingers while I stretch it thinner and thinner.  I'm basically making a mini pizza. I want to see if I can stretch the dough out really thin, without the dough tearing.

I stretch it almost paper thin in the middle.

You want to be able to see the light through the dough, but the dough should not tear at all. (I have one micro-hole down on the bottom left of my dough, but for the most part the dough is ready. Every where else is just stretched thin and holding strong.)

I knead my mini pizza back into the dough and form one big dough ball.

I happen to be making a double batch today, so I need to divide it up. If you are making just one batch, skip these next couple of steps and go straight to oiling the bowl.

I cut my dough in half.

Then I fold one half over on itself (on the cut side),

and knead it.

Then I pinch the dough together on the bottom, so that I make a nice round and smooth dough ball on top.

See, nice and round.  I repeat these steps with the second half.

I pour a little extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of my bowl (the same one I make the dough in - no need to dirty another bowl!).

I take one dough ball and place it in the oil, upside down.

I swirl it around and flip it over, making sure to coat the whole ball in oil.

Then I put the oiled dough ball in a zip-top bag. From here it can go in the fridge for another night during the week, or in the freezer for a month. (If I were only making one batch of dough, I would not need the bag. I would just leave the dough in the bowl.

Since I am making a double batch tonight, I put my second ball into the bowl and coated it with oil, just like the first. When it is all coated, I cover the bowl with some sort of plastic wrap.

I like this kind - I feel like it gives me a better seal.

The dough stays in the bowl, in the fridge, for a minimum of 16 hours. It can stay there for up to 6 days.
When you are ready to use the dough, just cut the dough into 4 equal portions.

Form them into dough balls, and allow them to come to room temperature before trying to shape them into pizzas. I find they come to room temperature faster if they are already sectioned out. (When I'm impatient, which is most of the time, I warm a cup of water up in the microwave for a minute. When the water is hot I put the dough in the microwave, along with the water and just shut the door. It sits in the warm, moist environment and is usually ready in about 30 minutes.)

This is to make 4 small pizzas (about the size of my pizza stone). If you have a larger pizza stone and want to make a larger pizza, just divide the dough how you would like. There are no hard an fast rules. The dough can be any shape and size you like. Just realize that the larger it is, the more time it might need to cook. (Like wise, if it is smaller, it will take less time.)

Preheat your oven to 500F,with the pizza stone on the bottom rack. Assemble your pizza on a pizza peel (or other implement to slide the pizza into the oven. I have used a flexible cutting board when it a pinch.). Make sure to put down plenty of coarse cornmeal under your pizza dough, so that it slides easily into the oven - flour burns. You don't want the toppings to slide off, and your dough to stay on the pizza peel!  I have had this happen more than once. It's a huge mess, and the toppings are very quick to solidify to the screaming hot oven floor, door, racks, you name it! Test your pizza first - make sure it slides around easily before you head to the oven with it.

-Husband note: Make sure you do this last step, if you don't, you're likely to have a hot mess on your hands; and instead of enjoying a delicious pizza, you'll be pissed off and cleaning cheese and pizza sauce off of everything... very frustrating. 
Then you can prepare any pizza recipe you like. My kid's favorite is pineapple and cheese pizza. I like to make a plain cheese pizza with rosemary and thyme on top. I also have a white veggie pizza that I really love. What ever combination of sauce and toppings you like, go for it.

Here's the recipe:

Mama's Pizza Dough

*make at least 16 hours ahead of time!
*makes 4 small pizzas

1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups warm, filtered water (105-110F)
4 tsp dry active yeast
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tsp table salt
4 cups bread flour, divided

Combine sugar, water and yeast in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Let it sit to get foamy (about 5 minutes). When the yeast is foamy, add the olive oil and one cup of bread flour. Whisk until smooth and then add the salt and another cup of bread flour. Whisk vigorously until it becomes very difficult. The dough will be stretchy with no lumps. Take the whisk out and cover the dough with another 2 cups of bread flour. Use your hands (or the dough hook, if you're using a stand mixer) and mix slowly - making sure to get around and under the dough. When the flour is all incorporated, the dough should be smooth - not sticky and not dry. Knead for at least 15 minutes and then check a small amount of dough to see if it's ready. Pinch a small amount of dough off. Press and stretch it with your fingers to make a mini pizza. If you can stretch it thin enough to see light through it, without it tearing, the dough is ready. Coat it with olive oil and store in a covered bowl or a zip-top bag for a minimum of 16 hours. Bring the dough to room temperature before stretching and making into pizzas. Dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 days, and in the freezer for 1 month.

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