Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pizza Perfect

On our first Valentine's Day together Eric decided that we should make pizza together. This was my first time making pizza from scratch. He bought a bag of semolina flour with a recipe on the back. It took forever, but by the time we got done it was soooo good. (Plus we were slightly tipsy from the wine, which always makes pizza better.) Over the years I have tried so many ways of making pizza crust, from pizza specific yeasts, different flours, even adding veggies in them like spinach and tomato purees instead of water. This post will be just about how to make the dough. Yes, I made my sauce but you can use any sauce and any toppings once you have great crust. 

Pizza Crust Dough
makes four 12 inch crusts

2.5 cups all purpose flour plus extra
3/4 cup very warm water (Make it the temperature you like in the shower. Yeast like it too.)
2 packages rapid rise yeast (can use regular yeast but this will require that you "bloom" it first.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

If you have a stand mixer put the dough hook on it and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the flour in the bowl. Stir in the salt and yeast. Start the mixer and add your warm water and olive oil. You may have to scrape the loose flour from the sides and knead it by hand once or twice so it will all get incorporated. You will have to add more flour slowly after you get the general mixture together. I had to add almost a whole cup this time. It will depend on how dry the flour and the air are really. Stop when you get to the point where it is not sticking to the sides or bottom of the bowl but is also not to the point of breaking apart. Turn mixer up to 2 or 4 and let knead for 10-15 minutes to develop the protein. This makes the crust more chewy than flaky. 

Then spray or coat your dough ball with oil. Cover bowl with a towel and let sit in a warm place for one and a half hours, or until it at least doubles in size. I put mine on these floor vents in the house (registers) if I am running the heat or in a sunny window if it is summer time. 

After doubling, use your hand to score the dough ball in quarters. Remove one quarter. Dust a surface with more flour, semolina or cornmeal, and roll your dough. The best way to get a circle is to just roll, turn a slight bit and roll again. Repeat until you get your circle. If it's not perfect, you can take the base of your hand and give it a little tug to stretch out small sections. Rolling takes practice. If you mess up just make it into a ball again and start over (or just eat strangely shaped pizzas). 

I know it looks like naan, but believe me it is not.
I always precook my crust because I had too many experiences with soggy centers, which will always happen if you like lots of sauce and lots of toppings unless you precook. I usually grill mine first, which involves preheating the grill and brushing the dough with oil. You can also precook in the oven. Just cook each side on the rack directly until you see large bubbles form. 

Now you can top your pizza however you like. This time I used homemade tomato-roasted garlic sauce, a mixture of grueyere, fontina and smoked gouda, mushrooms, artichoke and bells peppers (all precooked in a saute pan). 

Pizza is fun and you can do anything with it. The hardest but most rewarding part is the crust. Hopefully some of these tips help you in your pizza making adventures.

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