Thursday, August 21, 2014

The best pizza dough ever. Made with 30 minutes of work!

I've been thinking a lot about pizza lately, and I'm not talking about the kind of pizza you get in college. I'm talking about one of the epics of Italian cuisine; Great ingredients, great dough, and well thought out flavor choices.

Most pizza is a commodity in the US and that is a shame. Bargain basement low moisture, low fat mozzarella, cardboard crusts (I'm looking at you Daddy John.) Massive processing plants which churn out flat frozen food like substances more loaded with high fructose corn syrup and chemicals then milk and flour.

What is it about the American psyche that allows the degradation of great nutritious and tasty things in favor of time savings or money savings? Yes we are busy, we have work, school, and soccer practice. But to be honest great food doesn't take much time; especially pizza from scratch. All it takes is scheduling.

My first goal was to make a really great crust. I have made a lot of dough with a natural levain, but since those are made with captured natural yeast, every levain's personality is a little different. They usually have a lot of amazingly interesting flavor profiles from Sourdough to not so tasty flavors.

However, I wanted to create a dough that anyone can make easily using one set of instructions.

Here is my recipe. You can skip to the bottom for the Too long; didn't read (TL;DR) recipe.

700g flour (you have to use a food scale to bake well)
13g salt
1 T dry Red Star yeast (I store mine in the freezer)
1 T olive oil
504g lukewarm warm water.

A peel or large cutting board
A pizza stone
Large mixing bowl and 4 smaller bowls
Parchment paper

The first step should be started at about 8:00pm the night before. Place all of your dry ingredients into a large bowl. There is no need to proof modern yeast.

I add the water and olive oil and mix it by hand for a few minutes in the bowl just until all of the water has been absorbed and it starts loosely coming together into ragged dough.

Cover it lightly with a cloth and let it sit for 30-45 minutes. Go watch a show on Netflix, tuck someone in, or clean the garage. This process is called the autolyse. We are hydrating the flour and allowing time for the gluten strands to form. These strands are what makes the dough stretchy enough to hold air pockets throughout.

However, now that we have formed all of these big long messy strands of gluten, we need to organize them into a matrix and stretch them out to make the crumb texture. I like to knead by hand for 6-7 minutes; this gives me a very loose crumb with lots of big and little air pockets. You will need a very well floured surface to knead it. Keep adding small amounts of flour as needed.

You get a few of those big fun bulbs of air at the corners with a 6-7 minute hand mix. You could also throw it into a KitchenAid, I would say the equivalent of 6-7 minutes of hand mixing would be about 45 seconds in the KitchenAid. If you mix it any longer then that you are going to get a texture more similar to department store bread. The crumb will be very fine with uniform tiny little bubbles.

Overworked (IMHO) dough

nice loose crumb with lots of character

Yes, the dough is squishy and sticky. I agree but the wetter it is the more steam you can generate and the moister your final dough will be. Yes it's harder to work with, but it will become much easier after the next step

At this point I lube up the large dough ball with some more olive oil place it in a bowl, cover it well in plastic wrap but allow it plenty of room to rise. Clean off the counters and it's time for bed!

I let them rise in a refrigerator until I'm ready to get up for work the next day. So around 7:30-8am I remove the dough from the fridge and cut it into quarters (it's a lot easier to work with now that it is cold isn't it!) It should have roughly doubled in size overnight.

I cup each 1/4 dough ball in my hand and press it up from the bottom through the ring formed by my forefinger and thumb. This stretches the outer layer of the dough into a skin. Once all of the dough is over my thumb and forefinger I pinch of the bottom really well to form a single skin over the whole ball. This pinched section is the seam.

At this point you can also wrap them up tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the freezer for a few weeks.

Repeat it with the other 3 balls and put each ball into a smaller bowl. These bowls must have room for the dough to roughly double in size. I put a little olive oil in each bowl to lubricate the outside of the balls. These get covered in plastic wrap and returned to the refrigerator until I get home from work. Each refrigerator will be a little different, play around with timing! For frozen dough take them out of the freezer in the morning and cover with plastic wrap in a bowl and let them defrost/proof on the counter top.

When I get home around 5-5:30 they should have doubled in size again. I immediately place the pizza stone in the oven and turn the oven on to 500 degrees. When my stone is in the oven it takes about 45 minutes for the oven to reach "pre-heated" status. But I have found that I need to give it another 15-20 minutes for the stone to be as hot as possible. Each oven will be different - play around with it!

If my dough balls aren't completely proofed to the size that I want them to be I take them out during this 1 hour oven pre-heating.

Once the oven is at temperature I place the dough gingerly on the counter seam side down and press lightly with my fingertips to flatten the dough into an ~ 1 inch thickness. Then I use my fingertips to form a ring about 1" from the edge of the dough. At this point I pick up the dough and begin lightly stretching it out into a large circle. I like to minimize popping any large air bubbles at this point. Once I have stretched out this dough into about 16" pie its thin enough to be considered a thin crust pizza. I put it onto the parchment paper on the peel and dress it.

Pizza Dough Bread Sticks

Use the peel/large cutting board to move the dressed pizza onto the hot pizza stone. The parchment paper makes getting such wet dough off the peel much easier. After about 3 minutes you can remove the parchment paper if you like to reuse or you can remove it with the cooked pizza.

The pizza should be done cooking between 8-9 minutes (So fast!) The peel makes it a lot easier to move, but you can also just grab the corner of the crust lift and pull it onto a cutting board. Cut it up and serve to guests!

I would suggest letting the stone recover heat for about 5-10 minutes between each pizza.

Active time: 30 minutes spread over 22 hours
Inactive time: 22 hours

TL;DR recipe!

700g flour (you have to use a food scale to bake well)
13g salt
1 T dry Red Star yeast (I keep mine in the freezer)
1T olive oil
504g warm water.

A pizza peel or large cutting board
A pizza stone
Large mixing bowl and 4 smaller bowls
Parchment paper

1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
2. Add wet ingredients and stir until the water has been integrated and dough looks ragged
3. Let the dough rest for 30-45 minutes
4. Knead by hand for 6-7 minutes or in a KitchenAid for 45 seconds
5. Put olive oil coated dough in a large bowl with room for dough to double, cover in plastic wrap
6. Let the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator
7. In the morning divide the dough into quarters
8. Force the dough balls through your thumb and forefinger to form a firm skin and a round dough ball
9. Place the dough ball in a bowl coated in olive oil and cover with plastic wrap
10. Proof the dough during the workday, check that the dough has doubled 8-10 hours later
11. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat at 500 degrees for one hour
12. When the oven is preheated slowly stretch out your dough while minimizing the bubbles you pop
13. Each dough ball should stretch into a 16" thin crust
14. Carefully flatten dough to 1" thickness then pick up and stretch to a diameter of 16"
15. Place the dough on a parchment paper on a pizza peel seam side down
16. Add sauce and toppings
17. Use the peel to transfer the parchment paper and pizza onto the stone
18. Cook for 7-9 minutes
19. Let the oven recover heat for 10 minutes between each pizza
20. Cut and    


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