Monday, October 10, 2016

Making Pizza Dough

Photo: Alexandra Grablewski, Getty Images
With the loss of mom and pop stores, it's getting harder and harder to find a great slice of pizza in Manhattan. Sadly, the days of a real Italian pizza parlor on every block are gone. Nonetheless, nobody wants to eat mediocre pizza. So I began making my own pizza. It starts with a perfect dough.

For years I've made a good Chicago style pizza, but now I'm obsessed with trying to make a thinner crusted, brick oven, Italian style pizza. Lacking a brick oven, I can only try to come close. What I can do is get the ingredients right:

Here is an authentic pizza dough recipe for one 10 inch pie. For a family of 4, simply double the ingredients (and after it rises, split the dough in half) to bake two 10 inch pies. Yeap, half a pie each sounds about right to me.

Pizza Dough for one 10 inch pie

4 ounces lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast 
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra oil to brush on the baking dish)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra flour for kneading the dough) Note: I use all-purpose flour, but professionals use bread flour. It's higher in protein. I don't stock it, so don't use it. All-purpose is just what the name says it is, "all-purpose."
3/4 teaspoon salt

1) Combine the warm water, yeast and olive oil in a bowl. With a fork or the handle of a wooden spoon, add and incorporate the flour and salt until a ball forms. (If the dough seems dry, sprinkle a few extra drops of warm water on it. If the ball forms easily, don't do anything.)

2) I only work the dough until the flour is incorporated. (I don't touch it with my hands yet.)

3) Cover the dough in the bowl with plastic wrap and sit it inside your cold oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The pilot light will keep it warm for rising.

4) After it has doubled in bulk, dump the blob of dough onto a floured surface and knead until it is elastic and no longer sticky. Sprinkle with flour as you fold it over and knead. (You can knead the dough inside the bowl if it's big enough, then have less to clean up.) Now is the time to divide the dough in half if you doubled the recipe and are making two pies.

5) Flatten, pull and toss the dough with your fingers and knuckles like a true Italian pizza maker. Feel free to shape your pizza round, or rectangle.
Photo: The New York Times
Place the pizza dough (with a little sprinkle of flour on the bottom) into an olive oiled cast iron skillet, or a stainless steel baking sheet. (If you wish, place parchment paper, or a silicon non-stick mat into your backing dish. I don't: A brush of olive oil works for me.)

Add a thin layer of tomato sauce, and your favorite toppings, such as onions, garlic, mushrooms, banana peppers, Jalapeño peppers, ham, pepperoni, sausage, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Also feel free to spice to taste with oregano, dried basil, red pepper flakes, or dried garlic.

Commercial pizza ovens get much hotter then a home oven. Whenever I attempt to duplicate the heat of a pizza parlor oven, the result is dry pizza, so I no longer try. For that reason I don't turn my oven all the way up. Instead, I bake my pizza at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is done. Delish!

Extra tips: Whole wheat flour works with this recipe also. (Yes, I went through that phase!) However, now I mostly use all-purpose flour to make pizza (as well as, buttermilk biscuits). In moderation, it won't kill us. For my pizza dough, I like to toss in 1/4 cup ground flax seeds; a large egg; 1 tablespoon of dried powder milk; then reduce the water (only pouring in 2-3 ounces). Adds protein and fiber to the pizza dough. Buon appetito!
Mmm, dinner is ready! What are you having?


You may also enjoy:
Real Italian Cooking
Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits
The Best Cookbooks Ever   
Down-home Succulent Meatloaf

2 comments:

  1. I applaud you for even attempting to make your own pizza and succeeding at it. Wow! I have only known two people in my whole life who made pizza at home and both were Italians and both made their own dough. I have to say...........homemade pizza is fabulous!

    Kudos, Debra,

    Cheers, M-T

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    1. Many thanks, Marie-Thérèse. I made homemade bread for several years before moving onto pizza dough, but there's no need to go that route. The pizza dough is very easy and takes less time to make than bread. But you know what? If one lives near a good pizza parlor, there's no reason not to buy pizza so the place can afford to stay open. I do both! I sometimes buy a pie from Papa John's -- New Yorkers might run me out of time for it. :) But the crust and ingredients are fairly good.

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