Monday, November 1, 2010

Basic Dough: Pizza

I found this recipe while looking for a new pizza crust. I've used it for pizza crust for a long time, then I started experimenting.  What I discovered is the most versatile, basic recipe for bread.  I will share a variety of the recipes I've come up with based around this bread recipe, but let's start with the most basic one first.

Pizza Dough

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons oil

Prep time: 30-45 minutes (for me, but I've been making this pizza for over 10 years)
Oven: 425 F
Bake time: 15 minutes
Yield: 1 large pizza

Here's the easy part: throw it all into a bowl in that order and mix until the dough has formed.  I use my Kitchen Aid mixer and allow it to knead the dough for 1-2 minutes.  If you don't have a mixer that can handle kneading dough, then it's not hard to mix it by hand and knead it until the dough is smooth.  The dough is fairly soft, so it shouldn't take long at all.

Now, a couple notes for those who have never worked with yeast before:

1. The water-- Most recipes will tell you to use lukewarm water. I've found that the water is fine as long as it feels warm but I can keep my finger in the water comfortably.  When I was first learning how to make this dough, I used a candy thermometer and tried to get the water between 110-115 degrees F.
2. Proofing--This is when you dissolve the yeast in your warm water and wait 5-10 minutes to let it grow. This was done to make sure the yeast was alive, which is usually not a problem these days (assuming you've stored your yeast properly).  Most of us do it these days as a hold-over from the days of inconsistent yeast. So as long as you are confident that you aren't going to kill the yeast with too-hot water, you can skip this step.  It saves you about 10 minutes, which is fairly significant.
3. Yeast & salt-- Salt can slow down the working of yeast, so some bread-makers wait to add the salt until after some kneading has been done. I find it difficult to work the salt in at that point, so I just toss it with the rest of the dry ingredients. I haven't had any trouble with slow yeast in this recipe, especially since I use a fairly large amount of yeast.
Anyways, once you have your dough all nice and kneaded, put it in a greased bowl and let it rest in a warm spot while you get the rest of your toppings ready (we are making pizza, after all!).  Here is my dough after about 10 minutes in a pretty warm oven (about 150 degrees F--warmer than the recommended 80 or so degrees F, but it works well for me).  I keep it well-greased or covered with a wet cloth to keep it from drying out. You can easily leave it for longer, but if you're going to leave it for more than an hour, I suggest using a lower oven temperature or punching it down every 30 minutes or so.

When the dough is done rising, work it outward on a greased and cornmealed (or floured, if you so choose) large pizza pan (the one pictured is 14 inches, I believe).  You need to be careful not to pull or stretch the dough, just press it outward until you reach the edge of your pan.  By now you've noticed the little dark flecks of stuff in my dough. That's parsley--I like to add it into my pizza dough because it looks so neat. :)  I also will add granulated garlic if I'm in the mood for a garlic crust.

Now spread your topping onto the crust. I've found that using warm pizza sauce works the best because it helps keep the yeast warm enough to continue working. At this point I like to let my pizza rest again for at least 10 minutes. I'll return it to my very warm oven for a few minutes, then pull it out and let it sit while the oven warms up.  I've found that letting the ready-to-bake pizza sit for up to an hour is fine, but once you start going longer periods of time, the dough starts to explode and spill over the edges of the pan.

Finally, bake the pizza in a 425 degrees F oven for about 15 minutes or until the edges and bottom are browned.

See? A nicely browned bottom crust.


Now...if you felt like it, you could do a 1.5x recipe and use the extra half recipe of dough to make breadsticks!  My husband loves the breadsticks most of all, so I tend to make the extra dough every time I make pizza.

So there you go, I've shared my family's "secret" pizza dough recipe with you! :)  If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. I have the comments set to moderation so that I'm sure to see any questions, even a long time after this post was published.


Disclaimer: I am not a professional. Anything published in this post or anywhere on this blog is drawn from my own experience. What works for me will hopefully work for you, but is not guaranteed to.  If you know more about what I'm talking about than I do, feel free to enlighten me--I love learning!--but be nice about it.

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