Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pizza Dough

Ordering pizza is easy, but so is making it. With the 'Best Recipe' in hand from America's Test Kitchen, I ventured into homemade pizza. One thing I admire about their recipe is their flexibility in wait times. Want to make the dough in the morning? Choose the eight hour recipe. Want to make the pizza dough a day in advance? Let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight and finish it at room temperature.
I have to admit I was disappointed in their absence of information about pizza dough storage. Their recipe makes four twelve inch pizzas which is more than I need in one evening. Can I freeze or refrigerate the dough and use it later?
Since their literature didn't divulge these secrets, I decided to run a small experiment of my own. I prepared one full recipe and cooked two pizzas straight away and placed the remaining two dough balls in olive oil lined plastic bags, much like the pizza dough you can buy commercially. One pizza dough ball went in the refrigerator and one was placed in the freezer. I'll post the results of the dough storage test when they're available:

Refrigerated Dough- Pull out of the fridge and let it rest 40 minutes before you attempt to shape it. Dough is a little fragile and more likely to tear but completely workable and bakes up well.

Frozen Dough- Put in fridge to thaw (I did this overnight) and follow the refrigerated dough instructions.

-Both freezing and refrigerating the dough produces manageable and delicious pizza crust when you follow the listed tips.

Pizza Dough (8 hour wait)*
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups room temperature water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling bowl
4 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting hands and work surfaces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

- Measure warm water in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add yeast and let it stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and oil; stir to combine.
-Pulse flour and salt in a large food processor with fitted with the steel blade. While pulsing, slowly add the yeast mixture (holding back a few tablespoons) to the work bowl until the dough starts to form into a ball. This may happen before you add all of the yeast mixture. Once the ball has formed process the dough for another 30 seconds.
-Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth round ball. Put dough in a deep bowl that is lightly oiled and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at a cool room temperature (about 68 degrees F) until it has doubled in size, about 8 hours.
-Punch dough down with your fist and turn it out onto your floured work surface. Divide the dough into equal portions (2, 4, or 8 pieces) and shape each into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 5 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
-Working with one ball of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, flatten the dough ball into a disk using the palms of your hands. Using your fingers, start at the center of the disk and press the dough outwards until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
-Set oven to 480° F.
-Hold the center of the dough in place and stretch the dough outward. Rotate the dough a quarter turn and repeat. When the dough will not stretch any further let it rest for five minutes and try again until the dough reaches the correct diameter. I found I could stretch the dough for a 12 inch pizza to 10 inches before it needed a rest.
-Carefully transfer the dough to a transfer peel or cookie sheet (if you don't have a pizza stone) that is dusted with flour or cornmeal. Brush the dough with olive oil and add the toppings. For a 12 inch pizza I found only a few big spoonfuls of sauce were necessary, otherwise the pizza will be soggy. Likewise, use less mozzarella cheese than you think you need, about 1/2 cup per 12 inch pizza.
-Bake pizza 8-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

*For 24 hour dough, let the dough rise in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours. Remove from refrigerator and finish rising at room temperature until doubled in size, about 8 hours.

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