Monday, February 4, 2013

The Versatile Dough

This is my absolute favorite recipe for pizza dough.  The dough's versatility extends far beyond pizza.  I use a mixture of whole wheat and all purpose flour, but you can change the mix as you wish (more white flour, more whole wheat, all whole wheat, etc.).  If you add more of one, of course you'll need to subtract the same amount from the other.  Also, if you use more whole wheat flour, you'll need to increase your rising time a bit. 

THE Pizza Dough
(for 2 pizzas)

1 t sugar
1 1/2 warm water (105° to 110° F)
1 package of active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 T dry yeast or 1 fresh yeast cake)
3 T olive oil
1 t salt
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, whisk warm water and sugar together until  sugar is dissolved.  Add yeast and stir until it is mostly dissolved and water is cloudy.  Let sit, undisturbed, for ~10 minutes.  My kids love to watch the yeast "bloom", as it looks a little like fireworks in the bowl.
After yeast has had it's rest, add olive oil, salt, and stir in flour.  When dough comes together, turn out onto a heavily floured surface and knead, folding and rotating and incorporating as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking wildly to your hands.  I usually lay it down in a good pile of flour, ~2/3 c, and pat some flour onto the top before I begin kneading.  It will be quite sticky when you begin. Continue to knead it until you have a nice smooth and stretchy dough; this will take a few minutes.  Coat a large bowl with olive oil and move your dough into it, cover it with a cotton towel (large flour sack towels work beautifully) and allow it to rise, undisturbed, in a warm place for ~45 minutes to an hour. In the winter, just as I begin the dough I turn on the oven to 500° for 1 minute and then turn it off.  This provides a nice place to let the rising happen (make sure it isn't too hot and that you remembered to turn it off again).  It can also be made using the dough cycle of a bread machine following your machine's instructions on adding dry ingredients, liquid, and yeast.
While rising, prepare your 2 pans (we just use large rectangular cookie sheets) with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of ground cornmeal over the entire surface to prevent your dough from sticking.  
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and move it to a lightly floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and return one half back to the bowl and cover it again.  Working with one at a time, roll each out to the desired size / thickness; you may need to add a sprinkle or rub of flour to prevent sticking. 
When it is the desired size, dust it with a tiny bit of flour, and fold it a time or two and quickly transfer it to the sheet and unfold it so it does not stick to itself.  Cover again and let it rise for 15-20 minutes-ish (if you like a softer crust).  I usually do not par-bake the naked crust before adding the toppings.
Preheat oven to 450°F.  Cover with sauce and toppings and bake for 8- 10 minutes or until crust is golden (and cheese is bubbly and golden, if using).  Ovens very, so you should keep an eye on it.


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