27 March 2011

The march of [culinary] progress

Pizza? It's good. And the dough I used to make? That was good. But this? Oh honey, it's so much better. In flavor and texture, we both agree: this recipe knocks the bobby socks off the old one.

Despite the lengthy details, this comes together quickly. The longest part is the rise, and you don't have to do anything for that! Since this makes two pizzas, we always have leftovers, perfect for lunches or a quick dinner later in the week. (Reheat on the pizza stone for best results and no sogginess.)

Pizza Dough
(original from The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

5 cups flour*
1¾ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon raw sugar
2 teaspoons instant ("rapid rise") yeast

1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 3/4 cups warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1) Stir together dry ingredients in bowl of stand mixer. Turn mixer on low speed and pour in water and olive oil. Increase speed to medium low and knead dough for 8 minutes. Toward the end, check dough and add a touch more flour or water if needed to achieve a smooth and supple consistency.
2) Shape dough into a ball and place in large greased bowl. Cover with clean towel and let rise at least 90 minutes, or up to 2 1/2 hours. We think it tastes better the longer this rise lasts, but if you are pressed for time and go with the shorter option, it's still delicious!
3) Deflate risen dough gently and divide in half, shaping each half into a ball. Let rise uncovered on lightly greased or floured counter for 30 minutes more. Meanwhile, preheat oven (and pizza stones if using) to 500F, which usually takes my oven 30 minutes. This is also when you should fry sausage, slice olives, chop basil, and do any other topping-related prep work.
4) Carefully remove piping hot stones from preheated oven and place on a heatproof surface; I use a large wooden cutting board. Gently stretch and flatten pizza dough into two rounds on the greased or floured counter, letting gravity and your fingers do most of the work. It takes a bit more time and patience than rolling it out with a pin, but for this soft, elastic dough, stretching is the best technique.
5) Transfer dough to pizza stones.* The easiest way to do this is to fold the circle dough into quarters, lift it onto the stone, and unfold it. Reshape carefully so you don't burn yourself on the stone! If you are just using a cookie sheet, of course, it will not have preheated and the need for caution disappears. :)
6) Top as you please. Red onions and sauteed spinach are two of our current favorites. Don't overload it though, or it will get soggy.
7) Bake 10-12 minutes. I put one on the bottom rack, one on the top, and switch them halfway through; crust gets crispy and cheese gets bubbly but nothing burns. Slide onto large cutting board and slice with large, sharp chef's knife or pizza cutter. (I prefer the knife.) Serve straight from board, or slide onto wire rack. Let any leftovers cool completely and then refrigerate.

*I like to use 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, and 1 cup semolina flour. Use whatever you want, whether it's 100% white flour or a combination of others.
**By this point in my kitchen career, I don't need to grease mine anymore because they are so well seasoned. But you may want to coat yours with nonstick spray.

{image: a poster from the 1964 World's Fair}

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