Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Can I Leave This Ingredient Out?

Mushroom, Onion and Pepperoni Pizza
Occasionally an hour before dinnertime I get cooking question calls from family members and friends.  Often it involves a missing ingredient, and the question goes something like this: “I’m in the middle of making pizza dough and just realized the recipe calls for 1/2 cup cornmeal.  Do I need to stop what I’m doing and rush to the store to get some?”

This particular question I knew how to answer.  Once I established that the cornmeal was an actual dough ingredient, not just to be used to sprinkle on the pizza stone to keep the dough from sticking to it, I felt comfortable saying, “Don’t bother going to the store.  Just add another 1/2 cup flour instead.”

Why would a pizza dough recipe require cornmeal?  Most likely, the person who wrote the recipe was trying to jazz it up.  It’s not an essential ingredient.  In fact, the cornmeal-question caller later told me that the pizza dough without the cornmeal was the best-tasting pizza dough he had ever made.

Yeast doughs are very flexible.  I recently tried a challah recipe that called for 1/2 cup orange juice—not a normal ingredient in this traditional twisty bread.  It came out fine, although I couldn’t taste any orange flavor. 
Easiest-Ever Pizza Dough – makes 3 10-inch thin-crust round pizzas 
1 tablespoon active dried yeast 
1 cup warm water + more if needed – divided use 
1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey 
3 tablespoons olive oil + more for greasing bowl 
3 cups flour + more if needed 
1 teaspoon salt 
Add the yeast, 1/4 cup of the water and brown sugar or honey to the bowl of a food processor, a mixer with a dough hook or a large bowl.  Let stand for a few minutes until the mixture becomes frothy. 
Add the olive oil, flour and salt.  If using a food processor, start to process, adding the water through the opening in the processor cover.  Process until the dough is smooth and satiny.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.  
If using a mixer with a dough hook, simply add the water to the flour mixture and begin to beat until the dough is smooth and satiny.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
If mixing by hand, add the water to the flour mixture and stir until the dough until the dough comes together in a ball.  Place a tea towel on the counter and transfer the ball of dough to it and knead for 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and satiny.  If it seems too dry, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time.  If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. 
Pour about 1 teaspoon olive oil into a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, turn the dough over to coat both sides with oil and cover with a clean tea towel.  Set the bowl aside in a non-drafty area and let the dough rise for about 1½ hours.  When you’re ready to make the pizzas, cut the dough into 3 equal portions and proceed to make three pizzas.
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