Friday, July 21, 2017

Mom’s Basic Bootcamp: Pizza Dough


I have been making pizza for so many years that I could probably create the dough in my sleep.  In fact, I’ve written about pizza before because I love it so much.

Making pizza dough is a simple procedure, although there are many ways for something to go wrong.  I’ve stumbled through all of them.

The worst was forgetting to add salt.  You wouldn’t think a little bit of salt would make a difference, but you could really taste its absence.  My second worst mistake was adding too much salt, which made the crust nearly inedible.

What else can go wrong?  You can over-bake it and have crunchy pizza.  Or you can under-bake it and have floppy pizza, although that’s easily corrected by 1-2 more minutes in the oven.

If you don’t add enough flour, when the dough rises it will be too sticky and won’t stretch out properly.  You can fix that by kneading in a few tablespoons flour to counteract the stickiness.  You can also rub your hands with olive oil or water before you start stretching the dough so it won’t stick to you.

If you add too much flour, the dough will be too dry and will crumble when you’re trying to stretch it.  To moisten the dough, knead in 1 tablespoon water or more as needed.  You want the dough to be smooth but not sticky.

Speaking of stretching, I have never managed to throw the dough up in the air and spin it like pizza maestros do.  But it’s possible to stretch the dough by gently pulling it into a 10-or-12-inch sort of round shape.

In case you’ve made too much dough, put the extra in a greased freezer bag and freeze it until needed.  Let it defrost in the fridge overnight.  About 3 hours before you want to eat the pizza, remove the dough from the fridge, transfer it to a greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 2 hours.  Then treat it like regular dough.
Mom’s Basic Pizza Dough – makes 3 10-or-12-inch pizzas  
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast (scant means just a little less) or 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 cup room temperature tap water + more if needed
1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey
3 tablespoons olive oil + more for greasing bowl
3 cups flour + more if needed
1 teaspoon salt  
Cornmeal
Pizza sauce
Toppings – Mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, cooked sausage, sliced mushrooms, sliced tomatoes or whole cherry tomatoes, anything else you like on pizza 
Put the yeast in a food processor or electric mixer with dough hook and pour in a few tablespoons of water.  If you add all the water to a food processor bowl at this stage, it might leak.  Add the brown sugar or honey and let sit for several minutes.  Then add the olive oil, flour and salt.  
Begin processing, adding the rest of the water, and process or beat until the contents form a rough ball.  If the dough is crumbly and won’t hold together, add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it forms a ball that is smooth and not too sticky.  If the ball is too sticky, add more flour, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough becomes smooth. 
Add a teaspoon olive oil to a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl.  Turn the dough over once so that the top of the dough is covered with oil.  Cover with a tea towel and set on a counter to rise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, until it has doubled in size. 
Once the dough has risen, it’s time to make the pizza.  Remove the top rack from the oven and place the bottom rack on the lowest position.  Place a pizza stone, if you have one, on the bottom rack and begin heating the oven to 500 degrees.  If you don’t have ne, you can use a heavy-duty sheet pan placed upside down on the rack.  Sprinkle it with cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking to it. 
Cut the dough into thirds.  Sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal on a pizza paddle. Take one of the pieces of dough and slowly and carefully stretch it into a 10-12” circle and lay it on the pizza paddle.  Patch any holes with dough from one of the edges.  Cover with sauce and toppings, slide it onto the pizza stone and bake for about 7 minutes or until the dough has fully baked.  Slide it out of the oven with a metal spatula onto a large plate or cutting board and serve immediately.
Dough Mixed in Food Processor

Dough Before It Rises

Dough After Rising

Uocooked Pizza

Pizza Ready to Eat
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