Monday, May 17, 2010

Perfect Homemade Pizza Crust

I make homemade pizza more often than purchasing it but I have never been completely satisfied with my crust recipe. When I read on Annie's Eats that she prefers this pizza to ordering out I had to give it a try. The verdict was that this recipe makes a delicious dough!!! We all thoroughly enjoyed it!

Basic Pizza Dough
Recipe from Annie's Eats
Yield: enough dough for 2 medium pizzas or 4 calzones

½ cup warm water
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1½ tsp. salt
1¼ cup water, at room temperature
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top.  (*While the yeast is proofing I added 1 tsp. honey since I've always learned that yeast needs a bit of sugar to work properly. I then let it sit until the yeast began to foam.) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bread flour and salt, mixing briefly to blend.  Measure the room temperature water into the measuring cup with the yeast-water mixture.  With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast-water mixture as well as the olive oil.  Mix until a cohesive dough is formed.  Switch to the dough hook.  Knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1½-2 hours.

Press down the dough to deflate it.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball.  (If freezing the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at this point.)  Cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no longer than 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500˚ F for at least 30 minutes.  Transfer the dough to your shaping surface, lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Shape the dough with lightly floured hands.  If the dough springs back a lot while you are trying to shape it, let it rest for 15 minutes and try again. This allows the gluten in the dough to relax and should make shaping easier. Brush the outer edge lightly with olive oil.  Top as desired.  Bake until the crust is golden brown, and cheese is bubbling, 8-12 minutes.

Annie's tips on freezing the dough: (Yes, FREEZING! Isn't that great?!?) I was cooking both pizzas at once so I haven't attempted to freeze the dough yet but I'm excited to try this.
If you don’t plan on using your dough immediately, freeze it.  To do this, mix up the dough as usual and let it rise as normal.  After dividing the dough into two equal portions, wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and store inside a freezer-safe bag, and transfer to the freezer immediately.  (Reuse these bags to avoid being wasteful!)  The double layer is important here.  Even after the dough is moved to the freezer, it will continue to rise a bit before the rise is completely suspended.  It always, always pops through the plastic wrap so the extra layer of protection is needed to prevent exposure.
Freeze the dough until it is ready to be used.    

The day you plan to use the dough, transfer it to the refrigerator in the morning to thaw in time for dinner that evening.  (If using the dough for lunch, transfer to the refrigerator the night before.)   The dough that has been frozen tastes every bit as good as fresh, so it is incredibly convenient to have available for a quick, throw-together meal. Before making the pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes to take off the chill.

I’ve had many questions pertaining to the need to freeze the dough if you plan to use it the very next day.  It seems logical that you could simply refrigerate it immediately after the rise and use it the following day.  However, I have tried this and it didn’t go well.  The refrigerator is not cold enough to stop the rise quickly and the result is an over-risen, crazy puffy monster dough.  My solution?  I still use the freezer initially to completely stop the rise, and then I transfer the dough to the refrigerator until it is ready to be used.  (I think another solution would be to use less yeast in the dough initially, but I don’t feel super comfortable altering recipes and changing amounts of yeast, so this is my preferred method.)

Notes regarding using a pizza stone:
I have heard many people say that using a stone is a MUST! Here is what Annie says:
A pizza stone is an integral part of really good homemade pizza.  Why?  The stone is preheated with the oven, producing a very hot surface for baking the pizza.  When you slide the assembled pizza onto the stone, the bottom of the crust starts baking immediately, producing the perfect crisp bottom that provides the slices structural integrity, while the top portion is still soft and chewy.
I have a stone and a large wooden board that I used for preparing the pizza. Once I was ready to transfer it to the stone my pizza stuck and I could not move it! What a mess! Next time I'm definitely using parchment paper. I cooked both of my pizzas so for the second I cooked it on a metal pizza pan with 1/2 inch holes int he bottom. This created a beautiful crust so maybe with more practice I'll have a better opinion of using a stone.

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