August 1, 2013

Basic Pizza Dough

I remember almost every Wednesday night growing up we had pizza. Isn't it funny how sometimes as an adult you end up repeating patterns or routines you had as a child? Pizza was more of an occasional thing for us until we had kids. Then I started making my own dough and we had it a little more often.

Good friends of ours in California had a special pizza night every Friday. Many times they invited us to join them, and somehow we found ourselves recreating it when we moved to Oklahoma. At the time, it was something familiar and comforting in a new, lonely place. It was fun to try to think of a new flavor combination every week...I even looked up the menu from our favorite pizza place in college (if you ever find yourself in Amherst, MA go to Antonio's!!!) and used that as an inspiration. The routine has slacked off this summer, but I'm gearing up to be more consistent with it once school starts. Life is about to kick back into high gear so it will be nice to have some tradition back too.

I started making my own pizza by buying the pre-made dough in the refrigerated section of Trader Joe's or Fresh and Easy. Somehow the idea of making my own all the time seemed a little much. I played around with a few different recipes for dough, but once I found the one that consistently worked for me I haven't gone back to store bought (not to mention the fact that I no longer have a Trader Joe's or Fresh and Easy down the road!). This recipe will make enough for two pizzas, so we almost always have a batch in the freezer. It only takes a few hours to defrost, so even if I decide last minute that it's a pizza sort of night I can take one out by 2 pm and be good to go.

This recipe is also the reason I own a kitchen scale. I've found that bread recipes tend to be more consistent when I measure the flour by weight as opposed to number of cups. That is not to say you can't do this without a scale. It just works better for me. They are pretty cheap and easy to find, so keep it in mind if you start making things like this a lot.

Pizza Dough
barely adapted from Annie's Eats

22 oz or 4 cups bread flour (King Arthur All Purpose Flour has a really high protein content like other companies bread flours, and that's what I use here)
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup room temperature water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp olive oil (plus a little more for oiling a bowl)
Handful of cornmeal for baking

Put flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn on briefly to mix together.

Put the 1/2 cup of warm water into a bowl or larger measuring cup and add yeast. Let sit for a minute or two and add the rest of the water.

Add water/yeast mix and olive oil to flour and mix at a medium speed until combined. Mix for a 3-4 minutes longer until the dough is really smooth. Then put dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for several hours until it has doubled in size.

At this point, the dough can be punched down and rested for a few more minutes. You can now divide into two and either freeze it or use it.

To use, preheat the oven to 425 degrees (if you use a pizza stone, put that in the oven now). Let it all heat up for at least 30 min. If you are just using a baking sheet, lightly oil and sprinkle some cornmeal over it. If you use a pizza stone put some cornmeal on a sheet of parchment paper or pizza peel. Spread and pull dough until it forms a large circle or rectangle. Lightly brush some olive oil around the edges and then top as you like.

Bake for 15-17 minutes.

Note on the baking temperature-Many recipes cook the dough at 450 or even 500. My ovens have not consistently reached these temperatures so I adjusted it all to work for me. If you have a good quality oven that can hit those temps then cut the baking time to 8-10 minutes.

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