Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Perfect Pizza Crust

Kevin and I are in search of the best pizza dough recipe and we believe we may have found it. Over at Annie's Eats, I found this recipe. I tried it out last Friday night and I was so impressed with how easy the dough was to work with and how well it cooked up on the preheated screaming hot pizza stone.
All of these positive results were in spite of the near-disaster I found myself in on the moment of "transfer" [from wax paper counter top to pizza stone]. You see, I had coated a sheet of waxed paper with the recommended cornmeal and it worked wonderfully...until I had the crust spread out inches past the limits of the layer of cornmeal. This resulted in a sticky mess. Also, instead of dividing the dough into 3 crusts like the original recipe recommended, I only formed 2 crusts--thus it was much more difficult to manage its size. I ended up having to fold the already-heavily-topped pizza into fourths and hold this pile of misshapen pizza with one hand whilst trying to pry the dough off of the waxed paper without ripping it (which happened despite my efforts). Once I had the pile of pizza on the 500 degree stone, I had to attempt to unfold it and regain its pizza shape. It was at this point that I started sobbing...after all, I had gotten this far, and then it was going down the toilet. BUT somehow the pizza ended up looking quite pizza-ish. And though not perfect. My husband deemed it "the best pizza" he'd eaten in forever and has informed me that this may well become our "go to" recipe.

I hope you [and I] have better luck [next time]. I will post pictures then. [then is now--4/24/09--and here are some photos]

Perfect Pizza Crust
From Baking Illustrated &
Yields: 3 medium pizzas
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl
1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by h and for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.

Pizza Dough Kneaded by Hand
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

Pizza Dough Kneaded in a Standing Mixer
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal. Top as desired. Slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes. Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

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