Friday, October 5, 2007

Bestest Pizza Dough

This pizza dough is WAY better than the last one I posted. However, it doesn't lend itself to a spur-of-the-moment kind of dinner as the other one does, as this one requires a long, chilled rise - but the long, chilled rise is what makes it far superior to a shorter-rising dough. The recipe is really long, but it's not as complicated as its length might lead you to believe - it’s just that the directions are very detailed. You can even freeze the dough and use it a later date, but I think it’s best when it is fresh from the fridge. Seriously, this is the best pizza crust I’ve ever eaten, and I've eaten lots of pizza in my years. (I'm from NY, of course I've eaten at least twice my weight in pizza over the course of my life.) The quality of this crust has nothing to do with my prowess in the kitchen and everything to do with the proportions and timing.

Bestest Pizza Dough
modified from this recipe
(makes 3 balls of dough, each for a 10-inch pizza)
2 ¼ cups bread flour
¾ teaspoons + large pinch salt
Heaping ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons warm water (about 110° F)
Extra virgin olive oil
Semolina flour or cornmeal
1. Put the flour into the bowl of an electric mixer (if you don’t have one, use a large metal bowl) and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.
2. Remove the bowl from the freezer and add the salt and yeast. Stir to combine.
3. Stir the olive oil into the water and pour into the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.
4. Put the bowl onto the mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed (2 or 3, depending on what kind of mixer you have) until the dough is smooth, springy, and elastic. It should not stick to the sides of the bowl but should slightly stick to the bottom of the bowl. (If mixing by hand, stir vigorously with a metal spoon, rotating the direction of stirring every 20 seconds. Consider it a workout for your upper arms.) Regardless of the method, this should take about 6-7 minutes. If the dough sticks to the sides, add about a teaspoon of flour and continue mixing until it no longer sticks. If it does not stick to the bottom, add a teaspoon of cold water and mix well.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Slightly flatten the dough and cut it into three equal pieces.
6. Pour a little bit of extra virgin olive oil into each of 3 resealable quart-size plastic bags and rub the bags to distribute the oil all over the inside of the bags.
7. Flour your hands and shape each piece into a ball. Place each ball into a plastic bag and put the bags in the fridge. (If you plan on keeping the dough for longer than 3 days, put the bags in the freezer, then put them in the fridge the morning on which you plan to make pizza.)
8. Let the dough rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.
9. Remove the dough from the fridge 2 hours before making your pizza and unseal the plastic bag.
10. At least 45 minutes before baking, put a baking stone on the lowest rack of the oven and heat the oven as high as it will go (this is usually 550° F). If you don’t have a stone, use the back of a cookie sheet, but do not put it in the oven.
13. When the 2 hours are up, generously dust a pizza peel (or the back of a cookie sheet) with semolina or cornmeal.
14. Open the plastic bag, flour your hands well, and remove the dough from the bag. Form your hands into loose fists and toss the dough around in a circular motion on the backs of your hands until it is about 10” in diameter. (Be careful and move quickly – the dough will be very soft and elastic so don’t stay in one spot for too long.)
15. Place the dough on the peel. Top with whatever you’d like. (If you’re using sauce, don’t use too much, as it will make the crust soggy. If you’re using any watery vegetables – tomatoes, zucchini, etc. – sauté them beforehand so that they release as much water as possible before you put them on the pizza.)
16. Put the front edge of the peel against the back of the pizza stone and slide the peel back using short jerking motions so that the pizza ends up on the stone. (If you’re using a baking sheet, just put it on the oven rack.)
17. Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes.
18. Let the pizza rest for a few minutes before cutting into it. Be patient. It’s worth the wait.

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