Thursday, July 14, 2011

Basic Homemade Pizza Dough

There's a saying--if everybody has the best way to do something, nobody does. I find this is especially true with any form of yeast dough, pizza dough included. It's why I will rarely ever tell you that my way is the best. What I can tell you is that everything I post, I've tried so I can at least tell you if it's edible and/doable.

This dough is very easy and not at all fussy and I like how it is portioned. A single batch makes either 2 medium pizzas or 4 individual pizzas or calzones. Right now, we're a 4 person, well, four of us have teeth and can pick up a pizza to eat, how 'bout that?

But because it's so easy to mix up, I made a batch for dinner and then turned around and made a double batch (which fit in my Kitchen Aid mixer just fine) to put up in the freezer for later.

Here's what you need:

1/2 cup of warm water (nothing below 80 degrees and nothing above 120)
2 1/4 tsp (1 pkg) instant yeast

Put these two together and let them slow dance for 10 minutes while you get everything else ready. Remember, if you see no bubbles or change in your mixture in the next 5-10 minutes, your yeast is dead and you need to throw it out and start over with different yeast.

Now you need to add

4 cups (approx) of flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tbs olive oil

I usually add my dry ingredients, turn on the mixer to slow and add the wet stuff to keep the flour from trying to fly out of the bowl.

Use your dough hook attachment on your mixer to bring it all together. If it seems sticky, add more flour. If it seems too dry, add a bit more water. yeast is a living thing and will change your recipe on any given day depending on heat, humidity, type of flour, color of your shirt, etc

If you wish to burn a few extra calories, you can pull your dough out and hand-knead it for about 5 minutes on your counter until it's smooth and stretchy.

Spray a bowl with pan spray and toss in your dough ball--pour a little oil or spray a little more pan spray on the top of the dough, cover it it with a damp towel and set the dough someplace warm (yeah, like you have a cool spot right now) for about an hour to double. If you are experiencing a really warm, humid day, it may not take a whole hour to rise.

Once doubled, "punch" down the dough (get the bubbles and air out) and either freeze it in a ziploc bag for later or prepare it for cooking.

Preheat your oven to 400 and prepare what ever baking surface you are using (cooking sheet, sheet pan, baking stone) with a dusting of cornmeal to keep the crust from sticking.

I found I could hand-toss this dough pretty easily, if you're in to that sort of thing. Regardless, make sure you always (1) "dock" your dough (pierce it with a fork evenly)--this keeps it from bubbling up (2) spread a little olive oil over the surface before adding your sauce and toppings.

This dough is a good one for calzones too so if you are in the mood, divide the dough, flatten it out, fill (don't over-fill) with your meat, cheeses and veggies, fold over to form a pocket and seal the edges. Don't forget to cut a few slits in the top for steam vents and bake away (you may need to drop your oven temp to 375 for these babies).

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