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Archive for July, 2012

Pizza Dough

1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) active-dry yeast

1-1/2 cups very warm water (110°F)

4 cups all-purpose flour; more for dusting

1-1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside (a Pyrex 2-cup measure makes for easy pouring; be sure the cup isn’t cold). Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; process briefly to mix. With the machine running, add the water-yeast mixture in a steady stream. Turn the processor off and add the oil. Pulse a few times to mix in the oil.

Scrape the soft dough out of the processor and onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, quickly knead the dough into a mass, incorporating any bits of flour or dough from the processor bowl that weren’t mixed in. Cut the dough into four equal pieces with a knife or a dough scraper. Roll each piece into a tight, smooth ball, kneading to push the air out.  (Tester’s notes:  the dough can be entirely mixed and shaped by hand and comes out just as beautiful – a little more work and sticky hands but yields great results!)

If you want to bake the pizzas as soon as possible, put the dough balls on a lightly floured surface, cover them with a clean dishtowel, and let them rise until they almost double in size, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, turn your oven on, with the baking stone in it, to let the stone fully heat.

If you want to bake the pizzas tomorrow, line a baking sheet with a floured dishtowel, put the dough balls on it, and cover them with plastic wrap, giving them room to expand (they’ll almost double in size), and let them rise in the refrigerator overnight.  To use dough that has been refrigerated overnight, simply pull it out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before shaping the dough into a pizza.

To freeze the dough balls, dust each one generously with flour as soon as you’ve made it, and put each one in a separate zip-top bag. Freeze for up to a month.

It’s best to transfer frozen dough from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before (or 10 to 12 hours before) you want to use it. But I’ve found that dough balls pulled straight from the freezer and left to warm up on the counter will be completely defrosted in about 1-1/2 hours. The dough is practically indestructible.

Shaping your pizza

Put the proofed or thawed ball of dough on a lightly floured wooden board. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the ball. Using your fingertips, press the ball down into a flat cake about 1/2 inch thick.

Continue stretching and rotating until the dough is thin, about 1/4 inch, and measures about 9 inches across. Unless your dough is still cold from the freezer, it will be so soft that its own weight will stretch it out. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough thinly on a floured board. If you like a very thin pizza, roll the dough out to a 10-inch round. Be careful not to make it too thin, and remember that the thinner the pizza, the less topping it can handle.

Top the pizza, scattering the ingredients around to within 1/2 inch of the border.

Baking your pizza

Put a pizza stone or unglazed terra-cotta tiles on the lowest rack of the oven and heat the oven to 500°F. Ideally, let the stone heat in the oven for an hour.

Shake the peel (or baking sheet) gently back and forth to make sure the pizza isn’t stuck. If it seems stuck, lift the edges up with a spatula and toss a bit of flour under the dough. Quickly slide the pizza onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the edges are golden, about 8 min. Using a peel, a wide spatula, or tongs, remove the pizza from the oven.

We grilled our pizzas by taking the freshly rolled pizza doughs to the grill and grilling the one side until lightly grilled. We slid the dough onto a sturdy plate, grilled side up.  We topped the grilled side with our toppings and then returned to the grill, slid the pizza onto the grill to cook the bottom side and until the cheese looked nicely melted and steamy hot.  Yum!

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