25 March 2008

pizza perfection

I can't remember which food blog I found this on. I didn't stick a star on it in Google Reader either. If this recipe is yours please send me an email and I will give you proper attribution. It's the least I can do since you have changed my life!

This dough came together very easily and quickly, but it did not stick to the parchment as the recipe says. It did take persistence to get it rolled out. The dough wants to spring back. Just be patient. Even so, this pizza was an hour, start to finish. And the crust was thin and crunchy, just the way I like it. Oliver seems to prefer pizza that crunches too. 

I think the revelation is the parchment paper. Since I don't have a peel, I have struggled with getting pizza from counter to oven stone without a disaster. Parchment solved that problem entirely.

I want to play around with adding some whole wheat flour to the dough, since we trying to use less white flour. Next time.

Home-made Thin Crust Pizza (makes two not very large pizzas)

For the dough:
6 ounces of warm water
1/2 teaspoon of yeast
10 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
1/2 tsp salt

For the toppings:
Anything you like. I made one with Trader Joe's pizza sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella. The other was more exotic. Same red sauce but I added baby bella and shitake mushrooms that had been sauteed in olive oil with lots of chopped garlic, Trader Joe's quattro formaggio cheese blend (parmesan, asiago, fontina and provolone), and a few little blobs of goat cheese. I'll be making more like this in the future, though Oliver preferred the boring one.

Making the Dough:
About 30 minutes to 1 hour before baking, pre-heat your oven to 500 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it on a rack in the lower-middle part of the oven.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, heat the water until it feels barely lukewarm when you test it with your finger (if the water is so hot that you can't leave your finger in it, wait for it to cool down). Add the yeast to the water and use a fork or whisk to stir it into the water. Set this aside for a few minutes and allow the yeast to dissolve. It's ok if the yeast doesn't bubble, but it should be entirely dissolved and the mixture should look like thin miso soup.

Measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and use your hand or a whisk to combine.

Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the water-yeast mixture. Use your fingers or a wooden spoon to combine everything together.

When it comes together into a cohesive ball, turn it out onto the counter along with any extra flour in the bowl that hasn't yet gotten worked in.

Knead the dough until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic to the touch--about five minutes.The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it's sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it's smooth and silky (below).

Use a bench scraper to divide the dough in two.

Shaping the Dough:
Tear off two pieces of parchment paper roughly 12-inches wide. Work one piece of the dough in your hands and form it into a large disk. Lay the disk of dough on the parchment paper.

Working from the middle of the dough outwards, use the heel of your hand to gently press the dough outward until it's about 1/4 of an inch thick or less. You can also use a rolling pin for this part. We like to make free form pies, but if you'd like a circular pie, you can trace a large circle on the back of the parchment to use as a guide.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Note: The recipe says the dough will stick to the parchment paper, making it easier for you to roll out. Mine did not stick but I had no trouble rolling it out, though it took a bit of time. You'll bake the pizza right on the parchment paper. As it cooks, the dough will release from the parchment, and you can slide the paper out before serving.

Topping and Baking the Dough:
Spoon a few tablespoons of sauce into the center of each pizza and use the back of a spoon to spread it out to the edges. Pile on all of your toppings except the cheese.

Using a bread peel or the backside of a baking sheet, slide your pizza (still on the parchment) onto the baking stone in the oven. If you don't have a baking stone, just bake it right on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 5 minutes and then rotate the pizza 180-degrees (most ovens have 'hot spots' your pizza will bake unevenly if it's not rotated). Bake for another 3 minutes and then sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for another 2-3 minutes until the edges are golden brown and crispy.

Remove your pizza from oven and let it cool on a wire rack. At this point, you can slide the parchment paper out from under the pizza. Repeat with second pizza.

Let both pizzas cool for about five minutes and serve.

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