Perfect Pizza Dough

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Incredible Homemade Pizza was the first cooking class that we signed up for at Sur la Table. This recipe for pizza dough can be stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours or frozen for up to a month (great for making ahead). If you like a lot of toppings, roll the crust a bit thicker so it can support their weight and moisture. If you like a thin crust, keep your toppings spare and packed with flavor. However, the secret to making a great pizza is not so much in the recipe but in the technique.  You begin by adding yeast to warm water (110F-115F). The temperature of the water is very important, so I suggest that you use an instant thermometer to measure the temperature of the water before you add the yeast. The ingredients are combined and kneaded until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and allow the yeast to do its work — it should double in size in just about two hours. Once the dough is ready it is separated into either two or four smooth balls. Work on a floured surface, and try not to overwork the dough. Less is more in this case — if you overwork the gluten the crust will become flat, heavy and tough. Form a fist and turn and stretch dough over it. It helps if you start from the middle and move out toward the edges. A pizza stone or steel is used as a cooking surface to distribute the heat evenly and to extract moisture from the dough to yield a crispier crust. It should be placed in a cold oven and heated for at least 3o minutes so that it can fully absorb the heat. Use a pizza peel or paddle to move the pizza in and out of the oven. Be creative — choose your favorite toppings and enjoy making your own special individualized pizza pies.


PERFECT PIZZA DOUGH (Yield: 2 [12 inch] or 4 [8 inch])

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) warm water (110-115 F.)
  • 2-1/4 tsp. Saf-Instant yeast
  • 3-1/4 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 T. for brushing

Directions

  1. Place warm water in a small bowl and sprinkle with yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand 5 minutes or until foamy. Stir to dissolve, if necessary.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and salt and mix briefly to combine. Turn the mixer on low speed, and the yeast mixture and mix to combine. Add the water and 3 tablespoons of olive oil and knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can knead the dough by hand on a floured surface for about 10 minutes.
  3. Shape the dough into a smooth ball, place it on a flour surface and cover with an inverted bowl, plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let rise at room temperature for about 1-1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.
  4. About 30 minutes before baking the pizza, place a pizza stone or steel in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 F.
  5. When the dough is ready, use a large knife or bench scraper to divide it into 4 equal pieces. With lightly floured hands, press out any bubbles that might have formed in the dough and form each piece into a small smooth ball. Place about 4 inches apart on a lightly floured surface.
  6. Once the stone is pre-heated, start rolling out your dough. Dust work surface with flour. Flatten one dough ball to a thickness of 1/2″, and roll to desired diameter. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with another piece of parchment and proceed with remaining dough.
  7. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal or flour and place a dough round on the peel. Give the peel a little shake to make sure that the dough moves freely and is not sticking. Lightly coat dough with tomato sauce, leaving 1/2″ exposed around the edge. Top with tomato sauce and/or other selected items. Working quickly, open the oven and slide the pizza off the peel onto the pizza stone. Allow your pizza to cook until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the cheese is bubbling, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and place on a cutting board. Let pizza rest 1 to 2 minutes before you cut it. Repeat process with remaining dough and sauce.

~ from Sur la table ~

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