Recipe of the Week: Pizza Dough, by K.M.

I worked in various pizza kitchens as a youth, and now make it at home regularly. We like to add a few extra ingredients to the crust for flavor and nutrition.They are optional, so experiment and find the mixture that best suits your tastes. Total “Flour” component should be about 3-cups, but make sure at least 2-cups are a quality bread-flour, or else you get more of a granola-bar than pizza-dough.

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1.5 cups warm water (100-110 F degree’s; use a thermometer as too hot/cold matters.)
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 package dry yeast (live yeast also suitable, vary instructions as needed).
  • 2 tsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp. Sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 stick butter, softened (usually whatever was left out on the counter from breakfast)
  • Approximately 2-cups Bread Flour (It’s best to use due to extra gluten protein, but any other type is suitable in the right situation.)
  • Approximately 1-cup “extra” flour (This may contain some/any mixture of the following in 1-cup total volume):
    • Whole Wheat Flour/Wheat Germ
    • Flax Seed/Flax Meal
    • Sesame Seeds
    • Almond Flour
    • Sunflower pieces
    • Cornmeal
    • Just about any other nutty, dry, nutritious product you like. Experiment by adding sparingly at first. You can use about a cup worth before the mixture looses its resemblance to pizza dough. Oily products, like seeds and nuts (especially the almond flour), will make crust crispier and more oily (as will adding extra butter!)

For my 1-cup of “extra” flour, I typically add about 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour and 1/2 cup of flaxseed and ground flax meal, with a pinch of some other seed for texture.

Other spices and flavorings worth considering throwing in: dried Oregano, dried/fresh Basil, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Parmesan cheese. Use a Pinch to a Tablespoon; your tastes will guide you. Incorporate it as part of your 1 cup ‘extra flour’.

Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees F., though 400-450 may be more to your liking, depending on dough, elevation, and oven. Experiment as needed. Heavier doughs will need more heat to cook through.

Instructions:

  1. Fill Measuring cup with 1.5 cups warm water (around 100-110 degree’s F). Add 1 tsp. of sugar, a dash of bread-flour, a few drops of olive oil, and the dry yeast; mix well with a fork. Live-yeast users can skip this step, and simply add yeast and water to other ingredients at step 3. This will “awaken” the dry yeast. The sugar, flour, and oil supplies their food and gets them turned on to your dough-mix. Within 5-10 minutes, you should see activity (bubbles forming). Lack of activity is a problem; dough will not rise properly. If no bubbles, the yeast is likely inactive/dead. May take up to 20-minutes. Too cold/warm water or old yeast are usually the culprit. Old yeast can revive, but takes longer.
  2. While yeast is “waking up”, combine remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. (A stand mixer with dough hook works best.) Mix to homogenize; if hand-kneading, make an indentation in the center to hold liquid.

    I typically like to add about 1/2 Tsp. Dried garlic powder (b/c I like garlic!), and several good shakes of Parmesan cheese to the mixture as well. A good pinch of Oregano is also nice.

  3. After about 10-minutes, your yeast should be bubbling along nicely. Add this and all remaining ingredients to the dry, and mix on low-speed for about 6-10 minutes. Hand-kneading will take longer. See instructions for hand-kneading dough elsewhere if unclear. The dough should be slightly sticky on the edges of the bowl, but still pull away cleanly. Add more warm (not hot) water/flour ingredients as needed to get right consistency. (I know, it’s a challenge your first few times). A “wet” yet silky bread-dough consistency is what you’re looking for. Trial and error work best, but it should stick to your hands a little. The extra moisture will work off during the rise process, but don’t make it too wet.
  4. After mixing, cover dough with plastic wrap or a moist towel, and place in a warm area to rise. Rubbing some olive oil on exposed surface helps in dry environments; just use your hands and cover liberally, excess will incorporate into the dough. Sunlit window sills work well. Check dough every so often and punch-down when it reaches the edges of the bowl (or about doubles in size). You want the dough to rise at least twice (rise, punch down = once; repeat for second rise.) More is OK, depends how active your yeast is. (Rapid-rise usually not required.) You will need at least four hours to rise. Depending on conditions/temperature, more time may be needed. I typically make dough after breakfast for use at dinnertime. You can make dough at night and store in refrigerator overnight. Remove to the counter-top in the morning and follow same steps. This usually generates an additional rise overnight, and is what most pizza-shops do. (The last kitchen chore before the night’s clean-up is making tomorrow’s batch of dough.)
  5. When ready to roll, I typically break up into two balls of equal size. This yields us three pizza’s (one regular crust, two thin crust– I break one of the dough balls into 2 pieces for 2 thin-crust pizzas). Grease or flour your pan (square cookie sheets work well too!), and roll dough on floured kitchen table to uniform thickness about the size of your pan. It should be springy and snap-back, so it may take 5+ minutes to roll. Sometimes it helps to roll for a few minutes, then let dough rest for a few, before rolling some more. Cold dough rolls poorly, as does dough that is too wet (add flour as needed). You will develop a feel after 10 batches of the stuff, so don’t lose hope if the first one doesn’t turn out. Roll dough to about the same size as your pan, making sure it is loose on the rolling surface. (It may tear if it sticks.) Transfer dough from rolling surface to baking pan, use your fingers to pinch an edge that holds it shape; roll some more if it keeps springing back, or stretch by hand. If you want to try for stuffed-crust, roll about 2-inches past edge of pan. Tuck in a pinch of mozzarella cheese and roll it over back to the size of the pan! I like to lightly sprinkle garlic salt, or cracked white pepper around the crust when I’m done putting it on the pan. If you’re real good and the dough has good elasticity, you can see through your thin-crust dough, and it will bake up like a cracker. This takes about 1/4 of a dough-ball. That took me years to learn, however, they don’t last more than 10-minutes out of the oven!
  6. For thick/regular crust, I bake dough @ 425 for 8-10 minutes before topping. I like a crunchy-dry crust, not wet and limpy. YMMV.

Top your pizza as desired. 99-cent jars of spaghetti sauce doctored with extra Oregano, Basil, and a dash of sugar are what we use. White/Garlic pizzas are also popular with the non-tomato kids in the house. 1/2 stick butter and a good spoonful of diced garlic (2-3 cloves?) on low in the nuker until melted, spread as you would red-sauce. Cheese as desired, but don’t forget the Parmesan! Back in the oven for another 8-10-minutes, or until cheese/toppings start to brown. Thin-crust pies do not get pre-baked, throw the toppings on and right in the oven.

I have found a few gluten-free dough recipe’s that are decent. Cook your gluten-free pizza’s first, while rolling out the gluten ones, and you shouldn’t cross-contaminate in the oven. We have two diet-restricted people in our house, and get a tub of the Pillsbury Gluten-Free pizza dough from the store on pizza night. It’s a family favorite, healthy, and economical. Kids love helping decorate their pie, and it encourages them to try different toppings.

Tips, tricks, advice:

  • Play with the temperature. If the cheese is burned and crust still raw, pre-cook the crust longer, or try rolling it thinner (more flour, less “stuff”, helps too), increasing temp sometimes helps as well. You also may want to alter the water/fat content. However I find using two kinds of fat (oil and butter) produces a better crust than only one of the two (oil alone is better; butter gives it that crunchy crackling texture and lots of flavor).
  • Slice toppings thinly. Veggie’s get crispy and crunchy and taste so good. Too much grease can be a problem, too, so use meats sparingly, especially if making homemade sauce. Too many toppings are a moisture problem, too. Remember, it’s a pizza, not a deep-dish pie.
  • Adding extra yeast, or using the fresh variety, will help w/ a lighter and more airy crust. Adding up to 1/3rd of the volume in heavier flour-like products really makes things dense. If you find you don’t like it, cut back to 1/2 cup of “extra”, and add 1/2 cup additional bread-flour, for 3-cups total flour.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with favorite herbs and spices, or get creative w/ the sauce ideas; for the dough it’s pretty generic: Olive oil, garlic, and Rosemary with shredded grilled chicken is to die for. Boss-Sauce/Frank’s Red Hot with shredded chicken tastes like Buffalo-Style Wing’s. Taco-pizza is every kid’s favorite (taco-sauce instead of pizza-sauce, add taco-meat instead of pepperoni). Pineapple and many other fruits go surprisingly well with anything (Chopped Ham!), just watch the juices. Dough can also be used for Calzones, and many other ideas as well.

That’s our Sunday Dinner usually twice a month. Some form of leftovers usually gets thrown on top of one of the pies, and it costs about 10-bucks to feed a family of five, usually for 2-nights (leftovers after work on Monday!) Now that we have two with a gluten restricted diet, that adds a little to the cost because their dough is more expensive, but it’s still a remarkably affordable and healthy meal option. It’s also versatile as so many things can be added to the crust, or cooked on top, if times ever force one to get creative with the cooking. We’ve even made dessert pies w/ apples, brown-sugar, and cinnamon! – K

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