February 05, 2013

Perfect Pizza Dough?

Isn't this a thing of beauty? A perfectly round, satiny, ball of freshly prepared dough. Yes, a thing of beauty. Perfect? Close, but I'm not sure I'm there just yet.

Every Friday night, we have pizza for dinner and watch a movie together as a family, eating freshly popped corn made by Super Dad, best dad and husband in the world. Four of the five members of my family like pizza, hopefully one day it will be a favorite by all, but until then I'm on a quest for the best pizza dough ever. For over a year now, I've been making a variation on this recipe. While it's easy and good, I wouldn't say it's great. And of course the real test is how it tastes the next day, straight out of the fridge. The pizza I've been making doesn't quite make the cut. It ends up soggy and floppy and just tastes a little off the next day. 

Last weekend my parents were visiting and I decided to take a chance on a new recipe. It was a hit, for all but the Q-man (but I'm still holding out hope). I adapted the recipe below a bit because I was out of all purpose flour, but then realized after I made it that the recipe called for bread flour, which I didn't have anyway. So I used half white whole wheat and half all purpose (borrowed from my awesome neighbor) and it turned out really tasty. A thicker crust for sure, but chewy and soft in the middle, and a little crunchy crusty on the outside. 

Today, I decided to go for the real deal, and made sure we were stocked with plenty of flours of all types, but importantly the bread flour. 

Right off the bat I noticed that it rised/rosed/rose a lot more, and a lot quicker than when I used the all wrong types of flour. 

The end product was just as good as the last pizza. I forgot to take photos of the first stab at it, but it looked exactly the same. All else equal, using white whole wheat flour is a bit healthier, so I might stick to using that. 
The directions say it can be used for any size pizza, thick or thin. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time. A very important element is letting the oven pre-heat for at least 30 minutes with the pizza stone inside. I don't have a peel, so I use the back of a floured jelly roll pan to slide the prepared pizza onto the pizza stone. 

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 2 Large, 4 Medium, or 8 Individual Pizzas

  • 1 3/4
  • cups water divided, 1/2 cup warm, remaining at tap temperature
  • 2 1/4
  • teaspoons dry active yeast (1 envelope)
  • 2
  • tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing dough
  • 4
  • cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2
  • teaspoons table salt
  • Vegetable oil (or cooking spray) for oiling bowl
  • Semolina for dusting peel (or flour for dusting jelly roll pan)
  1. 1. Measure 1/4 cup of warm water into 2-cup measuring cup. Sprinkle in yeast; let stand until yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 cup warm water plus remaining 1 1/4 cups tap water and olive oil. Meanwhile, pulse flour and salt in workbowl of large food processor fitted with steel blade to combine. Add liquid ingredients (holding back a tablespoon or so) to flour and pulse together. If dough does not readily form into ball, stop machine, add remaining liquid, and continue to pulse until ball forms. Process until dough is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds longer.
  2. 2. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead by hand with a few strokes to form smooth, round ball. Put dough into medium-large, oiled bowl, and cover with damp cloth. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  3. 3. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and use chef’s knife or dough scraper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths, depending on number and size of pizzas desired. Form each piece into ball and cover with damp cloth. Working with one piece of dough at a time, first use the palms of your hands to form a round disc. Then use your fingertips to shape the dough as thin as you would like (mine was between 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick). Then, slowly stretch to dough until you have achieved the size you want for the pizza. Transfer to pizza peel floured half sheet that has been lightly coated with semolina (or flour), brush dough very lightly with olive oil before topping and cooking.
  4. 4. Use the following guide to determine cooking time for pizza crust with topping but without cheese. All pizzas need to be cooked an additional two or three minutes after adding cheese, or until cheese is completely melted.

    14-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 2) - 7 to 8 minutes
    12-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 4) - 5 minutes
    8-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 8)- 3 minutes.

    12-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 2) - 9 to 10 minutes
    8-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 4) - 5 minutes
    6-inch pizzas (Master Recipe makes 8) - 4 minutes.

January 08, 2013

My Bake-it List

Hello, my name is Carey and I'm a girl on a mission. For years now, I've been collecting a mental list of great foods and recipes I want to make. That list is growing cobwebs and gathering dust in the back of my very forgetful, mother-of-three-demanding-kids, sleepy mind. It's time to dust it off and finally put my food where my mouth is!! This blog will be my diary of my successes, my failures, but most of all, a record of checking off my list, one recipe at a time.

A new year is here, and there's no better time to start. In addition to my ever growing bake-it list, I've been cleaning and organizing all over the place, so I pulled out all of the cookbooks I rarely never use. These have been living in my pantry, hidden away in a dark closet and forgotten. Some of these books were gifts (sorry if you're reading this and you were the lovely giver!), and some I saw in a store and couldn't leave without buying. I've committed to making at least two recipes in each book this year. They now live on a shelf in my kitchen island, front and center for me to see everyday and easily access. See the links below for each book.

Join me on my journey as I check off recipes I must make before I die, and find new recipes from cookbooks that are just begging to be used.

Bake-it List of Cookbooks:

Luscious Lemon Desserts
RatioThe Pioneer Woman Cooks
The Best Simple Recipes
The Petit Appetit Cookbook
Gale Gand's Brunch
Deceptively Delicious
Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Change Your Brain, Change Your Body
Ruhlman's Twenty
My Family Table
Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home