pizza tutorial (warning: very picture-heavy post!)

Before we begin:

1) I wrote a couple of posts in reaction to a post by Dawn of This Woman's Work regarding posting pictures of your kids online and how safe it is and whatnot. I want to say that even though I have decided against removing pictures of my kids from my blog or password-protecting them, I thought Dawn's post was excellent and urged caution without being alarmist or paranoid. I'm just saying this in case anyone thinks I was trying to refute her arguments or something. I wasn't. I was just explaining why I'm not going to change my whole blog. Plus, I don't keep track of my stats at all, not even through sitemeter, so I have chosen to remain ignorant of who reads this and how they get here.

2) Mrs. Alloro, I wasn't at all referring to you in my little comment about people getting off on bread dough! I would never do that! But I'm glad you're so excited about this tutorial, and I hope you're not the only one.

Onward!

Notes:
-There are tons of pictures in this post. My sympathies if you are reading this (or rather, trying to read this) via dial-up connection.
-If you are familiar with making your own bread dough, there aren't any real surprises here like new kneading techniques or strange ingredients. Be sure to read the end, though, because half of the success of this pizza is what you do after the dough is made.
-I like my pizza crust thin and crispy, and I have aspired to come up with the best way of achieving that. If you're into chewy crusts that are so thick you can't even taste the toppings, this method is not for you.

PART THE FIRST: DOUGH
Find yourself a medium-sized bowl. Put in it:
2 tsp. yeast
1 cup warm water

Let it all sit there for a couple minutes to let the yeast dissolve:


Now add:
1 cup of flour
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
a dash of sugar (or up to 1 tsp., depending on your taste)

and stir until smooth. I usually use King Arthur brand flour. They make a white whole wheat flour that is wonderful, because the flavor is very mild, so you can substitute it for white flour in lots of things, even cookies. In this batch, I used white whole wheat flour for this step of the recipe, but if you can't find it or want to use all white flour, regular all-purpose or bread flour will do:


Let the mixture sit for an hour or so until it's bubbly. (If you click on the picture, you can see the bubbles a little better):


Add about 1/2 cup flour (I used King Arthur white bread flour) and stir. Then add another 1 or 1.5 cups flour a few tablespoons at a time until it becomes uncomfortable to stir with a wooden spoon:


Time to get your hands dirty! Knead the dough, adding flour a tablespoon at a time as you "knead" to. (Hee.) Add flour just until the dough isn't sticky anymore. If you add too much, it will be stiff. By the way, I learned that yes indeed I can knead dough with one hand while taking pictures with the other.



At this point, if you have a young apprentice, he/she may express interest in "helping" you. I advise that you allow him/her to do so, even if he/she has just returned inside from vigorous play in the dirt. (Just remember not to include his/her bit of dough in the final product.)





Put a very thin layer of oil over the dough so it won't dry out, and cover the bowl with a lid or wet towel.


Let it rise until doubled in size, anywhere from 1-3 hours. Your young apprentice, by the way, will want his/her own bowl with lid, so please accommodate his/her needs. Be warned that he/she may check obsessively to see if the dough has risen for the next five minutes, then completely forget about it.





Ah, there we are. The doubled dough:


PART THE SECOND: PREPARING THE DOUGH FOR TOPPINGS
Split the dough into four equal sections. (For some reason, I didn't take a picture of this, but I'm sure you can figure it out.) Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. This rest time is actually a good opportunity to prepare the toppings/change a poopy diaper or two/nurse your hungry baby/get a beer.

Next, find yourself two large cookie sheets and sprinkle them liberally with cornmeal. The cornmeal keeps the dough from sticking and scorching. On a floured surface, roll each of the four sections of dough into a circle-ish shape (I can never make them perfectly round, can you?) about 10" in diameter. Place two on each pan.


Let me stop here and say that both the cornmeal and dividing the dough into small pieces are vital to this method of pizza-making. The dough is pretty thin when it's rolled out, about 1/4" thick. That combined with being only 10" or so in diameter and having cornmeal instead of oil to keep it from sticking to the pan all contribute to PIZZA THAT IS NOT SOGGY IN THE MIDDLE. I've been trying to figure this out for years, and I just saved you some time. (You're welcome.)

PART THE THIRD: THE SAUCE
This is easy. Actually, you could make it even easier by using pizza sauce from a can or jar, but I find even those kinds too soupy for my taste, so I came up with my own way. Just mix:
1 small can of tomato paste (plain or with eye-talian herbs)
1/2 tsp. sugar (it cuts the sharpness of the tomato paste)
1 tsp. crushed raw garlic
3-4 T. water, depending on how thick/runny you like your sauce
(Note: if your sauce is too runny, it may make your pizza soggy.)
(Another note: this is actually enough sauce for two batches of pizza. It freezes well. Use half and save the rest for next time.)

Spread a thin layer of sauce on each piece of dough:


PART THE FOURTH: FINISHING UP
Move your oven rack to the top third of the oven, and turn on the oven to 475. (Yes, that's quite hot. That's why you move the rack up.)

Put whatever toppings you like on the sauced (hee) pizzas. We usually do mushrooms, olives and freshly-grated mozzarella (leaving off the olives for the Danimal), though tonight I made one with farmers' market goat cheese, spinach and red onion. I have no pictures of that one because it wasn't much to look at (pizza covered in shriveled spinach) but Oh! My! it was good.


Bake at 475 10-15 minutes until done. Baking time will vary depending on how thick your crust turns out and how much you pile on top.


Any questions? Puns? This post was sadly lacking in puns. Leave 'em in comments!

Comments

Strangeite said…
I don't want to be cheesey, but since my son Riley doesn't eat the crust and throws it away, your pizza would be good, because it would be more than just crust in the bin.
Steph said…
That's funny. When I was a kid I was just the opposite--I refused to eat anything but the crust.

I'm going to try that cornmeal thing. I have had the soggy crust problem myself. Usually just take it off five minutes before finishing and plop it straight on the pizza stone, but that's kind of a pain.
Mrs. Allroro said…
I counted two puns.
Anonymous said…
Knead dough with one hand while operating a camera with the other. An interesting and useful talent. What other talents are you hiding from us?

Let me tell you about your paternal grandmother, who would talk about her grandmother, the one who cooked for rich people in Austria before emigrating to central Kansas. She and Aunt Mildred were allowed to play with dough when they were at grandma's house. They played with it until it would turn black; and she said that almost with a voice of disgust thinking about it. Their creations were never good enough to go on the table but always fed to the cats, which the farm always had. (I remember being sent out with scraps to put in the cat dish when I was at grandma's house. Even before I got there the cats had their mouths in the bowl as they knew goodies were coming. I had to be careful not to just dump the stuff on the backs of their heads.) All that practice paid off, as Grandmom was a good cook.

-Opa
Mrs. Allroro said…
Thanks so much for this! No doubt, I never would have discovered the cornmeal solution on my own. I am excited to try this very soon!

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