hard work is the yeast that raises the dough

Let’s talk about pizza. Because pizza is awesome.

When it comes to both dough and recipes, I want something foolproof—because I’ve been known to mess up some recipes really, really bad. Purple Chicken, Banana Molasses, Banana Flatbread, to name a few. All unintentional, all disgusting. (Except the Purple Chicken, which Andrew said had a pleasant resemblance to masala).

So when my mom asked Andrew and I to make pizza for all of our Memorial Day guests, I wanted something guaranteed. I’m not wholeheartedly aboard the Food Network train, but I never limit myself on a good recipe hunt.  

On Foodnetwork.com, 128 cooks gave Tyler Florence’s pizza dough recipe a 5-star rating, not to mention an abundance of praise and helpful tips. I figured if that many cooks had consistent success, it was worth trying. My adaptation follows (though I doubled this recipe for 6 thin-crust, 12″ pizzas): 

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups bread flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Let me say one thing about salt: be SURE to use kosher salt for this recipe. 1 tablespoon of KOSHER salt is just right for this recipe. However, 1 tablespoon of table salt or sea salt will leave you parched for days. Trust me on this one. Use far less if substituting another salt. 

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water; stir gently to dissolve. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.  

Turn the mixer on low and add the salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the flour, a little at a time, mixing at the lowest speed until all the flour has been incorporated. 

When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium; stop the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook. Get a feel for the dough by squeezing a small amount together: if it’s crumbly, add more water; if it’s sticky, add more flour – 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix until the dough gathers into a ball, this should take about 5 minutes. 

after 5 minutes

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and fold it over itself a few times; kneading until it’s smooth and elastic. 

see how smooth?

  

Form the dough into a round and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turn it over to coat. 

Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot (i.e. a slightly warm oven) until doubled in size, about 1 hour. 

 

Once the dough is domed and spongy (around 1 hour), turn it out onto a lightly floured counter. Roll and stretch the dough into a cylinder and divide (cut, don’t pull) into 3 equal pieces. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes so it will be easier to roll out. 

 

At this point, you can either use all of the dough or (as I absolutely recommended) make enough to freeze for a night when you don’t have so much time on your hands. You can read here about the flatbread I made with this dough. Keep them in 7-9″ discs for quicker countertop defrosting down the road, and less rolling time later.

 Roll or pat out a piece of dough into a 12″ circle, about 1/8-inch thick.

Andrew and I just roll and assemble pizza directly on the pizza stone. Yes, it should be pre-heated, but we haven’t mastered our pizza peel enough to transfer a heavy pizza dough to a hot stone. It worked just fine, and still got crispy. If you don’t have a pizza stone, no worries! Our FAVORITE pizza of the night was the little guy who got stranded on an upside-down cookie sheet/roasting pan. 

Dust your pizza stone lightly with flour. Or, if using the back of a shiny cookie sheet (the flat surface is best), lightly rub oil all over the surface. Place your pizza dough disc on to your baking surface and roll out until very thin. Now, this dough is divine and you can certainly roll to preferred thickness, but you will absolutely not get 3 pizzas out of this dough if it’s more than 1/8″ thick. 

my man at work

For a traditional tomato sauce pizza, Andrew and I love Emeril’s Kicked-Up Tomato Sauce. It’s usually easiest to find at Giant. We didn’t have any for this round of pizzas (four to be exact), but the Barilla my mom had on hand was still great. Andrew (my in-house pizza expert) recommends spreading the sauce over the dough until it is fully covered, keeping the layer thin. If you are making this crust truly thin as well, avoid topping it too heavily. We like using rubber spatulas to spread the sauce. 

We have also found that topping the pizza with both shredded mozzarella and mild cheddar cheese gives the best flavor—of course you don’t want to go too heavily with either. After much experimenting with all the shredded cheese brands around, we really love the texture and flavor of Nature’s Promise Organic Mozzarella and Nature’s Promise Organic Mild Cheddar.  

Because we were cooking for a crowd, we kept our toppings more traditional than our preferred experiments at home: pepperoni, cheese and peppadew, mushroom, and eggplant. Because this very thin dough cooks quickly, I didn’t want to top my vegetarian pizza with thick slices of raw veggies. I diced my mushrooms and sliced the eggplant a little less than 1/4″ thick, brushing lightly with olive oil. Partially covering my veggies with cheese prevented burning and allowed them to cook just perfectly. Sometimes we also sprinkle oregano or Italian seasoning over all the toppings. 

Bake for about 10-13 minutes, until the crust is golden and crisp. We like to use a very hot oven to recreate pizzeria pizza as best we can at home. We baked our pizzas about 475 F and rotated them in the oven since we had three baking at a time. 

It’s true, homemade pizza is a bit of work. Though Andrew has confidently made pizza dough by hand for years now, a food processor or stand mixer really takes the mess (not to mention armwork) out of the job. The dough freezes and thaws so beautifully, it’s worth having fun with a big batch on a day when you have time to play in the kitchen. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

see how beautifully thin and crisp?

 

Click here to head over to the original recipe from Food Network. Many cooks have left helpful feedback about substitutions and techniques. Do use the bread flour, it is finer than all-purpose and makes a world of difference in homemade pizza dough. Make it yours and have fun!

 

 

 

happy Father’s day!!

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