Saturday, February 16, 2013

Chewy Thin Crust Pizza Dough


Baking until you see a matte crust means that there will be some bite on the outside
and chewiness on the inside, despite the ridiculously thin base.
An slightly important announcement: 
For sustainability's sake (both for me as a writer and you as a reader), I will only be writing one post per recipe. I'll still be planning in advance and letting you know about the tricks of memorizing everything, but the whole process, from finding the recipe to eating it, will be in one post. 

Now to the good stuff... PIZZA!
I firmly believe that the arguments about the "best" kind of pizza must end. We can postulate about the need for a deep dish or a thin crust, for wood-fired or oven baked in cast-iron, and for the necessity or intrusiveness of tomato sauce, but at the end of the day every person is entitled to his or her opinion. If I were a founding father, I would have included that in the Declaration of Independence:

"We have been endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the ability to eat a phenomenal pizza made in our preferred style."

It has a nice ring to it.

That being said, there are superior recipes within each style, and despite my preference for thick crust, I decided to test out a thin-crust dough recipe at 101 Cookbooks called "The Best Pizza Dough Ever," abridged from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Without knowing anything about Peter Reinhart (I confess), I trusted this recipe from the get-go for a few key reasons. 

  • First, the post was well written. I love a blog post that is pleasant to read.
  • Second, there were many citations and links. This is one of the most fun parts of reading someone else's thoughts... you know where they came from.
  • Third, the measurements were given in weight as well as volume, allowing me to use my scale for the precision-essential ingredients like flour. 
  • And last, but probably most importantly, the dough took more than a day to prepare yet had little hands-on time. The slow fermentation process (letting the dough sit overnight) was something I could get behind, and boy, was it worth it! I wish you could smell the effects of this slow-and-steady method; as I let my dough reach room temperature on baking day, I could smell the tangy, live aroma of the yeast exuding from the dough. In my humble opinion, that is what baking is all about.
This is when it gets nice and yeasty smelling... delicious.
Keep yours covered in plastic so it does not dry out.
The recipe I am going to put forth is a reworded version of the recipe from 101 Cookbooks, but I hope it preserves the integrity of the dough. I did not use an electric mixer, so I omitted those instructions. If you wish to see the more technologically advanced instructions, click here and report back. Otherwise, read on. The following recipe contains the exact steps that I took, and my results were lovely. Light, airy, and crisp on the bottom despite the delicate thinness of the dough, and just the right amount of chew in the crust. For a thin-crust pizza, I was thrilled to find an edge with tenderness and a bit of bite rather than aggressive crunch.

This is intimidating, and I am sure I didn't do it correctly, but it worked out!
Shuffle your fists around underneath the dough to make the inside nice and flat
while preserving a tangible crust

The Recipe: Reinhart's Pizza Dough, adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yield: 36 oz. dough (Six 6-oz balls of dough, enough to make six 12-inch pizzas)

Ingredients:

  • 20.25 oz unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp instant yeast (check out the differences in yeast here)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
  • Cornmeal for dusting (about 1/3 cup per pizza made)
Preparation: Day 1
  • Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl. With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and cold water until the flour is all absorbed.
  • Dip the metal spoon into cold water as needed as you stir the dough vigorously in a circular motion. Move from clockwise to counterclockwise every couple of minutes to help the gluten develop further (and to help out your arm muscles). Continue mixing for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is elastic and sticky (beyond tacky). It should stick to the bottom of the bowl but clear the sides. If the dough sticks to the sides, toss in a little more flour and keep mixing. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, add a teaspoon or so of cold water.
  • Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Line a large, flat container (I used a tupperware, but a flat pan or serving plate will work) with parchment paper. 
  • Cut the dough into six even pieces (I weighed mine as a clump and then made sure all the pieces were equal by weighing each piece separately. Each ended up slightly over 6 ounces). With dry, flour-coated hands, roll each piece of dough into a ball and place onto the parchment-lined dish. Lightly brush or mist with olive oil and wrap the dish with a large plastic bag.
  • Refrigerate overnight and up to three days.
Preparation: Day 2
  • Remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator two hours before you want to bake it. Place on a floured countertop and press gently into a 1/2-inch thick disk, about 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the disks with flour and lightly brush or mist with olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for two hours.
  • Preheat your baking stone on the bottom oven rack for 30-45 minutes at the highest temperature your oven allows. If you do not have a baking stone and plan to use a sheet pan, preheat your oven to 450°F without any pan inside.
  • Generously dust a baking sheet with cornmeal. Coat your hands with flour, pick up a disk of dough, and rest it on your fists, shuffling your hands around the circumference of the circle until the center stretches out. It is going to get really, really thin faster than you would expect. Once the center is stretched, lay the dough on the pan and finalize the form to your desired shape and size (about 12" is what I ended up with from a 6-oz ball of dough). There should be enough cornmeal under the dough so that it slides when the pan is shifted horizontally. This will come in handy for sliding the crust onto the baking stone.
  • Top the pizza with light toppings (I am a fan of the basic margherita pizza, with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and basil added after baking).
  • If using a normal baking sheet, brush off the excess cornmeal from the sides of the sheet and place in the oven in the bottom third. If using a baking stone, the stone should already be in the oven. Brush off excess cornmeal from the baking sheet that holds your uncooked pizza (otherwise it may burn), place the pan close to the stone, and shuffle the pan back so that the pizza slides from the pan to the stone.
  • Cook for about 5-7 minutes. When the crust has developed a firm, matte exterior and the cheese is bubbly, remove from the oven. If using a baking stone, place the tip of a baking sheet under the edge of the pizza and use a spatula to guide the pizza onto the pan.
  • If using a baking stone, carefully pull it out of the oven and brush off the excess cornmeal so it does not burn (I had my window open, fan on, and front door open because I missed this step the first time around). Replace the stone and repeat the baking process if making more than one pizza.
  • Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and add any toppings that should not be cooked. Serve and enjoy.
I used the cardboard from my pizza stone box to hold and transfer
completed pizzas to the baking stone. With a generous dusting of cornmeal,
there was no difference between cardboard and a pan!

Time it took me to memorize this recipe: 4 days (and I plan to use it in the future).

1 comment:

  1. Pizza Making is actually an art and it is very interesting teach in easy way thanks for information

    how to make pizza

    ReplyDelete