Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Housemaven's Tale: Pizza Crust

My mother-in-law stayed with us for the past 11 days and requested that I make pizza dough. So we spent some time researching how to make it after a failed attempt from Alton Brown from the Food Network.

Using the technique from Jeff Varasano's site and a recipe at 101 Cookbooks I have been able to get an excellent pizza. I am not willing to fake out my oven's cleaning cycle to get really high heat, so I didn't get the dough as wet as he likes. I use the recipe from 101 cookbooks as a starting place. I take Varasano's advice not to be a slave to the measuring cup and rely on touch. He also talks about the most important step being the mixing stage. He suggests to only mix in 25% of the flour with the water, salt, and yeast together and let it sit for 20 minutes before adding more flour. This is called autolyse step and it is a technique that I will keep in mind with making my other breads as well.

Bakers windowpaning has been a pain to achieve. You should be able to get dough so thin that you can read through the dough. Varasano has an insane picture of an example of windowpaning -- wow-- I can't do that!

I also took Varasano's advice about the feel of the final dough should be like a baby's bottom. Dough should be soft and not over kneaded. Then when you can put it on a floured board and knead it into a ball. Then put the ball into a oiled bowl and let sit and rise for 24 hours or more. I leave it out rather than put it in the refrigerator, because we just don't have room for it right now.

Then you can take it out and knead it make balls to store for later use, or make a pizza. I just pre-heat the stove with a pizza stone in it to as high as it can go -- about 500-525 for 5-8 minutes.

Right now, I have created two types of pizza dough. One is made from my bread dough, and one from organic unbleached all-purpose flour. I have also added about 1 teaspoon of brown sugar to the initial autolyse mix. I am also trying out a way of mixing the autolyse, by first making salt water, then adding the sugar, then a half cup of flour, and then the yeast. After that is all well mixed, I mix in the other half cup of flour and let it sit for 20 minutes.

My goal is to never have frozen pizzas ever again, and get my family used to the taste of pizza by scratch.

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