Friday, July 13, 2007

Neapolitan Pizza Dough

In our house, we favor a thin crust pizza. Don't get me wrong, deep-dish, Chicago-style pizza holds a different sort of allure, no less magnetic, and we do enjoy a good one with all our hearts. In fact, speaking of Hearts, deep-dish pizza has been our traditional Valentine's Day meal ever since we enjoyed this sinfully wonderful treat together in Chicago for Valentine's Day 4 years ago. But that's a topic for another post.

No, for everyday, homemade pizza that has all of the flavor of a pizzeria pizza at a tiny tiny fraction of the cost, we prefer thin crust.

I tried Who Knows how many pizza dough recipes before I had the aha moment--the moment Abe and I looked at each other with rapturous smiles and sighed, "This is The One." Up until that moment, I had been obsessive in my pursuit of great pizza, using umpteen recipes, flours, and baking methods, and I can unequivocally say that this recipe and method, while time-consuming, rewards every minute of waiting with exceptional chew and flavor, and you won't for a second wish you'd spent all your hard-earned cash on takeout pizza. This recipe makes 4 8" pizzas.

First, you'll need:
A heavy-duty stand mixer (like KitchenAid--you really can't make this without it)
A pizza stone (I have a Pampered Chef stone that I use, and also a cheapo pizza stone I bought on Ebay)
A pizza peel or cookie sheet without sides

The ingredients are simple:
First, you combine, and let sit for 5 minutes:
1 1/2 c. warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast

In the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix together
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cake flour
1 Tbsp. sea salt or kosher salt

Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, and knead at low speed for 30 minutes.

Shape dough into a round, place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise for 4 hours in a warm place.

Punch down dough, divide into 4 pieces, and shape the pieces into balls. Brush these lightly with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise another 2-4 hours.

Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees.

Shape dough by pressing fingertips into ball and flattening from the center out. Grab the dough near the edge and rotate the round, allowing the dough to stretch as you turn (harnessing the power of gravity), stretching dough to desired circumference.

Brush pizza with olive oil, assembling your pizza on a well-floured (or you could use cornmeal)pizza peel or cookie sheet without sides. Slide onto the preheated stone, and bake for 5-8 minutes.

from Cuisine At Home magazine

A few notes:
I acquired this recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine, and this recipe is approved by the DOC, which is the Italian regulating board that governs pizza (!!!). I suppose DOC stands for "Official Pizza Rulers of the World," and according to them, authentic pizza can have only four ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. In Italy, their flour has a different makeup, which is why this recipe calls for two types of American flour--this mixture approximates the amount of gluten in Italian flour.

I know the rise time seems excessive, but it really creates a much better depth of flavor than doughs that rely on sugar or honey to feed the yeast and speed up the rising process. Plus, even though you must start the dough 6-8 hrs. before you need it, it requires very little actual effort on your part.

That said, I know it is a commitment. But I cannot stress this enough: it is worth it!

To accompany the pizza, may I offer my very favorite pizza sauce recipe? Here it is:

Pizza Sauce
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed well (either use your hands or a food processor or blender)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano (or more--use according to preference)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Saute garlic in olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes (be careful not to scorch the garlic). Add the tomatoes, and season with kosher salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add oregano before you apply to pizza--the oregano can get bitter if you add it too early.

I also like to let the sauce cool before I use it. Very often, I will make it while I am letting the Kitchen Aid do that first half-hour knead. Then it's done, and I can stash it in the fridge until I need it. Then, when it's pizza-making time, I have one less thing to do.

Can you make pizza with a quicker dough and bottled pizza sauce? Sure. In fact, if you use the preheated stone, it will probably not be bad. But for a truly great pizza experience, give this recipe a try sometime!

As a bonus, here's my favorite pizza variation--Abe doesn't like tomatoes, so Charis and I eat an entire one of these pizzas by ourselves. Oh, pizza needs to go on my Menu Plan soon!

Margherita Pizza
(first made in honor of Queen Margherita, it was intended to showcase the colors of the Italian flag--red tomatoes, white cheese, and green basil.)
Pizza Dough, stretched to desired size and shape
Fresh tomatoes, sliced thin and drained on paper towels
Fresh mozzarella
Basil, dried, or fresh basil, chopped finely
Olive Oil
Sea Salt

Brush pizza dough with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Arrange tomatoes in a single layer. No need to be precise.
If using dried basil, sprinkle over the tomatoes now. (If you're using fresh, wait...)
Cover with fresh mozzarella (or you can use pre-shredded, it's just not quite as good)
Bake at 550 for 6-8 minutes.
If using fresh basil, scatter over the pizza immediately after you remove it from the oven.


Donna Koehn said...

Since we like to have Pizza as our Sunday night supper, this would be great to start before church in the morning, allow it to rise during our ABF and church, then punch it down and shape for second rising while Sunday dinner is being prepared. The second rising would be complete right around 6 PM, and since it cooks so quickly, would be ready just in time.

Have you ever tried par-baking the crust for quicker use at a later date?

Charis & Judah's Mom said...

Yes--it actually works perfectly to make for dinner.

I have never tried par-baking--for a couple of reasons. 1) I just make up all 4 pizzas, and we have the leftovers for lunch the next day, 2)I didn't think it would give me that pizzeria-style texture after the second bake; the cheese takes all 6 minutes to get melted and nicely browned a la a pizzeria, and par-baking it would mean that I'd need the second bake to be at a lower temperature to avoid burning the crust or making it as hard as plywood, which I thought might dry out the crust and not give me the bubbly brown cheese that I desire. Plus, I don't have a lot of excess room in my freezer for pizza crusts!

shimp said...

Like Charis & Judah's Mom, I have been obsessed for years with trying to approximate a home version of the dough found at the best D.O.C. pizza restaurants.

Along the way, I've tried just about every method out there. Well, I mean, everything short of disabling my oven's thermostat to achieve temperatures higher than most conventional ovens will go. So, I guess when I say that I'm obsessed, I do have to acknowledge some limits.

But as for the dough itself, the recipe I've finally settled on is very similar to the one described here. So, I'd say, if you like D.O.C. crust and are using a conventional oven, you can end your search for the ultimate recipe here.

I do have one question, though, about a part of the process described here, and that I've seen elsewhere. I never exactly understand what is meant by covering the dough balls with plastic wrap.

I've tried this myself but what ends up happening is the dough, as ir rises, tends to burst through the plastic, which exposes it to air, ruining part of it. The alternative, I guess, is to wrap it loosely. Is that what I should be doing?

Charis & Judah's Mom said...


the whole cover-in-plastic thing is just to keep a tough, dry skin from forming on the surface of the dough. If the surface dries out, it loses elasticity and won't be able to rise properly. when you cover it with plastic, just tent a large piece of plastic wrap over the dough and onto its rising surface (board, pan, baking dish, whatever) so that the dough can still expand freely, but the air won't be able to come into contact with the dough as it rises. there's no need to wrap it firmly or to actually bind the dough in plastic. i'm glad your obsession has ended well as mine has! enjoy your pizza!

kristinwoldennitz said...

We lived in Italy for three and a half years. This is the best recipe I've found for approximating that kind of pizza at home.