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Mmmmm…pizza! Pizza is one of my ultimate comfort foods. We could eat pizza every week, and sometimes we do. However, ordering take out pizza each week would blow our food budget out of the water. Making our own pizza is not only easier on the budget, but extra delicious because we can snazz it up with good, fresh toppings. I think it’s only natural that the third installment of my Fear Not Bread Series is my favorite pizza dough.

We’ve already whipped up a Cheesy Beer Bread. Then, we built a little confidence in using yeast with the Herb Batter Bread.  This dough is my favorite because it yields a thin, crisp crust, and I can have pizza on the table in about an hour. The dough rises in 40 minutes so it’s ready to go by the time I get the toppings all situated, and a salad made.

Speed is important when I have 5 hungry males hovering in the kitchen. They can get a bit unruly when they are hungry.

This dough is also very versatile in that you can use it to make pizza, calzone, or foccacia bread.  It makes enough dough to make 2 large pizzas, or 8 personal pizzas or calzone, or 2 foccacia. Once, I even coaxed it into a loaf of french bread. I like to have options. All of them are listed.

So let’s play with dough!

1 ½ C. warm (not hot) water

2 ¼ tsp. (1 envelope) rapid-rise yeast

¼ C. extra virgin olive oil

4 C. bread flour (or all-purpose)

1 tsp. kosher salt

Start by preheating your oven to 200 degrees F. Once the oven has reached 200 degrees F, set a timer for 10 minutes. It’s important to set a timer because the dough is going to rise in the oven, so we just want it warm enough to speed the yeast along, but not so hot that it starts to cook the dough. While the oven is preheating, start the dough.

Using a 2-cup measuring cup, fill it with 1 ½ C. warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the warm water, and give it a quick stir, so that all of the yeast gets wet. It is important to use rapid rise yeast because we are going for speed here, and it’s a little more frisky than than an active dry yeast. Be sure to wipe any yeast sticking to the stirring spoon back into the water so that it can swim around in the warm pool with the rest of the yeast.  Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes.

Add the bread flour and kosher salt to the large bowl of a stand mixure, and stir a few times to mix. I like bread flour because it has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour so the finished product will have a bit more “chew.” You can use all-purpose flour, or half all-purpose flour/half whole wheat flour, if you like.

By this time, the yeast should have started to “bloom” or look fluffy on the surface of the water. If not, give it another minute or two.

Once the yeast mixture has gotten happy and bloomed, add the olive oil into the mixture. Stir it to combine a bit. The oil won’t completely mix with the water/yeast.

Turn the mixer on to a medium low setting, and slowly pour the yeast and oil mixture into the flour. Once all the liquid has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium, and allow it to mix the dough for one minute.

You can do this with a hand mixer, but will need to switch to the dough hooks attachments once the dough comes together, then knead with the dough hooks for one minute. Or you can kick it old school and knead it by hand on a floured surface for 5 minutes.

The dough will be sticky, but not gooey.

Pour a little blop (about 1 teaspoon) of olive oil into a large, oven safe bowl. Take the dough from the mixing bowl, and roll it around in your hands to make a ball. Put the dough ball into the oil of the other bowl. Swirl the dough around in the oil, and turn it over to coat the dough completely. The oil will prevent a skin from forming while the dough rises.

By now, the oven should have been heated to 200 degrees F, for 10 minutes. The timer should be going off. Turn off the oven.

Cover the bowl with the dough tightly with plastic wrap. This will help keep the dough warm so that the yeast can do it’s thing fairly quickly.  Place the covered bowl in the warm oven, and close the oven door. Now would be an excellent time to verify that you have actually turned the oven off. Once you are sure the oven is off, set a timer for 40 minutes.

I know I am being a nag, but making sure the oven has been heated, but turned off is important. If you forget to turn off the oven before putting the wrapped bowl in it, bad things will happen.

Like plastic wrap melting all over the bowl, and the dough and the oven kind of things.

Like it will take hours to chisel off the plastic wrap remains from the bowl and oven.

And even more tragically, you won’t be having pizza anytime soon.

The same sort of bad things will happen if you forget that the dough is rising in the oven, and decide to be smart and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F to make your pizza. Only a little bit worse.

So I hear.

Once 40 minutes have passed, the dough should have doubled in bulk.

Remove the dough from the oven. Push down dough with your fist. Doing so depressed some of the air in the dough. And it feels cool.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces for pizza or foccacia,

or 8 pieces for mini pizzas or calzone. I use a bench scraper to cut the dough, but a sharp knife will do.

Now we’ve reached a decision point: what to do with the dough?

Freeze for later: At this point, you can put the balls of dough into individual zippered freezer bags, and freeze for later. To use, place frozen dough into a large, oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to thaw and rise on the counter for at least 8 hours, or until doubled in bulk. I usually do this first thing in the morning, then it is ready at dinner time.)

That’s handy and all, but I’m hungry!

Smear about a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of a half sheet pan. Then,

Make Pizza: Roll and/or stretch dough to cover a oiled baking sheet. Top with sauce and/or the toppings of your choice. We like to make one pizza brushed with olive oil, shredded cheese, and Italian seasoning, and one with leftover pasta sauce, shredded cheese and pepperoni. Boring, but tasty. If I am feeling sassy and want a grown-up pizza, I may put on shredded chicken, carmelized onions, and goat cheese. Bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for 9-14 minutes, or until cheese is melted, and crust is golden brown.

OR!

Make Calzone/Stuffed Pizza: Divide dough into 8 equal pieces, roll or stretch out into a 6 inch (ish) circle. Pizza toppings make great fillings, just use less “wet” ingredients, and more meat/veggies/cheese.  Some ideas include—browned sausage, cooked, diced potato, onion, and diced roasted red pepper. Cheese and pepperoni. Brie with thinly sliced apple and crumbled, cooked bacon. Have fun with it! This is a fun way to use up leftovers.

Roll or stretch a small dough ball into a thin circle–about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.

Lay the circles onto the greased baking sheet. They don’t have to be perfect.

Heat meat and veggies for filling, and place 1/3 cup of warm filling of your choice onto one side of the round, leaving ¼ inch around the edges. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold dough in half, over the filling, and press the edges to seal.

Then, roll about ¼ inch of the edge from the bottom, over the top, and press to seal.

Continue folding and pressing around the entire edge.

Brush the top with olive oil. Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Make Focaccia Bread: Roll and stretch dough onto a sheet pan. Brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and ½ tsp. Italian seasoning. Sprinkle with about 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese. You could also add a small amount of another topping, such as caramelized onions & crumbled goat cheese,  or sliced black olives. Or bacon. You get the idea. Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 12-18 minutes, or until cheese is melted, and bread is lightly browned.

♥♥♥

40 Minute Pizza Dough

http://comfortablydomestic.com

Yield: Enough for 2 Large or 8 Personal-Size Thin Crust Pizzas

A delicious and speedy way of making pizza dough at home. Includes other convenient options for using this rapid-rise bread dough.

Prep Time: 5 minutes, Cook (Rise) Time: 30 minutes, Total Time: 40 minutes

1 ½ C. warm water

2 ¼ tsp. (1 envelope) rapid-rise yeast

¼ C. extra virgin olive oil

4 C. bread flour (or all-purpose)

1 tsp. kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Once the oven reaches 200 degrees F, set a timer for 10 minutes.

Using a 2-cup measuring cup, fill it with 1 ½ C. warm water. Sprinkle yeast over the warm water, and give it a quick stir, so that all of the yeast gets wet. Be sure to wipe any yeast sticking to the spoon back into the water. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes.

Add bread flour and kosher salt to the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Stir the flour a few times to distribute the salt.

By this time, the yeast should have started to “bloom” or look fluffy on the surface of the water. (If not, give it another minute or two.) Add the olive oil to the yeast mixture, stirring to combine. Stirring will break up the oil molecules, but the oil won’t mix with the water.

Turn the mixer to the medium low setting, then gradually pour the yeast and oil mixture into the flour. Once all the liquid has been added, increase the mixer speed to medium, and allow the dough hook it to mix the dough for one minute. The dough will be sticky, but not too wet or gooey.

Pour a little blop (about 1 teaspoon) of olive oil into a large, oven safe bowl. With wet hands, take the dough from the mixing bowl and quickly roll it around in your hands to form a smooth ball. Place the dough ball onto the oil in the large bowl. Swirl the dough around in the oil, turning it over to completely coat the surface.

At this point, the oven should have been at 200 degrees F for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven.

Tightly cover the bowl with the dough with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the warm oven and close the door. Now would be an excellent time to verify that you have turned the oven OFF.

Allow dough to rise in the warmed oven for 40 minutes, or until it has doubled in bulk.

Once the dough has doubled in bulk, remove it from the oven. Lightly  push down the dough before dividing it in half for large pizzas, or in 8 equal pieces for personal pizzas or calzones. Roll the dough pieces into smooth balls.

WHAT TO DO FROM HERE:

Freeze for later: At this point, you can put the balls of dough into individual zippered freezer bags, and freeze for later. To use, place frozen dough into a large, oiled bowl. Turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow to thaw and rise on the counter for at least 8 hours, or until doubled in bulk. I usually do this first thing in the morning so that the dough is ready to go at dinner time.)

Make Pizza: Roll and/or stretch dough to cover a oiled baking sheet. Top with sauce and/or the toppings of your choice. We like to make one pizza brushed with olive oil, shredded cheese, and Italian seasoning, and one with leftover pasta sauce, shredded cheese and pepperoni. Boring, but tasty. If I am feeling sassy and want a grown-up pizza, I may put on shredded chicken, carmelized onions, and crumbled goat cheese. Bake in a preheated 500 degree F oven for 9-14 minutes, or until cheese is melted, and crust is golden brown.

Make Calzone/Stuffed Pizza: Divide dough into 8 equal pieces, roll or stretch out into a 6 inch (ish) circle. Pizza toppings make great fillings, just use less “wet” ingredients, and more meat/veggies/cheese. (Some ideas include—browned sausage, cooked, diced potato, onion, and diced roasted red pepper. Cheese and pepperoni. Brie with thinly sliced apple and crumbled, cooked bacon.) Heat filling, and place 1/3 cup of warm filling of your choice onto one side of the round, leaving ¼ inch around the edges. Fold dough in half, over the filling, and press the edges to seal. Then, roll about ¼ inch of the edge from the bottom, over the top, and press to seal. Brush the top with olive oil. Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. This dough is also a wonder encasement for meat pies.

Make Focaccia Bread: Roll and stretch dough onto a sheet pan. Brush the top with olive oil. Press “dimples” throughout the dough with your fingers. Sprinkle the dough with a hefty pinch of kosher salt, and ½ tsp. Italian seasoning. Shake about 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese over all. Adding a small amount of another topping, such as caramelized onions & crumbled goat cheese, or sliced black olives is never a miss. Bake in a preheated 450 degree F oven for 12-18 minutes, or until cheese is melted, and bread is lightly browned.

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