Monday, November 2, 2009

Thin Crust Pizza Dough

Pizza americana dough

Makes four dough balls. Adapted by DPaul Brown from Peter Reinhart's American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza

22.5 oz unbleached bread flour (all purpose will do)
3 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp table salt or 3.5 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. milk
3/4 c. room-temp water

I suggest mixing by hand versus using a stand mixer as you get a better feel for the dough. You do not get the same tactile experience with a stand mixer, and there's not too much kneading anyway.

Have a large container of room-temperature water than you can dip your hand into. During the mixing process submerge your hand in the container of water; a wet dough will not stick to a wet hand. You want this dough to be fairly wet.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large metal bowl and mix thoroughly; then add wet ingredients to the bowl. (If using shortening, mix it in with the dry ingredients first, combining with your fingers, then add the remainder of the wet ingredients.) Using one hand that has been dunked in to your container of water, mix the dough vigorously. As the dough starts to come together, use your wet hand and scoop under the dough and fold back on itself. You want to grab all the loose flour or scraps of dough. Rotate the bowl 1/4 turn, again scoop under the dough and fold back on itself. Do not be afraid to repeatedly dip your hand in water -- it is counterintuitive, but it works. Continue to work this dough in this fashion, rotating and folding, until it begins to resist to your kneading, roughly four to eight minutes. Let the dough rest for five minutes, then continue kneading for an additional four minutes. Though the dough will appear wet, it should hold its shape. When you touch the dough with a dry hand it should appear tacky, but release.

Using a flexible board scraper, divide the dough in to four equal pieces. Place the dough in freezer bags, with a tablespoon of olive oil. Let the dough rest on the counter for 15 minutes. You can either freeze the dough balls now or place in the fridge for an extended fermentation. I prefer to make the dough two days in advance and let the dough rise very slowly in the coldest part of the fridge. The resulting dough will have built up a lot of gas (be sure to have an opening in the bag) which will result in a pizza with good rise and blistering. You can make the dough for the same day by letting the dough rest for an hour on the counter, then refrigerate for two hours. If you freeze your dough, place the dough in the fridge for two days prior to cooking for the long fermentation. Freezing will also help relax the gluten and make for a softer, fluffier crust.

When you are ready to make the pizza, preheat your oven as hot as it can get with a pizza stone on the lowest rack or on the floor of the oven if possible. Pull the dough out of the fridge roughly one hour prior to cooking. Dust your workspace with flour and flour your hand (top and bottom). Dust the dough with flour and place on the workspace. Form the dough gently in to a round, carefully so as not to degas the dough. If you are comfortable with handling dough, dust the back of your hands with flour, place the dough on the top of your hands and using your knuckles to gently stretch out the dough. Otherwise, gently stretch the dough with your fingers horizontally on your floured surface. It is important to handle the dough gently as you do not want to lose all the gas bubbles you've worked hard to create.

Once the dough is stretched to roughly a 10" round, transfer to a dry, floured peel. Top with your favorite toppings, ensuring that no wet ingredient touches the peel. If you have any wet spots on the peel, the dough will stick when you transfer it to the hot pizza stone. Give the peel a gentle jiggle to make sure it's not sticking.

Apply your toppings, and give the peel another jiggle. Open the oven, and gently jiggle the pizza to the end of the peel, then slowly jerk it back, leaving the pizza on the hot stone. If you are not comfortable trying to slide a made pizza on to a stone, you can make the pizza on parchment paper. You can slide the whole kit and kaboodle onto the stone, then remove the paper after a couple of minutes.


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