A few years ago, my friend Adam and I decided it was time we learned how to make pizza. Every Wednesday we would convene at my apartment, eager to wreak saucy, cheesy, cornmealy havoc on my poor kitchen. Within only a couple weeks, it became apparent that there are five items necessary for an easy, enjoyable, and successful pizza-making experience:
- A pizza stone. (I had appropriated one left behind by a housemate in a previous apartment. Score.)
- A pizza peel. (I bought one almost immediately after we attempted to use a cookie sheet as a substitute.)
- Beer. (Duh.)
- Cornmeal, to keep the pizza from sticking to the peel. (Or parchment paper! A trick I didn’t discover until recently.)
- Plastic bags and rubber bands. (To cover the smoke alarms.)
And, at the risk of sounding like a braggart, we got good. Mega-delish things started happening, like spicy eggplant parm pizza (a lot of work, but worth it). Garlicky swiss chard and goat cheese pizza (my favorite). Bacon cheeseburger pizza (everyone else’s favorite). And as proud as I was of all our creations, I harbored a secret shame that kept me from declaring myself Queen of the Stone: I did not make the pizza dough from scratch.
See, the thing about living in a place like Burlington, VT is that you have so many food-related things at your fingertips. For about $2, I could buy the house-made dough OR a local pizzeria’s dough from the store where I’d go to gather other pizza ingredients. And if they were out, the pizza place around the corner from Adam sold their dough as well. And after one attempt at homemade dough that tasted like flour-flavored cardboard, I decided I couldn’t risk ruining our delicious creations with sub-par dough (read: I had a big tantrum and gave up). But eventually my pride got the best of me, and I decided to give it another try. This time, I turned to the ever-reliable Alton Brown for the answer. Oooh, use a high-protein flour like bread flour, you say? I’m listening . . .
This recipe doesn’t exactly follow Alton’s. I use part bread flour and part all-purpose flour, as I don’t like my pizza dough to be too chewy. I also don’t add olive oil or sugar to the dough, and instead opt to brush an olive oil and honey mixture on just the crust prior to baking. And I don’t refrigerate the dough overnight, because I can never think that far ahead. But using the bread flour in the dough makes a huge difference, as the high-gluten content creates a very elastic dough. I first made this dough around a year ago, and I can’t recall a time that I’ve opted for store-bought dough since!
(adapted from Good Eats)
yield: 1 round
- 1½ cups of bread flour
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1 package (about 2½ tsp) of active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- olive oil (to grease the bowl)
Proof yeast in the water for about 5 minutes, or until foamy. In the meantime, sift the flours and salt together into a large bowl, and make a well in the center. Add the yeast and water mixture, and stir with a fork until the dough begins to come together.
When you can no longer stir with the fork, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. You can tell it’s ready if it passes the “windowpane” test: Break off a small piece of dough, flatten it, then hold it up to a light or window and stretch. If you can stretch the dough thin without it tearing, it’s ready. If it rips, keep kneading. When finished, place in a well-oiled bowl.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise until doubled in size. (I actually prefer to let mine rise for about 20 minutes at room temperature, then stick it in the fridge for another half an hour. It can be a rather soft dough, and I find it easier to work with when slightly chilled.) If you won’t be using the dough right away, wrap it in plastic wrap (pre-rise) and refrigerate it for up to a week, or freeze until you’re ready to use it. It’s so simple and yummy, you’ll never buy dough again! (And bragging about making pizza from scratch = obvious bonus.)