Monday, June 23, 2008

The Pizza Posts

This post has been delayed by about a week, mostly because it was a little more involved in writing up than most of the posts I do. I threw a potluck dinner for some friends, and decided to make pizzas. I made three kinds: roasted garlic with vegetables, thai, and tomato-basil. I think all three turned out tasty, but the crust ended up too thick for my taste (it was on the doughier side). This was my first experience with yeast, so I don’t know if the recipe is to fault or I am (I couldn’t seem to make the dough stop rising). The recipe itself came out of A Great American Cook by Jonathan Waxman. The mechanics of making and getting three pizza’s into an oven without a pizza peel or similar device turned out to be a little complicated, and I’ve included the method I used here (it involves tin foil and a rimless cookie sheet). Rather than posting one really long post about all three pizzas, I’ve decided to make three separate posts, one on each pizza, and this introductory post that includes the dough recipe I used, the cheese blend I used, and the basic instructions. The pizza recipes can be used with any dough recipe, or even a premade crust, this is just the recipe I used.
The reason I used the method I did for handling the pizzas is because I needed to prepare one pizza while the another was in the oven, and transferring the pizzas from one surface to another mostly seemed to deform them. This method worked well enough, but if you’re only making one pizza, or have a pizza peel, use that.

Pizza Dough
Makes enough for all three pizzas

8 cups whole wheat flour, plus extra for dusting
2 Tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
2 ¼ ounce packages of active dry yeast
4 cups warm water (between 85 and 115 degrees)
4 tsp salt

1. in a very large bowl (I used my big soup pot) combine two cups of the flour with 4 cups of water, the honey, the olive oil, and the yeast. Mix well. The mixture should start out looking like dirty water (i.e. don’t expect it to look like a dough). Let the mixture sit in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour, or until doubled (the mixture will become sort of wet and spongy when it rises)

2. With a wooden spoon, stir in the remaining six cups of flour and the salt. Now a dough should form. Knead the dough for ten minutes. As you knead the dough should stick to the bottom of the bowl, but not the sides (this will begin to happen as you knead). If the dough seems too moist, sprinkle on a little more flour, if it is too dry, add a little more warm water.

3. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. If you’re not making the pizza right away. Put the dough into a ziplock bag and put it in the fridge.

4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When you are ready to make the pizzas, break off one third of the dough, and form it into a ball. Working on a floured piece of tinfoil, press the ball flat into a disk, and begin using the palm of your hand to push out the dough. It will shrink back. Just keep doing it. I found as the pizza got bigger, lifting an edge of the pizza, grabbing from underneath, and pulling gently became more effective than pushing with my palms.

5. When the pizza is the desired size, top it. Slide the rimless baking sheet under the tinfoil, and then slide the whole thing into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is baked and the cheese is melted.

6. While pizza number 1 is baking, you can set up the tin foil and prepare pizza number 2.

Cheese Blend

This is just the blend of cheeses I used on 2 of my pizzas, I think it’s a little more interesting than plain mozzarella.

4 oz. mozzarella
1/3 cup parmesian
2 oz gouda
4 oz provolone

I used the grater blade for my food processor to grate them all together, then just mixed them up.

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