Monday, October 19, 2009

Pizza is easy

This pizza crust recipe comes from my favorite Italian cookbook ever, The Cook's Encyclopedia of Italian Cooking by Carla Capalbo.  A blend of about 1/3 white and 2/3 whole wheat flour makes this a good compromise.

Whole wheat pizza dough

21/2 tablespoons fresh cake yeast or 11/2 tablespoons active dried yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
11/2 teaspoons salt
11/4 cups plain white flour
2 cups stoneground wholewheat flour

Warm a medium bowl by swirling some hot water in it.  Drain.  Place the yeast in the bowl and pour on the tepid water.  Sprinkle on the sugar and stir to mix.  Allow to stand for 5-10 minutes, or until the yeast has dissolved and starts to foam.

Use a wooden spoon to mix in the olive oil and the salt, then add the white flour.  Add about half of the whole wheat flour, stirring with the spoon until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Sprinkle some of the remaining flour onto a smooth work surface.  Turn the dough out from the bowl onto your work surface and begin to knead it, working in the flour a little at a time.  Knead for about 8-10 minutes.  The dough should be elastic and smooth.  Form it into a ball.

Rinse any excess flour from your medium bowl and dry it well.  Place a few drops of olive oil in the bowl and spread it around to coat the bottom and sides.  Place the dough in the bowl.  Stretch a moistened dishcloth across the top of the bowl and place it in a warm place (next to the radiator, for example) for 40-50 minutes or more.  The dough should have doubled in bulk.  To test if the dough has risen enough, press two fingers into the dough; if the indentations remain, you're good to go.

Punch the dough down with your fist to release the air.  Knead on your lightly floured work surface for 1-2 minutes.  Divide the dough into 2 or 4 balls, depending on the size of the pizzas you want to make.  Pat each ball of dough into a flat circle.  With a rolling pin (or empty wine bottle), roll the dough out into a circle.  Tip: turn the circle of dough at a 45° or 90° angle each time you roll over it to ensure that you are flattening all sides equally.

Each time I make this I get a little closer to the throwing-it-in-the-air trick.  Practice makes perfect.

You want the thickness of the dough to be around 3/8 to 1/4 inch.  I like to toss it around my fists a little bit to try to stretch it out, but rolling it on the table is probably the best way to avoid getting holes in your crust.  Place the dough on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or pizza pan.

(The crusts may be frozen at this stage, which is what I did this time.  When you're ready to use, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for an hour or two before filling.)

Top your crust with whatever you like.  Preheat the oven to 250°C (475°F) and bake your pizza for about 15-20 minutes.

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