Ah, pizza! Stop and think what that word means to you. Pizza. Seriously, put down what you’re doing (pretty please), and give it a minute. Pizza. What does the word bring to you, what meaning does it have in your life, what warm memories are conjured in your mind? Who first fed you pizza? One more time: Pizza. Go ahead and say it aloud — “Ohhhhhhh, Pizza!” My three-part series this week on garlic ends, fittingly, with Pizza, and how appropriate — this past Monday was National Pizza Day.
I will bet you can name no one for whom pizza is a negative, a buzz-wreck, a taboo subject to be avoided at all costs. Not. One. Yes, pizza is one of life’s truly honest pleasures, an actual eating event that makes me forget about Obama and instead wallow in savory, cheesy, tomatoey, sausage-and-onioney, black-and-green olivey, crunchy, eye-lolling, return-to-childhood goodness. The perfect food. A guaranteed day maker. After a long time experimenting with dough recipe after dough recipe, I created a signature pizza dough that is so easy and versatile, I want to share it with you. Literally foolproof. I even use it to make regular baguettes.
The so-called “braintrust” at the Food Network maintain pizza in America was first spun by Gennaro Lombardi of New York. Unfortunately, the Food Network also thought Rachael Ray and her lame acronyms were a good idea (they were wrong). No, the first pizza in America was made in Boston by Mssrs. Giovanni and Gennero Bruno in 1903, two years before Lombardi. The origin of the word “pizza” was first documented in 997 AD in Gaeta, Italy, and later in different parts of Central and South Italy. So we can all give a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks to the lovely Italians for giving us so very much to live for in the pizza we adore. Grazie Mille, mi amores Italiano! And now – on with the dough!
My recipe is simple — 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, one package of Fleishmann’s yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons), 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon white sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 to 1 1/4 cups warm water. Finally, one last ingredient: 1/4 teaspoon of Carnation Dry Powdered Milk. No joke. I won’t get into the chemical constructs that take place, but a very renowned pizza maker with 40 years of history here in the Cities told me. I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
I mix my pizza doughs in a 20-year old Cuisinart food processor with the steel blade attached. I don’t bloom the yeast first, although I suppose you can. Just put all the ingredients in, starting with less than 1 cup of water and let it fly. Process for 30 seconds, just until you get a ball spinning around inside. The key is to add just enough water so the dough ball pulls away from the side and is marginally sticky, but not so you can’t handle this dough without it gluing your fingers together in a nasty mess. Once it gets spinning, let it burn around inside the Cuisinart for about a minute to a minute and a half. This is where you get good gluten formation. If you’ve got a Kitchenaid mixer, do it on the #2 setting for 10 minutes until you get the same texture. If you want to do it by hand, make sure you wear a headband so you don’t get sweat on your dough — it’s already got salt in it. Seriously, you’ll get a P90-worthy workout if you do it by hand. Don’t bother.
Okay, the dough’s mixed, right? Fabulous. Sprinkle flour on the counter, put the ball on it and cover it with a towel for 10 minutes to rest, pour yourself a cup of coffee and go enjoy a smoke. After that, wash your hands, throw a little blob of olive oil in a bowl, roll the dough in it to coat and cover it with plastic wrap and a towel and let it rise until doubled, about 2 hours. Punch it down, wrap it in plastic and throw it in the fridge overnight. The flavors will meld and the yeast and sugar will do their dance and you’ll get a nice dough with some chewiness on the thicker parts and a great crunch on the outer edge. Pull it out of the fridge and let it warm up for 30 minutes or so and roll it out. That’s all. You just made killer pizza dough — bravo!
I cook my pizzas at 500 degrees F on a pizza stone for about 4 or 5 minutes depending. Friday night is usually Pizza Night in our house, so The White Heat Pizza with Serious Garlic and Habaneros is next on my agenda and concludes my Grand Garlic Comeback. I’ve enjoyed sharing this series with you this week! And now, this pizza dough recipe will get you started on your own path to Pizza Legend status. I hope you like it and I would absolutely love to hear from you, so feel free to share! Thanks again, friends, this was a long one. But it was necessary for you to get this recipe. So there. 🙂
Now, all of you, go eat something! -DJ
Photos courtesy of Catholic.Org, Nashvillescene.com