Friday, December 11, 2009

Best Pizza Dough

Thanks to King Arthur Flour:

Our Favorite Pizzas

The following pizza crust recipe, which we developed for our catalogue (and also featured in our Baking Sheet, in the guise of a double-crust "portable" pizza) begins with a poolish, or starter. This, to us, makes the quintessential crust -- brown, crackly, chewy and delicious, not just a soggy cardboard-like base for toppings. The few days we spent testing the various toppings below were quite exciting for our fellow King Arthur employee-owners; not only would that great pizza-parlor aroma fill the building, we brought down tray after tray of hot, fragrant squares of pizza topped with all kinds of different ingredients. Truly, there was something for everyone. (And everyone asked for the recipe, which is always a good sign!)

1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Combine all of the ingredients, in a medium-sized mixing bowl or the pan of your bread machine, mix till everything comes together, then cover (cancel your bread machine) and let rest overnight, or for about 6 to 12 hours. (You can certainly do this early in the morning and have the starter ready for late-afternoon pizza baking.)

3/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
4 teaspoons Pizza Dough Flavor* (optional, but delicious)
1 teaspoon instant yeast*
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil (or garlic oil, basil oil, or another flavored oil of your choice)
Manual/Mixer Method: In a large mixing bowl, combine the poolish with the water and flour, mixing just till the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients, and knead the dough with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until it's semi-smooth. If you're kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and knead the dough till it's semi-smooth, about 7 minutes; give yourself (and the dough) a couple of minutes' rest midway through. The reason this dough isn't kneaded to its full development is that it will continue to develop -- i.e., the gluten will continue to become strong and elastic -- as the dough goes through its first fermentation. By the time you're ready to bake it, it should be just right -- developed just enough to give you a chewy, nicely risen crust without toughness.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 1/2 hours, turning it over to redistribute the yeast about midway through the rising period. When fully risen, it should be just about doubled in bulk.

Bread Machine Method: Place the water and flour into the pan of your bread machine with the poolish, program the machine for Manual or Dough, and press Start. As soon as the dough is cohesive, cancel the machine and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients, program for manual or dough, and press Start. After about 7 or 8 minutes, when the dough has formed a ball but it's still somewhat rough-looking on the surface, cancel the machine. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise as indicated above.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it in half. Shape each half into a round or oval; if you like relatively thick-crust pizza, begin with a 9-inch round; for thinner crust, make a larger pie. If you've got a baking stone, set the pizzas on a piece of parchment cut roughly to shape. If you're going to be baking the pizza in a pan, place them on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the pizzas with an acrylic dough cover or lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rest while you preheat your oven to 500°F and prepare your toppings. (If you want an ultra-thin crust pizza, skip this resting period and put the pizza directly into a preheated oven; just make sure you've got your toppings ready.)

If you're using a baking stone (and we highly recommend it for pizza), use a giant spatula or peel to transfer the pizza and parchment to the stone. If you're using a baking sheet, place the sheet on the lower rack of your oven. Allow the pizza to bake for 4 minutes, then remove it from the oven and add the toppings. Return the pizza to a middle oven rack (unless you want its bottom really blackened), and bake for an additional 8 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the toppings are bubbly. Remove the pizza from the oven, and serve as soon as possible. Yield: two 10-inch thick-crust pizza, or two larger thinner-crust pizzas.

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