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The Best Pizza Recipe

May 26, 2011

I’ve searched high and low for the perfect pizza dough, and I think this recipe is my favorite.  It’s tender but crispy, and it rises nicely.  I also like that I can make it in the morning and then put it in the fridge.  Near the end of the day, when I’m ready to assemble dinner I just take it out and roll it out, top it and bake it.  My lifestyle demands that things be easy to put together at dinnertime, because I have some time in the morning, but in the afternoon and evening life gets crazy.  Okay, so here’s the recipe (it’s from Peter Reinhart’s American Pie):

Makes 4 10-inch pizzas
5 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
2 teaspoons salt (or 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 to 2 cups room-temperature water

Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or mix in an electric mixer. After you’ve combined all of the ingredients, set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Stir again for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. Generally speaking, you want the dough to be wetter and stickier than your typical bread dough. It should be dry enough that it holds together and pulls away from the side of the bowl when you mix it, but it doesn’t need to be dry enough to knead by hand.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Place each one into an oiled freezer bag. I just squirt a couple of sprays of spray oil into the bag. You can also brush the outside of the dough with olive oil and then place it into the bag. All that matters is that you be able to get the dough out of the bag later.

If you aren’t going to bake them that day, you can throw the bags into the freezer. They’ll stay good in there for at least a month. The evening before you intend to bake them, move the frozen dough balls to the refrigerator to thaw.

If you intend to bake them later that day, place the bagged dough balls in the refrigerator. Remove them from the fridge and let them warm to room temperature an hour or two before you intend to bake them.

Remember that, as a baker, time is your friend: longer, slower rises at reduced temperature result in better tasting bread. But sometimes you don’t have the luxury of time – that is OK; this dough will still work well if only given an hour or so to rise at room temperature. Allowing pizza dough to rise is more about giving the yeast time to bring flavors out of the wheat than it is about leavening. Most of the leavening occurs when you put the active dough into the hot oven, so you don’t need to wait until the dough balls double in size.

You want this dough to be pretty sticky so it will get those nice air pockets.  I don’t use instant yeast, I use regular yeast.  So I mix the water, yeast, and sugar or honey in a measuring cup and let it sit for 10 minutes before mixing everything together.  I use my Kitchenaid to do the mixing and kneading.  I usually use a combination of rolling and hand tossing.  I think that hand tossed tastes better, but it’s harder to make it even.  Also, your water effects the crust (we once went to a restaurant in Arizona that boasted having a special filter to make their water closer to NY tap water).  I don’t know what the differences in water are, but someday I will find out – and I will let you know.

Top however you want.  The pizza above has a little red sauce, chevre (goat cheese), artichoke hearts, and olive tapenade.  I also made a Margherita pizza the other night with red sauce, fresh mozarella and fresh basil.  Be sure to brush the edges of your crust with olive oil so they get nice and crispy.  Yum!

I bake my pizzas on a baking stone (like this one)  in the oven.  You want your oven to be HOT.  I put mine at about 500 degrees because that’s as high as it goes (if you’ve ever had a wood-fired pizza, the ovens they use are usually about 700 degrees).  Bake for about 7-10 minutes, until the crust is browning and the cheese is bubbly.  I roll my dough out then transfer it to a pizza peel that is lightly covered in corn meal ( you can buy a pizza peel for as little as $10.  I don’t think quality matters too much here.  You mainly just need it to slide it onto the stone).  Top it, and then slide it onto the preheated stone.

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