Thursday, October 4, 2007

My favorite pizza crust recipe

We're experiencing a sharp reduction in our income and so have been living on our food storage - which really, we should have been using all along!

I have a nice electric grinder that will make a very good flour. I've been making flour out of whole wheat and some dried corn. We've been using both flours with our pizza dough. The whole wheat for the crust and the finely ground corn meal in place of greasing the pans. My pan of choice is my cast iron skillet, while my 15 yr old son favors a jelly roll pan. My 18 yr old daughter is an alien from some distant galaxy - swapped with my real child not long after birth. She doesn't much like pizza or whole wheat flour. Only a space alien doesn't like pizza - or whole wheat flour for that matter.

Here's the recipe we've been using in our automatic bread machine (ABM): (or by hand)
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
pinch sugar
3 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour, you will probably need more flour if you use flour from the store. Store-bought flour has the chance to absorb too much humidity.
2 1/2 tsp yeast
corn meal for the bottom of the pan(s)

Add the ingredients in order to your bread pan. Set to "dough" setting. Turn on machine and make sure dough is of the correct consistency. Let it run for a few minutes and then look at the dough. The movement of the dough on the spindle is what kneads the dough. The dough should be moving around a lot on the spindle, not sitting on top of it or like melted wax in the bottom of the pan. If it's sort of just spinning on top, has sharp "peaks" of dough forming while it kneads, or the machine sounds like it's working too hard, you need to add water - 1 Tbs at a time until it is moving around on the spindle well. If it's sitting with a lot of wet looking dough on the bottom of the pan, you need to add more flour, again, 1 Tbs at a time. After doing an addition, let it knead for a minute or two to get mixed well before you add more water/flour.

As soon as the machine stops kneading, you can remove the dough from the pan. You don't necessairly have to let the dough go through the whole dough cycle - which takes about 1 1/2 hrs in either of my machines. If you have the patience/time to wait on it, it does makes a nicer dough. You DO need to let the dough rest for about 10-15 mins, so that the gluten can relax and not shrink back as you try to pat it into whatever shape you like.

A note about crust thickness here in the States. Years ago a pizza chain introduced something they called a "pan" crust. Most pizza here used to have an almost cracker thinness to the crust - about 1/4" thick. Then Pizza Hut introduced "pan" crust, which is a thick crust - about 3/4" - 1" thick. Next someone introduced "hand-tossed". It's about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. So I'm going to use these terms to define how thick a crust we make using this recipe.

We can get three 10" skillet "pan" pizzas, four "hand-tossed" pizzas, one jelly roll "pan" pizza or two jelly roll pans of thin crust from this recipe. Normally we make one 10" skillet pizza and one jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides on it) of pizza. I take about 1/3 of the dough and give my son 2/3 of the dough. When son makes his crust, he doesn't quite pat the dough into the entire area of the jelly roll pan, he likes a bit of a thicker crust. Done this way, I'd say both pizzas are of the "hand-tossed" thickness. We also make another portion of this with white flour for the alien child - if she'll even agree to eat pizza that day. We make a 10" skillet "hand-tossed" pizza for her and with the rest of the dough, we make bread sticks. Yesterday, her brother made garlic butter and put that on the sticks before cooking them. You could also sprinkle them with any type of cheese, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon and sugar, or whatever else your heart desires and you can do it before or after baking the sticks. I've watched both Domino's and Pizza Hut fix the bread sticks. They usually bake them first and then sprinkle either Parmesan cheese or cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Then they use marinara sauce for dipping sauce and just plain icing (confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla and water or just the sugar and water). We use pizza sauce for savory sticks, icing for sweet sticks.

Once the dough has rested or finished the "dough" cycle on your machine, divide the dough as you'd like to use it. Sprinkle the bottom of your pan with some corn flour - in lieu of oiling the pan. Pat dough into whatever shape you want. Or if you know how, go have fun tossing it like they do in a real pizzeria.

Top with pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce or whatever sauce rings you chimes (you could even use Alfredo sauce - 2 cups thick white sauce with 1/2 - 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan added to it.)

Top with your choice of meats, vegies and/or cheeses.

Bake at 425 degrees (hot oven) for 10-20 minutes. Thin crusts cook faster than thicker crusts.

I just bought a couple of unglazed terracotta tiles. I used one on the second shelf from the bottom of my oven - just sitting on the rack. It takes about 40 mins to an hour for the tile to preheat vs 15 for the oven to preheat to 425 degrees. I liked the way the pizza crust came out, I just don't use it often because of all the wasted energy to preheat it that long. I'm poor and can't afford to heat the stone just for 10 mins worth of pizza cooking. It's worth it if I'm making breads that day and will be using it for several hours of baking. It's great to make pita bread on, as well as peasant loaves of bread.

If anyone is interested, I can post the pita bread recipe at another time. Just let me know.


Lib said...

I will have to try this recipe too.You have the best.Thanks for taking time to share.
I would Love the pita recipe.I Love veggie and sprout pita sands.

Anonymous said...

You may not want to make pizza on standard terracotta that wasn't design for food applications. The clay minerals, depending upon where they're mined, may have naturallyoccuring heavy metals: lead, manganese, arsenic, etc.