Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crisp Crust Pizza

I have made my fair share of homemade pizzas - as you can see by the well-used pizza stone pictured above. However; I was always missing the perfect crisp crust. Either the crust was soft all the way through, or it was crisp all the way through and tasted more like a cracker - not really what I like in a pizza. I have been studying several bread books, mostly trying to learn how to make a great baguette. This recipe comes from the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. For the sauce we used 6-and-1 tomatoes - they make all the difference! Saying that this got rave reviews would be an understatement - we all loved it!

Personal notes: Best flavor if the dough is refrigerated for 24 hours. Remove it from the fridge, and start process 1 1/2 hours before you want to eat.

1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp. King Arthur Italian-style or All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup water, room temp (70-90 degrees)
olive oil

1 - One hour before shaping (or for best flavor development, 8-24 hrs ahead), mix the dough. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, instant yeast, and sugar. Whisk in the salt (this keeps the yeast from coming into direct contact with the yeast, which would kill it). Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Using a rubber spatula or woden spoon, gradually stir in the four into the water until all the flour is moistened and a dough just begins to form, about 20 seconds. It should come away from the bowl but still stick to it a little, and be a little rough looking, not silky smooth. Do not overmix, as this wil cause the dough to become stickier.

2-Let the dough rise. Oil bottom and sides of a 4-cup bowl (to give the dough room to double in size). Place dough in bowl and turn to coat all sides with oil. Cover it tightly. If you want to use it soon, allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until doubled. For best flavor development, make the dough at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours ahead, and allow it to sit at room temperature for only 30 minutes or until slightly puffy. Then set the dough, still in the bowl, in the refrigerator. Remove it 1 hour before you want to put it in the oven.

3-Prepare the sauce. (We used 6-in-1 tomatoes, 2 tsp. finely shredded fresh basil, 1 tsp. dried oregano, salt to taste. This makes enough for 3-4 pizzas.)

4-Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 475 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking sone on it before preheating.

5-Shape the pizza and let it rise. With oiled fingers, lift the dough out of the bowl. (I shaped our pizza on a piece of parchment). Press down with your fingers to deflate it gently. Shape it into a smooth round by tucking under the edges. if there are any holes, knead it very lighty until smooth. Allow the dough to sit for 15 minutes, covered, to relax it.

Using your fingertips, press the dough from the center to the outer edge to stretch it into a 15-inch circle, leaving the outer 1/2" thicker than the rest to form a lip. If the dough resists stretching, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a few minues longer before proceeding. Brush the surface of the dough with any remaining olive oil. Cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for 30-45 minutes, until it becomes light and slightly puffy with air.

6- Bake the pizza. Set the pizza pan directly on the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes. (I transfered the dough + parchment to the stone with a flat baking sheet)

7-Add the toppings. Remove the pizza & parchment from the oven and spread the tomato sauce on the dough, leaving a narrow border. Add shredded mozzarella. Top with additional toppings - we used ham and pepperoni. (I removed the parchment and put the pizza directly on the pizza stone using the flat baking sheet.) Bake for 5-10 minutes more or until cheese is melted and the crust golden.

8-Serve the pizza. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board and cut with a pizza wheel, sharp knife, or scissors.

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