Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

A few notes on using yeast will be in order here.  You find the packages of yeast in a refrigerate d case in most instances for a good reason.  Yeast is a plant organism and can be killed with high temperatures.  Also, you will find a use-by date to which you should pay good attention..    Do not buy expired yeast!!  You can buy yeast in bulk , and thats what we do.  My husband bakes bread on a regular basis, so the bulk purchase makes sense. You get a whole lot for little more that you pay for just a few packets of yeast.   You can keep your extra yeast in the freezer to help keep it fresh. I have noticed over the last several years, "artisan"  breads are increasingly advertised.  I really noticed it when we visited  the Northwest  three years ago, and then again when we vacationed in Minnesota and Wisconsin..  Bread baking is, indeed, artsy and creative not to mention fun.   I have several good bread recipes that I plan to share.   The following recipe is the pizza dough we always made in class.  Before we ended block scheduling, we could make our crust and bake the pizza, eat it, and clean up all in one class period.   For the last few years, we baked the crust without the toppings until it was just "blonde."  We put the toppings on and baked the next day.  Works, but making the whole pizza in one session is definitely better.  Make it this weekend, and make your family very happy!!  By the way, this makes a large pizza. 

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon yeast ( one packet, aprrox.)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup very warm water
2 teaspoons oil

Combine all dry ingredients and stir well.
Add the warm water(not hot--if you want to get technical, 110 degrees is about right and oil to the dry mixture.  Stir well to make a soft dough.  If dough seems too dry, add a little more warm water.  Conversely, if dough needs more flour, add just enough to correct the stickiness.  Remember, excess flour will make the crust dry and hard to work. If you are not sure about the dough, sprinkle a little flour on your clean surface to see how it kneads.  That will tell you what you need to adjust.  You want a soft, silky feeling )dough.   This is easy and so worth the little work it takes!  Knead the dough for about 8 minutes until it is smooth and satiny.

Let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes(20 minutes is pro!bably better)   with a clean towel or a piece of plastic wrap on top.  We always put a clean towel in the dryer at school to warm it up first and hasten this resting phase. THIS IS A CRUCIAL STEP IN THE PROCESS!  This allows the rising process to make the dough so much easier to work.  You can get the sauce and your toppings ready while this resting is taking place. 
For the homemade sauce we always used at school, go to Mrs. Pickle's Marinara and you have it!  You can use spaghetti sauce or purchased pizza sauce, whatever works best for  you.  The marinara is hard to beat, if I say so myself and the price is right.  A can of tomato sauce is about a $.25.

Now, you are ready  to put the pizza dough on the pan.  Lightly grease the pizza pan with oil or spray with non-stick spray.  I always just use my hands to flatten and stretch the dough a bit before I put it on the pizza pan.  Remember how I showed you to roll the pan around as you worked the dough into place on the pan kinda like the pan was a lazy susan?  It works! You do not need  to allow this dough to rise before you put on the toppings. It will rise as it bakes in a very hot oven.  Put on your sauce and whatever toppings you have chosen.  If you use pepperoni, you can put in the microwave for about 5 seconds and blot some of the excess fat with a paper towel.

Your oven should be a very hot 450 degrees, preheated,  and you will want to put the pan on the lowest rack setting.  Check the doneness by using a metal spatula to lift up the edge of the crust .  You want the bottom of the crust to be brown.  A white bottom crust will mean the pizza crust will taste "doughy." Pizza is generally done in about 20 minutes.  This is another recipe that the kids can get into the action.  Let them help and make some happy memories.  The kitchen is the heart of the home!!  I believe it.

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