Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough


Olive oil (to grease dough ball)
1/2-3/4 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon dry active yeast
1 1/2 Tablespoon honey or sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2-3 or more cups flour, flour is a tricky thing you see


In a medium bowl, add the warm water and the honey or sugar and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and gently stir once. Allow the yeast to activate for between 10 and 15 minutes, if after this time there is no activity in the bowl and the yeast hasn't frothed then throw it out and try again. We really need the yeast to be active and reproducing before we move on. In a small bowl combine 1 cup of the flour and the salt and stir to mix. Add the flour and salt to the water and yeast and stir, continue to slowly add flour until a lose sticky dough ball has formed. Flour a kneading surface well and turn the sticky dough out onto it. Dust the sticky dough well with flour, as well as your hands, and scrape out all the dough from the bowl that you can.

Slowly start to knead the dough by gently pulling and stretching the dough towards you and turning it back onto itself and pressing down with the heel of your hand, and then turning the dough in a clockwise manner about 1/4 of a turn and start stretching and pulling again. Repeat the kneading process, adding more flour as needed until the dough is firm, not sticky, and is elastic. This takes about 8-10 minutes. Some things just can not be rushed.

Once the dough is smooth and ready to go, use the olive oil to grease the outside of the dough ball on all sides and return it to the medium mixing bowl. Cover the bowl with a clean and  slightly damp tea towel and let it rise for about 20 minutes. The olive oil works to help keep the outside of the dough elastic so it can stretch smoothly as it rises without drying out. Same thing for the damp tea towel. If a dough gets too dry she wont rise.

After 20-25 minutes the pizza dough is ready to go! I like to roll my dough out and bake it at 350°F for about 5 minutes before I add the toppings, I find the crust gets a better texture that way. Then I bake it for roughly another 10 minutes after adding the toppings still at 350°F. Check the bottom of the crust to see if it is cooked, it should have a nice golden brown color to it and the cheese should be bubbly.



When I was but a wee youngster growing up in Nova Scotia, I went to what I now know to be probably the best schools on the east coast of Canada. They were a big part of the community and had so many extra curricular and enrichment programs that no one was ever bored or felt like there was nothing for them, and we were able to learn a lot of useful skills. We had construction where we learned how houses are built, by building exact scale models of houses, from the concrete foundation up. Followed by a fun time smashing our hard work to bits with a sledge hammer! In addition we had classes in mechanics, shop class, graphic design, typing, family care, and of course home economics! Which had both a sewing component and a cooking component, so we were able to learn basic clothing repairs and alterations, proper clothing care, and in the kitchen side of things we learned about reading ingredients, and calorie counts, and assessing the nutritional value of what we are eating and how to make our own meals.

My cooking teacher in school was a funny lady from Europe who did not really think us Canadian kids would ever have the exquisite palate she was accustomed to being around in Europe. So she taught us the very basics and the one thing she was determined to have everyone in school be able to make was the humble pizza dough. She was so determined that we learn this one recipe off by heart that it was the only recipe to be repeated every single year you took the class.

It has been, dear goodness, almost eleven years since I first learned that pizza dough is awesome and easy to make from scratch. Plus the texture of the dough is so much better with this recipe than it would be if you used a pre-mixed dough starter, or even worse the processed and packaged dough. That stuff is way too processed for my liking, and yes it might take closer to a half hour to make the dough, but the time is worth it. Plus it is a really versatile base for a meal and there are lots of options for what you can do with it. Pizza dough doesn't have to end it's life as just a pizza!

So this is a recipe that I use and it makes enough for one good sized pizza, but you can adjust pretty easily, just start with a bit more water if you need extra dough, and add more flour at the end. If you have made too much dough you can save it for up to two days in the fridge but you need to put it in a ziplock bag, or a container with a tight seal. You also need to be careful because the dough may continue to expand in the fridge for a short time, and you don't want it to bust free of its container.

One last tip, warm water is water that is not boiling and pretty close to being at your body temperature. The easiest way to check the water temp is the same way you test a bottle for a baby, the water temperature should be so close to your body temperature that when you touch it, you can't really tell if you are touching anything at all. Sounds weird, but try it out.

Ps. I like a slow cooked pizza but if you crank the oven to 400°F the pizza should be done in only 15 minutes or less.

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