Monday, September 14, 2009

Pizza Dough

Now that the seasons are changing, and the nights are becoming cooler, I've found myself in the kitchen again. Each year I attempt to get really good at something that I think people should know how to make well, quickly, and at home, with few ingredients. Last year it was "cheese," in general. (Although I managed to get two or three cheeses down to subtle, ethereal perfection--I'm not shy about this--I don't have the equipment, time--or patience--to make the kinds of cheeses that really blow me away: this one, this one and this one, are my favorites.)

So, the new project is pizza dough. I am certain that I have come about 80% of the way there.
Here's a good recipe that will make you 3-4 skillet-sized pizzas, which you can top however you like.

-1 package active dry yeast
-a spoon full of honey
-1 cup of warm water
-2.5 cups of flour (bread flour if you have it, but AP will work fine, too.)
-1 teaspoon salt
-olive oil

--Stir the yeast, honey and water together and let them sit about 5-7 minutes. It should foam a bit and look like a creamy miso soup.
--Then add the flour and salt, working the dough with a spoon until it wants to come out of the bowl and be worked by hand.
--Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, flouring as you need so it doesn't stick, until you have a lovely soft, bouncy-back dough.
--Let the dough rest for about 5-10 minutes.

Now, I don't like to heat up the whole oven if I'm just cooking pizza for myself--particularly in the summer--so I started cooking the pizza in my cast iron skillet, which turns out beautiful, soft, spotted-black crusts.

Cut your dough into three or four pieces, and roll one out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Lightly brush the bottom of your skillet with olive oil, and then lay one circle of dough on the heat. Pop the air bubbles if they happen, and about 3-4 minutes later, peek under the edge and see how done it is. When you are ready to flip--making sure you have all your toppings ready in advance--flip the dough over and start with your sauce, cheese, toppings, what have you. Put a lid on the skillet so the cheese melts beautifully. The second side won't need as long, and you can adjust the heat if you find it's cooking faster than you like--peek when you need to, so it doesn't get too black. Although, I find that I like a little spot of carbony crust every now and then.

This dough tends to be very soft, almost like Indian nan, so if you want a more traditional, crunchy-edge kind of pizza, then, of course, do it in the oven. You can also run the whole thing under the broiler if you want to crisp up the prosciutto or whatever you put on it--but I promise this, as is, will do you right.

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