Friday night pizza dough, Part I: Crispy pizza

September 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

We’ve developed a bit of a ritual here on Friday nights.  A good friend comes over and we hang out on the couch, catching up on the week’s news in our lives and, I’m only slightly ashamed to admit, in the lives of reality tv stars.  On these Friday nights, we usually sustain ourselves with any variety of tasty take-out food, but this Friday, I had a bit more time on my hands, so I decided to recreate a tasty take-out treat: pizza!  I was inspired by Alex Guarnaschelli’s oven fried pizza, but with a slightly different preparation.  Instead of frying the pizza, I used a cast-iron sandwich press to pre-bake the dough, then topped it, and slid it in to the oven to finish baking and melt the cheese. Here’s what you need:

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling dough and prepping surfaces
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1  tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus some additional**

**just keep the olive oil by your side and don’t be afraid to use it liberally

1.  Warm the water for activating the yeast. If you can’t get warm enough water from the tap, you can zap it in the microwave.  I found that about 1 minute in my microwave was good.  You should aim for around 110 degrees F.  (I couldn’t find my thermometer, so I just felt it until it was slightly warm to the touch.)

Although Jack could care less, look at those yeast waking up!

2. Add the yeast to a large bowl.  Pour in the warm water.  Add the sugar.  Mix well and place in a warm spot for 10-15 min.  The yeast should rise, becoming bubbly and a bit foamy.

3.  Using a fine-sieve strainer or sifter, add half the flour to the yeast mixture.  Use your hands to mix until it is smooth.

4. Add the salt, pepper, honey and olive oil and mix well with your hands.

5. Sift the remaining flour over the mixture and mix again with your hands until all ingredients are integrated.

6. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface.  Knead with your hands until the dough becomes smooth, about 3 minutes or so.

7.  Drizzle some olive oil in a large bowl.  Add the dough to the bowl, flipping over once to cover it in oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm place to rise.  It should double in size in about 1 1/2 hours in a warm spot.

The yeast are hard at work, eating up the sugars and producing some carbon dioxide.

8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  If you’ve got one, slide a pizza stone in to the oven.

9. After the dough has risen, punch it down gently and turn the dough out on to a floured surface.  Using a dough scraper or sharp knife, divide the dough in to 4 even  pieces.

10.  Shape the 4 quarters in to balls and cover with a clean dish towel.  Let rest for another 15 minutes.

11. Roll the dough in to approximately 6 inch rounds.  (To fit in to the sandwich press, I rolled the dough in to ovals and then cut the edges to make rectangular pieces.)

12.  Brush the dough with olive oil and transfer to the pre-heated sandwich press.  Cook for 7-8

In the end, the dough got pulled a bit in the corners while being transferred to the sandwich press. This could be improved with practice, I bet.

minutes, or until the dough is a light, golden brown and has crisp edges.

13. Top with your favorite toppings. (I highly recommend using fresh mozzarella, as it becomes perfectly gooey. We had a mix of other topping options, including home-made pesto, carmelized onions, chicken apple sausage, and grated asiago and parmesan cheese.)

14.  Slide the pizza on to a pizza stone (my first choice) or a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven.  Bake for approximately 10 min, or until the cheese is perfectly melted and golden brown on top.

Notes on the pizza: This dough makes a very tasty pizza, no matter how you cook it or top it.  The recipe that inspired me created a crisp pizza by first frying the dough in a cast iron skillet, and then finishing it in the oven.   I didn’t have the option of using a cast iron skillet, so I opted to try the sandwich press, which worked out quite perfectly.  It created some grooves in the pizza dough, so that each bite had a little crispness and a nice, doughy chew.  This recipe would also work well for a traditionally baked pizza.  Also, instead of dividing the dough in to quarters, you can divide it in half to make 12 inch pizzas.

After baking our 3 pizzas, we still had some dough left.  I like to be efficient and not create too much waste, so what better use of the dough then to create a scrumptious dessert. Here’s your teaser: butter, cinnamon, toffee. Stay tuned.

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