Dec 14, 2008

Pizza Never Fails To Please

Last night we attended a holiday party where everyone brought a dish. We had a busy day prior to the party, attending Seattle Pro Musica's Navidad performance at Bastyr University's chapel. I've been attending Seattle Pro Musica's holiday performance for several years and every year it's different and wonderful. But the concert was up in Kenmore and the party was way down in Gig Harbor. So I needed something that would travel easily. And who doesn't like pizza, right? I snapped this shot with my phone before we ran out the door.

I made the dough in the morning, cooked the toppings before lunch, and baked the pizza before we left the house. Toppings were:

a bit of crushed tomatoes
lots of smashed garlic
peppers I roasted a few days ago
Italian turkey sausage
mozzarella and romano cheese
torn basil leaves

The dough is the basic dough I always make, in the manner of my mom and two grandmothers. It's a thicker, breadier dough and I love it. So it's the method I usually go to when I need something quick and it always gets compliments.

4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (You can also replace some of the AP flour with whole wheat.)
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 good squeeze of honey
1 rounded tsp salt

Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center. Into the well add yeast, sugar, and warm water. Proof yeast several minutes, until it foams. In the meantime, combine milk, olive oil, salt, and honey in a microwave-safe container and heat for about 40 seconds. You don't want cold milk but you don't want hot milk. Plus, you need to dissolve the honey. Let this container sit in the microwave while the yeast proofs.

Once the yeast has proofed, gradually add milk mixture to the flour as you begin to combine the wet and dry ingredients with a spatula or wooden spoon or even your hand. Once reasonably incorporated, continue to knead right in the bowl or turn out onto a floured surface and knead. I usually don't knead the dough very long, about five minutes. If dough is sticky, gradually add more flour as you knead. It's better to have a sticky dough and add flour than try to add moisture to a dry dough.

Form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly rub with olive oil and place right back in the mixing bowl, seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap, wax paper, or a damp kitchen towel and set someplace warm and free from drafts. The oven is a good place. I turn on the oven to the lowest temperature for a few minutes then shut off.

When the dough has doubled, divide it into however many portions you need. This recipe will make one big pizza (which is what I made) two normal-sized pizzas or four personal pizzas for hungry folks. I don't "punch" down the dough and wait for a second raise. I usually just gently handle it enough to stretch it into the pan(s). It continues to rise as I'm preparing toppings or doing other general kitchen tasks. Then I top it and bake it in the lower middle of the oven at around 400. Sometimes I use a stone, sometimes I grill it.


Cerulean Bill said...

This is truly excellent. I got a soft, comfortable dough from it. Very nice!

vb said...

Cerulean Bill, thanks! I agree. That's why I always make this dough. It's the dough I grew up with. Often I make it with half whole wheat too.


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