PIZZA DOUGH

 

Though I have never run a pizzeria, I’ve experimented with pizza dough for many years. Wildwood Restaurant had a wood-fired pizza oven and a tandoor where we baked naan bread, so I have worked with yeasted dough on many occasions.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that I prefer“00” or double zero flour for this kind of dough, and that a slow, overnight rise is the key to optimal fermentation and workability, and the best final dough and crust quality.“00” is a soft, fine flour with a lower gluten content and is used primarily for making pasta and pizza dough. It’s more expensive than all-purpose flour, but I believe that the difference in the end product makes it money well spent. Experiment with “00” and regular unbleached all-purpose flour, and make a decision about which one you prefer; both types work nicely with this recipe.

This recipe calls for an electric stand mixer for most of the mixing since the dough is kneaded 20+ minutes.  Since there’s lots of inactive time needed for the dough to rest and rise at various stages, start the dough at least one day before you plan to use it.

Though this recipe can be cut in half easily, I’d encourage you to make a full batch if you’re going to put in the time.  It freezes beautifully, and having some ready-to-go pizza dough in your freezer is right up there with having a stash of pie dough!

MAKES EIGHT 12 INCH PIZZAS

 

ingredients

3 cups warm water, 100 to 105 degrees F

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast  

8 1/2 cups double zero or all purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

Procedure

Add the water to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water and wait for it to foam, indicating that the yeast is fresh and active.  Note: Because this dough is mixed for a long time (20 minutes) and rises overnight, I’ve found that most yeast activates eventually, unless it has been stored at room temperature for more than six months. If that’s the case, discard the yeast in question, purchase fresh and store it in the freezer for best results. 

Add the flour, salt and olive oil and mix on low speed for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the dough gathers into one large ball and pulls away from from the sides of the bowl. Turn off the mixer and let the dough to rest 6 to 8 minutes. Return the mixer to low speed and continue to knead the dough for an additional 8 to10 minutes, or until the dough becomes soft, elastic and smooth to the touch. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it in a clean bowl lightly coated with olive oil to prevent it from sticking. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

The following day, remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, use your hands to punch down the dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces, weighing 4 to 5 ounces each. Use the palm of your hand to roll each piece of dough, cupping it lightly by making a cage with your fingers and applying light pressure as you roll it, making small circles with your hand. Place the dough balls on a lightly oiled surface and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours, or use it immediately.  If you’re planning to freeze some of the dough, lightly coat each ball with oil, slide it into a freezer bag, and seal, squeezing out as much air as possible.  When you’re ready to use the dough, defrost the frozen dough in its bag in the refrigerator, overnight or at least 12 hours.  Before shaping the pizza, let the dough sit out on the countertop for about an hour.

Place a pizza or baking stone in the oven and preheat it to between 500 and 550 degrees F, or as high as your oven will go. Allow the dough to come to room temperature before rolling it into the desired shape on a flat, lightly floured surface. The dough should be very elastic and can stand up to being stretched and rolled until it is quite thin. Place the dough on a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet that’s been dusted generously with cornmeal. 

Add the desired toppings and slide the prepared dough onto the baking stone.  Close the door immediately, to keep the oven as hot as possible. Rotate the pizza once during baking, and remove it using the peel or baking sheet when the crust is golden to dark brown.  Lightly brush the crust with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before cutting and serving.