May 10, 2010

Mother's Day pizza

Now, let's get one thing straight. This is not going to be a "memories of mom" or "everything I've learned from my mom" type of post. There's plenty of them out there. That said, happy Mother's Day to all moms!

My mom wanted to go out for a little bit with just my dad for lunch this Mother's day. So my little brother and sister and I ate lunch, cleaned up, watched I Love Lucy, and *drumroll please* I made pizza dough for dinner.

Things went just fine until I dumped all the shaggy bits of dough and flour onto the cutting board to knead. It was soooo sticky. I could hardly even knead it. Dough was all over my hands and I was a bit worried. But I washed my hands and things got better, but I had to wrestle with it for a long time before it was smooth (and not becoming attached to me at every punch).

Into an oiled bowl it went, covered with a dish cloth because we were and are out of plastic wrap. I turned the oven back on (because the kneading had taken so long) until it was 150 degrees and then turned it off and put the dough it. That might not have been my best shot, now that I think about it.

After the 40 minutes I stuck it in the fridge as it was just 4:30 (my parents just came home right after I did this).

When it was time, I took out the dough. It had developed a nice skin all over the top. Nice. Really nice. But I divided it up and started pulling. Now let me state here and now that I had never, ever formed and baked a pizza before (I usually just make the dough and then my mom does the baking part). And she was now taking her Mother's Day semi-snooze on a chair in the living room. She was not going to be interrupted if I could help it.

Things were going pretty well until it started to rip and become a rope. And I didn't care about getting a circle. I just wanted something that resembles something between a circle, a square, and a space alien. But it wasn't happening. So I balled it up and tried again, this time with the help of a rolling pin. But then the "crusts" turned into lines across the pizza and most of the stuff in between was getting precariously paper thin. Frustrated, I finally got something that worked. Oh, and did I mention that my dad was saying things like "Looks like Wisconsin." Thanks Dad.
SO then I remembered that I could put it on parchment paper. So I had to ease the dough onto the parchment paper, which took forever. (This trick really does work though.) Finally I was ready to top.

By this time, I was going plain. I brushed a little olive oil over it, and put the sauce on. I was afraid of it getting soggy so it was seriously under-sauced. I baked it for a little more than 10 minutes (oops) and then spread the cheese on top. I really wasn't sure how much to put on, and the danger of burning myself in a 450 degree oven didn't help me think. 8 minutes later when I checked on it, I saw pools of liquid (water?). *Enter scream of anguish*. So then I hastily took it out and with Dad's help I "drained" the pizza by tilting it above a bowl. It went into the oven for about 3 more minutes (you know, to help the moisture evaporate.)

So now pizza one was done. It needed more sauce and the cheese was definitely a problem, although on the finished pizza it was fine. Is there a low moisture mozzarella out there? I used freshly grated. Or did I put too much on. Or, since the pizza was so thin in places that it BURNED, the moisture was able to collect. Enlighten me, someone?

Pizza number 2 didn't go much better. This time, after it had baked for the first 10 minutes, I put more sauce on the puffy parts (this actually worked). And we used a "cheese blend" (no, Dad, cheddar, would not be a good choice) of some fancy romano and mozzarella. We still had the burned, too thin places. Also, the dough was a bit too salty, especially in this batch.

Edible, even delicious in parts (how can homemade pizza not be), but I definitely have a long way to go. Any hints, tips, and suggestions for next time I would be greatly appreciative of. For now I leave you with my favorite pizza dough recipe, which despite all my mistakes, still makes for a wonderful pizza.

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy. I love you.

Pizza Dough

My mom found this recipe online, so I don't know who to thank. But originally it came from "The Best Recipe" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. It makes a crisp, not doughy (if you follow the instructions) crust.

Makes 2 pizzas, enough (with no leftovers) for the 5 of us for dinner with a salad.

Especially with the sharp cheese, we've found this dough to be a bit salty. Next time I might try reducing both the salt and the sugar by a 1/2 teaspoon (below is the unaltered version). I always use regular, Red Star yeast, but the recipe calls for rapid rise. I don't know what the original recipe called for, but I'd assume you can use both. I also always use AP flour.

1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 packet or 4 teaspoons yeast (see note)
1 tablespoon sugar (see note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups all purpose or bread flour (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt (see note)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F then TURN OFF.

Pour the water into a small bowl. Add the yeast and sugar and mix to combine. Add the oil to the yeast mixture. Combine the salt and 3 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Pour the yeast mixture into the the flour/salt and mix until combined with a sturdy wooden spoon or a spatula. Stir in the rest of the flour (1 cup) until a mass of dough forms. (I think I didn't mix it enough and that was part of the reason why it was sticky. You could even try doing part of the kneading in the bowl).
Place dough on a floured cutting board or very clean counter top and knead until smooth, about 5-7 (or a gazillion, in my case) minutes. Don't knead in too much extra flour, just enough to keep it from sticking.

Place the dough in a well (really well) oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Make sure the oven is turned off.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Remove and divide the dough in half. I cannot help you from here. The dough is usually not too sticky, but if you want to move the stretched dough onto parchment paper, brush lightly with olive oil first. It won't stick as much that way if you try to fold it in half.

To bake:

1. In the 450 degree oven on top of a pizza stone, bake crust, topped only with sauce for 10 minutes. (The parchment paper makes it really easy to slice in and out of the oven.)
2. Remove crust and add toppings (including extra sauce if necessary), including cheese on top.
3. Bake another 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serve and enjoy.


Meghan said...

First attempts aren't always perfect!
If your dough is too sticky, just add a little more flour, bit by bit until you're able to knead the dough.
I've never heard of that much liquid gathering on the top of a pizza, so I really don't know what to say. But you can buy low-moisture mozzarella at TJ's. That may help.
This recipe is very interesting.I usually just bake the crust and the toppings all at once.
Good luck with your future pizza-making endeavors!

Erin said...

Yep, I think should have been heavier handed with the flour, and I also think I should have mixed it a little more in the bowl (I dumped it out thinking that all the flour would combine easier by kneading, so it was too wet).

I'll have to try the low-moisture mozz next time we go to TJ's. It's good to know it's out there. I seriously thought I was going crazy! :)
I have a feeling the crust-then-toppings method is uniquely Cook's Illustrated's idea, so it hasn't circulated too widely. It works well for me, I just have to be able to measure the right amount of cheese before hand.
Thanks, you too!

Meghan said...

Do you remember which Cook's Illustrated you got the recipe in? If you don't, it's okay, but if you do, I'd like to check it out. It sounds very interesting, I'd like to see their reasoning behind it.

Erin said...

Well, my mom found it online somewhere, but I looked up its info:

Published May 1, 1995 (wow, before we were born!)

You can see the article online here:

Erin said...

Oooo -- just checked to see if you can view the recipe or not... you can't but since you have a subscription you might, I don't know.

Ewan said...

"I just wanted something that resembles something between a circle, a square, and a space alien." LOL!