Pizza Week! – Day 1: Dough and Sauce
“I love the dough, more than you know. Gotta let it show, I love the dough.” – Notorious B.I.G.
The big day has finally arrived… it’s time to talk pizza! Mandi and I have really come to take a lot of pride in our pizza and so I wanted this post to be absolutely perfect. This has been in the works for quite some time. For months we’ve been gathering together pictures, subjecting our friends to countless pizza parties. When finally putting it all together I made the decision to do a full week rather than just trying to conquer it all in one post. Why? Well, I’d like to think that I have a lot to share with you guys about pizza. Trying to squeeze it all into just one post would be way too overwhelming and I’m sure that both you and I would probably lose focus pretty quickly. Now without further adieu, here it is, PIZZA WEEK! This week will be bigger than shark week, fashion week, and even best week ever! Today starts with the spotlight on dough and sauce. Please come back to read each installment of pizza week because I believe that this info is great and everyone can learn something useful from the casual pizza enjoyer, to even the most hard core pizzaiolo.
Making dough can be really tough at first, but after you do it a few times it becomes very natural and like second nature. This may be a barrier of entry (sorry I went to business school) for many potential newbie pizza makers. If you are new and intimidated by the whole dough-making process, check out your local pizza place or supermarket. They will sell you some pre-made dough which is actually very good. I use store-bought dough all the time for calzones and pepperoni bread. Loyal TFIMB readers may be questioning me right now because it isn’t often that I suggest the easy way out. But I just really want to get you started no matter what it takes because I trust that once you make pizza a few times, you will get the bug like I did. If you told me two years ago that I would build a brick oven in my back yard, I would think you were crazy! But hey that’s a story for Thursday…
Pizza Week Menu:
My dough falls somewhere between Heidi’s take on peter reinharts pizza dough, and Jeff Varasano’s recipe/method. Because of this, I need to autolyze the dough in the early stages. This involves mixing half of the flour with all of the water and yeast. I then let it sit in the fridge for a half hour. This is how it looks after this half hour period. More detailed instructions can be found at the bottom of this page.
A splash of olive oil after the autolyze stage. I am in my own dough world in this picture.
Pinch of sugar.
I always pour salt like this. It makes you look cool. One tip I need to put in caps is MEASURE THE SALT! I used to not measure and totally thought I put plenty of salt into the dough, but after I started measuring, I noticed a great improvement in the flavor. It’s way more salt than you think.
This is the part where the experience comes into play. You need to add flour slowly until it is ready. When is it ready? You just know. Sometimes it takes 2 cups, sometimes it takes 4. If you become one with the dough, it will let you know when it is ready. One common way to tell is when the dough stops sticking to the sides of the mixer, but still sticks to the bottom
You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl to get all of the flour incorporated
Get this in the fridge for its slow rise
Let me take a break from dough to talk about sauce. You’ve seen me make sauce on this site many times so I will keep it brief, but my pizza sauce is much different from other sauces I make. To me, the most important thing about pizza sauce is that it is chock full of oregano and Pecorino Romano. There is lots of talk on the web among the pizza elite about only cooking your sauce for 5 minutes IF AT ALL. I completely disagree with this method. While it may be more traditional, I only think this approach is good when using fresh juicy and delicious tomatoes right from your garden in July and August. This picture shows the beginning of the sauce. Olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, onions, and tomato paste. After 5 minutes, add the garlic, and then add…
The tomatoes. I blend mine up with a few basil leaves.
After this, bring it to a simmer and add a bunch of dried oregano and pecorino. This is one place where I prefer pecorino to parmesan. Add a pinch or two of sugar, and maybe a dash of red or white wine or wine vinegar. Cook this for an hour and distribute to more manageable containers.
After sitting in the fridge for 48 hours, the dough has doubled. and the container has gone from a shallow bowl, to some sort of tall quart container. The magic of yeast I guess…
We have always hand stretched the dough. With delicate hands, this produces more bubbles in the crust and a lighter bread, but sometimes it is hard to manage.
The key to have this not stick, is flour. flour everywhere. On the peel, the dough, the hands, everywhere. We don’t use cornmeal because at the temperatures we cook at, it would burn and taste bitter on the dough. You need to shake the peel every minute or 2 to make sure the pizza slides. If it doesn’t, good luck! We sometimes perform surgery by lifting the stuck dough and putting flour underneath, but generally you do not want this situation to occur. This process gets much easier with practice.
Recently, we’ve been trying to roll out the dough. This method is easier, but we are still figuring out the pros and cons. For the most part, the pizzas come out just as good, but it seems like there is less bubbling and internal bubble cell definition.
The shaking of the peel is also a necessity with this method.
The dough we make is not really good for tossing. It is a bit too wet and fragile. But sometimes towards the end of the party when people are yelling for you to toss it, you need to give the people what they want.
Before you read my actual recipe, remember I am not an expert. I did not go to school for this and have only been doing it for just over a year. I would call this an intermediate dough recipe. If you want a more beginner one, use Heidi’s, and if you want a more advanced, use Jeff’s. I sort of started with Heidi’s, and am slowly on my way to Jeff’s. I feel like I am halfway. My next step would be using a live yeast starter.
Dough Recipe. – Makes about 8 small pizzas.
3.5 cups of water. in the freezer for at least a half hour. Should be very cold.
9 cups of flour. also in the freezer.
1.5 tablespoons instant yeast.
2 tablespoons salt.
1 tablespoon olive oil.
Pinch of sugar.
Put the water, yeast, and 4 cups of the flour into the stand mixer. I used to do this by hand, but it is 10 times easier in the mixer. Mix it for about 3 minutes on low with the kneader attachment until combined. It will be more like pancake batter than dough. Put this into the refrigerator for 25 minutes. (the rest of the flour should also still be in the freezer at this time.)
Return bowl to mixer and turn it on low. Let this go for about 5 minutes. Then add salt, sugar, and oil. Slowly start adding half cups of flour and wait until it is all incorporated to add the next. I usually add about 3.5 to 4 cups. The dough should start to come off the sides of the mixer. Think now about how you will be cooking it. If you are using an oven with pizza stone, you will want your dough to be drier. If you are cooking this in a high heat situation with temps above 600, you want the dough to remain fairly wet. It will be harder to work with when rolling it out, but it will cook up much better.
When ready, take the dough out of the mixer and knead it on the counter for just a minute or two. Make sure there is plenty of flour on the counter and your hands. Feel the dough’s elasticity and give. Remember how it feels and think about that the next time you make it. Put this into a lightly oiled, tight but not too tightly sealed container
Heat oil in pot. Add salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, handful of onions and squirt of tomato paste. Mix and fry for 5 minutes. Add diced garlic. 1 minute. Add 3 or 4 cans of tomatoes blended with basil. Bring to light simmer. Add a “whole lotta” oregano and Pecorino Romano. Your sauce should be flecked with white and green. Add a pinch of sugar and glug of wine if you have some around.