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How to Make Pizza Dough

How to Make Pizza Dough

Most pizza dough recipes are pretty standard – flour, water, salt, yeast, oil and perhaps a bit of sugar.  The trick to consistently great dough is to use a kitchen scale.  For years I balked at the thought of a kitchen scale – it seemed unnecessary, gimmicky and frankly annoying.  When I finally gave it a try, it made a huge improvement in both the quality of my breads and my enjoyment of the process.  I kicked myself for not trying it sooner!  Here’s what makes this method better:  Most recipes are written in terms of volume (cup, teaspoon, etc.) as opposed to weight (ounce, gram, etc.).  That’s fine for many ingredients but not so good for flour.  See, the weight of flour is quite variable and can range from 4-6 ounces per cup.  Variables such as they type of flour, humidity and whether you sift vs. pack the flour into your cup can throw off your flour content by up to 50%.  That means you can follow the recipe perfectly and still have to do a lot of tweaking to achieve the right dough consistency.

By comparison, a scale is far more accurate.  Just keep use a ratio of 5 parts flour to 3 parts liquid (by weight) and your dough will be the perfect consistency virtually every time.  And as an added bonus, the scale makes clean up easier.  Say goodbye to measuring cups – simply place your mixing bowl onto the scale and pour the ingredients directly into the bowl.  Then mix/knead your dough and allow the it to rise in the same bowl further reducing your clean up.  It’s a really awesome system.  (If however, you don’t have a scale, I’ve included the volume measurements as well as the weights.)

Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz bread or all purpose flour (approximately 4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 oz warm water (1 ½ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon yeast
  • 1 oz olive oil (2 Tablespoons)

Directions:

  • Place your mixing bowl on your kitchen scale.  Set the scale to zero then pour in 20 oz of flour.  Add the salt and give it a stir.
  • Zero the scale again and pour in 12 oz of water.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for a few minutes until the yeast starts to get frothy.
  • Add the oil and then fit your bowl into a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (can also be mixed and kneaded by hand).  Mix on medium low speed just until the dough forms a ball.  It should be barely sticky and pull cleanly from the sides of the bowl.  If it’s too wet add flour.  If it’s dry or crumbly add water.
  • Once the dough comes together in a ball, increase the speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes until it’s stretchy and elastic (you should be able to stretch a piece between your fingers until it’s thin enough to almost see through).
  • Remove the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place somewhere warm until it doubles in size, roughly 1 hour.
  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Once the dough doubles, punch it down and shape it into a big ball (for a large pizza), 2 balls (for medium) or 4 balls (for individual pizzas).
  •  Place dough on a lightly floured surface, cover and let it rest for 10-15 minutes (if you try to shape it right away it’ll be really springy and will resist being rolled).
  • Roll, push or stretch the dough as thin as you can then brush it with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt (optional).
  • Top with goodies of choice and bake for 10-12 minutes on a cookie sheet or pizza stone until it starts to turn golden (it helps to put a little cornmeal down to prevent sticking).

Notes:

  • Type of flour: Bread flour and all-purpose flour are often used interchangeably with good results.  The difference is that bread flour has a higher gluten content, which produces a chewier texture and more rise.  However, the difference isn’t super noticeable and many people say the quality of the flour is more important than the type.
  • Storage: If you don’t want to use the dough right away you can shape it into balls and then refrigerate for a couple days or freeze for up to 3 months.  When you want to use it, set it on the counter and allow it to return to room temperature before using.
  • Scale: You can find a good kitchen scale for about $20.  I recommend a digital scale that can weigh at least 5 pounds.  I use the EatSmart Precision scale and have been very happy with it.  It’s easy to use, precise down to 1 gram, has a good capacity (up to 11 pounds), converts between ounces, grams, pounds and kilograms and uses normal batteries.  It’s available on Amazon for $25 at the time of this writing: http://www.amazon.com/EatSmart-Precision-Digital-Kitchen-Silver/dp/B001N07KUE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378557910&sr=8-1&keywords=kitchen+scale

 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23126594@N00/3304526403/

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