I’m sorry I’ve been MIA around here – it has been a crazy few weeks with my day job. I’ve been tired and not feeling too creative in the kitchen, so we’ve been sticking with old stand-bys like chili, burritos, and pizza. I have been using a quasi-new pizza dough method for at least a year or two now, and I realized this week that I’ve never shared it here. I like to thoroughly test things before posting them, but waiting a year+ to post a recipe that we use at least a few times a month is a bit embarrassing. So just trust me on this one, and make some homemade pizza this weekend. We try to do family pizza nights on Friday. We used to rotate letting the kids pick the ingredients, but they always asked for really random stuff so we quickly tabled that option for a few years down the road. Pizza is a great vehicle for a garbage dinner to use up produce that is on its last leg. Have a few mushrooms in the fridge? Throw them on your pizza. Have some kale that is looking a little wimpy? Throw it on your pizza.
I stole this method directly from the always-reliable and wonderful Smitten Kitchen, so go over there and check out her step-by-step photos. Prior to SK’s revisions, I had used and loved the Jim Lahey method, but, like SK, the eighteen-hour rise time didn’t typically work for my time table. You know how I’m terrible at math, so I would often just start the dough the night before and use a skosh less yeast than Lahey’s recipe called for. Very scientific, of course. Thanks to Smitten Kitchen’s willingness to do the math and testing, we now have several options for near perfect pizza dough. We use this dough for stromboli too.
Starting the night before
1/8 teaspoon yeast
If you’re starting the night before, you’ll have around a 24-hour rise, give or take an hour or so. This version definitely tastes the best, but I don’t always think that far ahead. I typically make it after dinner, let it rise in the oven with the light on, and then prep it for dinner around 6ish the next day.
Starting that morning
1/4 teaspoon yeast
Do your kids start asking about what’s for dinner around the time you’re making breakfast? No? That’s just us? It must be hereditary because I start thinking about dinner pretty soon after breakfast is over (mostly in case I need to set something out to thaw for dinner, but also because dinner is my favorite time of day). Sometimes we’ll talk about what’s for dinner together, and they’ll convince me we should have pizza. So when that happens, Jasper gets his little stool out, and we make pizza dough around 8ish for dinner at 6 (a 10-12 hour dough).
Starting after lunch
1/2 teaspoon yeast
We are fortunate right now in that we all get to eat lunch together most days of the week, so sometimes we’ll find ourselves talking about dinner at lunch and decide to do pizza for dinner. Or I often forget to do Friday night’s pizza dough until Friday after lunch, so I’ll make this version around 1ish for dinner at 6 (a 5-6 hour dough).
- 375 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour (or a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose. I like to do 1 part whole wheat to 2 parts all-purpose)
- Slightly heaped 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (see above)
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 1/4 cup warm water, slightly more if needed
- Barely warm the water - you want it to just be warm to the touch, not hot.
- Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, adding the amount of yeast based on what time you're starting your dough.
- Add the water as you stir the flour mixture until the water is all incorporated and the dough takes shape. You may need to add more water. You want the dough to be sticky, but not overly wet.
- Cover the bowl with a dish towel so it doesn't dry out and place in a warm spot. I like to use the oven with the oven light on if I don't need it for anything else. An empty microwave is a decent spot too, especially if your house is typically cold like ours (at least in the winter months).
- About 30 minutes before you're ready to eat, preheat the oven to 500°. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven while it preheats. If you don't, you can easily make your pizza on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Your dough should have doubled in size by now. I like to roll out the dough on reusable parchment paper like this, but you don't need to do that, or you could use regular parchment paper. It helps to keep the dough from sticking and makes it easier to remove from the stone/pan when it's done. So I flour the Silpat, and then put the dough in the middle. I let it set for about five minutes just to loosen up a bit. Then I roll it out with a rolling pin, spreading it to my desired thickness and size.
- Once you're finished rolling out the dough, add your toppings (see notes below). Before I put any toppings or sauce on, I like to put some oregano, red pepper flakes, and a bit of olive oil on the top of the dough.
- Carefully put the dough on your baking stone or rimmed baking sheet (this is where the Silpat or parchment paper really helps) and place in the oven.
- Our pizzas are usually done after 12 minutes, but check it at 12 minutes and see what you think.
- Remove pizza from the pan/stone and remove the parchment paper (make sure you remove the Silpat if using before you slice your pizza, and, yes, I'm speaking from experience). Then slice up your pizza, and enjoy!
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Tips on Toppings
Smitten Kitchen came to the rescue with toppings as well. I still use and love my red sauce as the base for pizzas, but, if I’m in a rush, I just drain a can of (preferably roasted) tomatoes, puree them with my stick blender right in the can or jar, and spread them on top of the pizza dough with a large spoon. It’s a fresher taste and is especially delicious in the summer with fresh tomatoes and other fresh summer vegetables.
If you saute certain vegetables before putting them on the pizza, it allows you to only cook the pizza until the crust is browned to your liking – you’re not having to worry about if the veggies on top are over or underdone. We love kale (and Swiss chard) on our pizza, but I saute it first in a bit of butter and garlic before placing it on the pizza. This ensures that the kale’s yummy flavor comes through without getting too burnt in the oven’s high temps. I love to use the frozen peppers from last season on pizzas, so I saute them first in a bit of fat and garlic first before throwing them on the pizza. It would ruin the pizza if I put frozen ones directly on the pizza because they would just get everything else all watery.
I usually don’t precook onions or mushrooms because I like how their texture turns out in the hot oven, but I do ocassionally saute them first for a different flavor. In the summer, I like to use summer squash, and I typically saute that first before putting them on the pizza.
Pizzas are a great place to skip meat altogether, or just use a little bit. We used one chicken breast from a leftover roast chicken to make two large barbecue chicken pizzas, so it’s an easy way to stretch those happy chickens. The kids love sausage pizza, which is basically just this sauce but on pizza dough instead.
We like low-moisture mozzarella (basically all of the stuff that isn’t fresh mozzarella), and I try to find varieties made with whole milk if I can, just because everything tastes better with whole milk, yes? We use a sharp white cheddar when we make barbecue chicken (or shrimp – a frequent favorite at our house) pizza. I love to dollop fresh ricotta on top when I have it (à la Bazbeaux’s Quattro Formaggio for all of you Hoosiers). I’m all about buying higher quality cheeses and using less of them, so I try to do that on pizza too. TPC has a feta that has basically ruined any other feta for me for life. If I had unlimited resources, I would make pizzas with that on top every Friday forever.
One of my resolutions for 2015 is to make my own mozzarella, which I still probably won’t waste on pizza because I’m hoping I’ll be using it to eat my weight in caprese salads.
Do you have any go-to pizza tips? Share them in the comments!