You wanted more pizza crust posts, right?

I should really change the name of this blog to, “Melissa writes about making pizza crust.”  I just keep coming up with new insights to the process.  And I’m a bit of a pizza crust geek.  And my friends have asked me specifically if I have my pizza crust recipe on the blog.  Add all that together, and it’s a miracle ALL the posts aren’t about pizza.  Besides, it’s so easy to turn most things into a meal just by cooking them on top of a pizza crust.  Plus, if we’ve eaten creative pizzas for a couple of days, I usually only have plates and cutting boards to wash (instead of piles of pots and pans and prep bowls).  Anyway, here’s my newest realization:  instead of using my regular recipe, I think I’ve fully converted to the slow-rising option (below).  The first time we tried it, I thought I might go crazy because the dough just wouldn’t change shape as I tossed it.  It took 5 minutes to get a dough ball ready for the oven instead of 2.  I was hungry and this was slowing up my dinner!  However, I soon realized that the crust shapes we were making were much better than normal.  The dough wasn’t getting brittle and thin in the middle, even after many minutes of tossing.  And then the flavor was lovely as well.  I read somewhere that recipes using less yeast with a longer rising time develop a more complex flavor.  Add to that the fact that the dough rises for 6-8 hours on the counter and can rest in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours before that.  This means that I can start the dough up to 24 hours before I’m ready to make pizza!  Plus, yeast is one of the most expensive ingredients in my pizza crust.  This recipe cuts the yeast from 2 1/4 teaspoons to just 1/2 a teaspoon.  I’d been toying with a cost break-down post idea, and I’m pretty certain that’s coming soon.  Here’s the updated recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for oiling the bowl and brushing the top)
  • 4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh basil
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces pepperoni, peeled and sliced thin (it sounds like they expect you to buy pepperoni from the sausage store and peel and slice it yourself, but I usually buy a huge bag of pepperoni slices at Costco and keep it in the freezer for use as necessary.)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup) or more, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or more, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
  2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine.  Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube.  If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms.  Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
  3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball.  Put the dough in an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. At this point, you can put your dough in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours.  When you’re ready to proceed, continue with step 5.
  5. Leave covered dough on the counter and let rise until doubled in size, 6 to 8 hours.  I use the 8-cup measuring cup because it’s really easy for me to see when the dough is done rising.  Press the dough to deflate.
  6. While the dough rises, prepare the pizza sauce (or go to work, or get a massage, or sleep through the night – your time is your own!).  Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, about 40 seconds.  Add the basil and cook untilo fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 475 degrees for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into four pieces.  From each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
  8. Spread a large piece of parchment paper on the counter for shaping and transporting the crust.  Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, flatten the dough ball into a disk (thicker at the center) using the palms of your hands.  Using a combination of stretching the dough on the counter and tossing the dough, shape each of your dough rounds into a flattened pizza shape (more detailed instructions here).  Prick the dough in several paces with a dinner fork.
  9. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil.  Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the dough round, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered.  Scatter a third of the pepperoni slices over the sauced dough round.
  10. Slide the dough onto the heated stone.  Bake the pizza until the crust edge starts to brown, 6 to 12 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup mozzarella and a third of the Parmesan and continue baking until the cheeses melt, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Remove the pizza from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes, and serve.  Repeat the topping and baking steps for the remaining two crusts.

Alternate preparation method:

  1. Follow steps 1-5 and 7-8 above, skipping step 6. 
  2. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil.  Slide the dough onto the heated stone.  Bake the pizza for 2 minutes.  Remove the pizza from the oven, cool on the counter for 30 minutes or so, and wrap with plastic wrap to store.  While the first pizza crust is cooking, you can shape the second crust (with practice).
  3. Par-baked crusts will last for up to a day on the counter, up to a week in the refrigerator, or for up to two months in the freezer (wrapped in plastic wrap AND foil).  When you are ready to prepare a pizza, make the sauce.  Since the pizza will already be par-baked, you’ll put the sauce, pepperoni, and cheese on all at the same time, and bake until the cheese is bubbling and staring to brown.
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