Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Family pizza night at home


What night is pizza night at your house? Is it Friday after a hectic week? Is it Saturday with friends or family? Or Sunday afternoon, when the games are on?

Any night can be pizza night, and surprisingly, any night can be homemade pizza night in as little time as it takes to wait on a delivery.

No-knead doughs made in advance are the key to homemade pizza anytime. They can keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator (some will last longer, or can be frozen) and can be used not only for pizza, but also for bread, calzones, garlic bread, focaccia or bread sticks.

While you can reach for a frozen or packaged crust, such as the prepared pizza doughs available at Trader Joe’s, the simplicity of making homemade dough may convert you. The ingredients are as simple as flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water and oil.

Focaccia or Pizza Dough

From cooking teacher Kathy Lehr. Lehr recommends not oversaucing the dough so the crust bakes all the way through in the center.

6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 tablespoon salt

1 package dry yeast (scant 1 tablespoon)

1/3 cup olive oil, plus additional oil for preparing crust

3 cups water, divided

PLACE flour, cornmeal and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir together. Add yeast and stir to combine.

COMBINE olive oil with 2 cups water and add to the flour. Mix, adding more water, until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Once desired consistency is reached, knead with dough hook for 3 to 4 minutes.

ADD more water if needed. The dough should be a little tacky but pull together after kneading. The dough should be a little wet, which will result in an airy and chewy crust.

COVER bowl and place in refrigerator. Let rise overnight. Pull or punch down dough at least once. (Two nights will give it a chewier texture. Dough can be made up to five days ahead of time.)

PREHEAT oven to 475 or 500 degrees. Remove a portion of the dough from the bowl. Working on parchment paper, shape dough into desired size and thickness. Brush with olive oil. Cover with desired toppings. Transfer to pizza stone or pan and bake on the lowest rack of oven until crust is browned and cheese is melted and browned. Baking time will vary depending on oven and size and thickness of pizza. Check at 7 to 10 minutes.

NOTE: If using a pizza pan or baking sheet, you also can shape the crust, bake 10 to 15 minutes, then top with sauce and toppings and return to oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

Yield:

Up to 6 pizzas, depending on size and thickness of each.

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